Our college’s breadth, depth and adaptability make it ideally suited to the needs of a diverse state with a growing, dynamic economy and a rich history. The liberal arts prepare students to understand and learn from that history, to analyze problems from multiple viewpoints, and to draw upon knowledge from a range of cultures past and present. It prepares them to be creative and flexible leaders, citizens and workers, dedicated to making the world a better place for everyone.
The value of the liberal arts extends beyond our majors. Every student who attends the university, regardless of major, will take classes in our college during their undergraduate years as part of their core curriculum — classes in rhetoric and writing, the humanities, American and Texas history and government, and courses in a variety of behavioral and social sciences.
This is what distinguishes a liberal arts education at a public research university: the exposure to leading scholarship and teaching in a variety of disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, and the opportunity to explore ideas across those disciplines in classrooms, laboratories and in our communities.
⌂ TRAINING & NAVIGATION | *Define Resources
- Getting Started with *Define
UT provides linked resources (popup) for *Define training
- Some from an overarching perspective
- Others are for specific functions
- The modules we use most in Research Adminstration are linked above for in-depth help
- Introduction to *Define (PDF) (popup)
Below are 3 *Define Introduction videos that are worth watching. They are presented by a now-retired, still active UT employee named Garrison 'Gary' Martt. Beloved by many, Gary was the accounting and finance guru everyone loved to work with. And now he's the face of comprehensive, instructor-led *Define training.
Gary takes his time in this presentation, covering things thoroughly and with the occasional insider tip.
You can tell he's a big fan of *Define, so who better to teach it!
- Introduction to *Define, Part 1 (57 min)
- Introduction to *Define, Part 2 (46 min)
- Introduction to *Define, Part 3 (56 min)
Head here (popup) for the full list of available training resources
from the Office of Accounting and Financial Management,
and here for additional *Define help tips.
And when navigating in *Define, always enter a ? in any editable space you might need help with -there's a lot of additional information tucked behind those ?'s.
- Navigating *Define's Menu
All information in *Define is organized in a stacked hierarchy for ease-of-use. The hierarchy is based on Modules - grouped with a consistent naming pattern. It's recommended that you open a pop-up *Define screen (choose Fiscal component, log on with EID, network password and DUO), and follow along with the menu details below to help get you navigating in *define.
The COMMAND LINE is where you enter each module or screen needed. The main menu and all modules and screens have three letters/digits, all 3-letter main modules end with M.
- (M for Main, Module, Menu or even Mother or Momoa - whatever works for you!)
Each module's 3 letters correspond with their full titles for ease-of-use
Example: MMM = Main Menu Module, VMM = Voucher Main Module
Under each module lives related submenus
The VMM submenus are: VTM, VPM, VEM, VCM, VJM
If you only see the VTM and VPM modules, consider it a good thing!
Try it! Log into *Define (popup)
Enter MMM into the Command line, -enter
Enter VMM, -enter, and notice how your cursor pops back to the command line
Enter VTM to access the Voucher Modules
VTM = Voucher Transfer Module (Interdepartmental Voucher Transfers)
You'll see the Voucher Transfer Modules you need/have access to
VT1, VT5, VT6, etc. (the modules you are able see are based on your job/tasks)
*Define's Modular structure means you don't have to memorize specific modules to find your way. If you only remember the MMM starting point, you'll still be able to drill down into the module selection until you arrive at the one you need. And the more often you navigate in *Define, the faster your navigation.
