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McCombs Dean Named 2023 Outstanding Accounting Educator

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Lillian Mills, dean of the McCombs School of Business.

AUSTIN, Texas — Lillian Mills, dean of The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, has received the prestigious 2023 Outstanding Accounting Educator Award from the American Accounting Association.

The award committee chose Mills after considering more than 30 nomination letters from her research co-authors, peers at top academic institutions nationwide, former students across the globe and Texas McCombs colleagues.

“Dean Lillian Mills is recognized as the most prolific and impactful tax researcher in the accounting academy,” said Steve Kachelmeier, chair of the McCombs Department of Accounting, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in the country by U.S. News & World Report for the past 17 years. “Her teaching reputation at McCombs is second to none, both in the school’s No. 1-ranked Master of Professional Accounting program and in her supervision of many highly successful doctoral graduates over the years.”

Mills chaired the department for four years before becoming the first woman to be named permanent dean of McCombs in 2021.

The dozens of letters supporting her nomination highlight her enthusiasm and passion for accounting, her dedication to her students, and her uncanny ability to make complicated tax-related topics understandable and applicable. She has won numerous teaching awards throughout her career at McCombs and previously while on the faculty at the University of Arizona, and she continues to mentor McCombs doctoral candidates.

“Perhaps Lil’s most lasting impact will be the influence she has had on generations of tax scholars,” said Cristi Gleason, the Carlson-KPMG Research Professor of Accounting and the department executive officer at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. “We have seen many cohorts of Arizona and Texas tax students embark on careers in tax because of Lil’s unique ability to make it sound fun, meaningful and challenging.”

One of Mills’ undergraduate students, Allison Koester, now a professor at Georgetown University, commented on Mills’ ability to “clearly communicate the nuances and beauty of the U.S. federal taxation system.”

Mills has had a direct impact on that system, serving as a consultant with the IRS since 1997 and working to open communication between federal policymakers and academics. Even now as dean, Mills continues to publish research investigating the intersection of financial reporting and tax compliance. She has published more than 50 research articles, most of them in the most highly respected accounting journals.

Lisa Koonce, a McCombs professor of accounting and one of those who initiated Mills’ nomination for the award, said Mills’ work with students and faculty members inspires the McCombs community to new heights: “Lil is a born educational leader.” Koonce helped submit the initial nomination, along with Gleason; Michael Clement, professor of accounting; Lisa De Simone, associate professor of accounting; and Braden Williams, associate professor of accounting.

“I extend my heartfelt thanks to the peers and former students who nominated me,” Mills said. “We accounting scholars prepare students for roles that are front and center in some of the most critical and fundamental decisions businesses face. Continuing the tradition of cutting-edge knowledge creation and knowledge-sharing alongside my esteemed peers has been a constant source of joy and inspiration for me.”

Sponsored by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Foundation, the accolade includes a monetary prize, a citation and a unique glass art piece to be presented in August at the association’s annual meeting in Denver.