The Value of Questioning the Rules

PROVO, Utah – Jul 06, 2020 – Whether she’s teaching in the classroom or conducting her own research, Abigail Allen, an assistant professor in BYU Marriott’s School of Accountancy (SOA), strives to ask challenging questions that don’t take the status-quo accounting rules for granted. 

Allen’s most recently published research allowed her to pursue interdisciplinary questions about regulatory overlap. The research focused on the role of auditor lobbying incentives in the financial standard-setting process and was published in Journal of Law, Finance and Accounting.

To conduct this research, Allen and her team tracked auditor lobbying in the development of the Statements of Financial Accounting Standards (SFAS) in response to changing legal precedence in auditor tort law. “We were able to demonstrate how regulation in one field can have a critical impact on the evolution of standards in a totally different space, with real policy implications for economic outcomes,” she explains.

Understanding these regulatory spaces and the standard-setting process is the area of research that intrigues Allen the most. “I’ve always been fascinated with the why of accounting rules,” she says. “Some people think about accounting as a prescribed set of rules for firms to follow that just sort of fall out of the sky, but in fact the rules themselves are constantly evolving as a result of a complex negotiation between constituents with competing incentives. Importantly, the outcomes of regulation can also vary substantially from what was intended.”

When it comes to teaching, Allen also challenges her students to question the rules of accounting. “Students tend to fixate on what the rule says, but I try to push them to think about how and why a different rule might yield better or worse outcomes,” she says. She also encourages her students to ask their own questions. “I try to create a classroom environment where everyone can step outside of their comfort zones and understand the value of asking questions.”

Cultivating this type of critical questioning is something Allen learned from her previous teaching experience. Before she came to BYU Marriott’s SOA in 2016, Allen was a lecturer of business administration at the Harvard Business School, where she also earned her DBA in accounting. Another thing she learned at Harvard was how to work with her students in the learning process.

“Leveraging the expertise and experience of students in the classroom in such a way that they teach one another alongside the instructor is important,” she says. Now that she is at the SOA, Allen has continued to both teach and learn from her students. “BYU students are amazing, and what they add to the learning environment when they are pressed to think deeply, challenge assumptions, and raise questions is impressive.”

Allen’s favorite part about being a professor at BYU Marriott is the unique opportunity it provides to teach spiritual truths alongside the secular. “I love BYU’s emphasis on inspired learning, which gives me leeway to tailor each class to the unique needs of my students,” she says.

Allen also enjoys engaging students in her research. “I’m deeply passionate about finding answers to big questions. I hope that by engaging students with me, they develop the confidence and skill set necessary to pursue their own big ideas.” 

Allen and her husband, Derek, are parents of four children. She spends most of her free time mountain biking, snowboarding, and playing board games. 

Abigail Allen is an assistant professor of accounting.
Abigail Allen is an assistant professor of accounting. Photo courtesy of Abigail Allen.
Allen with her husband, Derek, and their four children. Photo courtesy of Abigail Allen.
Allen with her husband, Derek, and their four children. Photo courtesy of Abigail Allen.
In her free time, Allen enjoys mountain biking.
In her free time, Allen enjoys mountain biking. Photo courtesy of Abigail Allen.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert