Cliff Crockett (’89), Partner at the accounting firm KPMG in Dallas, Texas, has been conducting interviews for accounting internships at ACU for the past twenty years. This year’s global pandemic proved to be a bit of a challenge. Yet, the social distancing guidelines moved them in the direction that many companies across the country are taking: adapting to virtual interviews.
“We have always done face to face interviews and much prefer them. So this was the first time to do Skype interviews on a broad basis,” Cliff explained. While exceptions have been made before to accommodate students out of the country on study abroad, in-person interviews are the ideal platform to allow interaction with the students.
“We typically have a pre-interview dinner the evening before the interview so that we can get to know them better. This also allows the students to ask a lot of questions to multiple KPMG employees to help them feel more comfortable and get to know KPMG better. The students also get to interact with our greeters right before the in-person interview, so they miss out on this as well.”
Students initially had their interviews scheduled for March 26th, but when the campus closed, they instead began to prepare for virtual ones. When asked if this changed their approach in preparing, sophomore Lacy Mayes explained, “I had to practice looking at the camera instead of the screen. It’s definitely a different approach when you can’t shake hands or look at them directly in the eyes.”
One of the main concerns for virtual interviewing is technology issues, from poor connections to glitches. “I think it is harder for students doing it this way than for the interviewer actually,” Mr. Crockett explained, as KPMG is accustomed to meeting virtually with clients and employees. He advised students to double-check that their technical setup was working well before their interview. However, even when issues arose, junior Mikel-Ann Terry said that the interviewers were very understanding of any issues encountered, saying, “I would encourage anyone thinking about an internship to interview with them, even if it is just for the experience!”
Even though face to face is the ideal platform for interviewing, going virtual is providing students with valuable experience – regardless of location. Senior Rachel Rankey shared, “I learned to speak with confidence so they know what you’re saying and why you were right for that position. I also learned that oftentimes, they just want to get a sense of who you are rather than grilling you with a lot of questions that might be hard to answer”. Junior Hannah Pinson said that she enjoyed the virtual aspect, once she grew accustomed to it.
Crockett concluded by sharing how much he loves being on campus and interviewing ACU students. He and his team look forward to being on campus as soon as they can. “ACU does a great job preparing their business and accounting students for the real world, so take full advantage of your education!”
In the College of Business Administration, students across the board have experienced the challenge of creating and selling a product to their peers however students this semester are facing an additional challenge: creating and selling their product — from home. All business students are required to take the class Intro to Business. This class gives students an idea of what different fields of business are all about. One of the main projects in the course is an entrepreneur-type activity called ‘Venture Out’. Teams are built to create, market, and sell a product to the ACU community; incentives include grades throughout the course, entrepreneur experience, and the opportunity to donate additional profits to the beneficiary of the team’s choice. Products in the past have ranged from t-shirts, stickers, sweatshirts, or anything that can be dreamed up. The teams must keep track of expenses, create a business plan, and pitch their product to a board of professionals for approval.
While this project provides students with valuable experience, current Intro to Business students impacted by the campus closure are having to promote and sell their products remotely. Intro to Business professor Dr. Monty Lynn explained that due to this issue, not all of the teams were able to proceed with the project due to funding and selling issues. Venture Out teams who were already underway in their project chose to continue and are now facing the challenge of selling that product away from the ACU campus. Dr. Lynn commented that despite this extra obstacle, “They are doing a tremendous job”.
Two of these current participating teams shared their experience so far. “It was more difficult to connect with our customers and explain why we were selling this product,” explained Berkley Bruckner, member of Team Foundation T’s. They chose to sell t-shirts, and created the design in hopes of boosting school spirit and promoting awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters, their chosen beneficiary. “Since most of our group members are freshmen, we wanted to incorporate a class we all have to take this year. We chose our Bible class and wrote ‘Wildcats’ in Greek”.
Another team experienced similar issues. When asked what has been a challenge for them, member Estefany Hernandez stated that “We couldn’t express our feelings about where the money will be donated or to express our love for children and giving back”. They chose the Hendrick Home for Children as their beneficiary and decided on t-shirts as well for their product.
