COBA Alum Kara Ulmer Changes the World

Many students hope to travel the world and rise to lofty positions in international corporations, while some hope to work with monetarily impoverished people on the other side of the world.

Kara Ulmer has done it all.

Kara Ulmer

A 1998 graduate, Kara has put her International Business degree to good use as she has worked in various capacities for several prominent organizations. Although the myriad of companies for which she has worked would be impressive on its own, what’s even more significant is the weight of the positions she has held. At Verizon, Kara worked as an analyst during the company’s inception and initial growth as a new merged entity. She then worked as the Director of Analytics for the US at Alliance Data Systems, Inc. before accepting a position at Barclays Bank in Northampton, UK that eventually led to her promotion to Director of Strategic Planning and Analytics for the Barclaycard division.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that Kara really can’t do much more. If that’s the case, you’re wrong.

In fact, Kara now works as the Executive Director for Freedom Stones International, an international social enterprise that seeks to provide employment for women and teenagers who have been sexually trafficked. “As an international social enterprise, we are a unique combination of business principles, marketing strategy, and international development,” explains Kara. “It is a specific challenge to employ people who have been through significant trauma as they work toward full capacity and healing.”

Because Freedom Stones believes that poverty is at the root of trafficking, the enterprise partners with local organizations around the world to set up micro-lending programs that generate income for individuals who previously had no good way to earn a living. Through this process, Freedom Stones strives to assist individuals in acquiring independence, or, in their words, to “enable families and individuals to move from a place of brokenness to a place where they are ready to move beyond dependency on an organization and into a local sustainable livelihood.”

In her role as Executive Director, Kara leads the organization in both strategic planning and marketing and operations, a role that she enjoys in part because of the unique international relationships it facilitates.

“I love to see our artisans flourish through fair and supportive work environments,” observes Kara. “I also love to see our consumers join in the struggles and healing process that so many women and girls face in South East Asia regarding sex trafficking.”

A Freedom Stones Artisan at Work

Kara believes that the time she spent at ACU, both in COBA and studying abroad, effectively prepared her for the workplace. Even learning to successfully balance the various aspects of college was sometimes challenging.

“In order to complete the semester abroad, I took 21 hours of coursework and worked in both the COBA lab and the cafe. Managing this workload on campus and balancing social time was challenging but reflective of real-life,” explains Kara. “The semester abroad also helped me to adapt to various cultures and people. In my senior year, a class on business writing helped me prepare my resume and job search skills, which served as practical preparation for graduation.”

One look at Kara’s resume should leave current COBA students wondering what it takes to be as successful as Kara. Her advice is to be bold. “Never be afraid to constructively challenge the status quo in your job, always look for opportunities to improve your work and the performance of those around you. If you do this with respect and integrity, you will be recognized for your diligence and innovation.”

She certainly is.

Linda Egle of Eternal Threads Shares Her Story with Women in Business

Linda Egle with one of the artisans of Eternal Threads

“The women we work with are my heroes,” Linda Egle said yesterday as she spoke to COBA’s Women in Business group. Linda is the Founder and Executive Director of Eternal Threads, an organization that seeks to empower women in the third world by providing training and resources that jumpstart their abilities to provide for themselves and their families.

With an audience of nearly thirty, Linda talked about the entrepreneurial spirit of the women with whom she works. Linda explained that these women, her heroes, work tirelessly at their crafts, sometimes even walking for miles to purchase supplies. As Linda explained, Eternal Threads is able to partner with these creative, driven individuals and provide a market for them to sell their incredible craftsmanship here in the States.

The Eternal Threads website eloquently explains this mission and vision by saying, “Part of this vision was the desire to connect women in the developed world to women struggling to survive in underdeveloped nations.  By selling their handiwork Eternal Threads is able to tell the story of these women and by purchasing their work you can be a part of providing them with hope and a future.”

A true social entrepreneur, Linda transitioned into her current line of work from a job as a flight attendant. She explained that her years of traveling experience empowered her to work independently in countries all over the world. Interestingly enough, Linda also believes that part of her success comes from the fact that she started Eternal Threads with nothing more than her own money.

Linda explained that this monetary independence has helped Eternal Threads maintain its integrity. She explained that because the organization was able to keep its focus on the end goal of empowering women rather than on the importance of maintaining donors or earning back investments.

This integrity is something that Eternal Threads has retained over the last ten years as it has expanded to employ over two-hundred-and-fifty women from countries such as Nepal, Madagascar, and Afghanistan.

Be sure to visit the Eternal Threads website to learn more about what they do or to do a little bit of Christmas shopping!

