Professor Profile - Joonho Lee, Ph.D.

BY: Dana Feuer

Joonho Lee had a different reason for enrolling in a graduate program regularly named in the top 10 of every major poll of the nation’s accounting schools.

“Most of my colleagues were coming from other career paths looking to move to an accounting firm,” Lee says. “Working in the corporate industry is not for me.”

Lee already earned an undergraduate business degree and master’s in business administration from Seoul National University. He focused on marketing during his time in the MBA program before landing his first post-graduation job with Samsung’s strategic department.

While at Samsung, Lee was gaining a breadth of experience as he had his hands in financial marketing, strategic planning, computer analytics and management. The numbers part of his career was great, but he says the working environment made him uncomfortable.

The decision for a change in scenery was easier once Lee received news he was accepted to the master in professional accounting program at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, number one on U.S. News and World Report rankings for MPA programs ten years and counting.

“As a foreigner, my competitive edge came from numbers and analytical problems,” Lee says.

Everything began falling into place - his aptitude for numbers, a desire to pursue research. All directions pointed toward academia, which extended Lee’s stay in Austin while he worked toward a Ph.D. in accounting.

Upon completing his fourth degree, Lee says he was offered a position he couldn’t refuse. Still enamored by the idea of making research the priority with light teaching obligations, an opportunity arose for exactly that. The school offering: Singapore Management University.

Accompanied by his wife, a fresh UT Austin music grad herself, Lee made another continent jump. Much of Lee’s research at SMU centered on the international market. Although overseas, he analyzed data from the United States regularly.  By viewing data from the perspective of foreign investor’s influence on the U.S. financial market, Lee noticed foreign investor’s rarely do as well as domestic investors.

“No one showed these results convincingly using data,” Lee says. According to Lee, the multiple articles he has published in different journals are able to cite numbers proving there’s a correlation.

Eight years and two children later, he says the teaching aspect of his job had become more rewarding. The search for a more balanced workload in an ideal setting for a young family led Lee to join Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Business Administration as an assistant professor with the accounting department.

From the weather to his children’s education, Lee says he is overjoyed with his new Southern California setting. Personal motives only played a partial role in his decision to make a return to the U.S.

“I see Cal Poly Pomona as a new chapter in my career,” Lee says. “It’s an opportunity to stimulate the research culture among faculty while delivering my knowledge and skills to the students.”