MPA Admissions Blog

Insider Information for Prospective Texas McCombs Students

Meet Stephen Smith, MPA Program Senior Director

You may have seen the name Steve Smith on this blog, or you may have talked to him on the phone or met him in person, but let’s take a closer look at the Senior Director and leader of the MPA Program Office with a quick Q&A.

Stephen Smith, MPA Senior Director


I’ve been happily married to Stuart (a Texas McCombs BBA grad) for 22 years and am a proud dad of two wonderful kids: Mackenzie, who is in her second year at Northwestern University, and Whit, who is graduating from Anderson High this year. I am a native North Carolinian and enjoy hiking and skiing every chance I get. My undergraduate accounting degree is from NC State, and I hold an MS in Accounting from the University of Virginia. I worked in public accounting with Arthur Andersen and PwC, as well as in industry with Dell.

Stuart and I originally moved to Austin 20 years ago when I entered the accounting PhD program. After one year in the program, I realized it wasn’t for me and went to work at Dell. Luckily, eight years later, Ross Jennings asked if I would teach a section of managerial accounting, and Brian MacDonald (the former treasurer at Dell) gave me the go-ahead. Three months later, I left Dell and have been teaching ever since. I took a leadership role in the MPA program three years ago.

I have two main goals for the program: increasing student diversity and developing a stronger MPA community. We can achieve success in regards to diversity with a more proactive marketing effort. As for building community with our current students, I’d like to create more opportunities for students to engage outside of the classroom through activities like tailgates, dinners, trivia nights, and escape rooms. In terms of community for alumni, I’d like to have even more MPA alums stay engaged with the program in the role of mentors to current students and as a resource to help prospective students understand the benefits of an MPA degree.

There are four things that distinguish our program. It starts with our students. We are fortunate that such a densely talented group of students come to Texas McCombs and the MPA program. Second, we have a faculty that is dedicated to both research and teaching; they create a rigorous, relevant, and stimulating academic environment. Third, the MPA Program Office carefully works with each student to develop a degree plan and offers significant amounts of career counseling. Last but not least, we have great relationships with an engaging and diverse group of employers. This enables our MPA students to learn about the many employment options available to MPAs as they launch their careers.

I teach ACC 311 (Fundamentals of Financial Accounting) and ACC 312 (Fundamentals of Managerial Accounting). I enjoy being many students’ first professor for a business course and work hard to spark an interest in accounting.

I played racquetball competitively in high school and early on in college. I won two state junior championships and competed at a national level. Some of my longest and deepest friendships began through racquetball. I tried something new this semester and played doubles intramurals with current MPA student Andrew Bramlett. I don’t move quite as quickly as I once did, but we had a blast! Since Andrew is graduating this year, I’ll be looking for a new partner next year.

Welcome Traditional MPA Class of 2020!

It’s official! The Master in Professional Accounting program has our traditional MPA Class of 2020!

We have students joining us from four different countries (China, Republic of Korea, Taiwan, and the United States), as well as from 15 different states.

From biology and Spanish to mathematics and accounting, the MPA Class of 2020 has a wide range of skills and undergraduate majors. Some have earned MBAs and some have Master of Science degrees, but all of these admitted students will come together to study at the top-ranked graduate accounting program in the nation.

Let’s take a closer look at our Class of 2020 with our incoming students’ profile:

We are looking forward to seeing all of our students together for the first time at the tMPA Fall Orientation starting August 20! Some students will have the chance to meet each other beforehand in summer classes and career workshops.

Welcome to Texas McCombs, Class of 2020! Hook ’em!

Congratulations to the MPA Class of 2019!

What a journey! It’s been a year full of learning, making new friends, studying for exams, drinking coffee, consuming as many tacos as possible, and so much more. The Master in Professional Accounting Program Office and the Department of Accounting were thrilled to celebrate the MPA Class of 2019 at Commencement on Saturday, May 25.

Family, friends, faculty, and staff came together on Saturday to congratulate over 300 students (including integrated, traditional, and ECON MPAs) graduating from the Master in Professional Accounting program.

Before walking across that stage, an MPA Commencement Reception was held in the Graduate School Building Atrium. The food was plentiful and the photo booth was lively as graduating students and their families mingled with faculty and staff from the McCombs School of Business. It was a great way to kick off an exciting day ahead.

Students then headed across Speedway to Gregory Gymnasium to get ready to receive their diplomas! Over 200 MPA students and faculty members were a part of the ceremony, including MPA Senior Director Steve Smith, Department Chair Michael Clement, and Dean Jay Hartzell. They all mentioned in their speeches how this class continued to exceed expectations and how bright these students’ futures are.

