Category Archives: Events

Events that are happening around and with the MPA

MPA Educated Eats is more than just a sandwich…


Besides a Jason’s Deli Sandwich, there is also a cookie, a bottle of water, and a pickle… AND a professor who is open for conversation! I attended seven Educated Eats events during summer and fall of 2015, talking with both professors and peers who I knew from classes or who I met for the first time. My experience is exactly like the description on the MPA site: “a series of lunches and cookie breaks hosted by faculty and staff. These meetups provide an opportunity for students to interact with faculty and staff in a small-group setting and engage on a variety of topics.”

A few highlights from my lunches:

Professor Singer, who had years of experience in International tax and Mergers and Acquisition tax, talked about an interesting court case about whether a pre-born child can be claimed as a dependent, since “person” is not defined in the primary tax sources. He also gave valuable career suggestions based on our individual backgrounds. For instance, my biochemistry degree may offer me an edge in dealing with tax issues related to biotechnology companies.

Professor Holbrook, who worked in various professional settings- small, medium and large accounting firms and investment banking, among others, listened to questions from students and offered her opinion on what to consider when choosing between the tracks of audit or tax, as well as the differences between accounting firms of different sizes.

UT MPA faculty are leaders in the accounting research arena and are experts in business fields. On top of that, they care your success and are generous with their time. Do not miss the opportunity to interact them in a small group setting.

In summary, MPA Educated Eats offers:

  • Free lunch (which is always nice)
  • The opportunity to learn the stories of your professors, hear their advice, and let them get to know you
  • The chance to meet your peers in the program

To give you an idea who is usually hosting lunch and what topics are discussed, here is the schedule for spring 2016. I am looking forward to MPA Educated Eats this semester!

Texas Tribune Festival

One of the best things about a major university is the access to resources and special events on campus. Having attending a small liberal arts university for my undergraduate degree, I am constantly amazed by the offerings provided to UT students on any given day.

As I have alluded in the past, one of my passions is politics (especially Texas politics), which is why I was very excited to attend the Texas Tribune Festival on campus. The Texas Tribune Festival is a three-day conference with over 50 sessions and panels that all feature prominent local, state, and national politicians. In other words, it is my dream come true.

IMG_2774Students are offered tickets for $50 each or you can volunteer for four hours during the weekend and attend the rest of the conference for free. I chose to volunteer on Saturday morning,  and also managed to squeeze in a few panels. It was  my undergraduate university’s homecoming this past weekend, so I split my time, but I would have gladly spent all Saturday at the festival.

IMG_2766My favorite panel I was able to see was a One-on-One with the Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts, Glenn Hegar. It was very enlightening to learn all about the position of comptroller and an awesome intersection between my interests in politics and accounting.  He spoke on Texas’ current tax policies, the Rainy Day fund, and how the state plans to cope with the current decline in oil prices.

I really enjoy all of my MPA classes, but politics is one of my favorite things to follow, so it was great to be able to partake in the offerings UT has available outside of my program. If you are interested in finding out more about the Texas Tribune Festival, you can check out the website here. The Texas Tribune has also posted videos or audio of most of the sessions, including the keynote with Julián Castro, on its site.

AICPA Leadership Workshop

TWTCPA PAF-deny the world

On June 3rd, 2015, an email with the title “Congratulations!” landed in my inbox. I immediately associated this with the ones that ‘give away’ money, cars and degrees but I decided to take a look anyway. And I am glad I did. “You have been selected to attend the upcoming AICPA Accounting Scholars Leadership Workshop (ASLW),” it said.

I applied to attend ASLW workshop three months ago, via the portal. Interested applicants can apply to attend the workshop as well as apply for the AICPA scholarship. The application process for the scholarship requires an essay and two letters of recommendation. In addition, to apply for the workshop I was asked to email my favorite quote. Every year, a 100 minority students from 50 US states, majoring in accounting or related fields’ are selected to attend this three-day, all-expenses-paid workshop held in places like Baltimore and Portland. The purpose of the workshop is to better prepare minority students who want to pursue accounting professions and become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

There were several activities that I benefited the most from.  First and foremost among them was the case competitions. Working with people you have just met and presenting the final product in front of students and a panel of judges in a limited time period can be as daunting. But we did it. Our topic was related to academic fraud. It taught me valuable lessons in teamwork. Reconciling various ways of working and beliefs was tough but the skills developed are vital to professions like accounting where working with others is very important.

The DiSC personality assessment tool is my next most favorite activity. This personality assessment tool gave me valuable insights about myself. It enabled me to work better with other people.  I dare say that my mom does not know me as well as this test.  I realized from the results that my extra cautious nature can be viewed as a roadblock to group progress, and I should communicate my thoughts more clearly.

Etiquette is an important aspect of any profession. Thanks to the presentation on “Business Behavior and Etiquette”, by Jonna Martin (president of AdvanceMe Associates), I realized that I was eating my bread the wrong way!  The essence of etiquette while dinning is not to invent cumbersome rules but to make people sitting next to you comfortable.

I loved the networking sessions. From introductions to follow-ups, from in-person to online networking, I learned that networking is not about collecting business cards. It is more about being genuinely interested in learning other people’s stories and learning how you can be the best in our profession.  Networking isn’t a one way street. The workshop taught that it is essential to be valuable to those we want to network with.  While learning about them, we must be able to present our value as well.

I met the youngest CPA in the world, Belicia Cespedes, at the workshop. She obtained her CPA at age 17. Despite all her achievements, she is very humble and loves to share her experience related to CPA exam preparation.

I struggled to condense this life-changing experience into two sentences on my resume.  This workshop has helped me greatly and it gave me opportunities to network with professionals and understand various career paths in accounting.

I encourage all accounting minority students to apply for this workshop, because it has so much to offer!

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.

Looking Back, Looking Forward – Part 2 of 2

Last week, I discussed some of my favorite moments from my first seven months in the MPA program. This week, I am looking ahead and getting excited for what’s to come in my final six months.

Future Plans: 

BUENOS-AIRES11. For the first summer session this year, I will be studying in Buenos Aires for five weeks as a part of the MPA Study Abroad program. I have never been to South America before and am appreciative of this opportunity to explore Argentina while still working on my degree with fellow MPAs and professors from both UT and Universidad de San Andrés.

graduation2. Of course I am looking forward to graduation, but not because it marks the end of assignments and exams (though for most it doesn’t even mark that milestone since many continue on for at least one summer session). Graduation is going to be a great time for MPAs to get together, relax, and celebrate. Orientation was probably the only other time we were all in the same room together and graduation will likely be our last. I can feel the nostalgia coming on already.

west_logo_dates3. Echoing #3 from my post last week, I will definitely be attending the West Austin Studio Tour in May. I think it’s pretty fantastic that between EAST and WEST, Austin has four formalized weekends each year to celebrate local artists.

UTtower4. Not a day goes by on campus during which I do not see or hear the bells of the magnificent UT Tower. So this semester, I am hoping to reserve a spot for a Tower Tour and check out the view from the top.

logo5.  I think it’s more than accidental that South by South West (SXSW, or “South By”) coincides with UT’s Spring Break. South By is a festival that kicked off in 1987 (meaning it’s been around longer than many current tMPAs have been alive) that includes music, film, and interactive components. I hear that the festival completely takes over the city. Though I probably won’t be in town the whole week, I would like to experience some of the madness.

I will keep you posted on how things turn out.