Archives for Xinmiao

Group Motivation!

Our study sessions look like this.

Here at McCombs, we’re in the home stretch of the Spring semester, preparing ourselves for that one. last. exam (per course) before summer. Sigh, time passes so quickly.

Some Updates: Work at Greenlights is going well. I have been doing quite a bit of  data analytics using Excel (putting those concepts I learned in our Information Technology in Accounting class to work). I just completed a project that involved performing calculations of retention rates and general stats using our donor database. Now, I’m transitioning into a very (but not so) different project – grant writing! Also, next week I’m going to be attending a Board Essentials workshop, run by Greenlights, where I will be learning about the basics of putting together a strong nonprofit board and possible opportunities for me to be involved when I start working full-time at an accounting firm. CPAs are actually a real (desirable!) asset to any nonprofit board.

My internal audit team recently wrapped up a project with the City of Austin (Office of the City Auditor), where we performed a follow-up audit of the Controller’s Office regarding their hotel occupancy tax collection process in regards to Short Term Rental (think HomeAway and AirBnB). A report on that audit is now available to the public here. During the length of the project, my team communicated with the City Auditors as well as accountants at the Controller’s Office, interviewed Short Term Rental Owners, and got a first hand account of the hotel occupancy tax collection process. We wrote engagement letters and work papers and came up with a final deliverable report. Much was learned, I should say.

Ah, on the side, I’ve recently taken on the role of being an assistant editor at a literary journal and have been interviewing authors about their writing (authors that fall into the science-fiction and fantasy genre). Last night, I had a wonderful conversation with a sci-fi writer about her concept of “the alien.” And, while I’m being tangential, today in the parking lot of the Korean grocery store, I found a patch of mimosa ferns! I used to live in Hawaii and haven’t seen mimosa ferns since those days.

As for school work: What are we doing in this last stretch to motivate ourselves, you ask? Well, group study is at an all-time high! Otherwise, we find ways to enjoy our diminishing time here in Austin. The weather is temperate – Barton Springs is thriving again. We gather together to watch Game of Thrones on Sunday evenings and eat cupcakes with cadbury egg centers.

A fellow MPA delighting in a Cadbury Egg.

Signing off!!

Greetings from Chicago!

Downtown Chicago!

Greetings from the Windy City!

I’m writing from a friend’s couch in downtown Chicago, enjoying the warmth of the indoors. This weekend, I am away from dear Austin to attend a three-day-long writing conference hosted by AWP. It’s going really well. And when not sitting in on panels entitled “Beyond Pulp – The Futuristic and Fantastic as Literary Fiction” and “Wilderness Writing: Theory and Practice,” I’m working on some Excel assignments for my ITAC (Information Technology Accounting Control) class, where we complete tutorials, create our own macros, and use conditional formatting to perform data analysis. I’m also wrapping up a work paper for an internal audit project which has my audit team working closely with the Office of the City Auditor (OCA). It’s a great, though at the moment overwhelming, combination of all sorts of activity.

I can speak a little further about my ITAC assignment in that it’s proving amazingly useful towards the work I’m currently doing for my internship at Greenlights. I am working with our donor database and trying to get good data from our archives to provide the development director with information. Learning about conditional formatting (IF functions and whatnot) and macros has really helped me finesse my approach to data analysis. I’m hoping by the end of the internship to produce a macros for the organization that sorts out information about our donors that will be really valuable for planning.

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Spring Meanderings

A candy store on SoCo.

Is it Spring? It’s hard to tell in Texas sometimes. But I say, it is! In honor of the emergence of Spring (and the fact that I hail from a city north of Houston dubbed Spring, TX), I’m going to mention just a few fun things I’ve done / will do this Spring.

I…

went to a reading.
There are a couple of contemporary writers that really excite me, that just make me feel completely starstruck. One of them is Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet (sweet cover, right?). It was terrific to see him read at BookPeople, “Austin’s leading independent bookstore,” in January. Marcus is actually an Austin native (I did not know that) and his reading is the result of a partnership between BookPeople and the literary magazine, American Short Fiction, I worked for in the Fall. I am really excited for their reading series and future collaborations.

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A peek into how some things work.

Happy new year to everyone! I know I may be belated in saying this, but while we’re in the month of January, it still feels like the new year has just sprung.

I read an article the other day about resolutions. According to the article, social scientists have recently concluded that “willpower is a real form of mental energy powered by glucose in the bloodstream, which is used up as you exert self-control.” It’s interesting to think of willpower as being not only mental but also physiological. We’re depleting our stores of glucose whenever we attempt to pull ourselves away from immediate desires and wishes. (When faced with temptations, it’s like walking your 90 pound dog when there are squirrels in the vicinity).  The article’s thesis is pretty intuitive: avoid depleting those precious stores by knowing yourself and your weaknesses better and planning accordingly. I think about my precious glucose from time to time this semester, which is already looking like it’ll be a busy one.

This Spring, I’ll be working for the development team at Greenlights for Nonprofit Success, a nonprofit organization that provides services, consulting and otherwise, to nonprofits in the Central Texas area. It’s going great! On top of my daily duties, I am surrounded by nonprofit “shoptalk” and resources, have access to training sessions and workshops on topics from grant writing to board essentials, and am being thoroughly educated every day on the ins and outs of the industry. Greenlights is a small organization comprised of about 10 people all in love with nonprofits for one reason or another. My own fondness for nonprofits stems (quite simply) from their assertion of hope, which is infused into every mission statement out there. I’m reading a book right now that provides the following statistic, which I think is pretty interesting.

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Fiction & Accounting Venn-Diagram

In honor of both my accounting finals being over AND my internship at American Short Fiction coming to a wrap, I am dedicating this post to accounting & fiction. Think of a venn-diagram – “fiction” written into one circle and “accounting” written into the other.  Here are just a few names that might reside in that overlap. I’m pretty excited about this attempt…

1) David Foster Wallace, a terrific and ground breaking fiction writer and essayist known for his ginormous book Infinite Jest. His last book was, you guessed it, about accounting. Searching around the NYT for a bit, I found this: “David Foster Wallace and the Literary Tax Accountant”.  According to the article, Wallace “pursued tax arcana with an exuberantly obsessive relish.” After enrolling in accounting courses and corresponding with a handful of I.R.S. agents and CPAs, Wallace came up with the world and characters of his posthumously published novel, the Pale King. A plus: his exchanges with various accountants (the brunt of his research) are housed here at the University of Texas at the Harry Ransom Center. Class field trip?

I think that Wallace’s interest in tax accounting /research was genuine. He studied tax accounting with a philosophical interest in system logic and ultimately built his book around the premise that “tax work may be the gateway to transcendent ecstasy.” A bit far fetched and absurd, yes, but let’s think: essentially, within our tax structure lies the minutiae, collective compartments, and number-coded ecosystems of our lives, no? Hmm…

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