Students share about their time in NYC

So, as we’ve mentioned here earlier, 27 business students, 2 COBA faculty members and our Executive in Residence (and his sweet wife) traveled to the Big City. For four days, our students took in an impressive line up of meetings: they visited NYSE – and took in the view from the Exchange floor; Tommy Hilfiger’s corporate headquarters, and received a tour of their facility from his sister; AmEx headquarters; CNN New York, and a tour of Johnson & Johnson’s corporate headquarters, in New Jersey, as well as an opportunity to hear from a variety of J&J executives.

COBA students at AMEX headquarters

We recently asked some of the students who went to reflect on their experience:

What was your favorite part of the trip?

  • “The most enjoyable part of my trip to NY would be the chance we got to walk the floor of the NYSE. Standing on the floor was an overwhelming feeling after seeing it countless times on the news and in movies.”  
  • “I loved getting to tour the corporations and learn from the executive’s experiences.  It was also really encouraging to meet ACU graduates that have achieved so many things in the few years they have been out of college.”
  • “My favorite part of the trip was going to visit with Johnson & Johnson. The culture of that company is amazing; they have a love and passion for people, be it the employees, customers, or just people in general, they truly want to help above all else and that really showed through in their presentation.”
  • “Visiting Central Park!”

On the Exchange floor

What business meeting or conversation did you learn the most from?
  • “If I had to choose one business we met with that I gained the most from, I would have to leave it with CNN. I had no idea the level of involvement a news provider has in the actually news being announced. CNN has the knowledge of more details involving most news than the public is aloud to know.”
  • “Johnson & Johnson was my favorite stop along the tour.  They did a really great job of telling us about their company and its values.  We got to soak up their culture while we were there.  They showed us their athletic facilities and we ate lunch in their cafeteria.  It was nice to see that a successful company that has been around for 125 years has values that match mine.”
  • “I learned the most from the Sunday morning conversation at the Manhattan Church of Christ. There were so many business professionals there from all different kinds of industries and they gave us great insights and advise. I especially liked that we got a little time to connect with some of them before and after the panel conversation. It was truly amazing hearing from both young and older, hearing their perspectives, stories, and how their lives as Christians play a part in how they do business.”
  • “I learned the most from visiting the New York Stock Exchange. We met with a young professional who was in marketing, he created markets for stock by buying and trading at incredibly fast rates. The process of doing business at the NYSE has radically changed in the last 4 years. It was awesome to have the opportunity to experience that.”
  • “Interacting with Johnson and Johnson was the most beneficial conversation through out the whole trip. Johnson and Johnson really emphasized on teamwork and not so much grades which really impacted my life as a hard working ‘C’ student. “Its not the grades you make but the hands you shake.””

COBA students in NYC

How has going on this trip affected your studies and/or focus here in COBA?
  • “Before going to NY,  I had a goal to establish a moderate sized, successful business from my own hard work. My goal of a successful business has completely evolved into a much higher benchmark after seeing what was accomplished by the people we were so fortunate to meet with.”
  • “The trip helps put some of your classes into perspective and reminds you why you’re taking these classes.  It will definitely help me push through to the end of the semester and look forward to my future career.”
  • “I want to push myself to take classes that are going to help me not only in the field I’m majoring in but classes that could help me differentiate myself and help me in whichever field I end up working in after I leave ACU.”

Tommy Hilfiger's Corporate Offices

What advice do you have for current students who might be considering going on this trip next time?
  • “Don’t miss an opportunity to go on this trip. This trip will show you more successful businesses and individuals than you ever knew existed. I am so thankful for this trip, and I was blessed to be able to go. The best way to describe a trip of this scale is, “priceless.” “
  • “I would highly recommend going on a trip like this.  You will receive great advice from successful people and you will also receive several contacts that could possibly lead to a job offer one day.  It was great to see what the business atmosphere in New York City was like and to meet some of the top executives at Fortune 500 companies!”
  • “I would tell anyone that this trip is amazing; I was afraid about being in NYC without friends or family but with Dr. Lynn, Dr. Stewart, and the Swearingens, I was very comfortable and learned so much on the trip. You will have a lot of fun while learning about the city and the companies, it is a worthwhile experience. “
  • “GO! Don’t hesitate attending this trip. You have to learn how to experience ‘the city life’ on your own time, and a COBA trip is the perfect time to be able to interact first hand.”

