Marshall professor receives research award

Inspired by his interest in the entertainment industry in high school, Professor Mark Young created a class for accounting students to learn about the organizational structure of film, television, music and games industries. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

Accounting and management professor Mark Young is defined by more than his research in accounting. Young, who has been teaching the subject for the past 40 years, has applied his expertise in accounting to areas such as entertainment. 

Young was named the recipient of the 2020 American Accounting Association Lifetime Contribution Award in January at the mid-year meeting in Houston for his studies in management control system design. These systems use both financial and non-financial measures to help companies assess performance among their employees and aid managers in future motivation of their workers. 

“It’s not really something you expect, so when you get something like this it takes a long time to process,” Young said. “It’s very gratifying to feel that people think I deserve such an award.” 

Starting as a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh, Young has focused his research on methods to decrease costs and increase company performance. 

Young has worked on figuring out what methods to use to decrease costs and increase company performance since. 

“Management accounting really looks at the way the internal performance of an organization is assessed using … things like cost accounting and performance metrics,” Young said. “I look at the way those numbers are produced and the way they affect behavior inside organizations … If those optimal levels [of costs for projects] are met, what happens to people on those teams in terms of their motivation and performance evaluation?”

Much of his research on management and control systems has come in the automobile field. One of his studies compared the implementation of management control systems at General Motors and Chrysler. 

Young’s findings led him to write a book, “Implementing Management Innovations: Lessons Learned from Activity Based Costing in the U.S. Automobile Industry,” which describes more efficient means of implementing the costing systems in the automobile industry. 

Inspired by his film and television interests in high school, Young decided to incorporate his background in accounting into the entertainment industry by creating a class at USC for Master of Business Administration students called Management and Organization of the Creative Industries. The class teaches students how the film, television, music and games industries function from an organizational standpoint and the necessity of cost minimization in entertainment production.

“I realized that we didn’t have a business course for our MBA students who wanted to go into the entertainment business,” Young said. “I used my contacts in Los Angeles … [to figure out] what does the accounting side of Hollywood look like because the way Hollywood accounts for projects is very different.”

Young said he has been interested in the arts and entertainment industry since before entering academia.

“Even though I became an accounting professor, those [entertainment] interests were things I was always interested in the business side, but never really had an opportunity to study that,” Young said. 

Young’s other book, “The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America,” which he co-wrote with Dr. Drew Pinsky, details the rise of celebrity narcissism and the effect it has had on the rest of the U.S. 

Alumna Kendal Barrett said she learned more as a teaching assistant for the course than other classes she was enrolled in as a student. Young’s ability to effortlessly form bonds with students outside of the course stood out to her, she said.

“The compassion and the genuine nature that Mark has and his ability to follow up with people and stay connected [is something I admire],” Barrett said. “A lot of teachers don’t necessarily go the extra mile to do that.” 

Although Young specializes in research, he said the highlight of his career has been the opportunity to instruct more than 12,000 students, many of whom he now considers close friends. 

Leventhal School of Accounting Dean William Holder said in an email to the Daily Trojan that the school is very proud of Young as well as of all its professors doing research and receiving national and international recognition for the work they did. 

“Through his sustained research, Mark has expanded substantially the knowledge in his field and this award recognizes those many contributions,” Holder wrote. “It is also remarkable that Mark’s wife, Ernst & Young Professor of Accounting Sarah Bonner, also recently received an award for her many contributions.”

Leventhal professors Patricia Dechow, Richard Sloan, Sarah Bonner, Clive Lennox and Ken Merchant have also received similar awards by the AAA in the past for their work in accounting.