Happy Thanksgiving from COBA!

At times this year has been a difficult one for the College of Business. However, in spite of the hardships that students, faculty and staff have battled in their personal lives, there is a lot to be thankful for in this community.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

As a COBA student, I am constantly provided with unique opportunities. I’ve had the chance to listen to speakers like Dan Austin and April Anthony who have come to campus and interacted with students who are below their level of expertise and below their pay grade. I have also the opportunity to study abroad in Oxford and in the next six months will get to spend a week in Colorado at Leadership Summit as well as two weeks studying abroad in Honduras. All of these opportunities are incredible, wonderful, and potentially life changing, but this year, none of them are at the top of my list of things I’m thankful for.

Emerson points out that “all things have contributed to your advancement,” and he’s right. Every time I look up I find myself face to face with another chance to better myself and to develop skills for life. These prominent opportunities to travel or hear big name speakers are incredible, and I’m more grateful for them than I can say. However, I think that more than any huge trip or business superstar, I am thankful for the relationships COBA has allowed me to have, not just with fellow students, but with faculty.

Any COBA student you ask will tell you that the individuals who teach here, such as Ms. Jozell Brister, teach them more than just business skills. They teach us how to have integrity in the workplace and how to be responsible and plan ahead. They teach us what it means to take time out of our days to serve others and what it means to show hospitality to our neighbors. But more importantly, through all of this, they’ve taught us what it looks like to live a life of faith every single day.

So this year, I’m thankful, not for the fact that I can go somewhere beautiful or listen to someone interesting speak, but rather for the fact that here at COBA I am learning habits that change who I am from day to day, not just who I am in my career.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving. You’ll undoubtedly sit around a table, and you may even tell your friends and family what you’re thankful for. That’s all well and good, but if you leave your thanks at the table, you’ve gained nothing.

Follow Emerson’s suggestion, and cultivate a habit of thankfulness this year.

Happy Thanksgiving from COBA, and THANK YOU to our COBA faculty!

April Anthony Shares Her Company’s Unique Focus

This past Tuesday, The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy joined in Global Entrepreneurship Week by hosting a luncheon featuring guest speaker April Anthony, CEO of Encompass Home Health and Homecare Homebase.

April, who graduated from ACU in 1989, spent three years as an auditor and CPA with PwC immediately following graduation. However, through an unusual set of circumstances, she ended up owning a small home health care company that she has now grown into a successful company with offices and branch locations in 7 states.

April Anthony sharing a meal with Dr. Schubert and Guests

Throughout this unique journey, April has learned a lot about what it means to be a Christian in all aspects of life. In fact, as she shared in Tuesday’s Q&A-style presentation, she feels that her work is a calling, something that motivates her daily to work hard for what she feels is the central focus of Encompass Home Health.

Like many others, April initially assumed that the focus of her company would be on the patients her company served. However, as she shadowed various employees, she began noticing something even more pressing than the patients.

“I saw employees, who, frankly, had been kind of beat down, who had felt like in the hospital systems and the other health care environments, that they weren’t the most important asset,” explained April. “But pretty quickly, to me, it seemed like they were the only asset. As a matter of fact, they were our product.”

From this launch pad, April began to realign her priorities with a new focus: her employees. In fact, as a CEO, she began to shape her company under the influence of this new perspective. “To me, to say that the patients were first seemed like the wrong answer,” expounded April. “Really, the employees had to be first. They were our product; we had to invest in them, and if we did so, I didn’t really have to talk a lot about patient care. They would just go out and do it.”

April has allowed this principle to completely saturate her company, starting with its mission statement.

April Anthony Talking with Dr. Jim Litton at Tuesday's Luncheon

“In 2006 we embraced the statement, ‘A better way to care,’” explained April. “It’s simple, but…‘a better way to care’ is not some phrase that we put at the bottom of our email…its’ a behavior, it’s an action, it’s the way we act every day…”

April went on to explain that the beauty of this simple, five-word statement is that it’s not an elusive concept; instead it’s a mantra that can be embraced by individuals, rather than just by a corporation. As a result, every member of Encompass Health Care is able to remain focused on a common goal.

April’s focus on employees hasn’t gone unnoticed. In fact, just this year the company was voted the #3 best employer of its size in Houston, as well as the #4 best place to work in all of Austin, and the #5 best place to work in the Dallas Fort Worth area.

In an article covering the awards, one of Encompass’s employees said, “We have a mission of ‘a better way to care,’ and every day I go out committed to finding the way that I’m going to fulfill my mission, and I know that my company is going to back me up.”