Meeting with Johnson&Johnson executives

COBA students had a mentoring session with business executives that are also members of the Manhattan Church of Christ

For more pictures from the trip, visit or facebook page.

Marketing major has summer internship in Africa

Over the past summer, Kenli Viertel, a senior marketing major from Clyde, had the unique opportunity to travel to Ghana for her marketing internship. Kenli said about her experience:

My internship in Ghana taught me about myself, God, business, the world, and how He sees all of those things coming together.  I spent a few weeks at the Village of Hope Orphanage before I went to Heritage Christian University College, and I think the combination of these experiences was a perfect opportunity for me to learn how my passion for broken abandoned people and my skills in business can work together and make a difference…somewhere.  Faith in Business and International Business are both topics I’ve heard lectures over at ACU, but traveling to Africa alone and diving into that business culture was an experience I know will remain unmatched in my life and career.

How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates [INFOGRAPHIC]/








As part of our professional development training and conversations, we are always discussing the importance of student’s on-line reputation and presence on social media websites. Here’s an interesting article and infographic that explains things from an employer’s perspective. Definitely worth the read… 

How Recruiters Use Social Networks to Screen Candidates [INFOGRAPHIC]/.

Venture Out

It’s that exciting time in the semester when Intro to Business students begin selling their Venture Out products in and around the ACU community. The Loan Review meetings were last week and all groups have now received approval to procure or continue pre-selling their product.

Students in Intro to Business are presenting their product and mini-business plan to the Loan Review Board as part of the Venture Out project

The Venture Out class project is a frequently cited as a favorite project of COBA alums. Intro to Business students are assigned to teams within their class and together, they come up with a product to sell and a mini-business plan to explain how they will market it, drive customers to it, manage their inventory, and ultimately, what they will do with their profits. Favorite products of the past have been iphone covers, Kanye West style white shades, Rastafari wigs (hands down Dr. Lytle’s favorite!) and tshirts with clever, pop-culture sayings (“Do WORK, ACU”).

This year’s list of products reads very similar: tshirts, tank tops, Nike tempo shorts with ACU embroidered on the leg, iphone covers, and bracelets. Allison is a freshman marketing major, and her team is selling purple Nike tempo shorts with ACU embroidered on the leg. Allison says, ” We have pre-orders for 32 of 50 pairs of shorts that we need to sell. The typical reaction I’ve gotten when I mention the shorts is, ‘Oh, I’ve been wanting some of those!’. Since the campus store is unable to sell Nike products, ACU Nike shorts have been unavailable until now. Girls who already have Nike shorts are the ones who are buying them, because they’ve been looking for them for months or years and haven’t been able to find any. They then go home and tell their roommate how excited they are about finding the shorts and before we know it we have another order from someone we’ve never met”.


The other important component of the Venture Out project is the focus on philanthropy and giving back. 50% of the profits from each team will go back into the general COBA scholarship fund for future business majors. And the other 50% goes to a charity or cause of the group’s choice. Some examples of non-profit charities that have received donations from Venture Out teams are The American Cancer Society, Invisible Children, Eternal Threads and Make-A-Wish Foundation.  Dr. Mark Phillips, professor of two of Intro to Business sections, says “the scholarship is about sustainability; the students’ work goes back into future students. The non-profit piece allows them to direct their giving to something they care passionately about; it not only gives them incentive to sell, it also starts them thinking about the role of business and profits in positively impacting the world.”

Venture Out also introduces our new business students (or undecided majors) the different roles within a sales team: the marketer, the accountant, the logistics manager, or the IS manager. At semester’s end, we hope the students have found a role or niche that they want to explore deeper, through classes, job shadowing, mentoring relationships or professional development experiences. And perhaps even ignite their passion for entrepreneurship. Allison says, “I’ve really enjoyed the project so far, because it has allowed me to work with my classmates to find a market niche and sell an exclusive product that is in very high demand. I’m learning that if you have the right product, entrepreneurship doesn’t seem like such a risk.”

