When Carlee (Finkelstein ’14) Pruden graduated from ACU with a degree in marketing, she wasn’t exactly sure what the future held. But, as they often do, an internship led to her future career. After interning for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas post-graduation, Carlee has now been with the company for almost 8 years holding various roles in marketing, merchandising, and most recently as a merchant. As a merchant for tortillas, Tex-Mex, and salsa, she is responsible for selecting great-tasting items, negotiating the lowest costs, and giving the customers what they want and need in stores and online. Pruden furthered her studies at John Brown University graduating in 2016 with a Master in Business with a focus on International Business. She’s used her experience in retail to join in a class project for the past three semesters with Dr. Jennifer Golden.
Carlee assists and critiques students throughout the 7-week period of the accelerated course by working with Dr. Golden to create projects centered around her day-to-day duties as a merchant. These projects require students to think critically about who Walmart’s customer is, how to make their shopping experience valuable, and Walmart’s overall mission and goals.
This rare in-class opportunity has allowed students to gain insight into corporate marketing strategy and tactics and learn how these concepts relate to one of the largest employers in the world. Because of incredible alumni like Pruden, who give up their time to help educate students with real-world experiences, ACU’s College of Business continues to thrive. One member of the class said, “The fact that someone as successful as Carlee willingly sacrifices her time to teach us about what she does sets the example for future generations of graduates from ACU.” They continue, “Though this class is extremely fast-paced due to the nature of an accelerated course, it has shaped me professionally in ways I didn’t even think possible. I love that we can see what we learn be implemented in a real business environment.”
Carlee also benefits from the partnership with the class, saying, “Working with students is always a great reminder to always be learning. There are concepts they are being taught now that were not covered when I went through school, like digital marketing, that are critical to success in the workplace today. Students have taught me about upcoming technology ideas that can be applied in real time in my career.”
The seed for this classroom partnership was planted 10 years ago when Pruden was a student in Dr. Golden’s Introduction to Marketing course. Golden’s passion for teaching students about marketing sparked a desire to learn as much as possible for Pruden and many of the students in the class. Now, Golden and Carlee enjoy a friendship and mentoring relationship that has changed each of their lives for the better. Carlee says, “I am the career professional, wife, and woman I am today due to my time at ACU and my relationship with Dr. Jennifer Golden. When you sit back and watch Jennifer love God and love others it’s contagious. We have spent countless hours chatting about career life or family life, but at the end of the day, she always reminds me that our purpose in this world is to love God and love others.”
Golden’s example of loving God and loving others has spurred Pruden to action. Several years after graduating, Carlee realized that part of her passion for the community and serving others was not being completely filled by her job or other activities that she was a part of. To fill that void, she began getting involved with local non-profits and volunteering her time and talents to their causes. She has also been a part of Walmart’s Fight Hunger, Spark Change program for the past 5 years. As part of the campaign, Walmart has donated 7 billion pounds of food to Feeding America and their food bank network. In addition to her various philanthropic efforts, Carlee and her husband have 2 dogs, Barklee and Boone, and enjoy spending their time outside riding bikes, hunting, fishing, or trail riding in their side-by-side.
The College of Business Administration’s vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Alumni like Carlee Pruden are walking, talking, real-life examples of that vision come to life as they inspire the next generation of COBA students.