The Eller Times.
Eller College of Management, The University of Arizona (logo). The Eller Times.

August 2005

Welcome to the The Eller Times, sharing highlights of news, events, people, and partners of the Eller College of Management.


From the Dean.

Dr. Paul Portney.
  Paul Portney,
Dean, Eller College of Management

My first month at Eller has been terrific, and I’m sure it will only get better with students flooding back into McClelland Hall in just a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to meeting them, our new faculty, and seeing the College operate in full fall swing.

I hope you’ll take a minute to look through this issue of The Eller Times and read about some of the summer study programs Eller students took on over the past few months. We also have information about our new Honors undergraduate field projects — a great opportunity for local area businesses to engage with the College — and a conference our MIS department will be sponsoring next month to address the impact of globalization on IT workforce development.

Last but not least, we have the story of how three Eller alumni together have launched a venue right here in McClelland Hall’s own backyard — one of the most successful new restaurants in Tucson.

Enjoy the rest of your summer, and be sure to look for Eller Progress magazine next month.

Paul R. Portney signature.
Paul R. Portney

Learn more.  Learn more about Paul Portney, Eller College dean.   

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In the News.

Eller's Top Achievers to Offer Marketing Consulting

Randy Accetta with students.
  Business communication instructor Randy Accetta (left) discusses field projects with Honors students.

Contact Tammy Farris, Associate Director, Corporate Outreach, for more information on Honors marketing field projects:
•  520.621.9400

A variety of Southern Arizona organizations have long benefited from low-cost consulting provided by Eller MBA students through the program’s field projects initiative — a win-win engagement providing businesses with outside perspective and expertise while giving students hands-on work/study experience.

Now regional organizations can also tap the skills of Eller’s top-achieving undergraduate marketing students through the new Honors Field Projects initiative.

“This is a great way for businesses to connect with the brain trust at Eller,” explained Tammy Farris, program manager for Eller Exchange, which coordinates work/study opportunities between students and the professional community.

“Not only are these highly motivated students and some of our top performers, they’re also guided in these projects by Ph.D.-level faculty and MBA mentors who have already completed their Eller MBA field projects and will act as managers to teams of five or six undergraduates.”

Each project will be unique to the host organization’s needs, Farris explained, often incorporating important tasks that have, nonetheless, been relegated to the back burner for lack of internal resources.

Students will meet with a lead from the organization to define the scope of the project, which will involve 200+ student hours over the course of 12 to 14 weeks. Actionable deliverables will be grounded in facts and research and may involve anything from market research and analysis to building identity or sales strategies for a planned product or service.

“We’re hoping that businesses will take advantage of these projects to capture growth opportunities,” Farris said. “The students bring fresh perspectives, seeing solutions and possibilities that seasoned staff might miss or simply not have the time to fully explore.”

The program was initiated following a successful pilot conducted last year by business communication instructor Randy Accetta. The pilot connected a class of students with Greater Tucson Leadership to create strategic marketing and fund-raising plans.

In exchange for the consulting, organizations are asked to contribute a program donation, which supports undergraduate learning initiatives and scholarships at the Eller College. Project work will begin September 13. Interested parties should contact Tammy Farris at 520.621.9400 or for additional information.

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Eller Presents.

Summer is an active time for faculty in the Department of Management Information Systems at the Eller College as they continue the parallel tracks of important research and advancing MIS education to meet future workforce needs.

The Future of MIS

Dr. Mohan Tanniru.

In September, the Department of MIS at the Eller College will partner with research and engineering company SAIC to present the 2005 MIS Futures Council Conference.

CIOs and CTOs will gather at SAIC headquarters in San Diego to address workforce development and, specifically, how increasing dependence on a global IT workforce affects people on both the internal/business and external/vendor sides of the IT equation.

MIS Futures Council conferences were created as part of the MIS 30-year anniversary event to better understand the IT leadership challenges and guide direction for future MIS education. Held in various regions, the conferences bring together IT and business executives from across the country and the world to engage in dialogue with faculty members from Eller MIS and collaborating colleges/institutions.

To reserve a space at the September conference, phone 858.826.9076.

Terrorism Track Introduced at ISI 2005

Dr. Hsinsun Chen.
  Hsinsun Chen, MIS professor and director of the AI Lab, presented research on terrorism at the 2005 ISI Symposium in Atlanta.

The third annual Information and Security Informatics (ISI) symposium was held in May in Atlanta, with some 150 participants exchanging information and ideas on topics ranging from bioterrorism to deception detection and the legal and social issues of ISI research.

The ISI symposium was founded by Hsinchun Chen, McClelland Endowed Professor of MIS and director of the Eller College Artificial Intelligence Lab. The 2005 symposium included a new track on terrorism informatics and included Chen’s case study of using advanced network analysis to mine data on the Global Salafi Jihad Network. The study introduced the Web structural mining technique — a means of extracting information from interconnected Web sites — to the terrorist network analysis field, producing results with promising implications for national security.