Despite the challenges posed for this unprecedented sales environment that COVID-19 has brought on, these student teams are persevering and are learning valuable skills. Dr. Monty Lynn shared a customer’s experience with one of these continuing Venture Out teams: “An ACU graduate student recently contacted me to say she purchased some stickers from a team and was so impressed with the transaction. She received the ordered stickers in the mail shortly after purchasing it online. The product even arrived with customer service touches and an e-invoice! So just a shout-out to our freshmen business teams who have pivoted quickly and are serving well!” COBA is proud of these teams for their success and perseverance during this time and believes that unique business lessons are being learned about the need for flexibility and agility in small businesses that will stay with these students for a lifetime.
(Maddy Crockett, sophomore accounting major from Lubbock, Texas shares her experience of living in Oxford, England with ACU’s Study Abroad program this spring and what it was like when they were forced to return home due to the Coronavirus.)
Heartbroken – the moment we’d been dreading had come. We looked around at each other as they announced over the loud speaker on the bus that the Oxford program was forced to shut down. We were going home two months earlier than expected. President Trump had addressed the nation the night before, raising the travel restriction levels all throughout Europe, except for the UK. The other students in Leipzig were out of Germany when the news came, and they left immediately – without their belongings and without saying goodbye. The prospect of the Coronavirus interfering with our semester had been a topic of debate between the students for several weeks, but we were optimistic until the end. After that day, though, we began the dreaded process of saying goodbye.
Before I studied abroad, I might not have taken seriously how deeply one connects to the place they live. “Yes, they have to come home. So what? They just spent the last two months travelling and spending money. Surely it couldn’t have made that big of an impact, right?” And sadly, I make these assumptions for many activities I have no experience in. Yet, the past two months, while seemingly short, truly were life changing, and my heart ached at the prospect of leaving early and departing from that environment.
I really had no plans to study abroad. A friend convinced me to sign up freshman year, and thinking it would be a good way to push myself, I said yes and submitted my application. Yet, as the drop date steadily approached, I went back and forth, struggling over if it was something I truly wanted to commit to. Did I want to be gone for a whole semester? Would I regret the activities and people I’m missing on campus? What if I got over there and hated it? Was it even worth it? After almost backing out – twice, I might add – I decided to go through with it, and that was that. Fall semester flew by and Christmas break arrived, which led to packing, planning, and saying goodbye to friends and family in Texas.
The day we left for Oxford – a Wednesday morning after spring semester had started – we were teary-eyed and unsure what the next four months held. I had two close friends going abroad with me and others who I hoped to know better, but I was leaving many dear friends at ACU. ‘Why on earth am I leaving when I have so many good things right here?’ I thought as we all hugged each other goodbye. Then, we were whisked away on the bus, took several long flights, and arrived exhausted and unsure the next day in the city of Oxford. It was cloudy, cold, and completely foreign.
The next few days held room assignments, walking tours, scavenger hunts, and exploration as we settled into our new environment. The cloudiness and cold slowly shifted to cozy and ideal; the foreign turned into curiosity and adventure. We found bakeries with beautifully decorated cakes, coffee shops with upstairs seating and rickety wooden floors, the grocery store to load up on a few days’ worth of groceries (and no more than that — it’s a mile walk home, and you carry what you buy). We began our classes in a little establishment off of Woodstock Road – The Quaker Meeting House – and got plugged into a church that many study abroad alums told us about, St. Aldates. We went running through the abundant parks and meadows Oxford holds, and we grew accustomed to walking at least a mile to get places. The days faded into weeks, and without even realizing it, I had forgotten to be nervous or to miss home. This adventure had captured my attention, and each new day brought eagerness and excitement – a rhythm was found.
While a foreign country itself is an incredible journey, it wouldn’t have been half of what it was without the people I experienced it with. Oxford holds the largest ACU group, with thirty-five students, two professors, and an on-site director, but it never hindered us from learning to know one another. These were people we saw day in, day out, from breakfast to class, to the common rooms and everywhere in between. We were all on the same schedule, all in a new place, and all wanting to make the most of our time here – which is the perfect environment for connection. Not only did I grow closer to the friends I already had, but our community grew abundantly as we created one-of-a-kind shared experiences with each other. Class devotionals on Monday nights, breakfast for dinner with a smaller group, college night at church (and going for ice cream once it ended), and eventually, travelling to different countries in our free weekends. An environment affect change so much in a person, but the people there with you make all of the difference.
