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Travis Holt, an associate professor in the School of Accountancy in Auburn’s Harbert College of Business, is back on campus this fall after a three-year academic fellowship serving as director of academic research at KPMG's Global Audit Methodology Group in New Jersey—a position that the Big 4 accounting firm offers to one faculty member globally.
The prestigious fellowship enabled Holt to gain valuable insight into auditing practice, which will enhance his research endeavors. In addition, he is sharing his industry knowledge with students enrolled in his accounting courses.
Associate Professor Travis Holt
“The fellowship was an invaluable opportunity to elevate my scholarship,” said Holt. “Not only did I gain unique insight into issues critical to one of the largest professional service firms in the world, but I was on the front lines vetting research proposals submitted by top scholars worldwide.”
During the fellowship, Holt oversaw KPMG’s academic grant program. In that role, he hosted listening sessions with members of the firm’s leadership team and discussed key challenges encountered by audit professionals, current audit methodology and practice, and important areas where academic research can provide relevant insights that will be meaningful to practitioners.
That experience, he said, provided him with valuable tools for developing his own research pipeline.
“One of the key constraints that I and other behavioral auditor researchers encounter is obtaining professional experimental participants [for research studies],” said Holt, who conducts research on governance transparency, auditor independence, and investor judgment and decision-making. “By evaluating hundreds of [submitted] proposals at KPMG, I gained considerable insight into the latest best practices for developing experiments and navigating the participant request process.”
Another research-related benefit of the fellowship was being invited as a keynote speaker to discuss challenges and opportunities in behavioral accounting research at the American Accounting Association’s Accounting, Behavior and Organizations Conference.
While his time at KPMG was an amazing professional opportunity, Holt is incorporating the new knowledge into his classroom instruction.
“As I’m teaching students, I think my experience gives a little more credence,” Holt said. “I can say, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve seen their methodology, I’ve seen their training and the things that I am teaching you now are the things that you’re going to need.’”
The practical experience of how to do the work of accountancy and become fluent in the language of business is what makes his teaching applicable.
“Students need to know that what they’re learning is relevant and not dated, not stale,” said Holt, who worked at KPMG prior to entering academia in 2009. “The audit field changes very rapidly. Working with KPMG provided me with relevant insight to help both my teaching and my research. I want to produce research that’s meaningful to some of the challenges that are being faced by practitioners.”
Now in his 10th year at Auburn, Holt is working on several new research projects, including: juror assessments of audit results; the review process for audits; and the accounting treatment of cryptocurrencies.
“Bringing research in the classroom is essential. Just look at our students’ success in the School of Accountancy,” he said. “Over 90% of students get placed in jobs. Our students pass the CPA exam at a rate in the high 80s, well above the national average. We have a well-connected network of alumni, and our students are competitive in the market because of the education we provide here at Auburn.
“It’s a joy teaching, and I’m proud of our accountancy program.”
Learn more about accounting degrees and Auburn's School of Accountancy.
Learn more about Travis Holt’s research interests.
The Harbert College of Business which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Raymond and Kathryn Harbert's transformational naming gift, is a nationally ranked hub of undergraduate, graduate and continuing business education that is inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our world-class faculty deliver unparalleled academic rigor in the classroom, while our research-driven scholarship advances thought leadership and best practice across business disciplines. The largest college on Auburn's campus, Harbert enrolls more than 6,900 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.