Sponsored this year by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and co-hosted by The University of Arizona, Rutgers University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, the symposium unites representatives from previously disparate communities: academic researchers in IT, computer science, public policy, and social and behavioral studies, law enforcement and intelligence experts, and IT consultants and practitioners.

The 2005 conference drew 60+ papers and from academia, industry, and government agencies, and featured more than 15 invited international experts in homeland security and terrorism research. Conference sponsors included the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security.

The University of Arizona will continue to be lead host for the annual event, with the 2006 ISI Conference already planned for San Diego, followed by a 2007 conference in Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit

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Eller's Finest.

Action learning is a hallmark of an Eller education. This summer, Eller students traveled far and wide, simultaneously applying and building their skills. Here are just a few of their many stories. Incidentally, each of these experiences were unpaid, a testament to the commitment and motivation of Eller students.   

Making a Difference with McCain

Byron Sarhangian and John McCain.
  Business economics senior Byron Sarhangian (left) earned even greater respect for Arizona Senator John McCain as an intern at his Washington, D.C. headquarters.

After a semester abroad in London, business economics senior Byron Sarhangian was eager for more experiences that would expand his Eller education. Having worked in the Tucson office for Arizona senator John McCain, he decided to take a shot at an internship for McCain’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. He applied and landed the position, taking on tasks such as “scrubbing” bills to identify excess spending and conducting research for the Clean Sports Act and McCain Boxing Bill (McCain was a boxer in the Navy and has been a lifetime avid sportsman). Sarhangian even wrote McCain’s introductory comments for a radio debate on the issue of identity theft.

Sarhangian plans to attend law school but said he doesn’t necessarily have political ambitions and would only enter into government if he saw an opportunity to really make a difference in society. He saw McCain “make a difference” first-hand in May, playing a key role as one of the “Gang of 14” who orchestrated compromise in a congressional row over President Bush's appellate court nominees.

“One of the most important things I learned — being out there during the 'Gang of 14' negotiations and seeing McCain and his team work — is that there will always be people telling you that you’re doing the wrong thing,” Sarhangian said. “It’s important to listen, but sometimes you just have to go against popular opinion.”

South American Shrimp: No Small Matter

Left to right: First-year MBA students Shailesh Makharia and Brandon Sun with Don Piper, Eller MBA associate director of professional development.  

Brandon Sun and Shailesh Makharia didn’t know much about shrimp before they went to South America this summer, but they do now.

The two Eller MBA students — both starting their second year this fall — traveled to the town of Guayaquil, Ecuador to work on a feasibility study for a local shrimp farm wanting to cease sending their catch to a processing plant and instead operate a plant of their own.

Together with Don Piper, Eller MBA associate director of professional development, the team visited other processing plants in the region, interviewed plant owners and operators, and studied industry reports, learning all they could about the facilities, workforce, equipment, and production that goes into processing organic shrimp for export to the United States and Europe.

Sun and Makharia took on the sizeable task as part of a program sponsored by the New Ventures program of the World Resources Institute, which works for sustainable enterprise creation in emerging economies. While they’re still working on the final stages of the feasibility report now, both report that the learning experience has already proved invaluable.

“I have been studying in the States for a while,” Sun said. “Going to South America reminded me of the importance of expanding our thinking to a global view and remembering that there is so much need for development in areas with a much poorer standard of living.”

Makharia agrees, adding that working abroad brought insights that one can only fully grasp through experience. “Things change constantly,” he explained. “In Ecuador, business transactions are always evolving based on relationships. It’s critical that you understand the importance and the dynamics of those relationships if you’re going to be effective.”

An Eller Undergraduate Takes on the World

Audrey Belliard at UNICEF.
  Audrey Belliard sports her credentials with UNICEF in New York City.

The United Nations (UN) typically doesn't take on undergraduate interns. But over the course of the past year, marketing senior Audrey Belliard made connections with people in the organization, and with hard work and determination, landed a rare opportunity to work with UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund (formerly United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund).

Belliard took on a number of tasks working for the Global Staff Association office in New York City. She helped put together the office's '05 - '06 Provisional Budget and Program and participated in discussion panels and meetings on child labor and UN reform. Her main assignment was to update all training materials for UNICEF staff representatives — manuals, presentations, and more. A native French speaker, Belliard also worked on French translations of the materials, and was even invited to attend the opening session of UNICEF's Executive Board in June.

For Belliard, the internship was a watershed experience, both validating her abilities and clarifying future goals. "I really enjoyed the fact that my supervisors were very confident in me and my work and did not hesitate to give me extra assignments or ask me my opinion on various matters," she explained. "When I come back to Eller in the fall, I know what I am working towards. The people I met at UNICEF gave me the most insightful advice for my future plans, and I know that the connections I now have there will be a tremendous help throughout my career."

