• Professor Muehlmann Receives Teaching Award


The intricacies of global tax codes can be confusing, but Brigitte Muehlmann has turned this complex topic into a fascinating class where tax theory is examined in real-life business scenarios so that student can readily understand it. The result? Muehlmann won the American Taxation Association/Deloitte Teaching Innovation Award this summer for her creative approach to teaching international taxation.

Muehlmann uses a popular non-fiction work, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli, as a springboard for her similarly named course, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global World of Taxation. The book tracks the export of American cotton to China where it is used to manufacture T-shirts for sale in the United States. The T-shirts are ultimately donated to charity, sold to a consolidator and shipped to Tanzania for re-sale.

Muehlmann, who is an Associate Professor of Taxation in the Sawyer Business School, uses Travels of a T-Shirt to identify relevant tax issues affecting international businesses including alleviation of double taxation, the role of tax treaties, evaluation of tax planning opportunities, tax policy, ethics, professional responsibilities, and the importance of collaboration in today’s professional environment.

As part of the learning process, Muehlmann asks students to bring their favorite T-shirts to class for an old-fashioned show-and-tell session. As the students share stories of their favorite T-shirts, they connect intuitively with the subject. “Only then do we realize,” says Muehlmann, “how international taxation has become part of the fabric of our everyday life.”

Muehlmann is the first teacher at a New England university to receive the Teaching Innovation Award which has been presented annually for the past 15 years to those who have experimented with creative methods of teaching taxation.

While the innovation of using T-shirts is important, Muehlmann stresses that innovation for the sake of innovation wasn’t her goal. She uses T-shirts as an aid to promote learning, so that “people who go into tax practice are better prepared for today’s global business environment.”

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Brigitte W. Muehlmann
Associate Professor of Taxation