After receiving both his bachelor’s degree in accounting and master of professional accountancy and taxation degree from Clemson University, Thomas Godwin’s career seemed clearly mapped.
Upon earning his CPA certification while working for more than four years as a senior tax associate at Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP in North Carolina, however, he took a different turn and joined the PhD program in accounting at Purdue’s Krannert School of Management.
“I’ve always been curious about how things work inside different companies, the actual business processes,” Godwin says. “That drew me to the research side of the accounting and how taxation can affect the decision-making or the culture of a firm.”
“On the other side, I’d had the opportunity to teach a couple classes and serve as a supplemental instruction leader for about two and a half years as an undergrad and really enjoyed it,” he adds. “That persisted through my time in industry when I would help train new employees and lead continuing professional education programs. I realized that getting my PhD would allow me to balance my research and teaching interests.”
Godwin’s professional experience and his expertise in the classroom have not gone unnoticed.
He was awarded Purdue’s highly competitive Frederick N. Andrews Graduate Fellowship when he joined the PhD program and has received the Krannert Certificate for Distinguished Teaching every semester he’s taught. Godwin was presented with a Teaching Academy Graduate Teaching Award this April at the 19th Annual Celebration of Graduate Teaching Excellence, which was hosted by the Office of the Provost, Purdue Teaching Academy, Purdue Graduate School and Center for Instructional Excellence.
Although he admits that even accounting majors sometimes find the topics of taxation and auditing to be boring, Godwin brings it to life by peppering in business case studies and other real-word examples.
“I try to help my students understand the technical base and underpinnings of tax accounting that they’ll need to build on to advance their careers,” he says. “Sometimes it’s as simple as drawing a two-line graph or diagram showing how revenue and expenses impact a business decision. Other times it’s more complicated, which is when I pull from my industry experience. Having that outside perspective is appealing to students.”
Godwin also has built his research skills at Purdue, working primarily with Krannert accounting faculty members Mark Bagnoli, the Olson Chair in Management, and Susan Watts, the Emanuel T. Weiler Chair in Management.
Although the focus of his dissertation is still taking shape, Godwin is currently working on a project with Bagnoli and Watts that examines how changes in disclosure rules can impact tax information on the financial statements.
“It’s a very interesting time to be doing accounting research,” he says. “There hasn’t been any major tax reform since 1986, but even with the current legislative uncertainty, it’s on the horizon.”
Between teaching and research, Godwin also finds time to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program with United Way of Greater Lafayette, serving as the coordinator for Purdue’s site.
“I've always felt a deep obligation to helping my community,” he says. “Having expertise in tax made the VITA program a natural fit for me. It’s rewarding to make an impact on the lives of others.”