 Dean Jay Hartzell along with faculty and students making their way to Gregory Gymnasium for the 2019 MPA Commencement.

Dean Jay Hartzell along with faculty and students making their way to Gregory Gymnasium for the 2019 MPA Commencement.


Our keynote speaker was Brien Smith, the Managing Director of Neuberger Berman and the COO of the Neuberger Berman Private Equity Division. Mr. Smith received a Master in Professional Accounting and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Brien Smith of Neuberger Berman and MPA alum was our keynote speaker.

Brien Smith of Neuberger Berman and MPA alum was our keynote speaker.


We also had graduating MPAs share their experiences in the program. James Olsen is an iMPA who was born and raised in Houston, Texas and is a first generation college student. Alec Weismann is also an iMPA student and grew up in Minnesota. They both are outstanding people and future leaders, and we loved their speeches on how this Class of 2019 “truly will change the world.”

iMPA student James Olson closing out his speech.

iMPA student James Olson closing out his speech.


Additionally, student awards were given out during Commencement. Adam Landefeld won the Outstanding 4th Year MPA Award. Adam’s outstanding academic performance has earned him several scholarships including the competitive Endowed Presidential Scholarship.  According to one of his instructors, Adam “is a natural leader and was prepared for class with interesting questions.  He was a delight to teach!”

 Adam Landefeld and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.

Adam Landefeld and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.


Alec Weissman won the Outstanding 5th Year MPA Award. Alec also worked as a TA for accounting professor Jeff Johanns who explained that Alec “demonstrated dedication way above a typical TA” by, among other things, volunteering to mentor a struggling student.  Academically, Alec is among this highest performing MPAs with a graduate GPA of 4.0.

Alec Weissman and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.

Alec Weissman and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.


Derek John received the MPA Outstanding Student Leadership Award for his meritorious service and support of the Master in Professional Accounting program and community. Derek was a Peer Career Consultant (PCC) and continually went above and beyond to ensure MPA students were getting all they could out of their time at Texas McCombs… From recording webinars to conducting mock interviews to reviewing resumes, Derek added something special to the program, and we are so thankful to have had him as a student and PCC!

Derek John and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.

Derek John and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.

Emily O’Keefe received the Outstanding tMPA Award for her exceptional contributions to student life and class unity through demonstrations of personal character, class spirit, and campus leadership. She was also the person to close out the MPA Commencement Ceremony by singing “The Eyes of Texas.” Congratulations, Emily!

Emily O'Keefe and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.

Emily O’Keefe and MPA Senior Director Steve Smith.


Even though the Ceremony lasted almost two hours, it seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. MPAs hugged and took pictures together, then said their goodbyes. It’s always bittersweet to see our students move on to the next chapter in their lives, but we know they truly will change the world and will always be Longhorns. We are so proud of the graduating MPA Class of 2019 and cannot wait to see what they accomplish. Hook ‘em!

 Congratulations to the MPA Class of 2019!

Congratulations to the MPA Class of 2019!


Fall 2020 MPA Applicants: Prepare Early!

Applying to the Texas McCombs MPA for fall 2020? Start preparing now!

  • Review our admissions website thoroughly. If there are any updates to the application process, we will be publish them on this website before the application opens in August 2019.
  • Enroll in courses this summer or fall if you have not completed our pre-enrollment requirements.
  • Take the GMAT or GRE (all applicants) and TOEFL or IELTS (international applicants) early so that we receive your test scores by the application deadline.
  • Check this admissions blog regularly. We will begin posting tips on applying, updates on the admissions process, and highlights of our program after the application opens…You don’t want to miss it!

Accounting Professor Dr. Michael Granof Retires

1972. The year the Dow closed above 1000 for the first time in history. The year The Godfather hit theaters… and the year Dr. Michael Granof started working at the University of Texas at Austin. As we dive into his 47 years (yes, 47 years!) of being a Longhorn, let’s take a walk down memory lane and celebrate his legacy at UT.

Michael Granof was born and raised in New York City and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. He then studied economics at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Two years after receiving his BA, he graduated from Columbia University with an MBA concentrating in accounting.

Dr. Michael Granof as an infant

Michael was born and raised in New York City.

After graduating from Columbia in 1965, Michael enlisted in the United States Coast Guard. He served one year of active duty and a total of six years in the reserves as an electrician’s mate. During two of the six years he was in the reserves, he worked as a Senior Accountant at Coopers and Lybrand in New York City. It was in the Big Apple that Michael discovered that his thirst for knowledge hadn’t been quenched. He decided to return to school to earn his doctorate in accounting from the University of Michigan. “I thought that I would enjoy teaching and the academic life,” Michael said. “Returning to graduate school was most definitely a decision that I never for an instant regretted.”

