Category Archives: Olivia

Olivia Coffey’s blog posts

Final Austin Recommendations

In no time at all, my final exams for Advanced Accounting and Ethics will be over and my time as a tMPA will be complete. The past year has been incredible (and busy!) and I couldn’t depart without leaving the blog with some final Austin-area suggestions:

Pacha – This is my #1 go-to spot for breakfast/brunch. The pancakes are unparalleled and the space is cute and funky. Service can be slow on weekends since pancakes are made from scratch and the kitchen is small.

Sandy’s – This place has been around since 1945 and is hopping on weekend evenings. The burgers, fries, and custard-based shakes are worth checking out. Sandy’s is a hop and skip away from Zilker, so you can plan to go after a picnic or a dip in Barton Springs Pool.

Barton Springs Pool
 – There are tons of taco shops in Austin but my favorite has to be Tacodeli for the selection and awesome queso. Sadly, it is only open for breakfast and lunch. If you are craving tacos in the evening (and why wouldn’t you be), try Las Trancas.

Crown and Anchor – This bar is close to campus and has a good selection of beer and bar food. On Sunday evenings, games of pool are free.

Violet Crown and Alamo Drafthouse – These are my two favorite theaters to catch a movie in Austin. Violet Crown is downtown on 2nd Street and Alamo has several locations around town. Both theaters serve food but Alamo takes things to the next level with servers that come right to your seat.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum – If you’re an MPA student, you know Charles Umlauf’s work because Umlauf sculpted The Family Group in front of McCombs. The Umlauf is a beautiful space with a rotating indoor exhibit, and a permanent collection outdoors. I highly recommend a visit.

Thank you for reading. I wish the best of luck to the MPA class of 2017 and beyond.

Unexpected Opportunities in the tMPA Curriculum

As I near the end of my tMPA career, I have been reflecting on three unexpected opportunities that the tMPA curriculum has brought my way.

email_nite_400W_iStock_000022788611Large1. Writing – Often when people think of accountants, they think of number crunchers. However, accountants of all types encounter plenty of writing in their professional careers in email form, report form, and everything in between. As such, the MPA curriculum incorporates quite a few writing assignments to get MPAs ready for the real world. My Ethics course (BGS 381L) this summer session has ten journal assignments and my Fraud (ACC 383K.4) course last summer session had three written cases. So to the incoming and prospective students out there, sharpen up those Word skills and get ready to hone your prose–you’ll need more than Excel to get through the MPA. Luckily Microsoft Office is sold at the UT Campus Computer Store in the Flawn Academic Center (FAC) for a steep educational discount.

2. Guest Speakers – I had no idea just how many opportunities I would have to interact with a wide range of guest speakers in the classroom such as Mack Brown, a former FBI agent, and of course several public accounting and industry professionals. The MPA Distinguished Speakers Lyceum provides the most obvious opportunity to encounter speakers, however, most of my classes also had speaker presentations. These presentations are a great opportunity to mix up the day, gain insight, and network.

3. Group Projects and Presentations – In our careers, we will likely work on countless teams. Numerous group projects are woven into the MPA curriculum that allow MPAs to work on both our team and presentation skills. School is a great opportunity to work on these skills before heading off to full-time employment.

In sum, not only has the tMPA curriculum developed my “hard” accounting skills, but it prepared me holistically for the workplace through writing assignments, guest speaker interactions, and group projects and presentations.

The Tower and Study Spots

IMG_1675 copyAs previously planned, I went on a tour of the UT tower with the MPA Council. The view was great despite the overcast weather (it hailed later that evening!) and is one of the best I’ve seen in Austin alongside those at Mount Bonnell and the 360 bridge overlook. During the summer, the tower also hosts sunrise and sunset tours, which sound awesome. If you have a chance, book a tower tour.

Once the study break was over, I went back to hit the books. This time I went downtown to Cafe Ruckus where a heated giant cookie made for a great study buddy at a giant table by the window. Often I study at home, but when I venture outside, you can find me at one of the following:

1. Flightpath is my favorite cafe in Austin. The place has friendly baristas, good tables, lots of outlets, and a wide array of tasty drinks and snacks. This is a place you can camp out for the day (as I did during Fall semester finals). If only it were open past 11 PM.

2. Thunderbird on Koenig has huge, wooden tables that make for great group study (or fulfill the needs of space hogs like myself). Unfortunately, there are no outlets. They have a fuller (and delicious) food menu than does Flightpath. Also open until 11 PM.

