Alice Keane: Finding research interest in an unlikely place
Undergraduate Accounting Program Coordinator, Alice Keane found her long term research interest in an area she least expected, tax law. A topic that she was hesitant to explore has become a subject that she finds fascinating, one that she continues to research since she was first introduced to it during law school years ago.
Keane received tenure last summer alongside five more professors, which led to her promotion to Associate Professor of Accounting. She teaches a variety of classes in Governor State University's (GSU) College of Business Accounting program, both for undergraduate and graduate students.
GSU Newsroom: What drew you to your field of study?
Keane: I teach tax, business law, and related courses. I have known I wanted to be a lawyer since I was very small. When I was in law school at U. of I., however, I resisted taking a tax class. I thought it was boring and stressful. My advisor pushed me into taking Income Taxation with Professor John D. Colombo. He was a gifted teacher, and I was shocked to discover that I loved tax! After I graduated from law school and practiced law for a while, I decided to go back to school to earn my LLM in tax. Since then, I have written, researched, edited, and practiced tax law in many different roles. I have never stopped enjoying it!
Because of this experience I recommend that my students take courses that they are not sure they will enjoy. I tell them, “Try something new. It may surprise you.”
GSU Newsroom: Can you tell us a little about your current research interests?
Keane: Generally, my research involves tax law and other laws that affect businesses. Over the past few years, I have been researching, presenting, and writing on the federal taxation of cannabis businesses that are licensed by states. Cannabis remains a “Schedule I” controlled substance under federal law, which means that it is highly illegal to sell or possess it in any quantity. However, over the past 30 years or so, states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and more recently for adult recreational use. In Illinois, for instance, there are cannabis businesses regulated by the state that grow, produce, and sell cannabis products for both medical and recreational uses. Because of a section in the U.S. Tax Code that was enacted in the 1980s, taxpayers that sell or distribute cannabis are not entitled to take any tax deductions or credits. The practical effect of this law is that cannabis businesses that are licensed and regulated by states must pay much higher taxes than other types of businesses. There have been several bills proposed in Congress to change the treatment of cannabis by the federal government that may also change the way cannabis businesses are being taxed; however, none of them has passed at this time.
Once I finish my current research project, I am planning to branch out into international taxation. I wrote my graduate thesis on an international tax issue, and I look forward to conducting more research in this area.
GSU Newsroom: How did you choose teaching over practicing law?
Keane: I have had many opportunities in my career to practice law in many different settings and roles. I have worked in a large downtown law firm, as a judicial law clerk for an appellate court judge, as an editor for a legal publication, and as a government attorney. I enjoyed all these positions. However, in 2014, I was asked to teach an evening class as an adjunct professor in the College of Business at GSU. I have a hard time describing just how engaging and rewarding I found teaching GSU’s amazing students! It changed the trajectory of my career completely. When I got the opportunity to interview for a full-time faculty position at GSU in 2016, I leapt at the chance. Becoming a full-time member of the faculty was a dream come true. I love my job. Teaching and interacting with our students, researching and writing on tax and other areas of the law, and working in service roles with other GSU faculty, staff, and administrators – who could ask for more?
GSU Newsroom: For students who have enjoyed a course subject you’ve taught, what other subjects or courses would you recommend?
Keane: There’s so much to choose from in the College of Business and in the accounting curriculum. This academic year, I am teaching Tax I, Business Law I and II, and a newly cross-listed course for both graduate and undergraduate accounting students, Employee Benefits and Retirement Planning. In addition, my accounting faculty colleagues are all excellent and engaging teachers. I don’t think accounting students can go wrong with any classes they choose!
If a student has the time to take an elective course outside of their major, I think they should jump at the chance to try something completely different. It is good to stretch one’s intellectual muscles, so to speak. For instance, accounting students could take a language or a course in history, art, literature, marketing, science, creative writing, music. There are lots of options available!
GSU Newsroom: What is your favorite space on GSU's campus?
Keane: I love the outdoor space, the lovely seating area outside of the Hall of Governors, the pond, and the sculpture garden. I also enjoy walking through the E building and looking at the art objects – sculpture and paintings – by GSU students. The Center for Performing Arts is amazing. I don’t get to go to as many performances and events there as I would like, but whenever I do get the chance it’s a treat. As a general rule, though, my favorite space at GSU is anywhere that I can talk and interact with students and other faculty and staff.