The move to Ann Arbor would change his life forever on a personal dimension, as well. It was on Michigan’s campus that he met his wife, Dena, at a graduate school coffee hour. The two have now been married 47 years.

Michael and Dena Granof

Michael and his wife, Dena, have been married 47 years.

After four years of graduate study at Michigan, Michael earned his PhD in 1972. He chose to teach at the University of Texas at Austin for three reasons: UT’s Department of Accounting was a top-ranked program, their faculty were involved in what he thought was an ideal mix of teaching, research, and professional engagement, and – most notably he claims – it was a great institution from which he could leave to teach at any other university after a few years. So he and Dena made the move to the Forty Acres. Much to their surprise, they loved UT and Austin and never left.

In addition to being on the faculty at the McCombs School of Business, Michael holds a joint appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Over the course of his career, he was a Fulbright Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and taught at universities in New Zealand and Finland. He has also been recognized for his outstanding teaching, and in 1997 was inducted into the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. In 2017 he received the AICPA’s Distinguished Achievement in Accounting Education Award.

Michael Granof teaching

Dr. Michael Granof teaching at the McCombs School of Business.

Michael is currently completing the second of two five-year terms on both the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB). The former establishes accounting standards for state and local governments; the latter for the federal government at-large and each of its components. He is the only academic to have served on both boards. “My most satisfying professional accomplishment (other than teaching) has been my service on the FASAB and the GASB. I believe that I have actually had an influence on a couple of the pronouncements that they have issued,” Michael said.

Also active in academic organizations, Michael has been chairman of the Government and Not-for-Profit Section of the American Accounting Association, was on the editorial boards of government-oriented journals, and was a member of the U.S. Comptroller’s General Educator Advisory Council for over 15 years.

Michael’s service has not only been to external organizations. He was heavily involved in University affairs as chairman of the Faculty Council and chairman of the UT Co-op’s Board of Directors. In 2007 he received the UT Civitatis Award, given for “meritorious service to the University above and beyond the regular expectations of teaching, research, and writing.” As fellow professor and friend Steve Kachelmeier said, “To this day, if the entire faculty of the Department of Accounting were to walk over to the central administrative offices at the Main Tower, Michael Granof would be among the first to be recognized. He epitomizes the spirit of academic service that elevates collective contributions over individual incentives.”

In addition to his service and academic publications, Michael is the author of textbooks on both financial and governmental accounting and has written op-ed pieces for the New York Times and other newspapers. He has testified before the Texas State House and Senate Committees and has appeared on NPR, CNBC, and MSNBC.

After retiring, Michael has a few things he’d like to accomplish, including traveling, spending more time with his grandchildren (he has three!), and giving back to the community by serving on a nonprofit board. But even in retirement, he’ll still be back on campus to visit his Longhorn family. Michael added, “I’ve often joked that the epitaph on my tombstone should read ‘He hung around with smart people.’ Nothing epitomizes that more than my colleagues, friends, and students in McCombs, the LBJ School, and the University at-large.”

A Peek into the Classroom: ACC 383K.2

UT is a part of the Internal Auditing Education Partnership (IAEP), endorsed by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). This makes us one of only 24 universities in the world with this designation. Students can earn an IIA Internal Audit Certificate by completing three audit-focused courses. Steve Goodson, pictured above, teaches one of those classes (ACC 383K.2 – Management Auditing and Control) and answered a few questions for us.


It was introduced over 20 years ago by former colleague and beloved audit professor, Dr. Urton Anderson.

Internal audit is a well-hidden secret! It encompasses both accounting and management practices, and students enjoy discovering a career path that provides an exciting alternative to financial auditing.

This class provides real-world experience. Students partner with a local organization to complete an internal audit team project – unique and professional training that is difficult to replicate in the classroom.


Accompanying students to IAEP’s Exchange Conference each fall in Orlando! At this conference, MPAs are exposed to the internal audit profession and get to work with students from around the world.  The case competition is always fun, and students have a good time learning and networking with internal audit professionals, employers, educators, and students from around the globe.

Learn more about the Texas McCombs IIA Internal Audit Certificate Program by viewing our flyer.

The Takeaway: Will Braeutigam, Deloitte

Meet MPA alum Will Braeutigam, a Deloitte Audit Partner and tMPA ‘05. From the MPA program to the Big 4, Will has been putting his knowledge of accounting to good use. Let’s learn more about his journey from the GSB building to professional success.

