Professor wins national award for project to teach students about politics of tax policy

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 1, 2006 – C. Bryan Cloyd, the John E. Peterson Jr. Professor of Accounting and Information Systems at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, was a co-recipient of the 2006 American Taxation Association Teaching Innovation Award. The award, sponsored by the Deloitte Foundation, is designed to encourage tax professors to develop new teaching methods that stimulate students’ critical thinking skills.

Cloyd and Professor Connie Weaver of Texas A&M University received the award for their submission, “Engaging Students in the Politics of Tax Policy: The Tax Equity Survey Project.”

The project’s primary objective is to help students understand the social, economic, and political forces that are constantly reshaping U.S. tax laws. “Public perceptions of inequity in the tax system often stimulate changes through the political process. However, people often disagree about the fairness of particular tax rules,” Cloyd noted. “The project enables students to explore whether perceptions of the current tax system or proposed changes are driven by economic self-interest, concerns for social justice or fairness, political ideology, differing assumptions about the economy, or other factors.”

Small teams of students, he says, each develop research hypotheses such as: “Are individuals’ opinions about the fairness of the estate tax affected by their current family wealth or expectations of future wealth?” The teams then create survey questions to elicit the data needed to test their hypotheses. Next, all the questions are compiled into a large survey that is accessible on the Internet by students in other participating U.S. universities. Finally, the survey data are analyzed by the student teams, who then present their research findings to their classmates.

“Students learn more when they are actively engaged in doing things,” Cloyd says. “This project directly involves students in the process of conducting original research. It enhances students’ critical thinking and presentation skills and challenges them to solve problems by integrating knowledge from various disciplines, such as sociology, economics, political science, and statistics.”

Cloyd, who joined Virginia Tech last year, also won the award in 1998 and in 2003 for other innovations in tax education. “Elements of all three projects,” he says, “will be used in a new, junior-level course, ‘ACIS 3314: Tax Impact on Decisions,’ that will be offered at Virginia Tech next spring.” He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. from Indiana University.

The Deloitte Foundation is a not-for-profit arm of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP that supports teaching, research, and curriculum innovation in accounting, business, and related fields.

Virginia Tech’s nationally ranked Pamplin College of Business offers undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting and information systems, business information technology, economics, finance, hospitality and tourism management, management, and marketing. The college emphasizes the development of ethical values and leadership, technology, and international business skills. A member of its marketing faculty directs the interdisciplinary Sloan Foundation Forest Industries Center at Virginia Tech. The college’s other centers focus on business leadership, electronic commerce, and organizational performance. The college, committed to serving business and society through the expertise of its faculty, alumni, and students, is named in honor of Robert B. Pamplin (Class of 1933), the former CEO of Georgia-Pacific, and his son, businessman and philanthropist Robert B. Pamplin Jr. (Class of 1964). Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.