Dr. Cathy Bowen, committed to helping students and community through tax assistance program
Some professors focus on teaching their classes and conducting individual research. Others are compelled to go above and beyond to serve the University community in unique ways to enhance students’ lives. Cathy Bowen, professor of consumer issues at Penn State University Park, is one of those professors.
In addition to her duties as an educator in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education, Cathy has been the driving force behind the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program for eight years.
The VITA program is a volunteer service, funded in 2011 by the accounting firm PwC (refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers), helping income-eligible State College locals get their taxes done for free. The program began as an outreach program of the College of Agricultural Sciences/Cooperative Extension and is now a joint program with the Dickinson School of Law and Smeal College of Business. It is also a great learning environment for students who have an interest in tax accounting to garner real world experience. The program brings to life Penn State’s mission of “scholarship and creative activity to promote human and economic development … public service to support the citizens of the Commonwealth, and …. progress in professional practice through the expansion of knowledge and its application.”
Cathy’s utmost commitment to this program and students is immense. She has donated countless late nights and long weekends during the tax season to process and double check tax returns and completed logistical behind-the-scenes work to ensure the returns are done correctly and e-filed on time.
This past year, under Cathy’s leadership, the VITA program of 51 law and accounting student volunteers completed nearly 700 tax returns that saved the elderly, working families and students within State College and the surrounding area at least $133,000 in filing fees. The program’s total economic impact was approximately $834,000 which includes nearly $285,000 in various tax credits. Cathy’s devotion to students and the State College community helps make Penn State the world-class university it is today.