I actually started my studies in computer science and soon decided that was not the career path for me. I then transferred into the College of Liberal Arts and majored in Economics. After completing that degree, I continued my studies and obtained a Master in Professional Accounting degree from Texas McCombs.

There isn’t just one. The University of Texas has incredible students, professors, and facilities. And, of course, Austin is fantastic! I think my favorite memory is just being on campus, whether that was studying, attending class, grabbing food at the Union, or attending a football or basketball game.

I am an Oil and Gas Audit Partner and Deloitte’s Oil and Gas IPO Readiness and Execution leader. My role involves daily interaction with clients while providing auditing, advising, and consulting services. I also serve as the lead recruiting partner at the University of Texas for the Houston Audit practice. When UT students join the firm, I help guide them along their path and watch them become fantastic professionals (whether at Deloitte or in another industry).

The high quality of the program’s curriculum, faculty, and graduate students are why so many companies focus their recruiting efforts here. First, the program’s core accounting curriculum and teachers are unrivaled by other universities (I might be a little biased as an alum). Second, group projects helped prepare me to work on large teams with common goals. And third, the technology and finance classes helped me immediately execute work and innovate on the job. Also, while I was a student, I took the opportunity to be a teaching assistant and this helped me become a better teacher and mentor within Deloitte’s apprenticeship model.

Well, Austin is home to the University of Texas so that’s hard not to miss! I miss all the activities and events that go on in Austin. The city has outstanding food, an incredible night life, fantastic weather, and world-class concerts and festivals.

One More Reason to Love Tax Season

2019 will go down in history as the year Foundation Communities reached the milestone of filing 250,000 tax returns for Central Texans. Students and faculty at the University of Texas at Austin have helped the nonprofit hit that mark.

For many people, a tax refund is more than a benefit that results from owing less tax than they anticipated. That refund might provide funds for a coworker’s next rent payment, a friend’s utility bill, or put food on a neighbor’s table. Without assistance, many people in the Austin community would have difficulty accessing these funds.

Each spring semester, the Department of Accounting partners with Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit that provides affordable housing and a variety of free on-site services, to train and certify UT students to prepare personal tax returns for filers who earn less than $55,000 annually.

Ross Jennings and Steve Limberg created the Tax Practicum class in 2006. Ross, the Department Chair at the time, was exploring new ways to increase students’ opportunities for experiential learning. It came to his attention that several accounting students were volunteering at Foundation Communities to prepare returns, and an idea struck him. Why not offer a class to train students to file tax returns AND give back to their community?

“I asked Steve Limberg to design and teach the class, and he did a fabulous job. Steve taught the course for one year, and then turned it over to Brian Lendecky. During Brian’s first few years, the class grew to what it is today,” Ross said.

This semester, J Kamas and Gretchen Charrier are teaching the Practicum. In addition to completing return preparation training and preparing returns, the students also attend a series of classes that feature IRS guest speakers. For many participants, the class provides an inspiring and rewarding experience that comes from supporting the people of Austin. “Our students are really focused on giving back to the community,” J added.

This year, 208 UT students are enrolled in the class. 59 of those students are MPAs; economics, finance, and accounting undergraduates comprise the rest of the student population enrolled in the course. Fifth-year iMPA student Erin Markey said, “This work can really impact lives, and many clients share their excitement about what the money will do for their families.”

Before they begin volunteering, students are trained and certified by the IRS. Then, until April 15, they volunteer for 55 to 60 hours in order to meet their course requirements. In Austin, there are six locations at which clients can meet with a volunteer and have their return filed for free. Many clients especially benefit from the knowledge their student volunteers have of child tax credits and of the earned income credit. Often, Foundation Communities tax filers are unaware of these tax benefits and might otherwise have to rely on a tax professional to receive them.

“Foundation Communities simply could not serve as many clients and prepare as many tax returns without the student volunteers. In total, we’ve had over 2,000 students work in our program and help their Austin neighbors file their taxes correctly, saving folks over $7 million in tax preparation fees,” said Walter Moreau, Executive Director of Foundation Communities.

Since its inception 13 years ago, over 250,000 returns have been filed, resulting in over $382 million in refunds for those community members. We estimate that approximately one-third of all returns completed at the Foundation Communities sites were prepared by UT-Austin students. Brian Lendecky added, “The city gives so much to UT; it’s nice that UT can give back to the city.”

Tax Practicum Volunteer

Texas McCombs MPA student Parker Rasansky checks in clients at the Foundation Communities front desk.

Introducing Mduduzi Mugoba, tMPA Class of 2019

Duzi is a traditional Master in Professional Accounting student who is graduating this May. Let’s learn a bit more about him and his time here at Texas McCombs.