Typical Modules for Grant Admin
CMM = Account Countrol Info (Control Main Module)
Relevant Module: CA3 (Budget group Account Profile)
Shows Award-specific rules
LMM = Departmental Accounting Ledger (Ledger Main Module)
Relevant Module: LRM (Reconciling), LR2, LR3, LR6
This is where you reconcile account transactions
HMM = Help Menu Modules
Relevant Modules: HHM, HDM (H=home, D=Detailed)
YMM = Your (Personal) Menu Module
Relevant Module: YBM (InBox, OutBox), YB2 (InBox, Document Listing)
Your *Define InBox lives in YB2, it shows created-status docs, FYI & FYA copies
VMM = Voucher Processing Module
VTM (Transfers), VT5, VT6
VPM (Payments), VP1, VP2, VP5, VPE
Where you process transfers and voucher payment docs
GMM = General Accounting Info
GBM = Account Balance Inquiries, GB1 (acct info), GB2 (budget grp info)
GTM = Transaction Inquiries, GT1 (transactions by date = Ledger detail transactions)
GOM = Object Code Balance Inquiries, GO7 (permitted object codes/account)
GGM = General Information Inquiries
GG1 - GG9, GGV
These modules are packed full of useful information
State travel allowances, unit code search, object code info, vendor profiles, etc.
This is like the main dashboard that informs award management
Use the GB1, GB2 and GT1 to inform projections and budgeting needs
- (M for Main, Module, Menu or even Mother or Momoa - whatever works for you!)
- Financial Jargon & *Account-Speak
Below are some of the more common accounting and finance terms and phrases that come up with research administration. It's also super useful to glance through the Accounting & Finance glossary (popup).
Budget group: A group of related (sub)accounts having the same first eight digits in the Account number.
Example: 26-0001-01 = Budget group
Often expressed as: 26-0001-01xx, 26-0001-01-xx, 26000101-xx
The Budget Group is the first 8 digits of an account number --it's like the core account number. It has different pots of money split up inside of it, so it gets called a group. The 2 x's represent the last 2 digits of the full account number, which are subaccount numbers, discussed below.
The dashes in the budget group make sense to people who understand and use the patterns behind the numbers to assign account numbers when an account (and its budget group) are established.
Accounting-type folk use this term a lot, so get used to it so you can hang when talking finances at UT.
Just in case you're curious, the numbers after the first two digits (26) also have meaning. There used to be a list published on the university's website that showed which groups of numbers were designated for which (main) sponsors or groups of sponsors we typically had (and have) contracts and agreements with, for example, NSF awards were assigned under: 10, or DARPA was in the 35 series --that list isn't published anymore, so the designations may have changed, but suffice it to say that the entire account number is put together with order, organization and designation! It's a well thought-through system.
Subaccount: The last two numbers of a 10-digit Account number are used to divide a Budget group into different spending categories, such as salaries, equipment, scholarships, or other expenses.
Example: 26-0001-0112, 26-0001-0114, 26-0001-0171
12 = subaccount (for salaries), often called 'the 12 sub'
14 = subaccount (for fringe benefits)
71 = subaccount (for tuition)
Complete list of active subaccounts (popup) at UT Austin
Plain-speak: Those last two digits create separate pots of money inside of an account.
Among admins, this tends to get shortened to just subs: 'How much is left in the salary sub?'
Account number: A ten-digit number assigned to an account and used for recording accounting transactions. The first eight digits indicate Budget group; the last two digits indicate Subaccount, and the entire ten-digit number represents the Account number.
Example: 26-0001-0112 = Account number, that's the whole burrito! (in this case, the Salary Burrito!)
Plain-speak: The Account number is the entire account number, including the last two digits that make clear which pot of money inside of a Budget group you're after for a particular type of transaction. When you have the entire account number, a wide world of university shopping opens up to you (within policy, of course).
Account group/type (popup):
The first two digits of an Account number, which classifies the source or purpose of funds.
Example: within acct# 26-0001-0112
The 26 = Account group, all sponsored awards are grouped into 26 accounts
Plain-speak: The first two digits tell what type of account it is. A 26 account is sponsored funds, a 30 account is (often) unrestricted research support (gift funds), 14 and 20 accounts are state funds, etc. Many accounting convos start with these terms. Get comfortable with these and you'll soon be providing translation services for people who don't deal with UT accounts.
