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  February 12, 2001

Numbers Add Up to Career
of Distinction for Stanley Biggs

In more ways than one, numbers are a big factor in the career of Stanley F. Biggs, a professor of accounting.

His lucky numbers might well be 6, 12, and 45. And here's why.

Last year, Biggs was one of only six University professors to be named a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the first-time award - the board's highest.

This year, he's one of 12 professors featured in the 2001 Connecticalen dar - a UConn-created calendar that highlights the careers of faculty and their remarkable research. Biggs is in the spotlight this month.

And, as holder of the title KPMG Professor of Accounting, he is one of just 45 accounting professors across the nation to be granted the distinction.

Colleagues say Biggs has distinguished himself at the University as a dedicated teacher, a leading researcher, and a pioneer in the field of behavioral audit processes.

"Stan has generated a level of national visibility for our department," says Richard Kochanek, accounting professor and department head, who hired him. "Stan sets very high standards for himself and that causes others to also reach further."

Kochanek adds that Biggs has the ability to translate his research into his courses, especially at the Ph.D. level, where there is a direct transfer to future educators.

Champion of Students
Biggs served as an early director of the School of Business doctoral program from 1989 to 1992 and was the first director of the accounting department's Ph.D. program. He is viewed as a champion of doctoral students.

Says Kochanek: "Without him, our doctoral program would not have emerged as a program of quality with outstanding placements of our students."

Biggs finds it especially satisfying that so many of his former graduate-level students are now teaching at major universities: the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northeastern University, Bentley, Fairfield University, Villanova, and the State University of New York at Albany, among others.

"It gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing my former students are doing so well," says Biggs.

Two of his doctoral students, Jay Thibodeau in 1997 and Karla Johnstone in 1998, have won outstanding dissertation awards in national competitions sponsored by the American Accounting Association, the flagship academic accounting organization with a roster of some 10,000 members. Johnstone is a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin and Thibodeau is on the faculty of Bentley College in Boston, Mass.

On the undergraduate level, Biggs takes great satisfaction in observing the transformation of students as he teaches them financial accounting.

"Students come into the classroom with a limited knowledge of accounting and leave with a good appreciation of the complex issues facing accounting in today's economy. They come into your class as teenagers on their way to becoming professionals. You can actually observe their growth," says Biggs.

"As a department, we strive to move our students quickly down the professional accounting path, and I think we're pretty successful in doing this."

A native of Pueblo, Colo., Biggs was born on the state's "Pueblo Day," some nine months after Pearl Harbor.

"I was a true war baby," he quips.

In addition to being an avid Husky fan, he's a strong Denver Broncos fan. During the 1980s, he developed a warm friendship with a student in his class, now a Washington lawyer, who was also a Bronco fan.

Passing the Torch
His dedication to UConn students may be due in some measure to the help he received from two of his own former college professors. Special mention goes to Marion Boss, a favorite professor during his undergraduate days at the University of Southern Colorado.

"I wasn't a good student and he had confidence in me and encouraged me to accomplish a lot of things I might not have tried without his encouragement," says Biggs.

Later, while attending graduate school at Columbia University, he was inspired by a second professor, Mary Ellen Oliverio who stimulated his interest in research.

The two have stayed in touch and last summer met in Philadelphia at a meeting of the American Accounting Association, where Biggs took over the gavel as president of the Association's auditing section.

The Bottom Line
In January, Biggs presided over the mid-year auditing section conference in Houston, Texas.

"The research papers dealt with such things as audit quality, financial statement fraud, e-commerce, and assurance practices," says Biggs.

For Biggs, research is an important bottom line.

His primary research goal is to develop theories of auditor expertise, and this goal has led him to focus on such issues as how expert auditors perform complex auditing tasks and to identify their effective and ineffective judgment and decision processes.

Biggs says that theories of auditor expertise are important because they provide insight into theories of human behavior, as well as making a practical contribution by providing knowledge that can lead to helping novices become expert auditors more quickly and easily.

Working with Mallory G. Selfridge, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at UConn, Biggs has developed an artificial intelligence model of an expert auditor's going-concern judgment process. The model includes nine types of knowledge, causal reasoning processes, and three types of going-concern judgments.

"I observe experienced auditors making complex decisions and then develop models of the knowledge and processes they use to make those decisions," he says. "This research advances understandin g of how auditors detect financial statement errors and how they predict financial difficulties for companies."

Biggs' influence extends well beyond the Storrs campus.

He's an international lecturer on the judgment and decision-making behavior of auditors, financial analysts, and bankers - who are his research subjects.

His research has been summarized in practitioner journals as well as auditing textbooks that have been translated throughout the world.

And he's the recipient of eight research grants.

Numbers, it would appear, continue to add up to a highly successful career.

Claudia G. Chamberlain