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”. …..click 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… …..click 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. …..click 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. …..click here to read more

Challenge Yourself and Keep Giving Thanks

A student in my valuations class taking diligent notes and having fun while doing it!

As I come back from of the Thanksgiving holiday, I realize it is almost the end of my first semester here.  As one of my professors said, it takes forever to get to Halloween, but once Halloween comes, the rest of the semester flies by.

I wanted to talk a little about one of the specific classes I am taking right now.  It is my Valuations class in the finance department.  Finance is not one of my strong suits, I will be one of the first to admit that, but I know its great importance in the accounting field and more in the business world.  I took an intro to finance in undergrad and again in an accelerated course here at UT.  I was very ambitious in making my schedule and decided to take the accelerated valuations class for the second half of the semester.  During orientation, we had a faculty panel when several professors gave the advice to challenge yourself, take the hardest classes you could and the classes in which you are least confident.  Needless to say, I took this advice and registered for valuations even though it was not a requirement for my degree.  (Other advice I was given included to take as many accounting and finance classes you can, as well as to take courses outside of your track i.e. tax classes if you are in the audit track and audit classes if you are in the tax track in order to broaden and deepen your knowledge.)

As the first half of my semester went along, my intro to finance class proved to be a lot more difficult than I had imagined.  The whole time I was thinking – what am I going to do in valuations?!  Why did I ever think I could do more advanced finance when I cannot even do this?!  I ended up doing fine in finance, but let’s just say, not with flying colors. …..click here to read more