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

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. … here to read more

MPA Cribs: A “Mini Tour” of the McCombs School of Business

The 21st Street Entrance to the McCombs School of Business

Six floors, three buildings and top-notch classrooms and facilities – The McCombs School of Business has been the home of over 6,000 students. Personally, it is the only place on-campus where I spend my time: for classes, group projects, organizational meetings, studying, eating or just socializing with friends.

I would like to open the doors of the business school and give you a “mini tour” of the buildings’ most prominent highlights.  Welcome to my crib!

1)   “The Family Group”

Situated by the 21st Street entrance of the business school,   “The Family Group” is a sculpture designed by Charles Umlauf. Umlauf had a vision that focused on family; “the foundation upon which the world of business is built.” The plaza where the sculpture is located also has several tables and chairs where students can study or wait before their classes start.

AIM Investment Center


2)   AIM Investment Center

One of the most prominent facilities in the business school is the AIM Investment Center. With the LED ticker constantly running overhead, the facility provides business students the latest updates on current stock prices. The AIM Investment Center is also a part of the EDS Financial Trading and Technology Center, which is dedicated to helping MBA students and undergraduate finance majors obtain real-world experience in managing investment portfolios and developing client relationships.


… here to read more


I am thankful for my younger brother, Stephen.

As Thanksgiving rolls around, I think we all need to take some time out of our busy/stressful lives and remember what we are grateful for. You should think about what you are thankful for every day, but sometimes we get caught up in the shuffle and forget to do so.

In the spirit of the holiday, I will tell you five (of many) things that I am thankful for.

1. Family and Friends: The clichéd response, however, an important thing to be thankful for. I don’t know where I would be without my wonderful family and friends. I am loving all of my new (and old) MPA friends and I feel so blessed to have them in my life.

2. McCombs: Did anyone see the tower in orange last week and wonder why? It was in honor of the Princeton Review’s Best Business Schools: 2012 edition. McCombs ranked No. 1 for “Best Professors!” Next class, tell a business Professor “Thank you.”

3. Laughter: Considering I have mentioned laughter in 2 of my 2 blog posts thus far, it is probably clear that it is one of my favorite things. Never discount the importance of laughing everyday. … here to read more