Leischuck Award winner Kerry Inger brings out the best in her accounting students

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Kerry Inger wants her students to see the interesting aspects of tax in everyday situations, and especially those that aren’t every day, like how tax laws can affect a baseball caught at a Major League Baseball game.

“Is that baseball taxable? It can depend on the player and situation,” she said. “An ordinary foul ball, no. But a key home run in the World Series, most definitely.”

Inger, associate professor in the Harbert College of Business’ School of Accountancy, teaches undergraduate and graduate tax accounting classes. The classes involve different approaches to teaching, but Inger brings out the best in her students, no matter the level.

Her inspirational role in students’ lives has been recognized by students, colleagues and administrators with numerous awards since she joined the Auburn faculty in 2012.

During the fall 2020 Faculty Award Ceremony, Inger received the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching—the university’s highest teaching honor—and the Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award.

“We have great teachers at Auburn, so it was such a shock to receive the awards,” said Inger. “I am so honored.”

The Leischuck Award recognizes teaching excellence by faculty who have demonstrated a commitment to student success through effective and innovative teaching and through advising and mentoring inside and outside the classroom. It is presented annually to two faculty members and includes $10,000 for each recipient. This year, Inger won the award along with Professor Christopher Lepczyk of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.

Gerald and Emily Leischuck, 1964 graduates and retired Auburn administrators, established the award in 2005. Emily Leischuck died in 2013.

“Dr. Inger is truly deserving of the recognitions she received this year from the university,” said Annette L. Ranft, dean and Wells Fargo Professor in the Harbert College of Business. “She consistently excels in the classroom and beyond and is a leader and role model among the faculty.”

Inger applies her enthusiastic approach off campus by encouraging students to help underserved individuals do their taxes as part of the Impact America volunteer program. Her students have helped Alabamians in Auburn and Opelika, as well as other parts of the state including Montgomery and Birmingham, and this year will assist virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“The virtual aspect could open more doors in the future,” Inger said.

In addition to the Leischuck Award, Inger won the Alumni Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award that recognizes the outstanding teaching of undergraduates from nominations made by department heads, deans, alumni and students. A committee of retired faculty members selects the recipients.

“Helping low-income families with their tax returns made one of the biggest impacts on me during my time at Auburn,” said senior Kristen Casey, whom Inger taught in Casey’s junior year. “Having a professor endorse opportunities like Impact America not only spoke to the amazing professor she was, but also showed she cared about others.”

Inger also serves students through her involvement in Study Abroad programs, having taken students to South America and Europe. The trips include events to help schoolchildren and local communities.

Inger is a leader in research education as well.

She is ranked No. 17 in the world for accounting education research over the last six years, contributing to Auburn’s overall No. 1 ranking. Her work has been published in The Accounting Review, The Journal of the American Taxation Association, The Journal of Managerial Accounting Research, Tax Notes and Issues in Accounting Education.

In teaching her graduate tax accounting research class, Inger asked students to study an interesting tax topic and distribute it through audio podcasts to other students.

“It was well-received, and they enjoyed it,” Inger said. “We had about 100 students divide into 30 small groups, and each group did a podcast. For example, one group researched the cases of Pete Rose and Darryl Strawberry, who were charged with tax evasion on income for their autographs.”

Inger is in her ninth year of teaching at Auburn. She previously spent four years as a student-teacher at Virginia Tech, where she earned her doctorate, and five years as a student at the University of Florida, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting.

In addition to her 18 years of experience in higher education, she worked five years as a tax accountant, gaining professional experience that helped form her teaching methodology.

Inger says the reward of teaching is much more than winning awards.

“It’s when former students excel in their lives and careers,” she said. “I get to see them grow from undergraduates into graduate students or into their professions. I get to see them make an impact.”

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