Midterm Mayhem

Last November, I attended a McCombs information session in Washington, DC. I have a distinct memory of Dean Hirst speaking to the prospective students in the room, and one thing he said stood out in particular: “Believe me, the first year students are really feeling the pressure right about now.”

Wow, was he right. I had been warned since orientation what was in store for me in midterms, and was shocked at how soon they arrived. Unlike some second years who were lucky enough to attend the amazing game that was Texas/OU, the majority of first years took residence in the Reliant Productivity Center in the hopes of teaching themselves the concepts they’d be tested on every night for the next five days.

In case you were wondering, you don’t learn much about financial statements as an anthropology major. Pair that with the fact that all that I learned in the statistics class I was required to take as part of my other major (psychology) got me through, oh, about week 1 of my McCombs Statistics course. I cannot really even begin to describe the feeling that is Midterm Week. At first, it was nerves. Then, a completely unsettled feeling. Ultimately, sheer panic. Midterms came and the sinking feeling I had in my stomach didn’t really leave for the week’s entirety.

What I will say, though, is that there is a certain camaraderie that emerges during the week that really brings everyone together. Although everyone is similarly stressed, exhausted and otherwise miserable, everyone is feeling those things together. Additionally, the collaborative nature of McCombs really lends itself to a comfortable class environment. As an example, take the situation that unfolded in Reliant on Thursday, prior to my Finance exam (when EVERYONE’s cramming and NO ONE really has a second to spare).

Me: Excuse me, [enter name of nice guy from a different cohort who I hadn’t officially met yet here]. I see you are looking at your finance book. Can I ask you a question?

Nice guy: Sure – how can I help?

Me: I’m looking at this problem in Chapter 5 and I can’t seem to get the right answer. Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong?

NG: Let me take a look. Oh – you’re doing everything right, you just have this one concept wrong. Let me explain it.

It was amazing to me that someone who I had never met would take the time out of his busy day to help someone who wasn’t even in his class. But that’s how McCombs is. Which is why I love it here. Stress of midterms or not, this place has some really quality people.

The week ended with a post-midterm party put on by the Graduate Business Council (and well attended by first and second year students alike). After a week like we had, you can imagine the need for the opportunity to blow off steam. The post-midterm party was followed by the amazing UT victory over Mizzou – a really exciting home game that featured ESPN’s College Gameday. The good news is that although Midterm Week was really tough, it’s over and I’m not likely to have one as intense as this one again. Now, to look forward to more fun, less (immediate) stress, and impending finals that will get here before I know it!

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Step by Step

After a stressful week filled with two mid-terms and two papers, I finally had the chance to relax and celebrate another eighth of my MBA career completed!  Just so you know the tough week I had, let me fill you in:

Monday:  Nonprofit Management paper due
Tuesday:  Managerial Accounting mid-term and paper due
Wednesday:  Financial Statement Analysis mid-term
Thursday:  Two case assignments

Don’t worry though; school isn’t all work and no play.  The silver lining to mid-terms week:

Friday:  New Kids on the Block Concert in San Antonio

Yes, that’s right folks; we’re talking about going back in time to 1993.  Nine of my classmates and I bought tickets to the concert and rented a limo to travel to San Antonio.  Talk about a great way to blow off steam.  As you might guess, the arena was filled with women reliving their teeny bopper years and it was so much fun! 

I’ve made some awesome friends at McCombs, and I’m glad that none of us take ourselves too seriously.  Getting creative with our free time is what makes all of this worth it (and keeps you motivated for finals).  Through the tough weeks and the fun nights, we’ll make it through this year one step at a time.

NKOTB Concert

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Post Red River Midterms….The Fallout…

I knew I was in trouble when I found myself aimlessly wandering around the gym….trying to figure out how to use simple machines and wondering why I was seeing three of most everything that came into my tightening scope of vision. This week has been brutal. Back to back to back midterms and a paper due at the end of the week have me wondering how long I’m actually going to sleep tonight. My futile attempt at staying awake till 9 pm lead to the gym, where I actually achieve negative health benefits. At least I was awake enough to stick my iPod in my ears….so there was a soundtrack to my aimless wandering. I remember feeling like this right around day three (of five)of the first semester of the first year’s midterm week….but once again, I’ve fooled myself into believing that 2nd years are impervious to this type of bodily harm.