COBA Students in New York City for business meetings

Wednesday morning at 10am, 27 students, 2 COBA faculty, 1 Executive-In-Residence and his wife left dry and cool West Texas for the bright lights of THE big City.  New York City. Dave Swearingen, COBA’s current Executive-In-Residence, is a former VP of Corporate Communications for Johnson & Johnson. He served as an elder at the Manhattan Church of Christ when he lived in New York, and he and his wife,  Karen, have recently relocated to Abilene to be near family. Mr. Swearingen has arranged an incredible trip for our COBA students.

Dr. Lytle praying over NYC group before they leave for the airport

Their Thursday itinerary looked like this:

  • Breakfast at Lindy’s (7th Ave and 32nd Street)
  • Wall Street
  • Tour of the New York Stock Exchange
  • Meetings at CNN, New York
  • Meeting with Matt Henegar, Lathm & Watkins, LLP
  • Meetings at Tommy Hilfiger’s corporate headquarters – meeting with VP of Marketing
  • Broadway show: Sister Act

ACU students enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Lindy's at 7th Ave and 32nd Street

Today, Friday, includes visits to:
  • Johnson & Johnson corporate headquarters in New Brunswick, NJ
  • American Express corporate headquarters
  • And dinner on their own and exploring the city

COBA group at CNN studios in New York City

Saturday, the group will go on a 3 hour Island cruise and then have more time to explore the City. On Sunday, the group will worship at the Manhattan Church of Christ and will have a mentoring session with Christian business leaders. After the session and a meal, the group heads back to the airport and back to ACU.
Stay tuned for a wrap up of the trip and pictures/videos of the students’ adventures!
We’ll wrap up with this…
Amanda, sophomore management major from Denton just sent us a message about their tour of J&J this morning: 
“We learned about the background and history of Johnson & Johnson, and got to take a tour thru their fitness center and media productions studio. We met Jeff Leebaw and Craig Rothenberg, who are their VPs of Corporate Communications, Charlotte Fox, their Director of HR Communications Integration and Jeanne Fedoryk, who is their Worldwide VP of J&J Recruiting Services. Biggest takeaway for me: intellectual curiosity. Ask question in interviews and be engaging. Try and find a company that has similar values as you do.”

COBA guest speaker Rachel Hollis appears on The Nate Berkus Show

In early September, COBA hosted two successful event planners, Luanna Cole and Rachel Hollis, for a Career Connect: Event Planning event. Over 75 students turned out to hear these two women share advice, insights and experience from their careers in wedding and event planning. You can read more about the events here.

And this past week, Rachel Hollis appeared on The Nate Berkus show, a nationally syndicated talk show focusing on interior design, decorating, entertaining and homemaking. Rachel is the Entertaining Contributor for Traditional Home magazine and she recreated a table scape from her September column for Mr. Berkus. Enjoy the clip! (Click on the sentence)

The Nate Berkus Show with special guest Rachel Hollis


Rachel Hollis on The Nate Berkus Show

Two COBA students win $1500 for business idea

Wednesday was the final LIVE round of COBA’s first annual Elevator Pitch competition. Ten business ideas were pitched – by a team of students or an individual. Six prizes were awarded, with the top team taking home $1500 for their pitch. The ten business idea pitches were judged based on the following categories:

  • Market
  • Business Concept
  • Value Proposition
  • Presentation Skills
  • Would you invest in this venture?

These six prizes were awarded:

  • Audience Choice Award – $250
  • Social Entrepreneurship Award – $250
  • Best Presentation Award – $250
  • Third Place – $250
  • Second Place – $750
  • Grand Prize – $1500

We were honored to have five highly successful businessmen make up our judging panel. Between the five of them, they’ve invested in or helped start over 1000 companies and have a passion for mentoring budding entrepreneurs. The judges were Dr. Jack Griggs, President and Director of Southwest Bancorp and former dean of the College of Business Administration, Mr. Jim Porter, Principal of Porter Capital Partners,  Mr. David Bruce, Founder and CEO of Alliance Recruiting Resources, Mr. Matt Booth, VP of Regency Centers, and COBA’s very own, Dr. Rick Lytle.

