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The University of Texas at Austin

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Brisket. Peach Cobbler. The United Way Case Study. Longhorns.

April 27th, 2010

Dear Reader:

I know what you are thinking, ‘What on Earth do all of these things have to do with one another?!’ Answer: They have all been an integral part of what has been a most amazing DCSCS exchange experience here at the University of Austin!

While all wonderful in their own way, I did come here – first and foremost – to gain practical experience in the nonprofit management sector. My group, ‘Team United’ (Yes Reader, this IS an original name!!) has been tasked with looking particularly at the ‘President’s Cabinet’ of United Way Capital Area (Austin). The group serves as something akin to an ‘internal advisory board’, comprised of approximately 14 skilled volunteers from a cross-section of the community. They have come together to advise the organization’s Executive Director on a wide array of issues, ranging from public relations strategies to fiscal management. After spending hours interviewing members of the organization, Team United is in the midst of perfecting our second case study draft. The process can be challenging and tedious at times, but we are really beginning to see the fruits of our labour come together!

We have also begun brainstorming ideas for the accompanying Teaching Notes, in addition to structuring a lesson that will really bring out the key management issues that we are focusing on: transitional leadership and managing skilled volunteers. The entire experience so far has really been an unparalleled opportunity to not only gain theoretical knowledge regarding the nonprofit sector, but to get some ‘hands-on’ experience that I am confident will serve me well in my future.

With only 3 weeks left, I will leave Austin with a heavy heart (and a heavy suitcase – so much BBQ sauce to bring back!!). I feel invigorated, inspired, and much more confident in my abilities and understanding of this challenging but rewarding sector. I am curious to see what the future holds, but I will always look for ways to come back to Austin.

Cheers,
Tatiana

DCSCS and Team Awesome

April 12th, 2010

The semester is wrapping up soon and so are our courses – it’s time to submit final papers, give presentations, and write our last memos. Two days ago, I was part of a presentation in one of the most enjoyable courses in my life, a LBJ class taught by a practitioner named Kevin Bacon. Guess what the topic of the presentation was? DCSCS!

Why did I want to study DCSCS? The topic was enticing because I am really thankful to be here through the DCSCS program, and I want more students to enjoy this type of remarkable experience. Although I am 28 years old and married, I have been learning new things every day. I cannot tell you how much DCSCS has expanded my horizons and how rewarding it is.

Moira, our DCSCS program coordinator, was an amazing help for my presentation team (we called ourselves Team Awesome) throughout the semester while we were researching DCSCS. She always helped us with a warm smile and generosity, as all Texans do. She provided us with all the information we needed and always came to our rescue when we needed help. The focus of our project was analyzing the application process for the inbound exchange students at LBJ School of Public Affairs. To help streamline the process, we created a logic model, a cross-functional process flowchart, and made recommendations for the program. The great thing about our research is that it can be applied to any other program where the RGK Center or the LBJ School brings in exchange students.

To make our presentation entertaining, we invited a hypothetical person who we called “Jack.” Jack walked the class through the issues in the application process and made recommendations that basically focused on increasing the visibility and scope of DCSCS. The idea of personalizing the process was really enjoyable to the rest of the class. After class, I forwarded our team memo and presentation to Moira. And guess what? She will use our work in her future presentations. YES! Team Awesome got what it wanted. ☺

Love from lively Austin,
Engy

Team Awesome (L to R): Professor Kevin Bacon, Avinash, Laura, Engy, and John

The Value of Case Studies

April 5th, 2010

With five weeks left in our semester, school is kicking into high gear here in Austin. The readings are thick as usual, we’re writing a memo on fundraising for our nonprofit strategy class, and some of us have final essays and exams to prepare for in our elective courses, but the thing on all of our minds is our case study. All the interviewing, reading, and discussing of the last two months is wrapping up, and it’s time to decide on a storyline and get it down on paper. Our first draft is due in less than a week.

Since January, we’ve been using other case studies – some from the Electronic Hallway that we’re hoping to submit ours to – for both of our nonprofit courses, and they are consistently my favourite part of the week’s readings. They provide an engaging story, a window into the operations of a real-life organization, and an interesting issue worth some serious consideration. As an anthropologist, I appreciate their ability to teach not by pushing dry theory and making blanket statements, but through letting students pull general lessons out of the rich complexity, personalities, and nuance of a single situation. As a busy student, I appreciate that they manage to do all of this in 5-10 pages ̶ short and sweet.

Now that we are trying to write our own, I have a whole new level respect for the case study model, and for the authors of the cases we’ve enjoyed reading up to now. A writing coach who visited our class yesterday aptly summarized: we’re not just students writing a research paper anymore, we need to be hard-nosed reporters to create a strong and synthesized presentation of the facts, master story-tellers to shape a strong and illuminating narrative, and creative ethnographers to bring it all alive with engaging details and subtle texture. I know that, between us, our group has the skills and experience to do this, but the closer we get to the end, the more I realize how difficult it is to bring all our ideas and energy together to create one succinct, cohesive, whole – and most importantly, finished – case study. I’m not sure how we’ll do it, but it will have taken shape by next Wednesday, and done by the 27th. It will definitely be something to be proud of!