On a more cheerful note, we have another top ten vs. top ten matchup to watch this weekend: Longhorns vs. Missouri. ESPN’s College Gameday is in town, so a couple of us have made a pact to set out to campus early. Pairing business with football, a couple of friends and I have purchased future contracts for Longhorn National Championship tickets….let’s hope this isn’t a deterrent to pulling out a win on Saturday.

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The Red River Midterms….

Dear University of Texas Scheduling Officials,

I would like to bring to your attention a possible problem solver to make note of for next year: Conducting midterms the week after the Texas vs. Oklahoma weekend is probably not the best idea in the world for a number of reasons:

1. Driving and Studying is virtually impossible in a car packed with business school students

2. Studying and game watching are activities equally non-conducive to achieving the mastery of financial statement analysis and managerial accounting

3. Post game 4 hr. drive time and subsequent 11 pm crash out effectively eliminate a great portion of available (and much needed) study time

4. The Longhorns just moved to #1 in the nation….come on people…..

So, apparently I’m a football fan, and one day (sometimes two) a week it takes precedence to an open book in the library. This weekend was quite simply put: amazing. I also must clarify that by “weekend” I mean driving to Dallas on Friday night, waking up, watching the Red River Shootout, then getting back in my truck and driving back to Austin on Saturday afternoon. Trip Recap:

Total time spent in Dallas: 25 hrs. 32 mins

Total time spent in truck: 7 hrs. 25 mins

Total time spent studying for four midterms: 17 mins (at least I tried)

Total Time Spent Enjoying the Best College Football Game in my short game watching career: I’m pretty sure I’m still enjoying it

Guess that’s the price you pay for going to a program with an actual football team. It’s now Sunday afternoon, and I’ve spent the past eight hours working my way through half a semesters worth of financial statements analysis, managerial accounting, corporate governance, and public policy issues. Lucky for me my fifth class is a real estate practicum which doesn’t culminate until a large presentation to the client at the end of the semester…..here’s to my coffee maker working overtime and having a neighborhood 7-11 open twenty four hours a day (I like to call this place “the well of red bull”)….imagine the next update will be a picture of hilarity once this is all over…..

At least we got some good pictures…

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Rocking Out at ACL

Something I had been looking forward to about living in Austin was the famous Austin City Limits Festival. Having heard stories of its amazingness from DC friends who had made the trek in years’ past, I began looking into ticket options before I even arrived here. After polling some locals, it seemed that the three-day pass was the best option – tons of music, tons of fun, all weekend long. Since I still had a job (and disposable income), I didn’t think twice about buying the ticket, which I may have found a bit more troublesome once student loans became the full source of my subsistence!

ACL has been the talk of the town for months – second years rave about their experiences from last year. Dean Hirst plays selections from bands coming to the festival each morning before his accounting lessons begin. I was so excited, and carefully planned my ACL schedule, looking to see which bands were playing at which stages and when. I had a bunch of bands on my “to-see” list including Vampire Weekend, Blues Traveler, Foo Fighters, G. Love, Mates of State and Tristan Prettyman, among many others.

I’m not sure what I expected, but ACL definitely exceeded any expectations I could have formed. Read more ›

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And we thought second year was supposed to be easy….

So, I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks enjoying watching the “first year panic”, and the general confusion and funeral like procession ambling about school. I felt like this was a rite of passage….like being a senior in high school or college….you can smile and get a kick of the “fun” you were experiencing one short year ago. Unfortunately, I got a little caught up watching, and forgot that I too had work to do.

Welcome to the “second year panic”.  My class load this fall is pretty heavy in accounting and finance related curriculum, so I spend a lot of time pouring through financial statements and managerial accounting policies of a number of different firms. Most of McCombs curriculum is case based, so I’ve had to readjust to reading 25 page cases and picking out the most important material to prepare for class. I had visions of spending the greater part of this year on the golf course or the lake, but already, these visions are quickly fleeing from any view I may have on life. For some of the returning second years with jobs already in hand, this year is about enjoying their last fleeting moments of freedom, finding all of those hidden gems of the Austin night life, and catering their classes to material that they’re really interested in and need to round out a concentration. For those of us without that golden ticket in hand, much of the next 9 months will be spent interviewing, meeting, and selling our merits to potential employers. With the economy sliding further into recessionary status on a daily basis, prospects can seem bleak at times, but utilizing career services and a vast network of McCombs alums can benefit any proactive student willing to spend the time needed in landing a job of a lifetime.