It would be impossible to convey everything I learned or experienced in Oxford, but there are a few that stick out to me. Something I have noticed since being at home is that study abroad gives students the opportunity to step back from their commitments, their activities, the people they spend time with, and really see who they are outside of that. It can help you think about what’s important to you back home, and what you want the rest of your college career to look like. For me, these past two months helped me grow in proactivity and confidence. Whether it be volunteering to plan out all the details of our next trip, using Apple maps to navigate us through the streets of a city, or choosing excitement instead of intimidation when countless opportunities present themselves, the experiences I had helped make me a little more well-rounded (I hope, at least!).
The Coronavirus had been a topic of discussion, first jokingly back in February, then more seriously as other universities began to pull their programs. To us, it was something in China, then in Italy — but not Oxford, not where we were. The week before we left, our class was scheduled for a trip to Northern Spain. We were elated because we would all be together to explore that new place. As we packed and prepared to leave for it, we heard about more and more programs that were being called back home and that the numbers of the sick in Italy were growing exponentially. There was debate if we would be pulled, too, but the ACU Study Abroad office continually communicated with us that our program would continue as planned, as long as our area was safe and that the US deemed it so. Looking back, our time all together in Spain was one of the high points of our semester, and we could not have ended on a better note.
When we learned that we were going home early, we were blessed to have two whole days left to say goodbye to our temporary home. Souvenirs were bought, scones and pastries were consumed in unhealthy quantities, we had one last breakfast for dinner, and we ran through the parks and meadows that were slowly greeting spring. The last day held flurried packing, tearful conversations, and a bus ride to the airport that came all too soon. I thought back to that first bus ride, where I questioned why on earth I was wanting to do this. Now, I never wanted to leave. Life can be funny that way.
As I sit here at home, saddened by what these next two months could have held in Oxford, but even more so by the devastation and chaos that the Coronavirus has brought upon everyone, I am still grateful. Friends and family reaching out to see how we are holding up, class Zoom calls that feel a little more like reunions, a virtual breakfast for dinner, and time to sit and dwell on what the Lord has done in us since we left the US back in January. Study Abroad gave me the dearest friends, an abundant atmosphere and culture, and instilled a drive in me to go after and get done ideas that I have. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity, in the midst of its interruption, and I am curious to see what the rest of this year will look like. Still, I am eager for the day when I can return again to visit this temporary home.
COBA has a rich heritage of faculty members who contribute to helping the college excel in many areas. This is shown in several ways – research being one of them. Faculty members Dr. Monty Lynn, Dr. Sarah Easter, and Dr. Ryan Jessup- all professors in the Management Sciences Department – recently finished a collaborative project titled: “Harmonizing Work and Faith”, which was completed with the help of music professor and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Greg Straughn. “COBA faculty engage in creative research which keeps them sharp and contributes to knowledge,” Dr. Monty Lynn explained.
Dr. Lynn shared that the project’s inspiration stemmed from a common interest in seeing how Christians approach and practice business, both in the past and today. They came across a database of Christian hymns that peaked their curiosity earlier this summer, and the question was posed: What message do Christians communicate to each other in worship regarding work and do these messages change over time?
The three COBA faculty were very familiar with conducting research, but knew they needed professional insight into ‘hymnology’ – the study of hymns – in order to enrich and deepen their findings. They reached out to Dr. Straughn who graciously agreed to contribute to the project.
The specifics of their research focused on hymns written between the years 1500 and 2000, with content addressing vocation. They applied qualitative research methods and identified 28 different messages Christians sing about regarding work. Some of the themes that emerged were being diligent in our work, work can be offered to God in worship, and work can be toilsome.
Looking to see if these messages have shifted over time, the team found strong stability in the themes – with occasional shifts. These shifts seemed to align with different global events at the time which largely impacted the world.
