Accounting PhD Student Amanda Marino Keeps on Rolling

Amanda Marino, Accounting PhD student and roller derby enthusiast

With ten years of experience at three of the Big 4 companies in public accounting, Amanda Marino has an enviable professional resume.

In her progression from Deloitte, where she started her career after undergraduate studies at Bentley University, to KPMG, then Ernst & Young and finally back to KPMG, Marino worked in corporate accounting related to financial services, helping companies – specifically, hedge funds – with their tax planning and tax compliance. “Working for a few different accounting firms over my professional career I got to see the different ways different firms handle tax-related decisions with their clients, and it sparked my interest. I did research to help them save the most money on taxes,” she says. “But those weren’t the only kinds of questions I wanted to ask. There was more about their tax decisions that I wanted to understand and investigate.”

“There’s a lot that’s unclear about why companies choose different types of tax strategies and the impact that these decisions have on the business and on the economy in general. It was eating at me a little, and I wanted to understand it more.”

That desire for knowledge led her to pursue her doctorate in accounting at Drexel LeBow; now, at roughly the halfway point in the PhD program, she’s refining her ideas for her dissertation while contributing to ongoing faculty research. “I’ve learned so much since I started,” she says. “I’ve had to reconsider my whole thought process. When you’re coming from a professional background, you have a lot of big ideas. I want to understand this really big thing, but in order to scientifically test something, it has to be quite small. I’m learning how to test smaller questions, and to add to the existing knowledge of prior literature, in order to answer some of these bigger questions.”

Her current research looks at corporate inversions, where firms set up their domicile in another country in order to reduce their tax burden; working in Bermuda, an international tax haven, prepared her well for this area of research. “Because Bermuda was such a small place with so many big companies, I was exposed to stuff that I might never have gotten to work on at a large public accounting firm in the US,” she says. “It’s where I got interested in the international side of US taxation: How are foreign companies taxed in the US and how are US companies taxed internationally?”

She’s currently researching debt costs related to corporate inversions. “A lot of these companies have to execute expensive M&A transactions in order to make the inversions legally permissible,” she explains. “It’s interesting to see how corporate decisions related to tax legislation have non-tax costs, specifically here related to their debt costs.”

Before beginning her dissertation-related research, Marino worked with Assistant Professor of Accounting Curtis Hall on a paper on an unrelated but interesting topic: the gender pay gap in nonprofit organizations. That paper was accepted for a sectional conference on nonprofits in March, and they’ll present it at the American Accounting Association’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco this summer.

“When people step out of accounting practice, more than in a lot of fields, there’s a big gap in the skills that allows you to be successful in the profession and what allows you to be successful in research,” Hall says. “She’s taken that head on and has come a long way. I have really high hopes for her as an academic.”

While Marino spends much of her time steeped in research – accessing financial statements through Compustat or combing through companies’ 10-K reports – she notes that “it’s important to maintain a life outside of that, because I think it makes me better at my job.” Over the last several years, her main outlet outside of work has been roller derby.

Marino discovered roller derby about seven years ago, toward the end of her time in Los Angeles, balancing training and scrimmages with her often-demanding work schedule. She then brought the interest with her back to the East Coast, first playing in Boston and then in Philadelphia after coming to LeBow.

Despite starting with a limited skating background, she took to the high-speed, high-impact sport with great enthusiasm: “It was incredibly hard, I was awful at first – but I loved it instantly.”

“It’s really kind of a cool community of strong women who have this shared passion, so no matter where in the world you go, you can find like-minded individuals to do this thing you love with.”

Within the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the governing body for roller derby, Philadelphia’s all-star team consistently ranks in the top 20. As a top-20 team, Philly’s team is highly competitive and plays internationally for roughly six regular-season games a year. Last season Marino played for their all-star team in the 2018 regular season against teams from Madison, Minnesota, and Buffalo; and in the WFTDA International Playoffs in A Coruña, Spain. Roller derby has introduced her to new cities and new people. Marino cites the team’s make-up – lawyers, doctors, teachers, bartenders and even a few PhD students like herself – and notes that, “the competitiveness combined with the fact that it is non-professional sport, attracts people from all walks of life and all professions.”

This season, Philly’s team has risen to twelfth worldwide; they’ll host the East Coast Derby Extravaganza on June 21-23, welcoming competitors from London and Seattle. Through her dedication and training, Marino has made it to skate with the all-stars for few games and, earlier this year, won an MVP award for her blocking in an intra-league game and another as a “jammer” in a game against Brandywine Roller Derby.

“The jammers are the ones who score the points. The blockers are playing offense and defense, trying to get their jammer through the pack while preventing the other jammer from getting through,” she explains. “It’s a weird combination of strength and agility – you have to be strong enough to take some big hits but agile enough to move quickly around people.”

“Watching yourself improve at something hard is exciting,” she says. “I can do things now that I couldn’t imagine doing years ago, and that has implications for other parts of my life. Roller derby has taught me that if I focus on something and keep working, I’m going to eventually be successful. I can apply that drive to a lot of my life, including to my research!”

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