In addition to motivating its employees on a daily basis, Encompass has also been able to play large roles in its employees’ lives. A couple of examples of this are the way the company’s foundation, Encompass Cares, is able to fund employees’ medical mission trips and local service efforts in addition to reaching out to employees who are struggling. In one instance recently, the foundation was able to provide clothing and other resources to an employee whose home was lost in a fire.

Through all of this, April has kept faith at the center of Encompass’s work, not in a pushy way, but in a consistent way that has made it clear to everyone who is a part of it that this company is different.

April believes that it all comes down to her original principle of caring for employees.

“It’s pretty exciting to think about motivating people and the way you can make them feel just by appreciating them, by recognizing them, by giving them a mission that matters,” she confirmed. “Those are the things that make people feel like this is the best company they’ve ever worked for.”

Global Entrepreneurship Week

Darbie Angell, Founder and CEO of CRU Dinnerware

Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!

It’s that time of the year, the one where 35,000 events occur in 125 countries, all in the name of entrepreneurship. It’s beautiful, because it’s the chance to acknowledge that it’s hard to generate and implement new ideas, but that it’s also worth the trouble, because innovation is what makes our world go round.

Here at ACU’s College of Business, we try to embrace the spark of innovation as much as possible, which is why we’re celebrating entrepreneurship through several different events:



April Anthony, Founder and CEO of Encompass Home Health

Darbie Angell, Founder and CEO of CRU Dinnerware, will be speaking from 11:00-11:30 at the Hunter Welcome Center (LYNAY room), and April Anthony, Founder and CEO of Encompass Home Health will be speaking from 11:45-1:00, also at the Hunter Welcome Center.

Both of these women exemplify what it means to be successful entrepreneurs. They serve as mentors and examples to our students, especially to our future female entrepreneurs. We are incredibly thankful to have them with us to kick off Global Entrepreneurship Week.


Budding entrepreneurs have learned to pitch a new product, service, or business concept in two minutes or less in a competition to win $1500. The first round of the Elevator Pitch Competition took place last Saturday, November 6. Everyone is invited to watch the final round of the competition this Thursday at 11:00.  Click here to register.


Do you have a great idea? If so, you should participate in our Springboard Ideas Challenge! Each team or individual submits a mini-business plan and then, if chosen as a finalist, is given the opportunity to present its idea to a live panel of judges.  Last year’s student category winner won $10,000 for his idea and the winner from the community category won $20,000! Click here to learn more about the Springboard Ideas Challenge.

Stay tuned for more information on this great opportunity!

A big thanks goes out to the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy for all of their hard work in creating opportunities that foster entrepreneurship within this community.

PayCom Offers COBA Students Job Opportunities and Career Advice

ACU’s College of Business prides itself on the frequency with which it brings distinguished employers to campus in order to speak to and meet with our students. Last week, one such employer, PayCom, sent Kathryn Thompson to talk about professional sales and to interview future COBA graduates for sales jobs with PayCom.

PayCom began providing mid-sized companies with payroll software that they could use over the Internet back in 1998. Since then, PayCom has expanded into a wide range of fields including HR, Benefits, Background Checks, Tax Credits, Applicant Tracking, Document Management, Expense Management, and On-Boarding/Off-Boarding.

In addition to providing customers with a wide array of services, PayCom is unique in its dedication to providing a “one-to-one service model.” This model ensures that customers will only have to work with one point of contact at PayCom. As a result, customers received personalized service and attention.

Because she was on campus interviewing students to go into sales, Kathryn focused her presentation on the topic of personal branding and the fact that people are perpetually branding themselves through their actions and words. The brand individuals create affects their ability to effectively market their skills to potential employers.

In order to develop their ideal personal brand, Kathryn advised students to be three things: personal, intentional, and consistent.

In today’s job market, networking is everything. As a result, being personal is important and allows you to set yourself apart from competition. The reality is that if no one remembers you, no one is going to hire you.

When searching for internships and trying to prepare for their intended career, it is critical for students to be intentional. By moving in a specific direction and seeking out opportunities that fit their skills and desires, students provide themselves with the opportunity to have a personal brand that differentiates them from those who may be competing for the same job.

The last step of Kathryn’s advice, being consistent, can be invaluable when leaving a favorable impression in employers’ minds. Networking, well-developed resumes, following up on interviews and deadlines, and sending thank you notes to people who help you out along the way are all small ways to prove your ability to consistently perform at a high level.

By following Kathryn’s advice, you will find that you are able to create the kind of personal brand that companies want on their team.

