Choose Radford – Assistant Professor of Accounting Robert Warren
In April, when a group of Radford accounting students took an all-day forensic workshop under more than 20 representatives from the Internal Revenue Service, there was one figure present who spanned the distinctive lines between the academic and the investigatory.
That was Assistant Professor of Accounting Robert Warren, who coordinated the sprawling IRS Citizens Academy Training Program on campus and hopes to make it an ongoing annual event.
Well before he joined the Davis College of Business and Economics in 2020, Warren was an IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) special agent for more than two decades, uncovering offenses like tax evasion, human trafficking and identity theft.
So, when the students were interviewing a cagey informant, poring over stacks of documents looking for evidence or serving a search warrant on a business – all simulated exercises, but still dramatic and with a sense of authenticity – Warren was there to advise them, both as an educator and as someone who has actually done all of those things professionally.
And though he’s now transitioned to civilian life, he still carries a distinct energy that harkens back to his past.
“When you’re ready in the back, tap up!” Warren instructed a line of about 30 students during the academy, preparing the group to storm the campus office that was posing as a suspect’s headquarters, seconds from being raided. “Two taps! Two taps! Tap up! Tap up! Go! Get ready to roll! Boom-boom-boom!”
The freedom to orchestrate such an exercise and do it his way is one of the perks of working at Radford, he explained: “Here, Rob can be Rob.”
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maryland, Warren earned his accounting degree in 1988 and then got his MBA. He signed on with the IRS first as a revenue agent, auditing tax returns, and was later selected to become a special agent.
“Special agents, whether with the Secret Service, ATF, Homeland Security or any other federal law enforcement agency, are criminal investigators,” he said of the reassignment. “You go to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. They teach you how to make an arrest, how to interview people, surveillance and how to conduct what we would consider sophisticated financial investigations.”
Warren later rose to a supervising position but found he preferred his earlier role: “I spent four years as a supervisory special agent, then went back to the field for 9 ½ more. I loved the experience. I also spent about 2 ½ years working human trafficking and loved that, too. It was just a different skill set.”
Federal special agents can retire at age 50, with 20 years of service, and in 2016, Warren, by then a father of five, followed suit. He joined the faculty at the Catholic University of America as a research associate and, in 2019, earned his doctorate. He also began to publish, largely on Catholic clergy financial fraud, and compiled a database of more than 110 such cases.
“I think my years as an investigator inform my research because, as an investigator, you're gathering evidence, and you're matching it to a statute,” he said. Indeed, over the past three years, he’s had 11 publications in scholarly and practitioner journals and expects an upcoming article to hit print sometime this month.
In 2020, he interviewed for a position at Radford, whose campus he’d previously visited years before, representing the IRS-CI at a job fair in the late 1990s.
“It felt like home, it really did. Everybody was so welcoming,” Warren said of his choice to come to Radford.
“And I was really eager to go to an AACSB [Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business] accredited school because that means it’s one of the best business schools in the nation, in the world.”
Just as he did with his research, he found ways to apply his background to the classroom. Testifying before grand juries and as a witness in criminal trials, he said, is not too dissimilar from leading a classroom lecture.
“When I prepare and talk to students, it’s almost like talking to a jury. In both situations, you want to give them the information necessary to assure them what you’re saying is accurate and that your thesis is correct,” he said.
While his path has led him through a wide range of settings and situations over the years, Warren said he stands firmly behind the place he’s now reached.
“Radford is a destination school,” he explained. “I would tell any parent: If they want their child to receive a first-class business education at a public school, they’ve really got to consider Radford. Because they’re going to get a first-class education at a first-class university with professors that are available.”