For example, the theme of being rewarded for faithful work, both here and in Heaven, is strong. Yet, the theme declines after World War II, as the theme of solidarity with global workers rises. These findings, along with others, are shown in the data.
Lynn added, “For those who might say hymns are fading from many worship assemblies, we’re happy to report that contemporary music still connects with work – often indirectly, but sometimes in wonderful ways such as the hymns produced by The Porter’s Gate, such as their ‘Wood and Nails’ and ‘Your Labor is Not in Vain’.” The group presented their research at the Christian Business Faculty Association at John Brown University and their findings were highlighted on the Hymnary.org site (click here to read).
The group’s hope is that this study will be helpful in understanding the meaningfulness and spirituality of vocation. Speaking for all the contributors, Lynn closed with this: “This project was a distinct pleasure because of the complementary skills of the researchers and because we couldn’t help but sing our data!”
Senior management major, Autumn Flanders, recently completed her summer internship with a specialty coffee roaster based in Denver, Colorado. The Christian-based business’s purpose is to provide employment to young adults and teens who have been homeless and are looking to leave it behind. Flanders spent the summer in Denver aiding Purple Door in pursuing this mission.
Autumn explained that the internship held several roles for her to play. In her responsibilities, she wrote weekly blog posts that highlighted successful social enterprises around the US, she developed a year-long social media content calendar, worked to improve content for Purple Door’s media platforms, compiled and tracked data from customers and partners, helped cater a monthly event, and sold coffee at an REI conference. “I also assisted in the coffee production process by grinding the coffee, then packaging, sealing, and labeling the coffee bags”, Autumn said.
When asked what she enjoyed most about the internship, she shared that building relationships with her bosses and co-workers was huge, along with gaining first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to run a social enterprise. Autumn also appreciated engaging with customers at events and seeing regular customers while learning more about them. Connections with people were a big part of her experience.
“Interning at Purple Door Coffee provided me with an opportunity to cultivate my strengths,” Autumn explained when asked about
Mark Smesrud, Manager at Purple Door Roastery
how the internship will impact her future. She learned more about the types of future careers she might enjoy and what types of cities she might want to live in. “Now, when I look for future jobs, I have a better understanding of the types of work cultures and environments I prefer and the job sector that I would most enjoy working in”.
As a native to Abilene, Autumn learned a great deal from living in Colorado for the summer. When asked what grew her most, Autumn shared that being far away from home and navigating a new city were both difficult yet it pushed her to become more independent and confident in her own abilities. While at first learning new responsibilities and adjusting to the work environment of the internship was hard, looking back Autumn can see that she gained a greater understanding of the coffee industry, social enterprises, and what it is like to work with previously homeless youth and young adults.
For students looking for internships in the future, Autumn would share this advice: “[Students should] not be afraid to apply to internships in cities away from your home. I experienced a kind of growth that would’ve been more difficult to feel if I had been in my comfort zone near friends and family. Living in a new state gave me a unique perspective and allowed me to experience a city with a different culture and get out of my bubble. Even though it can be scary interning in a new city, it is worth it because of the type of growth you can experience, both personally and professionally”.
Dr. Monty Lynn
Dr. Monty Lynn, a staple in the College of Business, has been teaching at ACU for over thirty years. Lynn is the one of the first professors business students take courses from, as he teaches the Intro to Business class required for beginning business students. He is also active outside of the classroom, taking groups on study abroad trips and conducting research for COBA.
Yet, teaching was not always on his radar. Although higher education felt comfortable to him, as he has family in that career field, Lynn shared, “Before and during college, I explored several career paths – architecture, public health, social work, urban family planning, and a few others. I enjoy learning and find a lot of subjects interesting.” During his last semester of graduate school, however, he interviewed for positions with business, consulting, and teaching organizations. Once he honed in on business, the rest fell into place. After he and his wife, Libby, visited ACU, Lynn explained that “Higher education felt like a great fit. Thankfully, the business faculty agreed to give me a try. That was 35 years ago.”