- Award Jargon & *Grant-Speak
It seems like grant administration has more abbreviations and acronyms than the U.S. military. If you run across an abbreviation and you're unsure of what it means, 1) check here, 2) search in the AskUs Repository (popup), if that fails, 3) send them a direct request, or 4) ask CoLA RSO!
Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
Code of Federal Regulations
Data Universal Numbering System
Electronic State Business Daily
Facilities and Administration
Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System
Fiscal Management Division Website
General Appropriations Act (state)
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles
Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards
Governmental Accounting Standards Board
Institutions of Higher Education
Legislative Budget Board
Office of Management and Budget (federal)
Research and Development
Request for Applications
System for Award Management (federal)
State Auditor’s Office
Schedule of Expenditures Federal Awards
State Property Accounting
Statewide Procurement Division
State Pass-Through Reconciliation
Statewide Cost Allocation Plan
Texas Administrative Code
Texas Grant Management Standards
Uniform Grant Management Standards
Uniform Statewide Accounting System
United States Code
- 𝗛OW 𝗗O 𝗜...? (When You Don't Know What it's Called)
- Use *Define (see above: Getting Started & Navigating)
- Use / Understand Unit Codes
- Find Dept/Unit Main Unit Code | Dept Look-Up (popup)
- Find PI (sub) Unit Codes | *Define GG5 (need main unit code)
- Find Accounts in a Unit Code | *Define GG5 (Input B to see accts in PI unit code)
- See Account Balances | *Define GB2 (need 8 digit budget group/acct#)
- See Authorized (manual doc) Signers on an Account | *Define GB1
- See *Define Documents I'm Working On | *Define YMM (Your Inbox)
- Determine if Subaccount Transfers are Allowable | *Define CA3 (notes screen) or Award Docs
- Process Transfers Between Subaccounts (costing categories) | FRMS Transfer
- Correct a Transaction on One of My Accounts | *Define VT5, VT6 (not for Sal & FB)
- Correct Salary and/or Fringe on an Account | Workday Costing Allocation Change
- Process 'Gap Coverage' of Grad Student Tuition | *Define SS2
- See a List of Unreconciled Transactions on my Accounts | *Define LR2
- See Which Object Codes are on an Account | *Define GO7
- See State Maximum Allowances for Per Diem and Lodging | *Define GG1
- Process a Travel Authorization/Change, or Reimbursement | *Define VE5, VE6, VP5
- Apply a Tuition Waiver to Cover ISSS Fee for a Graduate Student | *Define SS2
- Reconcile My Accounts | *Define LMM
- A History & Understanding of *Define
Yes, we know. *Define is bizarre!
Often, an admin's first reaction to this clunky interface involves a lot of, uh... surprise (to put it lightly). *Define's interface brings non-techy folk uncomfortably close to very techy stuff. Below is a little bit of background about *Define, what it actually does, how it came to be, and why we need it.
Why is *Define So Weird?
When tech folk talk directly to their computers, they don't do it via the software the rest of us use. They use a kind of portal called Terminal (popup) with technical languages that link to coding schemes like Ascii (popup) & EBCDIC (popup) -and no amount of layman's terms is going to help us understand them. Folks who know these languages and schemes usually went to school to learn them. Here's a little dip into that pond:
- If you're on a Mac (PC is a little trickier - popup), open Terminal (look in Applications and then Utilities to find it)
Just for fun, type in (then hit enter): ls -d */
(notice where there are spaces because that's important, or just copy and paste what you see above)
That command shows a list of your directories
- Now try: ls */. ls
That shows another level of detail - all the sub-directories and files in each
(btw, don't worry, you're not hurting anything by doing these tests... you're just having an uber-techy convo with your computer)
- To find all MP4 files stored in your computer, type (and then enter): find / -type f -name "*.mp4"
This one takes a good minute to fully load, and you'll see a lot of 'access denied' because that command is searching through EVERYTHING in your computer, including all the stuff you aren't allowed to have access to -if you get tired of watching it build, you can just quit (terminate).
