BYU Marriott School of Business welcomed 12 new professors this fall.
Britt Berrett joins BYU Marriott as the first managing director of BYU’s new Healthcare Leadership Collaborative (HLC) and as a professor in the Department of Management. Berrett’s journey to healthcare leadership began when he suffered severe burn injuries in a fire as a 15-year-old. The hospital caretakers who saved Berrett’s life and helped him recover made a long-lasting impression on Berrett and inspired him to combine his BS in finance from BYU with a master’s degree in healthcare administration from Washington University School of Medicine. Berrett launched his career in San Diego and then moved to Dallas to serve as president and CEO of Medical City Healthcare—a hospital that had 585 beds, 2,000 employees, and a challenging work environment. Under Berrett’s leadership, the hospital transformed into an award-winning facility and was the first hospital ever to be named by Dallas Business Journal as the best place to work in Dallas-Fort Worth. After Medical City, Berrett was the president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and then executive vice president for Texas Health Resources, one of the largest integrated delivery systems in the country. Berrett earned a PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas, where he eventually joined the faculty and helped create the university’s undergraduate program in healthcare administration. He also coauthored the New York Times best-selling book Patients Come Second—Leading Change by Changing the Way You Lead.
Barry Brewer is an incoming associate professor of global supply chain management. Brewer started out studying history at the United States Air Force Academy and continued on to receive a master’s degree in logistics from the Air Force Institute of Technology. After completing his PhD in supply chain management from Arizona State University, Brewer retuned to the Air Force Academy in Colorado as an assistant professor of management. He then spent nearly a decade in the college of business at the University of Wyoming, teaching operations management, supply chain management, and decision science. Just prior to joining BYU Marriott, Brewer spent time teaching supply chain management at New Mexico State University. During that time, Brewer partnered with professors from New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming to study humanitarian responses to the COVID-19 pandemic from a supply chain angle. Many of his journal articles focus on procurement, and his most highly cited work addresses sustainability in supply chain.
Brant Christensen, associate professor of accounting, received his MAcc from BYU Marriott in 2009. He went on to work as an auditor of private companies at PwC, an experience that heavily influenced his later research and teaching. Christensen returned to academia to pursue a PhD in accounting from Texas A&M University. He launched his teaching career at the University of Missouri and then moved to the University of Oklahoma, where he advanced from assistant to associate professor. With his coauthors, Christensen has received multiple prestigious research grants, including two from the Center for Audit Quality. Christensen has also been recognized for his teaching with awards such as the Hurley Roberson Teaching Excellence Award in 2020. Premier academic journals including Contemporary Accounting Research and Accounting, Organizations, and Society have repeatedly featured Christensen’s work on a variety of accounting and auditing topics. Christensen now brings his expertise to the auditing classes he teaches at BYU Marriott's School of Accountancy.
Zack Fox joins the School of Accountancy as an assistant professor. Fox earned his BS in accounting from Utah Tech University (formerly Dixie State), where he played football and was voted team captain. He worked as a tax auditor for the Utah State Tax Commission and then returned to academia, completing his master’s degree in accounting from BYU Marriott in 2016. While pursuing his PhD in accounting at the University of Oregon, Fox received many awards, including the College of Business Best Teaching Award, the Doctoral Fellowship for Outstanding Doctoral Student, and the Robin and Roger Award for Excellence in Research, which he received three years in a row. Fox completed his PhD in 2021 and taught at Texas A&M before joining BYU Marriott. His research interests include the consequences of tax policy, tax planning, and corporate disclosure choices. One of Fox’s recent papers, entitled “Double Trouble? IRS’s Attention to Financial Accounting Restatements,” has been presented at conferences in Oregon, California, Washington, DC, and Spain.
Chris Hair comes to BYU Marriott as an assistant professor of finance. As a National Merit Scholar and undergraduate at BYU, Hair double-majored in economics and applied and computational mathematics. After receiving both a BS and BA in 2016, Hair worked as an economic consultant for Merrill J. Bateman’s company, MJB Associates, where he calculated damages and modeled predictions for a multimillion-dollar natural gas case. Hair pursued graduate studies at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and just received his PhD in 2022. Hair’s research areas include real estate and urban economics.
Jon Kerr, associate professor at BYU Marriott’s School of Accountancy, received his BS and MAcc in accounting from BYU in 2006. His professional career began at Grant Thornton LLP. While in the Seattle office, he started out working on federal and state income tax compliance and worked his way up to become a senior associate with the Strategic Federal Tax Services (SFTS) consulting group. Kerr left the firm to attend Columbia University, where he earned a master of philosophy as well as a PhD in accounting in 2013. For four more years, Kerr stayed in New York, teaching at Baruch College–City University of New York. He moved on to the Fisher School of Business at The Ohio State University in 2017. Kerr’s research spans a variety of taxation topics, including the information environment, equity and debt markets, and asset liquidity. Returning to Utah gives Kerr the chance to enjoy the outdoors with his wife and four daughters and to continue his hobby of beekeeping.
