Accounting Students Mobilize for Troops Overseas

Management  School Acts as Staging Area for Care Packages to Afghanistan

Dec. 15, 2010

One has a brother stationed in Iraq as a pilot. Another is married to a former Army medic. Moved to help for a variety of reasons, about 100 accounting students volunteered their time recently to make the holidays a little brighter for active-duty members of the armed forces.

The students gathered just before Thanksgiving to assemble 120 care packages filled with items ranging from socks to Fossil watches to send to troops for the holidays.

care package assembly line

James Lewis and Mae Nicholls sort items ready for inclusion in the care packages.

Accounting Professor John Barden, organizer of the event, gave students their marching orders as they stood over rows of items worth more than $15,000, donated by local individuals and corporations.

“Just take a box and put in a single item of each of the things you see on this table. Each box is going to be personalized with a handwritten letter from our students,” Barden told the students.

“Just think when someone opens this box, he or she is going to be overseas and is probably someone who hasn’t been home in probably six or eight months. So when he gets this, he’s going to go ‘Whoa!’”

“What I learned from doing all this is that a lot of soldiers are stationed in other places and not getting anything from home, and that’s sad,” said volunteer Mae Nicholls.

“We wanted to make sure they got some things they need and want, we wanted to make it personal, and we wanted them to get it just before the holidays,” said the junior accounting major.

The idea for the care package project began to gain steam after Barden recounted a conversation in class that he had had with a police officer he had run into on a beach during summer vacation.

“I asked her, ‘So what do you do on your day off?’ She said, ‘I work in a soup kitchen.’ I told my students about it on the first day of class, and one student said, ‘I think we should do a day of caring,’ and off to work they went,” Barden said.

The professor is known for inspiring future accountants to give back to the community by engaging them in worthy causes. At the beginning of each semester, Barden talks to his students about the “Classroom Citizenship and Social Responsibility” portion of his class.

care package assembly line

Professor John Barden shows students how to fill the care package boxes.

Not only do students benefit, says Barden, who is also the director of the school’s undergraduate accounting program, but so do their future employers and the communities they live in.

Benefiting from Barden’s financial accounting students this year are soldiers far away from home. A committee of five students met regularly throughout the semester to organize the effort, settling details such as collecting items soldiers abroad truly need, securing donations and soliders’ names and addresses and deciding how the items would be collected, sorted and packed.

Many donors gladly stepped in and contributed items such as toothpaste, wristwatches, socks, sunscreen, lotion,  magazines, candy, batteries, razors, snacks and packets of mouthwash and Snapple singles. Some of the corporate donors included Mary Kay Cosmetics, Snapple, Fossil, Central Market, River Chase Dental and Hampton Inns.

To make the project happen, the School of Management’s undergraduate lounge was turned into a frenzied care package headquarters, bustling with the flurry of students signing in and out for duty while one group of students addressed envelopes and another wrote personal letters to each soldier on the list.

care package assembly line

About 100 accounting students took part in the project in two separate shifts.

“Thank you for all you do for us,” the letters said. “Enjoy the care package. We are always thinking of you! – Students, faculty and administration of UT Dallas” Following the generic message, students wrote individual notes to each soldier.

“Everything that goes into the packages, of course, is really nice, but I think it’s the personal touch that brings it over the top and makes it even more special. We collected our own names of people we knew personally stationed overseas, and each of those soldiers gets a personal handwritten letter,” said James Lewis, who served in the army for six years before beginning his business education at the School of Management.

An operations management sophomore, Lewis said his brother is now serving in the military and will be happy to receive one of the care packages.

Media Contact: Jill McDermott, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4951, [email protected]
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]
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Dana Bracy

Management faculty member Dana Bracy is serving a tour as a contracting officer in Afghanistan.


One of Management School's Own
Receives Care Package in Afghanistan

Dana Bracy, a UT Dallas School of Management faculty member who teaches forensic accounting, is stationed in Afghanistan. Bracy received a care package prepared by School of Management students and sent a letter to all those who helped. Below are some excerpts from Bracy’s letter:

Dear friends:

Thanks so much for the care package. It was totally unexpected and a pleasant surprise. Some of you must have experience in sending them, since you knew that “trial size” is the way to go. Great package—all of it is very usable (and edible) over here. However, about those boxer shorts. …

It’s certainly been a long road from home to Afghanistan, with a lot of sweat, a little pain and a fair amount of interesting experiences and people along the way. I’ve only been gone since August, but it seems a lot longer in some ways. I think that means I’ve adjusted to my new normal. …

My job here is Contracting Officer, a very challenging job to say the least. Our shop is a joint staff of Air Force, Army, Navy and a few civilians, performing contracting and procurement functions for the purchase of various supplies and services, including transportation and construction services. Right now I’m dealing exclusively with transportation services. …

We work 7 days a week, typically until about 10:30 p.m., and just squeeze in personal stuff like exercise and shopping for toiletries during the course of the day. It’s not like there’s anything else to do here anyway. …

One of the more interesting things happened one night as several of us were walking back from the dining facility, when my supervisor said “now, that’s interesting,” as he noticed three sheep walking towards us then past us, in the direction of the dining facility. No, I don’t remember what was on the menu the next night. …

Anyway, that’s all for now.  I am so looking forward to getting back behind the podium next fall—I really miss it! I certainly appreciate all your prayers and thoughts and well-wishes, and look forward to seeing you all when I get home.

Take care and God Bless,

Dana Bracy

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May 26, 2018