  1. Name: Mduduzi “Duzi” Mugoba
  2. Where did you grow up? Zimbabwe
  3. Where did you earn your undergraduate degree? Florida International University
  4. What is your undergraduate degree in? Accounting
  5. Why did you decide to come to the MPA program at Texas McCombs? It is the best accounting program in the country so couldn’t turn down the offer to come to school here! Also, Texas McCombs is in a great city like Austin with so many cool and fun things to do outside of school. So I would say I chose the program for its prestige and for its location.
  6. What is your MPA academic track? Financial Reporting and Assurance
  7. Why did you decide to become an MPA student ambassador? The MPA program has given me access to amazing opportunities professionally and socially so would love to give back in any way I can.
  8. What has been one of your favorite classes so far and why? Well, it’s so hard to choose one particular class because I have loved them all! I will say each professor is so different in their teaching styles and how they present information; it is a fun experience navigating all these different styles. I do have a two classes I just have to mention… The first being Professor Badolato’s Financial Statement Analysis (ACC 380K) course, which was high-paced and intense with so much information coming your way. I loved it because it was perhaps my most challenging class in that involved learning in a very different way compared to anything I had ever experienced before. I learned so much about Financial Statement Analysis (and about myself) which was awesome! My other favorite is Investment Theory (FIN 397) with Professor Brown. The information is so relevant and something I will apply to my life in future. The big takeaway from the class (at least for me) is the investment opportunities available if one is interested in passive investment and personal finance management. The class itself is also challenging but that is a common theme for most classes in the MPA program.
  9. What are your plans after you graduate? I was offered (and accepted) a full-time position at EY and will be working in Houston in their assurance practice. I start in the fall, so while I wait on my start date I plan on taking at least two parts of the CPA exam and enjoying some Texas sun. I am also a fan of the cold drinks that go with the nice, hot summer weather. 🙂
  10. Can you tell us more about the MPA intramural soccer teams you have played on? Oh yes! It was something that myself, Jeff Chen, and Tyler Wilford were thinking about when the spring semester started. In fact, we just wanted to play some form of intramural sport. Then I ran into Ray Lee (our Team Captain) at a Diversity and Inclusion talk, and he mentioned that he was trying to organize a team to play soccer but couldn’t find enough people. So we exchanged numbers, then I gave Ray Jeff and Tyler’s numbers and they went on to create the team (so all the credit of starting the team should go to me because I had all the contacts haha). But in all seriousness, it was just a way for us to get together as MPAs and do something outside of class. It turned out great because we have a couple of people who have played soccer before, so we were able to be competitive and make it to the playoffs for the men’s league (which we lost under dubious circumstances), but now we have a co-ed team with more MPAs and hopefully more success!
  11. Anything else you’d like to share? I would say that as important as the classes are, I have enjoyed meeting different people more than anything. The MPA program is very challenging and one can get extremely busy, but I think the most value I have received from the program is meeting new people and actually making meaningful connections outside of the conventional “networking.” It’s important to keep that in mind for anyone looking to join the MPA program.


Mighty MPA Soccer

The Mighty MPAs smile for a team photo with Steve Smith, Senior Director of the MPA program. Duzi Mugoba is pictured in the bottom row, third from the left.

AICPA Announces 2018 Elijah Watt Sells Award Winners

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) named the 110 recipients of the 2018 Elijah Watt Sells Award on Thursday, April 11, and the Texas McCombs MPA program has three winners:

  • Natalie Gilbert (BBA ’17, MPA ’18) who is currently employed with PwC in Houston, Texas
  • Laura “Elise” Jones (BBA ’17, MPA ’18) who is currently employed with KPMG in Dallas, Texas
  • Minjae Kim (BHP and BBA ’17, MPA ’18) who is currently employed with Analysis Group in Dallas, Texas

This award recognizes those who scored a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the CPA exam, passed all four sections of the exam on their first attempt, and completed their testing in 2018. Over 86,000 individuals sat for the CPA exam in 2018.

78% of Texas McCombs students who took the CPA exam in 2018 passed all four sections; this compares to a 52% pass rate among all over Texas colleges and universities.

Congratulations to Natalie, Elise, and Minjae, as well as the other 107 winners — it’s an tremendous accomplishment to receive this award!

See a list of all the winners here.

The Elijah Watt Sells Award was established in 1923 to honor one of the country’s first CPAs, Elijah Watt Sells. He was a founding partner of Haskins & Sells (a predecessor to Deloitte) and one of the first practicing CPAs in New York. He also served on the AICPA governing council and helped turn the AICPA into what it is today.

Elijah Watt Sells Award

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