Tag Archives: community

Competing With Engineers for a Sustainable World

A couple of months ago, we all received an invitation to compete in BASF’s Team Chemistry challenge. A fellow MPA student decided to formTexas-mascot a group, and so I joined. It seemed like a fun project – come up with ideas to lessen the environmental impact of football gameday. I love football gameday and I have an interest in environmental sustainability, so it was like a match made in heaven. Of course, the incentive of winning a bunch of money didn’t hurt.

So, we set to work coming up with ideas on how to approach the problem.  We easily came up with a host of small solutions that would have some impact, but quickly got bogged down in the details. After spending some more time pondering our work, we decided to focus on a group  of related solutions and hone in on them.  As Joel said in his most recent article about accountants being risk-averse, we learned from our initial mistakes, found the proper balance, and ended up with some pretty cool ideas.

We were invited to a couple of events by BASF and the Athletic Department to learn more about the initiative and the goals of the competition. One event was a sustainability panel sponsored by UT Engineers for a Sustainable World. The panel was entirely made up of engineers and the audience was entirely engineers … except two of us MPA students. It was very intimidating hearing about them discussing various polymers of which we had no clue of their existence much less their properties. Apparently these students have a big advantage over us with their knowledge of chemicals, considering BASF is essentially a chemical company. The next event was a stadium tour, during which our guides told us about their issues with waste management. Their focus seemed to be only on waste management problems, while our solutions did little to address that.

ConcoursePoster_#2_Sec120But, we pressed on, confident in the power of our ideas despite not having the technical knowledge that is certainly common among our competition. What we do have is a business ingenuity that enabled us to come up with feasible solutions that are easily implemented and have a measurable impact. We used the skills we have learned in economics, finance, and accounting to estimate the results of our proposals. We also used our branding and presentation skills to develop a persuasive format through which to deliver our proposal.

We find out Friday if we are invited to the finalist round, where we will present and defend our ideas in a “shark tank” environment. We’ve had fun putting it all together, and we’re proud of our accomplishments, but it would be great to get to write a “Part II” to this article about our preparation for the finalist round!


MPAC in the Community

One of the things I love to do is to volunteer. For me, there is nothing like giving back and helping make a better tomorrow, one little act at a time. Perhaps this may sound too ideal, esoteric, or even ethereal. However, I speak from experience because if not for people who have helped me along the way and paid it forward in their time, I would not be where I am today. So when I joined MPA Counciland learned that community service is one of its pillars, I could not have been happier to be part of such an organization.


In the past few weeks, MPAC has had two community service projects. The first one was with Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), where we moved, organized, and sorted 6,500 pounds of food in about three hours. To put it in context, this is equal to 5,625 meals that the agency provides in Central Texas. CAFB works with several local agencies that help distribute the food to combat hunger in the region. I can’t believe how much food we sorted in the time we were there.  We worked in an assembly line and had an efficient process of packaging foods. When the agency coordinators announced the impact of our work, there was a sense of pride in the group, because we knew we made a difference.


The second project we had was a visit to the Austin Animal Center (AAC). This was a fun job. How could it not be? We walked dogs every 15 to 20 minutes. From the small young dogs to the big and rowdy ones, we had a chance to take the dogs out for exercise and show them some affection. It was a good way for us to also get a work out and reduce stress levels in the process.

Austin Animal Center

I will not forget the last dog I walked, which was a German shepherd. She was big, strong, and energetic. At some point, it was hard to tell whether I was walking her or she was walking me. I had to tie the leash around my waist a few times for added support. Needless to say it was a funny sight. By the time we left AAC, we had mud everywhere from walking and playing with the dogs. It was a good experience and one that really put smiles on our faces.

One thing I really appreciate from these events is that it shows how MPAC is committed to social engagement. It is not just an organization that promotes accounting and the career opportunities therein. It is much more than that. When it started to rain during the past AAC event, the volunteer coordinators gave us the option to leave early. A fellow student turned to me though and said, “I’d like to help some more if I can.”

