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Grant helps PhD student soar to new heights

Jim Omartian - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business SchoolJim Omartian (MBA@UNC ’13, PhD ’18) has a track record of seeking out opportunities and then taking them to new levels.

A qualified pilot since he was 17, Omartian flew solo before he was driving a car.

He took on another kind of vessel at Harvard, where he was the cox of the rowing team. After he graduated cum laude with a computer science degree, Omartian again served as cox while he was earning his master’s degree in engineering at Cambridge University.

Omartian worked several years in operations management at McMaster-Carr Supply Company, a catalog and Internet distributor of industrial supplies. He wanted to expand his business understanding. Always a bit of a pioneer, Omartian signed up for the then-brand new online MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler – serving as a kind of test pilot for MBA@UNC. And when he graduated as valedictorian of the inaugural MBA@UNC class, he hadn’t just learned from his professors – he’d decided to become one.

“While taking the Taxes and Business Strategy course, I read the accounting research of Ed Maydew and Doug Shackelford and was fascinated,” says Omartian. “I was inspired by my professors. I found the work and research they were doing to be really interesting. I started talking to them more about what they did.”

Omartian moved his family from Cleveland, Ohio, and enrolled in the PhD Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler. He is researching information flow, monitoring and control structures within firms. His dissertation examines internal governance of firms and how top management gathers information to monitor operations.

He received a doctoral merit assistantship from UNC’s Graduate School that funded his first year of studies and was one of just 10 top accounting PhD candidates in the U.S. to receive a prestigious $25,000 grant from the Deloitte Foundation to support his final year of coursework and to complete his doctoral dissertation.

“The future success of the accounting profession depends on both the students of today and the professors of tomorrow,” says Carol Lindstrom, president of the Deloitte Foundation. The Foundation supports education in the U.S. through initiatives that develop the talent of the future and their influencers and promote excellence in teaching, research and curriculum innovation.

Several UNC Kenan-Flagler doctoral students have received the Deloitte honor and are now professors at top schools, says Wayne Landsman, associate dean of the PhD Program. Among them are John Gallemore (BSBA ’04, MBA ’08, PhD ’14) and Mark Maffett (PhD ’12) of the University of Chicago, Ed Owens (PhD ’10) of Emory University, Brian Rountree (PhD ’03) of Rice University and Steven Monahan (PhD ’99) of INSEAD.

“Having our students recognized and supported by the Deloitte Foundation is a great honor,” says Shackelford, dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “I served on the selection committee a long time ago and even was selected back when dissertations were written on papyrus.”

“Jim was one of the best MBA students I have ever taught at UNC,” he says. “He is a stellar doctoral student for us. As a double Tar Heel, he will be an outstanding accounting professor. He and his wonderful family represent the best of Carolina.”

Omartian joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 2018.