Skip to Content

Darla Moore School of Business

Ph.D. program awards promising researcher, outstanding doctoral student and professor of the year

June 16, 2020

Two doctoral students and an accounting professor were honored with Ph.D. awards from the Moore School at the end of the academic year.

Each year, the Moore School’s doctoral program recognizes outstanding students and faculty in the program. In May 2020, Christina Hymer, who is studying business management, was recognized with the Promising Researcher Award; economics student Foteini Tzachrista received the W. Pierce Liles Outstanding Doctoral Student Award; and accounting professor Drew Newman was awarded the DSA Professor of the Year Award.

The Promising Researcher Award recognizes a doctoral student who is on an early trajectory toward a successful career as a researcher. Other doctoral students who were nominated for this award were Sanghoon Cho, Matthew Harvey and Pengxiang Zhang.

Hymer, who anticipates graduating with her Ph.D. in May 2021, received the Promising Researcher Award for her research, which focuses on organizational behavior and human resources.

“I’m honored to have received this award. I'm currently balancing research and childcare for a 18-month-old, so receiving this award has also provided motivation and encouragement during this time.” Hymer said.

With an interest in how individuals experience and adapt to challenges at work, Hymer’s research explicitly acknowledges the role of professionals’ multiple identities within these processes.

Hymer said her research is relevant and addresses issues organizations are currently grappling with, including how individuals are blurring their work and home lives while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“While most identity threat research focuses on identity threat involving a single identity, employers are increasingly recognizing and encouraging employees to bring their various identities with them to work,” Hymer said. “As a result, it is important for researchers to have a comprehensive understanding of how identity threat is experienced among multiple identities.”

Hymer added that this research is important because how individuals face challenges at work has implications for their professional attitudes and behaviors, which also affect the organization at large.

Also focusing her studies in human behavior is W. Pierce Liles Outstanding Doctoral Student Award recipient Foteini Tzachrista, although she takes an economics approach to her research. Tzachrista said that she studies “empirically” whether individuals act in their own best interest and, when they don’t, she focuses on understanding the root of that behavior.

“My dissertation is centered around student behavior and engagement on campus,” Tzachrista said. “I am trying to understand the drive to well-being and student success. How do students choose to spend time in college? How is their mental health impacted? Is there anything officials can do to promote student success and well-being?”

The W. Pierce Liles Outstanding Doctoral Student Award recognizes a student who excels in academic and research performance, teaching ability and service to the doctoral department and community. Pierce Liles – who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from USC – taught economics at USC from 1972 until 2005. He worked closely with each student he mentored to ensure they succeeded in their academic and professional goals; this award was named in his honor to remember his positive influence on business students after his death in 2015.

Tzachrista said the award is meaningful to her because of the recognition she received from her supervisor, department chair, committee and other professors in the department who selected her among a talented pool of researchers.

“Economics as a discipline can be very hostile at times and, as an international female Ph.D. student, I find myself questioning my abilities sometimes,” Tzachrista said. “I am lucky to be in a department that is so supportive that it makes me miss it more than anything else now that we are physically distanced from it.”

In addition to Tzachrista, Spenser Essman, Justin Kistler, Gustavo Schneider and Pengxiang Zhang were also nominated for this award.

Finally, students are asked to nominate faculty members based on their teaching quality, advisor and mentorship skills and the professor's ability to encourage personal and professional growth in his or her students for the DSA Professor of the Year Award. The 2020 nominees were Jason DeBecker, Marc van Essen, John Gordanier, Andrew Newman and Andrew Spicer.

Newman, professor of accounting, received the award. With research interests including management accounting, incentives, information systems and internal control, Newman joined the Moore School faculty in 2013.

“Working with doctoral students is one of my favorite parts of being a faculty member,” Newman said. “Although it can be time intensive, helping students learn and grow during their Ph.D. program is very rewarding in and of itself. I really appreciate the student-based nomination and am honored to win the award in a group of such high-quality nominees.”

-Erin Mooney

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.