Leeds School of Business

University of Colorado Boulder

Frank H. Selto

Professor Emeritus • Accounting

Koelbel S405E


Evolution of my career

I studied mathematics and science early, but I realized that I was not smart enough for math or physics career. I earned two degrees in mechanical engineering (BS & MS), but I also peaked here mathematically. The military draft loomed, so I joined ROTC as an undergraduate. Consequently, I served two years in army: one as design engineer, one in Viet Nam. These years were formative, perhaps in perverse way. Afterward, I worked about another year as engineer, and was exposed to environmental impacts of extractive industries. I decided to get an MBA and I got chance to teach management accounting in my second year. I really liked it (and still do) and decided to get a PhD. I truly enjoyed the study of economics, but I had strong ties to accounting. I came to CU in 1977, but left after 2 years for DU. I returned to CU in 1985, and I am still glad to be here, even with its financial challenges.

My research

I began with analytical work that was grounded in the field. I lost interest as I realized that analytical work has limited ability to explain practice, which is of more interest to me. People in practice are not stupid; we just need to understand them and their environment better.I then tried econometric research, blending survey and archival data, which I enjoy even today. This approach is useful for testing broad theories with relatively rich data. This approach can allow generalization to populations, but validity of measurement and research design are difficult to establish.

I very much enjoy field research, which allows me to study real people with real problems. I have focused on this approach for the past 10 years or more. I try to build theory or extend existing theories. This approach cannot generalize to populations, but it can stimulate research that is applicable to populations or subpopulations.

My teaching

I have continued to teach management accounting, which concerns the design and use of performance metrics for organizations’ planning, decision-making, evaluation and control. I think it is essential to engage students with my research experiences, which are more than stories because they are built on and seek to extend theory. I trust students at all levels to explore management accounting issues with their own research and hands-on analyses. I believe that if I end up doing all of the talking in the classroom, something is amiss and I must take corrective action to get students more engaged.

I have co-authored several textbooks, and I am working on two new texts because I feel that my previous texts and others available in the market do not sufficiently engage students in hands-on approaches new problems and developments in the world of management accounting practice. I think I am getting it right this time.


  • AICPA 2007 research grant
  • David Solomons Prize, co-winner, for best paper in Management Accounting Research, 2005
  • American Accounting Association
  • Management Accounting Sector notable contribution to literature award, 1994
  • Accounting Association of Australia and New Zealand, plenary speaker
  • European Accounting Association


  • PhD, MBA, Accounting, University of Washington, Seattle
  • MS, Mechanical Engineering, University of Utah
  • BS, Mechanical Engineering, Gonzaga University
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