A similar techy language (and coding scheme) is used by UT's massive IBM computing processor, known as the Mainframe. And TN3270 (popup), the software we've all had to install on our computers, is the IBM-specific software used to create UT's custom-built emulator, *Define, and it was created at UT!
*Define serves as the go-between that allows us to talk to the Mainframe without needing that insane language and scheming code stuff. THAT's why it's so clumsy - it bridges two completely different worlds, and it's been doing that since long before easy-to-use software came along.
The next time you're tabbing around in *Define, take a second to realize that what you are actually doing is navigating a massive computing resource that doesn't speak English!
History of *Define's BFF - The Mainframe
Some history about the massive computing source that *Define chats with every day.
UT Austin began its move toward establishing a Computational Center, with an IBM 650 (popup) in 1958 (seriously, ya'll, click on these pop-up links, they're hilarious and a little bit mind-blowing). The entire Computational Center consisted of 2 faculty and a secretary in an office next to the computer room. By 1960, a $400,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant helped secure one heck of an upgrade: a CDC 1604 (popup), ensuring UT as a first-class Computation Center in one fell swoop. This was a big deal in 1960. UT was really peacocking it with this move.
In 1966, the Computational Center (popup) was set up in the unique, partially underground, purpose-built structure (popup) that sits just east of the tower on, or rather under, the east mall. It was the solution to needing sufficient space for the mammoth machine, to be located near the main building, not too conspicuous and preferrably underground for the advantage of cooler temperatures for the machine that took up a large room with all it's interconnecting cabinets.
- That same year, UT's CDC 1604 became 'saturated by users,' and the Computational Center received UT's first-ever $1,000,000 NSF grant, toward the purchase of a CDC 6600 supercomputer (popup), the fastest computer in the world.
- UT became the first university to install the 6600 (ahead of Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and more). And again, it made UT Austin a big deal in computing. The full purchase price was $5,926,850 - crazy money back in 1966.
The upgrading has continued over the years, with UT switching in the early 70s from the supercomputer class of processors to the Mainframe class, specific to IBM, which has absolutely dominated the large-scale processor solution scene for 60+ years. Mainframes rose to the top as powerful large-scale processing solutions that emphasized reliability over speed - that's why Mainframes aren't supercomputers; they're slower, but they also don't quit on us.
UT's current Mainframe has come up through the upgrade ranks into the latest range (probably the zSeries family, circa early 2000s), but at long last, the Mainframe is showing its limitations as technology continues to move at lightening speed and the Mainframe class struggles to keep up.
And THAT's why we are going through a time of upheaval. UT is trying to land on a solution that looks nothing like what it's had for over six decades. We're living in the age of the great change.
If you find this topic interesting, there's a surprisingly non-techy, short read about IBM's Mainframe and what IBM needs to do to keep the Mainframe relevant -written by a UT Austin Engineering student as a 2009 Masters dissertation (popup) -this thesis is turning out to be rather prophetic.
Ain't What She Used To Be
Until recently, everything was processed on *DEFINE, including: HR assignments, account/subaccount transfers, travel documents, tuition waivers, scholarship payments, payroll processing, account reconciling... You name it, *Define processed it!
- All processes were centered around UT account #s and PI unit codes.
- This was a drawback for HR as there was no safety net for employee insurance and employees frequently got dropped from insurance plans when assignment processing fell behind. It happened a lot, unfortunately.
New Systems at UT Austin
Human Resources Management Suite (HRMS)
Financial Resources Management Suite (FRMS)
These sister systems launched between 2010- 2012. They were both web-based (popup) (as opposed to cloud-based), and they retired the HR component of *Define, as well as some of the transferring and scholarship functions. This was our first attempt to provide insurance benefits continuity for UT employees. (HRMS was also retired October 31, 2018)
November 9, 2018: After a full year of preparing for the launch of a new HR system, Workday came online, taking over the processes that were previously handled by HRMS.