Cheers,
Dana

The Impact of DCSCS

March 29th, 2010

All the people involved in the program are great. We spend our time learning, researching, and having fun. I would like to thank Moira Porter, our program coordinator, because she has helped me since the moment I began planning my arrival in Austin, and she continues to do so.

I understand that the United States has the biggest nonprofit sector around the world, but living it through our case studies really makes me understand that the sector is a way of life, which involves millions of lives daily. In my case study, Seton Hospital and its volunteer program, the people with whom we are working give us information freely and expect that we can contribute to their organization in some way. It’s exciting to be involved.

We have also been able to have a sense of community here in Austin, through our living situations, through being students at UT, and through our work with local nonprofits. All of the exchange students in the program live in co-ops, which give us the opportunity to share and interact with interesting people all the time. Also, we are learning from our great professors, who have varied and impressive academic and professional backgrounds. Finally, being in contact with one nonprofit organization has really motivated me to contribute to the nonprofit community here or in my country (Mexico). It could sound like a political slogan, but it’s true that “people make the difference.”

I know that all of my fellow DCSCS students have enjoyed Austin like I have and that we all plan to share our experiences when we return to our home countries. I want to motivate my classmates in Mexico and other students to get involved in this program and also contribute in some way to strengthen the nonprofit sector in Mexico. Actually, my original intention was to contribute through research and studying the sector, but I think now it should be more active. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this DCSCS experience takes me in my work – it has definitely made a big impact.

Cheers,
Carlos

The Case Study!

March 24th, 2010

So it’s been quite the last few weeks for me.  As you’ll recall, one of the main features of the DCSCS Exchange is a case study course where you work hands-on with an organization to help them identify potential areas for growth, improvement, or expansion.  I am working, along with two other students, with the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region.

Before I managed to get started on the case study, I managed to break my nose and suffer a concussion playing a soccer game.  The back of someone’s head managed to abruptly meet my nose.  Other than a slightly off-center nose, I’m none the worse for wear.

The Centre handles two main phone lines- a support line for local hospitals and a crisis line.  They operate 24/7 in both English and French.  They run quite the operation.  Getting to the physical location was an exercise in espionage, as they keep it tightly under wraps due to the nature of their work.  Once in, we met most of the staff (7 people) and sat down to talk with several of them, one at a time.  They gave us information on how things work, what they would like to see happen, and things they have been considering moving towards.

It was a very productive meeting, and we’ve been working on writing up a nice set of proposals, critiques, and suggestions for them.  Hopefully they’ll find out work and research to be of some use, and they’ll be able to continue to serve the people in Ottawa into the future!

- Wayne Gerami

DCSCS Exchange For Y’ALL!

March 23rd, 2010

It is difficult to know where or even how to start telling about this incredible exchange experience, so here are a few lines to share my DCSCS experience with y’all:

I am in my early twenties and have traveled to many places in the world and enjoyed life more than enough of my share; however the joy I feel here in Austin is something that I have not experienced yet: joy for doing something I love and feels right. I’ve always had interest in the nonprofit world and a small amount of experience, but these couple of months have opened a whole new world in this area, and it is truly one that I want to dive into more each day.

I have been in Austin for more than two months, and though it has been super exciting and refreshing, the real start of what we came here to do is starting now: the writing of our case study. My organization is United Way, and they have been very open to our group sitting in on meetings and interviewing whomever we ask. It is literally an adrenaline buzz every time we meet with them and learn more about the realities of nonprofits. A lot more work is yet to be done for the case study, but it is challenge that we receive with open arms and minds and is a learning experience that continues and deepens.

Now in other themes, our DCSCS group is super tight. We are a group of eight, six from Canada and two from Mexico. Even though some of us live in different houses and have completely different backgrounds, majors, and even styles, we get along very well and are united by some greater theme that is being in a new city and immersing ourselves in the nonprofit world. Austin is an incredible city and here is a list of some of the most relevant things we have done in our time here: visited the Cactus Café, watched Longhorn basketball games and the Superbowl with true Austinites, watched the Olympics together as we celebrated Canada’s victories, continuously going to happy hours and barbecues, and more importantly seeing lots of live music shows, especially this week with one of biggest music festivals in North America going on, SXSW.

I absolutely love this exchange experience and have learned so much both academically and personally. The biggest lesson that I take from this exchange is the desire to live life like an exchange student anywhere I go from here. Living life as an exchange student means taking advantage of time, places, people, and opportunities given to you with truly fresh eyes and an open mind in a way you’ve never done before.

Anyway, I am now off to DAY 3 of SXSW!

