Run Austin!

My dog Rosie and I at the Dallas Turkey Trot sporting our rivalry day spirit!

Whenever I go home to Dallas for Thanksgiving, I love to run the YMCA Turkey Trot. The Dallas Turkey Trot hosts about 35,000 energetic runners, joggers and walkers alike. This particular year, the Turkey Trot made an attempt for a world record for the most people in turkey costumes in one place.

I love this race because it’s the perfect thanksgiving tradition: burning calories before you eat your weight in delicious thanksgiving cuisine.  It’s also a lot of fun because of all the college rivalries. Those who didn’t come in turkey outfits came in all of their collegiate paraphernalia. There are fight songs from all sorts of schools going around the crowd, but non louder than our very own “Texas Fight!” fight song.

I have been running since my junior year of high school, when I joined my school’s track and field team. I was atrocious, but I loved the freedom I felt while running. I continued to run throughout high school, and love to run recreationally in college. … here to read more

How to bleed burnt orange

Being part of the MPA has many amazing benefits; one of the greatest is being a part of the larger UT community. The University of Texas at Austin is a place of tradition. Our traditions date back the university’s founding in 1883. I feel it is to every student’s benefit to know all the wonderful traditions our university has. Getting caught up in the spirit of the school is one of the best parts of the experience at UT.

How the tower is lit after winning a national championship game

The Tower

The first thing any prospective UT student needs to know about is the tower. The tower is campus’ best known landmark and symbol. It can be seen from almost anywhere in Austin, and as cheesy as this sounds, I get a swell of happiness in my stomach every time I see it.  It is usually lit up in white at night, except on special occasions. We light it up in orange for academic and athletic achievements and it even has a special configuration of lights for when UT wins a national championship.

The tower also has a clock on all four sides and chimes every fifteen minutes. At 12:50 three times a week, Tom Anderson (the university’s carilloneur) plays songs using the bells. He has even taken requests before.  One time I heard him play Katy Perry’s teenage dream and just this week he was playing “Deck the Halls”. … here to read more

Joe Paterno and Responsibilities of an MPA Student

I rarely post a very direct blog. Usually, my intent is to keep this column very effervescent, but this incident has left me very distraught. Perplexed even. See, it has been very difficult for me to reconcile my emotions over this event because the line of what I deem right and wrong is now hazy.

Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in FBS with 409 victories, was recently fired by Penn State for failing to report an incident involving former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

If you have not heard, the winningest coach in D-1 football, Joe Paterno, was fired amidst a sex scandal involving an assistant coach. Paterno was allegedly notified of a sexual assault incident in 2002, reported it to Penn State officials, but failed to take further action. The assistant coach, in the meantime, had allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct for years and was even seen on the Penn State campus weeks before the scandal emerged, despite being relieved of official business nearly a decade ago.

The rub is that Paterno was fired and this angered many Penn State fanatics. Paterno is not accused of any actual misconduct; however, he was the head coach, overlooked the program, and as a result, is at least partially to blame for the scandal….right?

How does this relate to MPA? There are numerous times when certain people in a firm engage in poor practice and put the jobs of many employees in jeopardy. Nevertheless, even those who engage in poor practice in a firm are usually on a larger team and whatever work they do should be reviewed multiple times.

Yes, I said that: someone did something unethical, it was reviewed several times and it still got through.

The question is how does this happen? Are those who let such actions occur necessarily bad? I don’t think that Joe Paterno is bad… … here to read more

Growing my interest in not-for-profits

A view of Austin from across the river

I’m dedicating this post to all things I’ve encountered regarding not-for-profits since my arrival in Austin.  Just to throw some facts and figures at you, Austin has more non-profits per capita in the Southwest U.S. Region, approximately 6,300 in 2009 (that’s about 3.82 nonprofits per 1000 people).

Earlier this semester, I had the pleasure of discovering a wonderful non-profit consulting organization based here in Austin called Greenlights for Nonprofit Success.  Each Fall they host the Texas Nonprofit Summit, where members of non-profit organizations all over the state come for a weekend of seminars and spotlighted speakers.  At this year’s summit, I met quite a few accountants from firms (such as Padgett Stratemann & Co and PMB Helin Donovan) that serve a large number of non-profits, as well as accountants (some that graduated from the UT Austin MPA program) who now either work for non-profits or sit on their boards. … here to read more

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Learning to accept average has been among my many lessons in this competitive program.

Much like the aforementioned idiom this post is more about perspective than it is about beauty. Since I’ve been in the MPA program I’ve had two interesting encounters with perspective:

1. A change in my perspective

When people used to ask me how I did on an exam or an assignment I would always compare to myself, generally my past performance or a goal. So someone might say “how did you do?” and I would think about how my performance stacked up and say “I did well” or “I didn’t do as well as I would have liked”.

In this program I have no idea what “well” means. Objectively my percentage of comprehension/retention of presented material is about 75% which to me seems awful, but we’re comparing apples to oranges in terms of amount material presented.

On the bright side the program does provide an alternative measure of performance: comparison to others. This is a less attractive option to me than self comparison because the people here are really smart, but it’s what I’ve got to live with. Now that I’m getting a better grasp of the curving system I always compare myself to the mean. It’s a very strange adjustment to make statements relative to average because historically average has never been my goal, but I try to remember that in this crowd average is still pretty good. … here to read more