Kawika Pierson, CMA

Associate Professor of Accounting and Quantitative Methods


I study accounting because the focus of accounting research on the processes that generate organizational performance is a powerful approach to understanding businesses, governments, and nonprofits. Looking at the outputs of the accounting process from the context of systems science can help consumers of accounting data, managers, and academics better understand the organizations we interact with.

System Dynamics is a method for making the complicated mathematics underlying complex systems accessible. The structure of a system determines its behavior, so developing an understanding of different fundamental structures is essential for managers. My elective class in system dynamics helps students master this understanding and enables them to select "high leverage points" for action across disciplines and sectors.


Kawika Pierson is an Associate Professor of Accounting and Quantitative Methods at Willamette University's Atkinson Graduate School of Management. He graduated from MIT's Sloan School in 2011 with a PhD in Management, focusing on System Dynamics and Accounting. His thesis, entitled "Profit Cycle Dynamics," consists of three essays examining the existence and causes of profit cycles in the airline industry, the insurance industry, and across sectors in the economy.

Kawika's research interests lie in the application of differential equation modeling to problems in accounting and other areas of management. His accounting research is focused on public financial management. His interdisciplinary research ranges from explaining and correcting the relative age effect in professional sports to better understanding utility pole decay and optimal replacement. He has published in high quality academic journals and presented his work at conferences including the International Systems Dynamics Conference, the Public Management Research Association Conference, and the Production and Operations Management Society Conference.

Kawika brings extensive private sector experience as a derivatives trader and consultant. He traded softs (renewable commodities) and options for Louis Dreyfus Commodities both in the domestic market and in China. He has consulted for environmental engineering firms, hedge funds, and nonprofit organizations.


  • Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • B.S.E.E., Northwestern University

Areas of Instruction

Accounting, Statistics, and Complex Systems

Kawika teaches the introductory classes in accounting in both the Early Career/Career Change MBA program and the MBA for professionals program. He also teaches an elective called "Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World" in the Early Career/Career Change MBA program.

Selected Publications

Thompson, F., Pierson, K., Hand, M. L., & Dothan M. (2016) Is a Good Normative Model of Public Spending Run Backward A Good Positive Model? Public Budgeting and Finance. (in-press) doi: 10.1111/pbaf.12121

Pierson, K., & Blanc, T. (2016) The Operational Determinants of Utility Pole Decay and Optimal Replacement in the Pacific NorthwestIEEE Transactions on Power Delivery. 31(5): 2223-2230 doi: 10.1109/TPWRD.2016.2517043

Pierson, K., & Thompson, F. (2016) How You Buy Affects What You Get: Technology Acquisition by State Governments. Government Information Quarterly. 33(3): 494-505 doi: 10.1016 /j.giq.2016.06.003

Thompson, F., Pierson, K., Walker, R. (2016) Property Tax Fairness in Multnomah County, Oregon. California Journal of Politics and Policy. 8(2) doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5070/P2cjpp8230561

Pierson, K., Hand, M., & Thompson, F. (2015). The Government Finance Database: A Common Resource for Quantitative Research in Public Financial Analysis PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130119

Claus, L., Maletz, S., Casoinic, D., & Pierson, K. (2015). Social Capital and Cultural Adjustment of International Assignees in NGOs: Do Support Networks Really Matter? The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 6(20): 2523-2542 doi:10.1080/09585192.2014.1003083

Hand, M. L., Pierson, K., & Thompson, F. (2015). A Replication Study of ‘Why Do Cities Hoard Cash?' (The Accounting Review, 2009)Public Finance Review. 44(5) doi:10.1177/1091142115580130

Pierson, K., Addona, V., & Yates, P. (2014). A Behavioural Dynamic Model of the Relative Age Effect. Journal of Sports Sciences. 32(8): 776-784 doi:10.1080/02640414.2013.855804

Pierson, K. & Sterman, J. (2013). Cyclical Dynamics of Airline Industry Profits. System Dynamics Review. 29: 129-156 doi: 10.1002/sdr.1501

Honors, Awards and Distinctions

  • Jerry E. Hudson Award for Excellence in Teaching, Willamette University (2015)
  • Certified Management Accountant (2014)
  • Award for Excellence in Teaching, Atkinson Graduate School of Management (2012)
  • Sloan Nominee for the Goodwin Medal for Conspicuously Effective Teaching (2009)
  • BP/MIT Energy Fellowship (2009)
  • MIT Sloan School of Management Doctoral Fellowship (2006)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology Presidential Award (2006)
  • Erdős Number: 4, Paul Erdős -> James Baumgartner -> Stanley Wagon -> Vittorio Addona