Here is a list of the ten business pitches and the team members for the 2011 Springboard Elevator Pitch Competition:

  • Virtual Exchange Accelerator – Levi Ritchie and Evan Whyte
  • Heaven Inspired Hands – Laura Kiminsky
  • Campuzon – Karsten Goodman and Courtney Martin
  • Red Thread Movement – Brittany Partridge and Samantha Sutherland
  • Rock and Trail – Asa Kusuma and Tim Johnston
  • Decked Out – Brionna Sherer and Marcy Thorn
  • Nascent – Nigel Bosch
  • M.Y.O.P – Carlee Finkelstein
  • Race Track Tarp – Brian Patterson and Jeremy Harrington
  • Double Impact Socks – Eldad Campbell and EJ Johnson
And here are the winners:

Grand Prize $1,500

Karsten Goodman & Courtney Martin

 Second Place $750
Double Impact Socks

Eldad Campbell & EJ Johnson 

Third Place $250

Nigel Bosch 

Best Presentation Award $250
Misfortune Cookies

Robby Wiginton 

Social Entrepreneurship Award $250
Red Thread Movement

Brittany Partridge & Samantha Sutherland

Audience Choice Award $250
Double Impact Socks

Eldad Campbell & EJ Johnson

The first annual Springboard Elevator Pitch Competition was a huge success and the packed room during the live final round testifies to the excitement this live competition generated here on campus. You can read more about the competition in this story, from the Abilene Reporter-News.

The Elevator Pitch is part of the slate of events, speakers and competitions in the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy. Students in any major can have a concentration in Entrepreneurship, and any student can participate in the competitions or attend any event. The Griggs Center also hosts four Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and is building a network of entrepreneurs that desire to have mentoring relationships with current students. As any entrepreneur will tell you – an essential component of success is building your own network of mentors and advisors. To that end, another component of the Griggs Center is the Springboard Accelerator – an on campus facility that houses student upstarts, where they have access not only to physical office space, but office equipment, phones, mailboxes, conference rooms and the guidance and advice of various business advisors (attorneys, investors, professors, and of course fellow student entrepreneurs).

Congratulations again to all of the finalists in this year’s inaugural competition!

Consider entering our next competition, our Springboard Ideas Challenge next spring. Find out more information here.

Customer service lesson: Can I pump your gas for you?

Dr. Lytle’s Consumer Behavior had an interesting class project: to go see if they could pump gas for Shell station customers. Lytle tasked the students with finding out if customers were interested in having their gas pumped, oil level checked, windshield cleaned and tire pressure checked. There was no cost for this service – students just asked the customers to answer a few questions in exchange for the service. Click on over to the Abilene Reporter-News to read how the project went and what our students learned about consumer behavior by pumping gas.

Dr. Lytle explains to the class how this research project will work

Dr. Lytle shows his Consumer Behavior class how to properly clean a windshield

Learning how to check oil levels

By the numbers…

We are pleased to report our placement data for the graduating class of 2011. These numbers are self reported from students who graduated in May with a BBA in Management, Marketing, Accounting, Finance or Information Systems. If you are a May 2011 graduate and you need to update us with your new employer and salary information, please send an email to Tim Johnston at

May 2011 Placement Data – BBA and M.Acc graduates

  • $40,263 – Average starting salary for a COBA graduate
  • $49,503 – Average starting salary for a M.Acc. graduate
  • 83% – Percentage of COBA graduates employed or enrolled in master’s-level program within three months of graduation
  • 100% – Percentage of M.Acc. graduates employed or enrolled in master’s-level program within three months of graduation
  • 94% – Satisfaction rating for the quality of COBA Connections’ customer service (COBA Connections is our Academic and Career Advising Office)
And we’re already busy with our juniors and seniors through our Jump Start program, prepping Juniors on how to search for internships and then how to prepare your resume and cover letter and walking with seniors through the process of beginning a job search and the importance of building your network now. Through our Connections office, we offer intense interview training and preparation as well as resume writing hints, tips and reviews. Also, be sure to join the official COBA alumni group (ACU COBA Alumni) on LinkedIn and “like” our COBA page on facebook. 