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Research Report.

Accounting Research Shows 2003 Tax Act Worked as Planned

Dr. Dan Dhaliwal.
Research by Department of Accounting head Dan Dhaliwal shows the 2005 Tax Act was a success.  

Faced with a weakening economy and high unemployment, Congress and President Bush passed the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act in 2003 (“2003 Tax Act”).

For individual shareholders, the 2003 Tax Act lowered both the maximum tax rate on capital gains and the maximum statutory tax rate on dividends. Though many critics predicted the measures would be ineffective, the legislation was meant to lower the cost of equity capital and stimulate investment in U.S. industry since investors would keep more of each dollar invested.

Did it work? Recent research from Eller’s Department of Accounting shows it did.

Dan Dhaliwal, head of the Department of Accounting, along with co-investigators Linda Krull of the University of Texas at Austin and Oliver Li at the University of Notre Dame, examined financial data from a broad range of firms from December 2001 to September 2004. Their sample included 2,500 to 3,000 firms per quarter, with market capitalizations ranging from $10 million to $500 billion — large household names such as Microsoft and Merck, mid-sized organizations like Office Max, and smaller corporations such as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

Dhaliwal and his team found that at the end of a year and a half following passage of the 2003 Tax Act, the average implied cost of equity capital had dropped by 1.4 percent as compared to the preceding year and a half. While the number may seem small, it's large when you consider that the mean change between other quarters in the study sample was a mere .25 percent.

The study also showed that the change in cost of capital was significantly smaller for firms held mainly not by individual shareholders but by institutional investors — a further indicator that the drop in cost of equity was a direct result of the 2003 Tax Act, which benefited only individual shareholders.

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Alumni Spotlight.

Trio of Eller Alumni Toss Together a Recipe for Success
Paolo DeFilippis, Business Management '01
Fran Katz, Marketing '83
Jeff Katz, Accounting '79

Paolo DeFilippis, Fran Katz, and Jeff Katz.
  Eller alumni (left to right) Paolo DeFilippis and husband and wife team Fran and Jeff Katz created a recipe for success with their new Tucson eatery Chopped!

Since doors opened last spring, Chopped! has seen people lining up for the restaurant’s popular favorite — custom-made salads. Visit during lunch hours or in the early evening and you’ll likely need to wait for a table. There’s always a line, but it moves fast, and after just four months in business, the owners are already looking to expand. So what’s the secret of success that three Eller alumni tossed into their eatery?

"It's not the most complex concept in the world,” said Jeff Katz of the restaurant’s “pick your greens, pick your toppings, pick a protein” approach to salad. Jeff is one of three Chopped! owners, all of whom hold Eller degrees. “There are places out there that make salads and make good salads,” he noted. “We just tried to come up with what we would want as customers and have gone from there. So far, it’s worked.”

Modesty aside, there’s a bit more to the story than that. Jeff and his wife Fran both work full-time, Jeff as a private-practice attorney and Fran as National Sales Manager for Tucson Lifestyle magazine. Paolo DeFilippis had worked at the restaurant that formerly inhabited the Chopped! space and met Jeff through real estate investments. When Jeff learned in mid-November that the property and restaurant were for sale, the trio moved in and bought within weeks. A couple of weeks later, they closed the former restaurant and less than three months later opened Chopped!

"It just all came together very quickly,” Jeff said. “Without tooting my horn too much, I think we had to make a lot of decisions fast, and 99 percent of them were the right decisions.”

It helps that three business-trained minds were making those decisions, the first of which was coming up with a distinct value proposition. Jeff and Fran had both experienced variations on the “build-your-own-salad” idea and recognized an unfilled niche in Tucson. Before finalizing their concept, they researched similar operations across the country to see what worked and what they could do better.

The team also knew when to bring in outside expertise. Jeff’s sister, an interior designer, gave the place a complete makeover. A local marketing and public relations firms has worked with them on advertising and promotions. They also hired on as general manager Mark Faust, who had managed the space’s former restaurant for more than ten years and, in Jeff’s words, “knew the customers, knew the building, and knew much more about the restaurant business than we did.”

Working as a team, the four of them put together a winning establishment in record time, managing everything from finding vendors to resurfacing the parking lot to intensive role-play training sessions with an entirely new team of employees. They also staged a very smart “soft” opening — some 200 invitation-only friends-and-family guests — as a dress rehearsal for the public opening a few days later.

With winning reviews from the media and an already devoted clientele, Chopped! is well on its way to becoming a Tucson standard, something the management team is proud of, even if Jeff does say, humbly, “The fact is that people really just seem to like designing their own salads.”

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From the Dean.
In the News.
Eller Presents.
  Eller's Finest.  
Research Report.
  Alumni Spotlight.