3. Epoch is the place to go for all night studying. It’s one of the few 24 hour spots in Austin and thankfully the pizza slices from East Side Pies are available all night long with you.

4. Mozart’s on the lake has stunning views. The drink selection is enormous (too many chai lattes to count) and the place is always crowded. It’s a great place to watch the sun set.

I also would like to give a shout out to Avenue B Grocery, which has been in Austin for over a century. Ross Mason (owner for 25+ years) makes great sandwiches and soups and has a panoply of other goods for sale. Definitely check this place out next time you’re in Hyde Park. If it’s a nice day, sit on the bench swing outside while you eat.

Four (of many) Austin Favorites

As we’ve said time and time again, one of the benefits of the MPA program is that it’s located smack dab in the heart of Austin. Austin is a fantastic place to be due to its relatively mild weather (or at least lack of extreme cold), great food, natural beauty, distinct charm, and more. So, in case you need more evidence of Austin’s prowess, I would like to tell you about some of my favorite things in Austin.

1. Eating a Sin-a-Bomb donut at Gordough’s
When I’m in the mood for a sweet treat, I go straight to Gordough’s and order one of these puppies with a glass of milk. It’s a great way to perk up after a rough exam week or celebrate the company of friends.

2. Bike-riding around Lady Bird Lake
I love biking and there’s no better place to ride than around the Lady Bird Lake trail. Along the way there are stunning views of downtown, lush trees and foliage, and of course the lake itself. In June 2014, a new boardwalk opened up and is one of my favorite parts of the path.

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3. Exploring at HOPE Outdoor Gallery
This place goes by many names: Baylor Street Art Wall, Graffiti Park, Castle Hill, but no matter what you call it, it’s awesome. What I find most exciting is how often the art changes: one day I will watch an artist in the midst of creation, and the next week something completely different will be in its place. Each visit is a new experience.

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4. Visiting the Blanton Museum on campus
UT itself has much to offer beyond the walls of McCombs. Witness, one of the Blanton’s current special exhibits, is especially powerful and the dedicated gallery to Nina Simone’s famous 1964 performance of “Mississippi Goddam” is a highlight. Upstairs in the museum’s permanent collection, I particularly enjoy Cildo Meireles’s Missão/Missões [Mission/Missions] (How to Build Cathedrals). Walking up to and into this installation is a visually stimulating and visceral event, which amplifies the political and historical undertones intended by the artist.

Austin has so much to see, eat, and do. I will keep you posted on what I do next.

Change of Plans and What I’ve Learned

In my opinion, it’s almost never too late to change something and there’s always plenty more to learn. On the change front, two of my forward looking plans have already been scratched. First, I am not going to Buenos Aires this summer. Second, I did not attend a single SXSW event. The beauty of the latter is that the job offer I’ve accepted is in Austin, so I have plenty more chances to check out the hubbub. As for Buenos Aires, I decided to take a more low key approach to this summer by staying put in Austin, taking classes and TA-ing at UT, and hanging out with my cat. Buenos Aires will (likely) still be there to explore later down the road. But never fear, not all is lost with my goals! This Saturday I am scheduled to go on a Tower Tour with MPAC.

As for what I’ve learned? So much. Lately it’s been a struggle to write blog posts given that there is so much going on and it can be a challenge to synthesize. So, I thought I’d present to you two interesting things I learned in class this week:


1. Getting wrapped up in intentional tort civil cases is no cake walk. In these types of cases, not only are punitive damages often tacked on to compensatory damages, but these damages are not absolved in the event of bankruptcy. Further, there are few standards, if any, for punitive damage amounts so they are often up to the complete discretion of the jury. As explained by Dean Bredeson, substituting for Frank Cross’s LEB 380 30 “Business Law” class.


2. It’s frighteningly easy to hack into home routers that use system default usernames and passwords. Lizard Squad accessed over one thousand routers as an “elaborate commercial” for their new website. On a similar note, the strongest passwords are the longest passwords. Aim for over 8-12 characters and try linking together several common words. Length trumps the use of special characters as far as security and hackability are concerned. As explained by Edward Block, guest lecturer in Patti Brown’s ACC 380K 13 “ITAC” class.

I think these two tidbits well illustrate the diversity of the MPA learning experience. I had no idea I would be exposed to things here that seem on the surface to be so unrelated to accounting. Happily, the adventure continues!