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A Night at the Symphony

Austin is known as the “live music capital of the world,” and usually, the first things that come to mind are Austin City Limits, South by Southwest, Stubb’s, Antones, etc.  With that said, I would like to expand your minds to another great venue of live music, the Long Center for Performing Arts.  Last week, three of my classmates and I (all former orchestra members in a past life) went to the Long Center to see the Austin Symphony and guest performer Yo-Yo Ma. 

Dressed in our finest symphony attire, we enjoyed an evening filled with moving selections on the somber anniversary of 9/11.  The evening’s program included:

Dvorák – Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88
Carter – Elegy
Bach-Stokowski – Sheep May Safely Graze
Elgar – Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85

As expected, Yo-Yo Ma gave a superb performance and left the stage with a standing ovation.  As I missed the chance to see him perform while I was in college, I was thoroughly happy that my friends and I were on top of our game this time around and bought our tickets online the moment they went on sale.  We’re already planning our next Austin cultural excursion.  Who knows, maybe we’ll hit up the opera in the spring.



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Why I Chose McCombs – Center Stage Style

I’d guess that few people can say that they turned to a movie to assist them with their business school decision. Even fewer will admit to have seen the girly movie that contributed to my decision to attend McCombs – Center Stage. While most people may not see the connection between a movie about teenage ballerinas in New York City and the decision to attend a prestigious business school in Austin, it is this movie that awoke me to an analogy that greatly assisted me in my decision-making process.


Read more ›

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One Year Down, One Year to Go

Its official…I have survived my first two weeks as a second year. Refreshed and rejuvenated from the summer, I am back in Austin and ready to learn.

Everything is going great so far, although my 2-inch binders on my bookshelf are quickly overflowing with course packets and HBS cases.So far, I expect my favorite classes this semester to be Nonprofit Management and Gathering Resources and Launch. Nonprofit Management is a class that I am taking outside of McCombs in the School of Social Work. I am the only non-MSW (Master in Social Work) student in the class and was quickly pegged as the “MBA” on my first day. The professor, Suze Miller, is great and is currently working in industry and running her own nonprofit. She has arranged the class so that the students will leave equipped with the basic every-day knowledge of how to run a nonprofit (i.e., how to establish 501(c)3 status, how to manage a budget, human resources legal issues, the art of fundraising, etc.). I think this may be the most practical class I’ve taken yet.

The other class I mentioned, Gathering Resources and Launch, is an entrepreneurship class taught by the MBA Assistant Dean, Christopher Meakin. I can already tell by the first few classes that this course is going to challenge my creativity and force me to think outside of the box. It’s so easy to get trapped analyzing cases with the same frameworks and analysis, but Professor Meakin pushes us to brainstorm and be as innovative as possible. He’ll make entrepreneurs out of us yet.

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Goodbye Mississippi…..Welcome back to Austin…Now get back to work

Welcome back to Austin, with all of its lovely and quirky intricacies…..now get back to work as you apparently may not have that time to enjoy it…..

It’s been quite a whirlwind of a two week period:

  • Finished up my internship with Parkway Properties in Jackson, Mississippi – pulled together the final pieces of two presentations for the executive board on Acquisitions/Dispositions Criteria and a Hold/Sell Analysis, had my final lunch at the Mayflower with the fund managers, played golf with CFO at the PGA course just outside of Jackson, drove nine hours back to Texas, flew to California to spend further time on a golf course with my old man, flew back to Austin just in time to start classes…
  • Took a breath for the first time since leaving Mississippi
  • Made sure the apartment was still standing and not on fire, bought enough book and case material to last the rest of my life, attended the first football game, think and drink, and brief and meets of the season….
  • Took another breath…realizing I’m not back into the swing of this school thing quite yet. Living on 4.5 hrs of nightly sleep was not a talent I fostered much over the summer
  • Started my weekly calls and meetings with real estate professionals in and around the Austin/Houston/Dallas markets
  • Orientation for the first years – Cohort Games – my arm apparently still works enough to throw a dodgeball, but I’ve been icing it twice a day ever since
  • Caught up with my old Cohort Study Group – Diego’s wife is expecting this fall, Mookie’s just about ready to manage my portfolio, Roselle has an unbelievable new wardrobe from her summer at Nike, and I think Austin is enjoying not working 32 hours a day at his consulting internship
Things in the capital markets are looking a bit shakier given what’s happening in the mortgage and financing aspects of the residential side of real estate. This could be an interesting fall all things considered, but I couldn’t think of a better time to be in school and learn about the down side of markets and what firms can do to best position themselves for the future.
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