Monty and Libby Lynn
When asked about the role faith has played in his journey, Lynn looks back to his upbringing in a family of faith, along with his fascination with how people relate to God and how God relates to people. With his father being a minister, he spent a good amount of time at church. As a teenager, he enjoyed broadening his experiences by attending Sabbath services and mass at a local synagogue and a parish. “Schooling in secular and faith-based colleges shaped me as well,” he explained, “as have years of life in a local community of faith”. When he started his career at ACU, Lynn initially faced some challenges. He struggled with doubt about God and questions about faith, but, “Over time, I came to peace with many of my questions.” This perspective shift came from several sources. “A Walk to Emmaus connected my head and heart, the example of friends continues to teach me, and sharing with others in weekly prayer and reading groups has blessed me”. Lynn feels a great deal of gratitude for his journey and for what is to come.
By teaching business courses, Lynn hopes that “[My] faith leavens who I am and what I do, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.” He went on to explain how he must be intentional not to allow faith and work to migrate into parallel – but separate – spheres of life, as “It’s not too difficult to encounter value differences between the marketplace and in the way of Jesus.” Lynn’s aim is to emphasize the unique call of faith in life throughout the courses he teaches, and he is grateful that ACU has an abundance of resources available for spiritual formation. “It is truly unique and a joy”, he says, “to journey with students and colleagues. There’s so much more we have to learn and live together.”
Lynn also embraces the role as researcher. “I love to dig into ideas”, Lynn expressed. Scholarly opportunities are scarce at many faith-based institutions and he has been grateful that ACU and COBA encourage scholarly growth. Students and faculty alike are grateful for the steady presence Dr. Monty Lynn has been through the years. We look forward to learning and growing more from him in the years to come.
Dr. David Perkins
A common theme among our faculty members is how many of them did not plan to become a professor after graduating college. This, too, was the case for Dr. David Perkins. In fact, teaching wasn’t even a thought for him until a position opened up at Harding University, his alma mater. When the dean called and asked him to teach principles of accounting, Perkins was almost through his MBA program, so he accepted the temporary position for a year. “That phone call was a life-changing event for me. I look at it as God giving me a nudge to consider teaching as a career”.
Perkins taught at Harding for 15 years after that, then joined the COBA family during its initial work to become AACSB accredited. His friend and college classmate, Dr. Monty Lynn, was a good contact for him at ACU while Perkins was making the arrangements to join the COBA faculty. Dr. Perkins was ready for a change, and has never regretted getting on board with COBA’s vision for excellence. He currently teaches Financial Accounting to undergraduates as well as graduate classes in the Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program and has led students on numerous study abroad programs with COBA.
When Perkins began to think about the impact of faith in his journey, he shared that it was humbling experience. “God opens doors of opportunity and sometimes he shuts others. That certainly helps with the decision-making process.” It is difficult for him to imagine what life would be like without faith, as it has played such a core part of his journey. He stressed that his faith doesn’t guarantee that he won’t ever doubt; still, in the midst of doubt, growth can be found. “God is my anchor” Perkins said. “Even when I stumble or stray, I know where to find Him… right there where He’s always been.”
Dr. Perkins explained that he enjoys teaching accounting not only to help students prepare for their future careers, but also in giving them more tools to make a better life. While initially Perkins wasn’t sure how different his teaching method was from other accounting classes at public schools, he’s been able to be more intentional about planting seeds in students’ minds that can grow into faith. He explained that in class, he will “Try to apply the topics we cover to real life decisions so they will be positioned to make good choices.” Students who have had Perkins in class fondly recalled the ‘sermonettes’ he shared with them from time to time and were grateful for the weekly Bible study he offers outside of class for anyone willing to attend.
Dr. Perkins with students this summer during Study Abroad to Oxford and Leipzig.
Dr. Perkins explained that his desire for students is for them to see college as an opportunity to develop their God-given skills – even if they don’t know what they want to do yet. He remembered being in a similar position at their age, of being unsure about what life would look like after college. His best advice was this, “Develop your talents, develop your character, develop friendships, develop your faith… then see what opportunities God brings your way”.
ACU is fortunate and thankful to have Dr. Perkins – not only for his knowledge and wisdom, but for his character and heart for his students.