Career Connect: Event Planning

Earlier this month we hosted our first Career Connect event of the fall semester. We were honored to welcome two very successful wedding and event planners – Luanna Cole of The Plantation House in Pflugerville, Texas and Rachel Hollis of Chic Events based in Los Angeles, CA. Event planning and hospitality are two industries that our students have become very interested in lately. As two seasoned and successful entrepreneurs and veterans of the wedding and event industries, Luanna and Rachel brought lots of stories, wisdom, advice and encouraging words to our students.

Luanna and her husband, Norris, has been owner/operators of The Plantation House for 17 years, having hosted over 700 weddings, receptions and corporate events at their venue. Rachel begin Chic Events almost 8 years ago in her basement and has planned and styled weddings, corporate events and parties for various celebrities, motion picture studios, non-profit organizations and magazines. She was named one of  Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs in 2008.

Event Planning panel featuring Luanna Cole (L) and Rachel Hollis (Center)

We sat down with two students who attended the event. Calli is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major from Carrollton; Kelsey is a senior management major from San Angelo.

1) What’s one thing you learned (or that really stuck with you) about the business of wedding and/or event planning?
Calli: “One thing that really made an impact on me about the business of event planning was how much of your time you have to invest in order to be successful, therefore those with passion for the business will most likely be more motivated to devote themselves to their work.”
Kelsey: ” I found it interesting that a common misconception in regards to event planning is that it is a glamorous line of work. Hearing Rachel and Luanna talk about their experiences allowed all of the girls in the room to recognize that a great amount of time, energy, and hard work is placed into their event planning jobs. I enjoyed learning tactics that each of the women used to balance their careers and family lives. It was interesting to hear that from an early age, Luanna involved her children in the process of setting up events at their home. Her stories about her daughters ending their dates by inviting the guys over to help set up an event were quite comical. It was neat to see that each member of the family contributed in some way to ensure the success of their family owned business.”

Career Connect: Event Planning

2) Did you learn something that will change how you approach the rest of your time here at ACU or has encouraged to try something you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Calli: “Yes. I learned that I want to attain as much experience in the field as possible before I graduate so that I feel prepared for the “real world”.
Kelsey: “I was encouraged to dream big just as Rachel and Luanna did, but to realize that with big dreams comes great responsibility and time commitments. Pursuing a career that you are passionate about has many phenomenal rewards but comes with a lot of hard work.”

Luanna Cole shares with ACU students interested in event planning

3) Did these events encourage you to pursue this career track? If so, how?
Calli: “I definitely want to get more hands on experience. Both Rachel and Luanna encouraged us to work in all sides of the field such as the florists, rental companies, caterers, photographers, etc.”
Kelsey: “I am not drawn to this particular career track, but I feel like the speakers gave great advice that can be carried over into any future career.”

Rachel Hollis sharing with ACU students

4) How does hearing from industry professionals (no matter the industry) enhance what you are learning in the classroom?
Calli: “I have never really heard experience first hand like this so I was incredibly inspired to hear what they had to say. It affirmed every idea i had about the field and reassured that this is exactly what I want to do with my life.”
Kelsey: “Hearing real life experiences straight from a successful business person, enables us (students) to learn far more about a specific industry and/or valuable life lessons that could not be communicated as effectively from a textbook or lecture. One of my favorite parts about listening to the “powerful” speakers that ACU brings to campus, is hearing how the individual overcame a variety of failures and conflicts to get to where they are today. The wisdom that we receive through hearing about other’s past failures gives us the opportunity to avoid making the same mistakes and the ability to put into practice the tactics that the speaker has found to be the most effective. We are encouraged to live humbly just as the speakers do. It seems like usually one of the main differences that sets ACU speakers apart from other successful career people is the fact that the speakers we listen to are so down to earth and exhibit humility as they share their stories with us.”