McMullen Looks Beyond the Numbers to Crack the Case

Friday, February 19, 2010

In order to catch a fraud, you have to act like a fraud. That’s the lesson Dr. Dorothy McMullen, associate professor of Accounting, tries to teach her students.

“You have to think like them, and ask ‘How can I get around the system?’” said McMullen, who teaches courses in auditing, accounting information systems and forensic accounting. “It’s like a big puzzle.”

It was these aspects of getting into a person’s psyche and her love for puzzles that drew McMullen to the field of forensic accounting as a student and a professional. She spent 10 years in the auditing industry before accepting a faculty post at Rider in 1991. Her research encompasses fraudulent financial reporting and forensics, audit committees and corporate governance.

“I have seen almost all facets of finance,” she said. “The field of business forensics is very multifaceted. You’re constantly learning.”

Surprisingly, McMullen initially tried to steer clear of numbers. In fact, it was this disdain for numbers that initially pushed her to study French and voice at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia, and later as an undergraduate student at La Salle University. She eventually migrated to psychology, but became fascinated with accounting after taking a class with an inspiring instructor. This propelled her to explore the topic of fraud-audit committees for her doctoral dissertation at Drexel University.

In addition to holding various certifications, McMullen has taken advantage of professional development opportunities with firms such as Deloitte and Johnson & Johnson. It was through these contacts that she was invited by the Office of the New Jersey State Auditor to give a presentation to a group of 230 auditors in January at the State Museum Auditorium in Trenton. Representing Rider’s Center for Business Forensics, McMullen presented Occupational Fraud and Abuse: Now Playing at an Organization Near You, part of a daylong CPE training session for New Jersey auditors that focused on fraud indicators, how fraud is investigated and ways it is executed.

Next spring, McMullen will teach a new capstone course, ACC 425: Business Forensic Applications, for the Business Forensics certificate with Dr. William Amadio, professor of Computer Information Systems and director of the Center for Business Forensics. The forensic concentration and certificate program is designed to prepare participants for a career in the field of fraud investigation by providing skills and tools to both prevent fraud from occurring and discovering fraud after it has occurred. The Center also hosts guest speakers to give students a real world perspective of fraud investigation.

On Friday, March 26, the Department of Accounting will host an all-day event with the IRS-Adrian Project. Rider was selected as the New Jersey school to participate. Students will have the chance to work with special agents in a mock white collar criminal investigation on the Lawrenceville campus.

McMullen said there are many skills needed in the field of business forensics.

“Writing is so important. You need to know how to write a report. It’s important to have people skills because it’s through talking with people that you get information,” said McMullen, who spent a year studying German in Austria before coming to Rider. “Learning another language is an essential skill to have now in order to stand out above other people in the field.”

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Dr. Dorothy McMullen, associate professor of Accounting