Loving Life from Austin, Texas,
Nanette

Fundraising in Austin

March 15th, 2010

It’s been more than two months since I arrived from Mexico City to be part of the DCSCS program. The city, classmates, staff and professors have been more than welcoming. I can’t believe it’s already spring break…

Our classes have been loaded with theory, discussion and cases; lots of cases of course! This has been a total immersion into the nonprofit world. One of the first things I was impressed by was the size of the nonprofit sector in the US. There are nearly 1.5 million nonprofit organizations of all sorts out there. Whether tiny or huge, formally or informally assembled, all of them face formidable challenges to accomplish their missions. One of the most difficult ones is raising funds. Whatever the cause, money always comes to the picture.

A week ago, I had the chance to witness one of the many ways in which nonprofits can raise money: fundraising events. After learning about the earthquake in Chile, a group of UT students immediately convened and created an informal (not a registered nonprofit or UT student group) group called ‘Austin Helps Chile.’ A fundraiser –Con Chile en el Corazón- was quickly organized. Despite the short notice, the small venue and the far away location (at least for us students who bike everywhere) the event was a complete success. Me and 5 other DCSCS students were there to witness it (I even made it into the Daily Texan (I’m in the center of the photo)! Less than a week after its assembly, ‘Austin Helps Chile’ had managed to gather as many as 400 people and raise $7,000 dollars out of small, personal donations. I think that’s impressive!

This was just one of the many manifestations of civil society we have been able to study and experience as part of our program. I am sure that the semester has many more interesting experiences waiting for us…

Cheers,
Santiago

We’re Like Investigators!

March 11th, 2010

The UT Community Education Collaborative case study group had our first team meeting with case study professors Dr. Deborah Edward and Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg today. We’re in the thick of trying to hammer out a narrative for our case study, but are finding it difficult to distill down the numerous challenges the organization is facing to find one key issue on which to focus. This is a struggle that all of our classmates are also facing, so having a lot of discussions and using one another as sounding boards is really helpful.

The case will be written as a narrative and use specific stories of key players to move the story along in a readable and interesting way. We were lucky to have Austin Chronicle staff writer Jordan Smith visit our class last week to give us pointers on investigative nonprofit writing. She gave us lots of great tips on getting the information we need from the organization regarding sometimes sensitive issues.

We’re still really early in the case study process but feel that we have collected ample information from organizational interviews and our own research to steer this case study in the best direction. There will be seven components to our final case study write-up: a hook to draw the readers in, background information, a description of the current situation, the dilemma the organization is facing (this is the hard part!), the decision point, a conclusion or epilogue, and teaching notes to direct other people in using our case study as a teaching tool.

More to come on our successes and challenges in the case writing process!

Cheers,
Cameron, Chung-Hsiang, Dana and Santiago

Our group trying to distill down the issues facing our client.

Team Buildin’ and Case Studyin’

March 4th, 2010

Hi y’all! We’re the cohort of international students participating in the DCSCS program here in Austin for the semester and we’re looking forward to sharing our experiences with you through this blog. There are eight of us here, six from Canada (eh?) and two from Mexico (olé!). We also have four local students who are participating in our case study class (Brian, Chung-Hsiang, Emily and Gabriela).

We’ve settled into Austin like natives, being sure to take advantage of everything the city has to offer. We recently took our first group daytrip where we bonded by lending a helping hand to one another as we summited the steep slope of local attraction Enchanted Rock, which is a huge pink granite rock that rises 425 feet about the ground and covers 640 acres! After our heart-pumping climb (which, to be honest, only took about 15 minutes), we polished off three bags of “gorb” (trail mix) while taking in the view and chatting. After such a workout we headed to Llano, Texas for famous Cooper’s BBQ. It was a crazy and delicious feast of meat and cobbler.

We’re also getting into the meat of our case study work. We’re divided into three groups, each working with a notable local organization, including the Seton Medical Center Auxiliary, UT’s Community Engagement Collaborative, and United Way Capital Area. Each group is in the process of holding first meetings with the clients to get background information and learn more about the challenges the organizations are facing. There will be more to come very soon as we dive further into the case study development process!

Cheers,
Cameron, Carlos, Dana, Engy, Justin, Nanette, Tatiana and Santiago

At the summit of Enchanted Rock.

Enjoying the view.

Cooper's BBQ pork ribs and brisket. Yum!

Civil Society Exchange Program – Summer 2010

February 24th, 2010

This program offers UT Austin graduate students an opportunity to study abroad at Carleton University (in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa) and receive academic credit for learning about civil society and nonprofit management in an international setting.

http://www.utexas.edu/lbj/rgk/education/dcscs.php

Ottawa

Program dates: July 5 – Aug 24, 2010*

Details:

- Earn UT academic credit
- Receive a $3,000 stipend for travel & living expenses
- Take courses on nonprofit management and global policy
- Conduct an internship with a Canadian NGO*

* Internship may begin earlier, these dates refer to course enrollment

Deadline to Apply: Friday, Feb 26, 2010

How to Apply:

Send your resume and a one-page letter of interest to moira@austin.utexas.edu