That’s the spirit of service and I could not even be more proud to have folks share the same passion when it comes to giving back. I’m definitely looking forward to the future projects we’ll have.

Getting Involved: How Much Is Too Much?

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced during my time at the University of Texas is figuring out how to get more involved on campus. There are tons of opportunities to get involved in student organizations, volunteer work, internships, and even academic research, but my problem has always been finding a balance between doing well in my classes, getting involved in extracurricular activities, and having enough free time to relax once in a while.

My inherent inability to find that balance is pretty obvious when you consider that I added an entire extra major just because I like to read and write and wanted to take some non-business classes. Doing Plan II was a lot of extra effort for something that I didn’t initially think would have a huge impact on my career, but it ended up helping me a lot with the research and writing aspects of tax.

Beyond academics, I’ve had to learn to say no to a lot of great opportunities, such as being a TA, helping on research projects, and getting involved in too many of the student organizations on campus. One thing that has helped me decide whether I should get involved in a new activity is figuring out how much time it would take, and then going through a typical week (or thinking through it, if I don’t have time) and seeing if I can spare that much time, but obviously that’s not foolproof. Another great way to reach that balance when I’m short on time and energy is to participate in one-day events like Project Reachout or Project 2012, where you can spend a day volunteering without a semester-long time commitment.

So far, I’ve come pretty close to finding a good balance, but I’m always looking for new time management tips!

Welcome back, Longhorns!

BevoWelcome back, everyone! If you are new to the MPA program this year- congratulations and I hope you are excited for an amazing year! I hope everyone had a wonderful summer and the transition back into the swing of things isn’t proving to be too difficult. My summer was a fun one, but I am glad to be back at McCombs.

Over the summer I was informed of some fantastic news about UT. The UT Austin ALPFA Chapter received the Student Chapter Award for the Central Region! ALPFA is largest Latino association for business professionals and students with chapters nationwide. Every year they chose a student chapter from each region and this year, it was UT! I am increasingly humbled and honored to be a part of this school when I learn about all of the accomplishments and accolades that UT is constantly bringing in.

Another tidbit of exciting news this summer was the selection of the winners for the 2012 Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Awards. This year, two McCombs professors were honorable recipients, Anitesh Barua and Steven Kachelmeier. I had the opportunity to take an MPA class with Professor Kachelmeier last semester and it is great to see a familiar professor receive this award! In the article, Professor Kachelmeier is quoted regarding the importance of passion in a teaching role saying, “If a teacher is not passionate about the subject matter, one can hardly expect students to feel otherwise.” Passion about the subject is something that I really value in a professor and if you are new to McCombs this year, you can certainly expect to see passion for their subject is key to McCombs professors.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” -MLK

My donated TOMS!

Last week, a group of MPA students, myself included, who are recruiting with one of the Big 4, had the opportunity to participate in an activity co-sponsored by TOMS shoes. For those of you who may not know the story behind TOMS, essentially they donate one pair of shoes to someone in need everytime a pair is purchased.

At the recruiting event, the donations were two-fold. First, because of the buy one-give one strategy at TOMS, one pair of shoes was donated to someone in need for every student attending the event. Second, we also donated our decorated TOMS to a local Austin charity.

The community service aspect of public accounting certainly increases my desire to work in the industry. All of the Big 4 have multiple ways of helping to serve and improve the community. Midcaps and regional firms definitely participate in community service as well- I am just focusing on the Big 4 for the sake of this blog.

Here are some of my favorite community service efforts by the Big 4:

Deloitte’s big community service event is called IMPACT day. On IMPACT day, Deloitte professionals across the country all set aside their work and work for a nonprofit in their community. Just to put this in perspective, there are OVER 50,000 Deloitte employees nationwide and almost all of them will participate in this special day- that’s a lot of community service!

A great community service effort was done by KPMG last September, on the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. KPMG called this campaign, “Service in Remembrance.” For this campaign, KPMG professionals teamed up with the rest of the nation and over 200 nonprofits in honor the victims and the heroes of September 11th. Continue reading “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” -MLK