PhD Student Jenny Zha Wins Prestigious Deloitte Fellowship

Haas PhD student Jenny Zha is one of 10 recipients of the Deloitte Foundation’s annual Doctoral Fellowship in Accounting.

As part of the fellowship, Deloitte will give Zha a $25,000 grant to support her work for two years: the final year of coursework and subsequent year to complete her doctoral dissertation.

Each year, accounting faculty from about 100 universities are invited to nominate students for the fellowship. The Haas School PhD Program was recently ranked sixth worldwide by the Financial Times in the quality of graduate placements.

Zha, 24, is a second-year PhD student who worked at KPMG in Los Angeles before beginning the program at Haas. A Shanghai native who grew up in California, she says she is thrilled to be a recipient. “I knew there were only 10 people who got the award. I hoped for the best but didn’t expect anything," she says. "When I received the phone call from Deloitte Foundation I was ecstatic and honored to have received the award.”

Zha is now developing potential ideas for her dissertation topic, one of which examines CEO compensation compared to the average worker’s salary. In her research, she says she wanted to show how the pay disparity between a CEO and the average worker can add or destroy firm value. “There is a past point where if the CEO is paid exorbitantly more, the firm’s value is lower,” she says.

The topic began to interest her last year, as she found CEO compensation and the Dodd-Frank provision on disclosing pay disparity controversial and relevant. “It’s a current question and a topic of controversy that extends beyond examining the CEO’s level of pay, and instead focuses on the disparity between the CEO's pay and the average worker's salary in companies.”

Zha said Haas accounting Professor Panos Patatoukas helped her with preliminary data analysis on her topic and provided feedback during an accounting seminar last spring.

"Jenny has succeeded in outshining the competition by a significant margin from the very beginning of her doctoral studies," says Patatoukas. "She has a solid understanding of accounting practice and is full of energy and intellectual curiosity to ask important questions that are likely to break new ground in accounting research. I believe that she has a great potential both as a teacher and a researcher. "

After graduation, Zha plans to focus her research on the implications of accounting within companies and how investors interpret accounting information.