Jonathan Liljegren returns to BYU Marriott as an associate professor of accounting in the School of Accountancy. As a student in BYU Marriott’s MAcc program, Liljegren landed a summer internship at Ernst and Young in the Bay Area. One night during his long drive from Palo Alto, Liljegren realized his strengths were best suited for a career in consulting as opposed to auditing. He completed his degree in 2008 and then launched his consulting career at PwC, where he also worked with tax and assurance teams, specializing in technology support. Liljegren moved on to work for Freddie Mac in Virginia, first as a tax manager and then as a director. During this same time, he became adjunct faculty at George Mason University and went on to teach the upper-division assurance and audit services course for 13 semesters. Liljegren says this approach of working in tax by day and teaching audit by night was his strategy for staying a well-rounded accountant. After nearly a decade in Virginia, Liljegren moved to Seattle to work at Amazon’s headquarters, where he applied his technology expertise to build accounting systems and lead accounting program management teams. Service has been an important part of Liljegren’s life. He volunteered for many years with the Business Council for Peace, where he trained entrepreneurs from Afghanistan at Dubai Women’s College.
Travis Ruddle comes to Utah from Oklahoma to serve as an assistant professor with the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics. Ruddle earned all three of his degrees from the University of Oklahoma: a BA in political science, a master of public administration, and a PhD in political science. Ruddle’s student-focused career began at Oklahoma City Community College, where he held a variety of positions including student recruitment coordinator, college event organizer, adjunct faculty member, and assistant to the college president. He also taught courses in leadership and college success, and he expanded connections with the community by forging partnerships between the college and local nonprofits and businesses. During his graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma, Ruddle taught courses in government and nonprofit management; he was also named a Boren Fellow. Ruddle researches and publishes on many topics, including accountability, crisis management, ethics, corruption, and misconduct. Ruddle is passionate about the need for ethical leaders and governance, and he looks forward to shaping future leaders here at BYU Marriott.
Jacob Steffen is an assistant professor of information systems who received his master of information systems management from BYU Marriott in 2017. Steffen went on to study management information systems at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he taught data management and analytics courses and completed his PhD in business administration in 2022. As a doctoral student, Steffen researched how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can change the way humans learn, work, and engage with the world. His most widely cited paper focuses on the underlying motives that lead people to utilize AR and VR technology. His work also explores the potential for inexpensive “wearable devices” to help gather physiological data and support information systems research.
Sheri Smith Thomas has taught undergraduate and graduate-level courses at BYU Marriott as an adjunct professor for many years, and she now joins the School of Accountancy as a full-time associate professor. Thomas attended high school in Madrid and Mississippi before attending BYU to earn her MAcc. She started her career at PwC in San Francisco, where she did everything from auditing for small nonprofits to overseeing a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for a large, international company. Thomas went on to implement a new ERP system for Coherex Medical, a company that develops medical devices for the treatment of heart diseases. Coherex brought Thomas on in 2009 to serve as controller, and only a year later, Coherex promoted her to vice president of finance and accounting. When Coherex was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2015, Thomas assisted with the transition and continued on in her position, serving the company for more than a decade. Thomas also serves on the board of directors for Med One Group, another company dedicated to providing life-saving medical equipment. Thomas maintains her license as a certified public accountant (CPA) and is a member of the American Institute of CPAs.
Breck Wightman returns to BYU Marriott as an assistant professor at the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics. Wightman completed his MPA at BYU Marriott in 2018 and set off to pursue his PhD in public affairs at Indiana University. Wightman and his wife had four children during graduate school, and he still managed to finish his PhD in four years and earn the title of graduate fellow for the Rumsfeld Foundation. Wightman credits his family’s support and love for keeping him grounded and focused throughout graduate school, and he encourages students to view their family as an asset during schooling years. Wightman now teaches economics, public policy, and public administration classes for MPA students who stand where he once stood. He researches a broad range of topics including public management, organization theory, and strategic human resource management. His recent publications address executive succession and administrative transparency, and he has also published in the Deseret News as a contributor.
David Wilson, assistant professor of information systems, brings years of experience in both the private sector and academia to BYU Marriott. After receiving his MISM at BYU in 2010, Wilson completed his PhD at the University of Arizona. As an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, Wilson completely revamped the introductory information systems course, which helped enrollment in the MIS major grow. Wilson applied his expertise to develop digital behavior products while serving for five years as the director of data science at the firm Neuro-ID. He continues to research digital body language to better understand how people experience frustration or satisfaction when using online platforms. At BYU Marriott, Wilson hopes to help his students become “thoughtful, detail-oriented, utility-focused data ninjas.”
Writer: Jaden McQuivey