Archives for Student Life

Howdy Partner: A tale of who done it?…MPA style

As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog posts, there are many students here in the MPA program from across the country and the world. To make those long absences from home more bearable, each MPA clique kind of becomes a home away from home. Even though I’m only from Arlington, TX (three hours North of Austin), I have grown extremely close to three fellow MPA-ers in particular.

So when I started planning what I wanted to do for my birthday three months in advanced (I love birthdays!), I immediately when to my BFFs here and said unapologetically, “I want a murder mystery surprise party for my birthday.” My thinking was that a murder mystery would be a fun twist on the usual birthday celebrations we’d been having. I just wanted to do something different. And I’ve always wanted a surprise party.

My friend, Theodore, replied, “How are we supposed to make it a surprise if you know it’s coming?”

“That’s the challenge isn’t it, “ I said. “You have to be creative.”

Well as my birthday was approaching, I starting getting nervous that perhaps I was demanding too much from my friends. Who pretty much demands a surprise party from their friends? It started to sound more and more ridiculous in my head. And as I was going through my calendar and my friends’ calendars it seemed that finding the block of time to have the party, it seemed like the window of time to have a surprise party just kept getting narrower and narrower.

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Internship Series: III. Location, Location, Location

This may or may not be a factor for everyone. There is not an abundance of job opportunities in El Paso though, so location is a blank slate for me. The first time I was faced with the issue of location was about five years ago when deciding where to attain my degree. There are hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States, and it would not be accurate if I told you that the city of Austin was not a factor in my decision to attend the University of Texas. (I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I was homesick for Austin.) Being adults now and having the freedom of choosing the first place we want to be after graduation, this issue seems to be relevant all over again.

As my usual tradition though, here are the tidbits for the week:

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Life in the real world begins…

So, where have I been all this time? Well, after that fall semester roller coaster ride, the spring semester has been an outer space kind of journey.

It began with my early and short spring semester that actually started on January 4. I was in an accelerated six-week program, where I took two three-hour graduate classes before I went out for my public accounting internship in the middle of February. Oh boy, it was intense! There was never a day that I did not think about Corporate Tax. I only had classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., but I did not feel I had a weekend off, at all. From group projects, homework assignments, essays, and readings, the accelerated semester would constantly keep me on my toes. Nonetheless, even though it was not an easy semester, I am glad to say that everything I learned from it will stick with me. It gave me confidence that I have some knowledge to take with me during my internship.

And so my life in the real world has begun. The first week was training, where I met interns from other universities, as well as other students interning in different locations within the southwest region. The first week gave me reassurance that even though I don’t know everything I possibly can about accounting, the MPA program has transformed me into a determined knowledge-seeker. I never thought I would say this, but when the firm’s senior managers talked about doing tax research effectively, I got so excited about it because the MPA program has prepared me for it well. Also, seeing Form 1120, Schedules M-1 and M-3 didn’t daunt me as much either. I may not be an expert in filing tax returns yet, but I’ve seen them before and filled them out in my classes.

The second week was my first real work week. As a tax intern, I was told by many that I would just stay in my cubicle every day and would not have the chance to travel or interact with the client. My experience, however, has proven this wrong, because I do not go to the office now. I’ve been out working with my team at the client site, and it has been a great learning opportunity. So far, I’ve been learning how to navigate the software and workbooks the firm uses, and familiarizing myself with several international tax forms and how information flows through them. To be honest, it was an information overload, and I never thought that there is still so much to learn in the accounting field, even though I’ve taken several accounting classes already.

Everything is happening very quickly, and I am ready for the future weeks to come. Work will start coming in and I am looking forward to it. Who knew doing taxes can be exciting?! Well, my life in the real world has truly taken off…

Schedule, Schedule!

In case you were wondering about planning aspects of your schedule while you are pursuing the MPA, I thought I would give you some input, based on my experience.  

First, when in doubt, talk to your academic advisor. Even though they are super busy, they are very competent, and always make it a point to try and reply to questions, understand your situation and work with you. You can e-mail them, meet with them during their walk-in hours or just schedule an appointment at the front desk of the MPA office. Everyone in the office is great about helping students .

Just don’t do what I did–which was wait ’til the last minute, and then send a million questions over e-mail to my advisor on a Monday morning. But thank goodness for Keri Ledezma, my academic advisor.

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Tax Planning

Professor Singer

Professor Singer

I wanted to talk about a particularly interesting class I am taking this semester, taught by Dr. Stuart Singer, called  ”Tax Planning for Business Entities,” for three reasons:

First, it is unlike any class I have ever taken before because the professor is funny, but the context discussed couldn’t be more serious.

Second, it makes you appreciate the crazy things that professionals have to think about when they undertake any restructuring deals (mergers, acquisitions, etc., etc.).

Third, the class doesn’t have any exams, and you’d think that’s nice, but I’m here to tell you… it’s not. It doesn’t really make a difference in graduate school, everyone. Exam or no exam, classes at this level are super challenging and you have to read a lot if you want to understand concepts talked about in class.

Speaking of concepts, you will get a healthy dose of them in this class, for sure. Taken from Dr. Singer’s syllabus: You can expect to learn topics ranging from “running the tax end of a deal,” to “determining whether it should be taxable or not, costing the variables for the client and identifying+ resolving the principal tax issues involved.”

Dr. Singer has years and years of tax planning experience. So he really takes the class through the practical side of things. We, in return, are expected to (try) to perform at a level equivalent to a professional with 4-5 years under his or her belt.  This is applicable to both the issues we address and the manner in which we do it.  So if a student starts a sentence with,”Like…”, or “Umm…”,  Dr. Singer will ask you, very politely, to start over. Intimidated? Don’t be, because the mood in the class is never dull or gloomy.  I think it’s because Dr. Singer puts students at ease with his sense of humor. His observations and comments make you think and laugh at the same time. Seriously, guys, this class is awesome.

Anyway, I ended up taking it because one of the recruiters during my interviews last semester told me that tax planning is a great area to get some exposure to. He was so right. The learning curve is steep. And, at the risk of sounding like a geek–never has it been quite so enjoyable!