Corporate Integrity Drives SDSU Accounting Professor

June 24, 2024

Valerie LiOpen the image full screen.


It is this singular concept that has driven Valerie Li’s academic career and other aspects of her life. 

Li, an associate accounting professor at the Charles W. Lamden School of Accountancy at San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business first became interested in ethics issues as an MBA student at the University of Massachusetts Boston. 

‘During my MBA program, I learned about the financial scandals surrounding WorldCom and Enron,” said Li. “I was curious about how such significant fraud could happen and go undetected for years. This curiosity drove me to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting and I focused on studying these types of issues by researching the mechanisms behind financial misreporting and its broader implications.” 

Li, who hails from the southern area of China, started her career in transportation logistics by working for a large import/export company shortly after earning her bachelor’s degree at Shanghai Maritime University. She chose to immigrate to the U.S. to earn her MBA, and after discovering her passion for studying corporate ethics, she decided to earn her Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Washington, where she began studying financial irregularities and organizational fraud. 

After earning her Ph.D., Li taught and conducted research at the University of Washington Bothell and at Hong Kong Polytechnic University., but in 2019, she decided a change was necessary. “I had several good options, however, SDSU stood out after my interview,” she said. “I was impressed by the strong sense of community and the support that the school offers. Plus, the faculty’s passion and love for the school was evident.” 

Li joined the Charles W. Lamden School of Accountancy in the fall semester of 2020 and she currently teaches Accounting Information Systems (ACCTG 333). “The best part about teaching is that I can have a significant influence on young people’s careers and their lives,” she said. “One of the most fun experiences I’ve had here was serving as a faculty mentor during the SDSU Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) in 2022. I guided students in conducting meaningful research on corporate disclosure of climate change risks. This not only enhanced their academic skills, but also their awareness of important global issues and corporate ethics.” 

But it is her own research on corporate ethics that is a driving force in her teaching, research and career. “Much of my work is focused on how human psychology affects corporate decisions because it combines my passion for understanding human behavior with my interest in accounting and business,” she said. “Academic research regarding accounting scandals have shown us that many instances of fraud begin with small, seemingly insignificant actions that gradually lead down a slippery slope.” 

As someone who has studied the cost of financial ethics violations on corporations and individuals, Li says that maintaining ethical integrity is one of the most important ideals that accounting students can do as they enter the workforce. “The best piece of advice that I can give to all students and young accountants is to always act ethically,” she explained. “As an accountant, upholding ethical standards is paramount and it is the most important trait you can possess. It not only protects your career, but it also maintains the integrity of the profession.”

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