Walsh College students get out of the classroom to learn about tax law

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Troy Police Officer John Julian conducts a traffic stop and vehicle search with Walsh College students on Saturday at their Troy campus.

Troy — Walsh College students spent their Saturday in a simulated IRS raid and got their hands deep into an investigation while learning tax law. 

About 40 students in the graduate science in taxation program joined the undercover operation led by a team of IRS Special Agents as part of the Adrian Project.

During the four-hour interactive workshop, students roleplayed in a mock traffic stop and learned the process of searching a vehicle for evidence with Troy Police Department Officer John Julian.

They questioned a possible suspect about fraudulent treasury checks in her vehicle, gathered evidence, and spent the day busting down doors with fake guns, crunching numbers, learning law enforcement tactics and going before a judge to execute a warrant.

Professor Richard Davidson said the workshop is a better learning experience than just going by textbook. 

"This course is taught at night and students are usually tired. ... We did it on a Saturday and I've never seen the students more on the edge of their seat and involved," Davidson said. "This is teaching in the third dimension and is much better to learn by experience."

Created by the IRS about 15 years ago, the Adrian Project is an education and training program designed to introduce college students to the law enforcement aspects of a career in accounting and tax.

George Kern has been in the Walsh master of science in taxation program for three years and is pursuing a career in auditing. He said he loved the research aspect of the workshop.

"It's really good to get out of the classroom and get a different perspective on this field," said Kern, 32, from Livonia. "It's a lot of fun, interactive. Special agents are very interactive with us and lots of different activities. We started off by looking at W2 returns with someone who was fraudulently adding charitable donations and then we'll interview the person who is preparing the forms."

IRS Special Agent David Topolewski, who led the program on Saturday, said he found his career through the Adrian Project. 

"I went through this program while I was a student at Wayne State University and have helped keep the program going ever since," said Topolewski, who has worked with the IRS Detroit Field Office for 10 years.

Topolewski said they run the course at least four times a year on different campuses and said there's always positive feedback from students who participate.

"The whole idea is giving them a hands-on approach using their accounting and finance skills and to see if this is a career they can see themselves going into," he said. "When we think of a career in tax, we think accounting firms, but there is a law enforcement side to consider because it's a gratifying line of work."

Walsh College students participated in the Adrian Project on Saturday at their Troy campus.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_