2023 Best Undergraduate Professors: Thomas Godwin, Cornell University Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Thomas Godwin
Cornell University
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

“I have never had a professor so encouraging and willing to help. As his students, we always knew that Professor Godwin would help us with whatever we needed, whether that be course material or our careers. He created such a great environment to learn in, especially as Accounting majors. With regard to class material, I really enjoyed how he would include an article at the beginning of each class. This really made the concepts we were learning seem that much more useful and important in the real world. Also, while a lot of work, the tax return projects gave us some great experience. It was one of the first times in an Accounting course where I felt like I could see a glimpse of what I might be doing in the future. Overall, this was a great course and I feel lucky to have had Professor Godwin as my instructor.” – Student evaluation

Thomas Godwin, 36, is a professor of practice in  accounting at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management within the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University. 

He was previously an assistant professor of accounting at Purdue University. He is a licensed CPA in New York and South Carolina and holds a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation through the AICPA.

Prior to his time in academia, Godwin worked in tax consulting and compliance for a national public accounting firm, primarily serving private equity firms. His work has been published in both practitioner and academic outlets. 

At Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Godwin teaches financial accounting, tax and fraud courses for undergraduate and graduate students. He is a co-director of Cornell’s Low-Income Taxpayer Law and Accounting Practicum (LITLAP), focusing on free tax compliance services for low-income taxpayers in the Tompkins County, New York, area. Godwin has won college, university and national awards for his research, teaching and community engagement.


At current institution since what year? 2023


  • Purdue University (Ph.D. in Management – accounting area)
  • Clemson University (Master of Professional Accountancy – tax concentration)
  • Clemson University (Bachelor of Science – accounting)

List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Financial Accounting for Dyson Majors, Financial Accounting for Non-Dyson Majors, Fraud Examination, Tompkins Area Compliance and Consulting


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when … I saw how much positive impact professors have on their students and society. A good professor can have a substantial impact on students’ motivation and persistence.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? Most of my current research revolves around the role of financial analysts in capital markets, as well as recent tax developments. Some of my most recent work dives into the dynamics of how analysts allocate their time between their portfolio firms and suggests that analysts are rationally inattentive. I’ve also been working on a lot of practitioner-focused tax research.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be … a physician. I entered college planning to be a medical doctor rather than pursuing a Ph.D. and changed my major after taking my first financial accounting course.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I care a lot about my students’ learning and try to make myself available whenever they need help. My teaching philosophy is built from two pillars — inclusivity and support. I want to be sure that students feel like they belong, and while I hold students to a high standard, it’s imperative to offer extensive support and be as generous with my time as possible. I like to think it’s the aggregation of the little things like learning all my students’ names quickly and adjusting my schedule to meet theirs. I want to see them be successful not only in my courses, but well beyond their time in my courses, and I try to make that apparent to all my students. I also get easily excited about relatively mundane topics in accounting, which probably helps.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Excited

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Your students will teach you just as much as you teach them.

Professor I most admire and why: On the teaching side, I most admire Tom Dickens at Clemson University (now retired). His excitement for tax and accounting was contagious and made me start thinking seriously about becoming an accounting professor. On the research side, it’s Rob Bloomfield at Cornell. His work is always pushing the field forward and creatively thinking about accounting and measurement in a broader sense.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Business school students, especially at Cornell, are really focused on understanding the bigger picture surrounding concepts, and I always love putting those pieces together.

What is most challenging? Sometimes I wear what I think are “boring” topics on my sleeve.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Apathetic

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as … Fair


What are your hobbies? Hiking and cycling

How will you spend your summer? We make an annual trip to visit family in South Carolina, and I’ve also got a trip planned to Italy and Greece.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Maine, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Napa Valley

Favorite book(s): The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I usually watch movies or TV to completely unplug, so I admittedly don’t have good taste in either – my wife can attest to that. I’m usually watching whatever HBO or Danny McBride series is running.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I grew up in upstate South Carolina, so most of the music I listen to has always been folk music.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this … Experiential education and community engagement. One of the big draws in coming to Cornell for me was the fact that all Dyson undergraduates have made a positive impact through experiential learning in the Grand Challenges program, where students apply business thinking to the United Nations sustainable development goals. I think giving students an appreciation for making a difference in their communities is crucial to developing future business leaders.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at … recruitment and retention, especially in accounting. The accounting profession has always had high employee turnover rates, but the lack of students entering the profession is concerning, even showing up in some recent public company annual reports. 

I’m grateful for … my family. My wife is an engineering professor and has always been supportive of my path in academia. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to have always worked at the same university. We have two little kids, and the flexible schedule faculty life affords us to spend a lot more time with them than we otherwise would be able to.


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