To learn more about working for PayCom or about interviewing for one of their entry-level jobs with a starting salary of $50,000, visit or contact Tim Johnston at

COBA and SITC Students Travel to Silicon Valley for Fall Break

While some ACU students spent their Fall Break at home with family and some went camping with friends, a few lucky students went on a trip organized by the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy and co-sponsored by the School of IT and Computing. On this trip to California, the group had the unique opportunity to meet with leaders of several major startup companies.

The concept of a “startup” may not impress you, and as a result, you may find yourself thinking, “I’m not really familiar with a lot of startups; I don’t think this trip could have influenced me.” If that’s the case, think again, because these fourteen students got to meet with Google.

The Group at Google

I bet that’s a company you’ve heard of.

The group that participated in this trip was comprised of a variety of classes and majors. Dr. Brad Crisp, who led the trip along with Dr. Jim Litton and Kevin Roberts, ACU’s Chief Planning and Information Officer, appreciated the diversity of their team. “We had a very diverse group of business and technical students on the trip, and it was great to watch them interact with each other and with the companies,” commented Dr. Crisp.

The group headed out of Abilene on Wednesday, October 24 and returned to town on Sunday, October 28.  While Dr. Crisp anticipated a good experience at Google, he said that he was also very pleased with the rest of the trip.

“I knew the students would enjoy Google, and they did,” explained Dr. Crisp.“What was more exciting to me was hearing students say how much they learned from the entrepreneurs we met.”

The five-day journey included stops at:

  • Inigral: an organization that uses social networking to improve enrollment and retention at colleges and universities
  • Circa: a news app that keeps users up-to-date by adding details to pre-existing stories as they unfold
  • Silicon Valley Bank (
  • Corona Labs: a company that allows individuals to create apps without having to wade through the technical language of coding
  • Lanica: an equally impressive app-creating company

The Group at Silicon Valley Bank

With such a wide variety of successful start-up companies, the group had an incredible opportunity to see entrepreneurship in action and to meet with leaders in each of these prominent companies.

“Everyone we met with was great,” said Dr. Litton. “They shared stories and insight on critical issues they as entrepreneurs and their respective companies have dealt with along the way and are currently facing.”

From Circa, whose app was actually the top featured app in the app store on the day our group met with them, to Google, world super power, creativity and innovation were evident in each of these incredible companies, as well as in their representatives.

The Group Meeting with Company Representatives

As Dr. Litton pointed out, “I thought it was great that students had the opportunity to visit with founders and leaders of companies at all different points along the startup lifecycle – early concept development, launching a product, securing funding, growing a company, and even maintaining an entrepreneurial culture in a company the size of Google.”

Keep your eyes open for more unique COBA and SITC opportunities like this one!

(There was also a free day in San Francisco!)

Faculty Spotlight: Ms. Jozell Brister

Thirty-three years is a long time to work at one organization, but on January 15, 2013, Ms. Jozell Brister will have spent exactly that long teaching at ACU’s College of Business.

Ms. Jozell Brister

Ms. Brister, who teaches Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Money and Banking, taught at Abilene High School before beginning to teach at ACU in 1980. At Abilene High, Ms. Brister taught typing and several different business subjects. However, “I never did teach accounting,” she says.

In addition to teaching, Ms. Brister enjoys reading and spending time outdoors in various capacities. In fact, she and her brother share a bass boat, which they take fishing on Fort Phantom.

“I love to go out in that boat,” says Ms. Brister. “I love to catch fish. I just love to do that.”

Another of Ms. Brister’s hobbies is walking with a group of “really fine ladies” from her neighborhood. The group includes a wide range of ages, and Ms. Brister really enjoys spending time with them. “We all walk and we know each other really well. I feel like we’re really good friends,” she explains. “We keep up with the health of their dogs and the health of their husbands.”

When asked how she spends her vacation time, Ms. Brister—unsurprisingly—spends time outside. “Well, in the summer, for years, my sister-in-law and I and my great-nephew and great-niece would go to Red River New Mexico,” explains Ms. Brister. “We’d usually stay about a week and rent a cabin up there. It was hiking and fishing, which we all like to do. My whole family likes to do that…it’s good family time.”

Ms. Brister, who is well known for her kind and compassionate heart, is famous for giving her students candy on holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day. The only thing better than how much Ms. Brister’s students like her is how much she still enjoys her job, even after thirty-three years.

“Well you know, when I’m in the classroom, that’s the best part,” Ms. Brister explains, a smile beginning to form. “Getting ready is not the best part…but once I’m in there, I like it. I like it a lot.”

Thank you, Ms. Brister, for all you have done and continue to do for COBA!