During that same timeframe (2018-2019), UT ITS launched its virtual *DEFINE access via web-based TN3270, ending its dependence on the significant lack of aging-out *Define-trained software engineers.
October 1, 2021: The university discontinued all support of TN3270 as a directly-installed software. All *DEFINE users are required to access the Mainframe interface via the web-based emulator. While we continue to use *DEFINE, this change represents the end of an era: The software that was built, installed and maintained onsite by UT for over 30 years has finally come to an end.
The virtual *DEFINE that we now use is handled by a 3rd-party solutions company called Virtel (popup). They specialize in providing a cloud-based bridge to aging-out Mainframe software. This change suggests that *DEFINE, and the Mainframe it talks to may be nearing the end of their usefulness at UT.
*Define & Mainframe: What's Next
While *DEFINE's days may be numbered, don't hold your breath just yet. Many businesses and universities continue to look for robust, capable alternatives to Mainframe processing capabilities, with some looking to cloud-based solutions and others claiming nothing else comes close at this time. UT has also been searching for a replacement with mixed results, lots of mixed results. That's not at all a reflection on our efforts, rather an acknowledgement of just how daunting the task really is.
The Workday cloud-based software suite was supposedly slated to be the solution to eventually combine all process requirements under one roof at UT, but after the Human Capital Management and Payroll components launched in November 2018, there has been no news about the other components:
- Financial Management
- Grants Management
We've now launched 4 systems that move away from the Mainframe (HRMS, FRMS, Workday and UT-RMS) (popups), which doesn't bode well for continuing with the Mainframe line. And since UT's June 2022 launch of UT-RMS (Research Management Suite) comes from a completely different 3rd-party solutions company called Huron (popup), it takes UT a step away from Workday's other components, suggesting Workday is also known to not be the answer to a full-range replacement.
The next ten years will be interesting as we continue to navigate systems that are completely separate from each other; systems that require bridge after bridge be built to pull needed data from one place to another (which likely drives up costs and pushes the total number of UT's workforce and contracted vendors higher).
For now, *Define is here to stay, and the best way to make the system work for you is to learn how to work the system (compliantly, of course).
- If you're on a Mac (PC is a little trickier - popup), open Terminal (look in Applications and then Utilities to find it)
- *Bonus for the Seasoned Admin
There's a little more to our account numbers than what *Define shows us.
We're used to dealing with 10-digit account numbers, 8-digit budget groups, and 2-digit subaccounts within our funding sources.
UT Account Numbers are actually 13 Digits Long
All the 10-digit account numbers we deal with in *Define are, in fact, Sub-Budget Groups.
Many of us have accidentally changed the campus code in a *Define document by inadvertently typing a number over the little red zero in the lower left corner (and had that moment of... Huh, we're Zero, UT Arlington is 1, let's see who 2 and 3 are...). What you might not know is that by changing the campus code, you open up parallel UT universes (popup) living alongside us. All the same account numbers we use at UT Austin, turns out... San Antonio, Dallas and others are using them too. (you can't actually see the account numbers due to permissions, but they are there!)
So an NSF account number like 26-1020-18-12 is actually 220-26-1020-18-12 --first two digits represent the current year followed by UT Austin's campus code (the red zero in the lower left corner of *Define!).
If you head to the Handbook of Business Procedures for a little casual reading, you too can stumble on to some interesting facts. To learn more about the 13 digit account number, check out HBP Part 2.1 (popup).
Suddenly, the Electronic Office Manager role seems even more important than ever, by ensuring there's no rip in the fabric of time leading to... a UT Austin PI's trip to the island of Saint John's being accidentally charged to the exact same account number at... UT's Permian Basin campus!
---Now THAT would be an accounting mess to clean up!
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