For Anne Magro, being named the Ray M. Sommerfeld Outstanding Tax Educator is only part of her story

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Anne Magro
Anne Magro

For some, working on their taxes can be an anxiety-riddled experience, but for Anne Magro, co-executive director of the Business for a Better World Center (B4BW) and associate professor of accounting, tax is where she thrives. She’s so exceptional, in fact, that Anne was honored as the top tax educator in the nation, receiving the prestigious Ray M. Sommerfeld Outstanding Tax Educator Award from the American Taxation Association (ATA) at the organization’s mid-year meeting earlier this year.

“Receiving the Sommerfeld award is one of the most exciting moments in my career because it represents recognition by my peers that education is so much more than just what goes on in a classroom,” she said. “It includes research and generating new knowledge. It’s also about educating ourselves and others to serve our community.”

If doing taxes ranks among American’s least favorite activities, what was it that piqued Anne’s interest? This self-confessed “terrible student”, who was incredibly curious growing up and always asking “why?”, was neurodivergent with undiagnosed ADHD which impacted her ability to regulate her focus and resulted in failing grades. With multiple changes to her major and numerous failed attempts to obtain her bachelor’s degree, Anne felt lost and struggled to find direction. One day she randomly filled an empty space in her schedule with an accounting class and suddenly her world changed.

“Things suddenly clicked for me because as it turned out, accounting is a good match between the way I think and the way numbers speak,” Anne said. “Accounting measures, reports, and predicts what occurs within organizations. It is the original business analytics. Accounting describes to different stakeholders what’s happening in an organization in a way that’s useful to them. It’s about story-telling, and I could get my head around that.”

But tax isn’t the only area where Anne excels. This fall she will teach a course in the Honors College on judgment and decision making that she recently taught at Carleton College, a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, as the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of Cognitive Science. Anne also has been active in curriculum development including designing innovative classroom activities and courses, redesigning programs for new modalities, leading the redesign of the School of Business’ undergraduate curriculum and the development of its new degree structure, and developing new minors and concentrations. Anne also founded and leads Mason’s Behavioral Tax Symposium that has attracted doctoral student researchers from around the world for the last 14 years. In recognition of her leadership in the university and profession, Anne was recently elected inaugural President of the American Accounting Association’s new Leadership in Accounting Education section, serving accounting program leaders and developing leaders for the future.

Anne regularly reflects on a business history course she took as an undergraduate that included the labor movement of the early 20th Century—a course that fed her interest in responsible business practices and the positive impact business can have in the world. Anne wants students to not only understand the traditional topics of business, but to consider business’ responsibility to society as well. Serving as founding co-executive director (with Lisa Gring-Pemble) of the Business for a Better World Center (B4BW) in Mason’s School of Business is a natural extension of her passion for this work.

“Just think about how much of the world’s resources (human, financial, and physical), are controlled by businesses. If business leaders don’t step up, we won’t make much progress on the world’s complex challenges. But if businesses lead and partner with NGOs and governments, we can get things done,” Anne said. “Companies need to take the long-term view—look beyond short-term gains for shareholders and create value for employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and the planet that will lead to long-term gains for all stakeholders.”

Anne fully embraces B4BW’s belief that business can, and should, be a force for good in the world and believes that students are central to achieving the Center’s vision. Under Anne and Lisa’s leadership, B4BW is committed to making this transformation a reality by working inside the classroom and out to prepare students to act with people, planet, and prosperity in mind. B4BW initiatives developed by Anne and Lisa like Impact Fellows, Wicked Problems Bootcamp Summer Team Impact Project, Liberal Arts in Business summer internships, and a place-based initiative to reduce health inequities in Culmore Bailey’s Crossroads with Rebecca Sutter of CHHS serve B4BW’s mission. Anne does all this in the hope that today’s students will become tomorrow’s business leaders who change the world for the better.

“When I teach, I want to help students see what is possible and how their actions can change the world.” she said. “If we transform the way we teach business, we can transform the way business operates in the world.”

Between teaching, mentoring, curriculum development, and the many leadership roles she holds, Anne recognizes that she’s in an “interesting place” in her career—and she’s never been happier. Knowing that she’s helping Mason revolutionize the way it teaches business so graduates can transform the way businesses operate for the world reinforces that asking “why” from a young age can lead to great things.