Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Numbers seem like an appropriate way to summarize Professor Joyce Berg’s career. She is, after all, an accounting professor. And the numbers are staggering:

Joyce with 2019 Beta Alpha Psi officers.
Professor Berg with the 2019 Beta Alpha Psi officers.
  • 11 Tippie Build Houses completed
  • $500,000+ raised to provide homes for Iowa families
  • 15,000+ tax returns filed through the VITA Program
  • Roughly $15 million in tax refunds to Iowa residents thanks to the VITA Program
  • 10,700+ Iowa students taught about making decisions using accounting information
  • 6,800+ citations on Google Scholar for her paper “Trust, Reciprocity, and Social History” with John Dickhaut and Kevin McCabe. The most cited paper by any Tippie accounting faculty member.

Yet even the numbers seem inadequate to describe the impact of Berg’s 30 years of research, teaching, and service at the University of Iowa.

Accounting alumni probably know her best from her work with Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. Berg was the BAP faculty advisor and helped the organization significantly expand its service to the community from September 2005 until her retirement in 2022. Through BAP-sponsored Habitat for Humanity Tippie Builds, Berg led accounting students in building homes for families. This included climbing on the roof to lay shingles, planning pasta lunches and leaf rakes to raise funds, and enlisting accounting alums to work side-by-side with students on the builds.

Brandon Lobberecht, Joyce Berg, and Roberto Paniagua at the 2003 Tippie Build ceremony.
Brandon Lobberecht, Joyce Berg, and Roberto Paniagua at the dedication ceremony for Tippie Build 3 in May 2010.

Roberto Paniagua (BBA11) said he first encountered Berg when taking her honors Managerial Accounting class. That classroom connection grew into Paniagua becoming co-head of the 2011 Tippie Build.

“She put an incredible amount of energy into helping build and fundraise $50,000 for the construction of a new home for a family in need,” said Paniagua, who is now an account executive at Google. “I never understood how she managed to stay on top of everything she did, but her selfless energy and passion for helping others was the biggest and best lesson I took away from my four years at Iowa.”

Berg also has a creative streak. She expanded the annual Meet the Firms Night networking event, moving it for many years to the press box at Kinnick Stadium where recruiters saw their firms’ names flash across the scoreboard as they networked with students. The Department of Accounting boasts a college-leading 98% placement rate, thanks in part to Berg’s vision of networking events.

Berg has also been the Iowa VITA Program site coordinator, trainer, and advisor for the last 17 years. VITA student volunteers assist low- and moderate-income families in Johnson County to prepare their tax returns. Berg increased the number of clients VITA served tenfold.

Joyce helping VITA participants file their taxes.
Professor Berg helping VITA participants file their taxes.

“Professor Berg worked tirelessly alongside the student volunteers, processing hundreds of tax returns in a very short period of time,” said 2008 BAP vice president of VITA programming Evan Malcom (BBA09).

“Her energy and desire to always maximize the refunds for the taxpayers kept the student volunteers engaged and always learning
something new with each return they processed.”

Blake Walton (BBA21/MAc22), a VITA teaching assistant, remembers that “she would do everything in her power to not turn a taxpayer away,” recalling many evenings where VITA sites went late, but she would continue to take details outside after they were rushed out of the library.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Berg deftly shifted VITA to a fully virtual program with a secure electronic drop box for taxpayer documents, helping more than 700 taxpayers prepare their returns—many after students had left school for summer break.

Joyce Berg early career
Professor Berg early in her career.

Alumni and students may be less aware of Berg’s pathbreaking scholarship. She was the first woman awarded tenure and promoted to full professor in accounting at the University of Iowa, arriving just a few years after the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM) started in 1988. For many years, Berg was the director of the IEM, which is considered the first prediction market in the country. She has written more than 20 scholarly research articles to date using IEM data and played a key role in facilitating research opportunities for her colleagues.

“One of the best things about coming to Iowa was the opportunity to have Joyce as a colleague,” said Professor Tom Rietz, finance department executive officer. “It has been my pleasure to work with her on several research projects and serve together on the IEM steering committee. She’s a careful scholar with an exceptionally creative mind.”

Berg has earned many accolades during her tenure at Tippie, including:

  • Outstanding Service Contribution by a Faculty Member Award (2016)
  • Michael J. Brody Award for Faculty Excellence in Service to the University and the State of Iowa (2014)
  • Faculty Advisor of the Year (2013)
  • Gil Maynard Excellence in Accounting Instruction Award (2012)
  • President’s Award for Technology Innovation (2000)
  • Under her direction, BAP won the University of Iowa President’s Award for State Outreach and Public Engagement for the VITA Program and its impact on the Johnson County community (2008)

Those who know her are not surprised that she is more gratified to hear students remember her as a professor who “taught them the human side of accounting.”


This article appeared in the 2022 issue of Iowa Ledger.