Any baseball fan knows how much the game has changed in the last ten years. Many managers have begun focusing on stats for every aspect of the game, using staff members that specialize in analytics to help their team gain competitive advantages. This past spring Katie Carr (’22), information systems major from Wichita, Kansas, snagged an on-campus internship that has provided her with bountiful experience as she interned for the ACU baseball team as the Data Collection & Baseball Projects Manager. Katie told us more about her time with the team and how this internship has given her tangible skills and understanding to set her up for a homerun post-graduation.
WHAT DID YOU DO IN YOUR INTERNSHIP?
As Data Collections & Project Manager, I analyze game statistics for player development. For example, during practices and warmups, I track pitchers as they practice to gather information on attributes such as pitch velocity, spin rate, and horizontal/vertical break. This provides valuable information for the whole team – coaches can utilize this in making decisions about starting lineups, and players can assess their performance and see what weak spots to focus on.
Following games, I produce several reports such as top velocities, opposing pitcher compositions, and umpire statistics. I’m also in charge of setting up cameras to film the games and preparing a video guide with player appearances and times for easy navigation.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE INTERNSHIP?
My favorite part of this job is that the sports industry is never dull. Each day, it provides a different experience that leads to new challenges or ideas. If we see a trend start to appear during a game, that gives us the opportunity to dive deeper into the data to see if we find anything interesting.
WHAT WERE THE GREATEST LESSONS YOU LEARNED IN THE INTERNSHIP?
The greatest lesson I learned was to always be willing to learn. This role required a good understanding of the sport and knowing how it can be implemented in the player structure. While I had limited knowledge coming in, I didn’t let it discourage me. I come early and stay late after practices, scrimmages, and games to get more experience.
HOW DO YOU SEE THIS EXPERIENCE AIDING YOU IN THE FUTURE?
There are countless industries you can pursue with data analytics, and being able to get experience in those fields is important in order to get ideas of future job options. Prior to working with ACU’s baseball team, I had never considered sports analytics. However, working on the field over the last semester has helped me discover an industry I want to pursue more after graduate school.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR FUTURE INTERNS OR STUDENTS LOOKING FOR INTERNSHIPS?
Create meaningful relationships with your professors – they often have plenty of connections and are happy to help you out if you’re struggling. On one of our many office visits, I had mentioned to Dr. Ryan Jessup that I was looking for a job. Shortly after, he connected me with the baseball team’s coach who had reached out to him looking for analytics assistance.
HOW HAS YOUR TIME AT ACU PREPARED YOU FOR THIS INTERNSHIP AND FOR GRAD SCHOOL AFTER GRADUATION?
Assignments with real-world applications have been incredibly beneficial. I’ve always enjoyed projects where you can truly see the impact of your work (such as going to Costa Rica for the Enterprise Consulting class or assisting with the Suitable app onboarding in the System Analysis & Design class). These were all great opportunities to practice the skills learned in the classroom in a real-life scenario.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A COBA STUDENT?
My favorite part of being a COBA student is the number of faculty and staff who genuinely care about you and your future. I have received so much support and guidance from so many COBA professors that I know I wouldn’t get anywhere else. They truly believe in their students and their ability to succeed.
We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Katie as she explores careers in sports and analytics. Upon graduation, Katie plans to attend Wake Forest University for her Master’s in Business Analytics.
“Perhaps this was meant to be.” When thinking about the cancellation of Leadership Summit earlier this year, these are not the words one expects to hear. Yet a pivot from the disappointment of the canceled course to bring the student experience to Abilene has created an opportunity like no other.
Leadership Summit, 2020
Leadership Summit is a weeklong mountain-top experience that combines an executive conference-style environment featuring high-profile speakers with a close-knit community. It has been a beloved COBA event for the past two decades. Last year, the virus canceled the event. This year, hoping to resume the tradition, disappointment struck again. The Young Life camp facility where the course was to be held sustained damage from a burst water pipe in the kitchen on the day that students, speakers, faculty and staff arrived. Because there was no water in the camp due to the damage, Leadership Summit had to be canceled, leaving students, speakers, and faculty devastated.
In the days that followed the cancellation, communication was frequent and plans were made to allow students enrolled in the course the opportunity to complete the credit hours needed for Leadership Summit. Part of the new coursework included watching videos from past Summit speakers and writing reflections on the content.
A Slice of Summit, 2022
However, Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, said it still didn’t feel quite right. “We had selected speakers specifically for this experience [Summit] – I couldn’t believe we were missing this.” After the cancellation, Dr. Marquardt and his team spent the next two weeks in prayer and listening to student’s stories of how they were impacted by the experience.
With the rest of the spring semester remaining and the impacts of the recent events felt throughout the college, Dr. Marquardt pondered the potential to make the best of the situation. “God allowed these speakers to be on the list and students to be in the program. How can we be good stewards of that despite the change?”
As this question lingered, the idea for “A Slice of Summit” began to emerge. If the students couldn’t go to Summit, could Summit be brought to the students? The speaker list for the year had long been set with the content planned out in advance. Perhaps the speakers would be willing to come to Abilene to speak with the students here?
Elise Mitchel speaking at the first “A Slice of Summit” event.
And so, the idea became a reality. What began as an ask to one speaker – Elise Mitchell – turned into a series featuring five of the guest speakers with an opportunity for the Summit students to gather, share meals together, and be uplifted by the speakers and mentors pouring into them. Elise Mitchell, Kent Brantley, Mo Isom, and others are joining the students in Abilene over the remainder of the semester to share their Summit message in person. Marquardt shared that the speakers have jumped at the new opportunity to travel to Abilene and share the message they had prepared to share in January.
A Slice of Summit, 2022
While Leadership Summit is a packed week full of content, “A Slice of Summit” is sprinkled throughout the semester. Typically, the longer the semester goes on, the more worn down students become. The hope is that these “slices” will encourage students in the perfect moments; key junctures to uplift and encourage them in the middle of their challenges. Marquardt said, “It is all falling into place.”
While the last two years of cancellations have been discouraging, Dr. Marquardt said they aren’t giving up and are already planning for the future. The date for next year’s Leadership Summit is set and preparations are underway to ensure the travel plans work better for students and speakers. In the meantime, the Lytle Center is able to bring a little slice of that Leadership Summit pie to the ACU campus. Students can learn more about guest speakers through the Lytle Center, the COBA Newsletter, or the Compass app. To learn more about Leadership Summit, click here.
Did you know that in 2021 business was the #1 minor at ACU? Many ACU students find that their degree is enhanced with a minor in business, giving them even more professional avenues to explore. Senior Allie Nichols, an Advertising and Public Relations major from Abilene, Texas, is one of those students who was able to meld her major and minor in an internship last summer. Allie interned at Imaginuity, a digital marketing agency based in Dallas and shared how her experience at ACU and in COBA aided her in her time with the company.
Allie’s position at Imaginuity was as a client partnership intern. She explains, “I would sit in on all client meetings, build decks for the clients, etc. I got to do client partnerships work, social media work, and even creative work.” She was able to see first-hand what the day to day operations of a marketing agency looked like. Allie also attained knowledge in how to communicate with co-workers, clients, and her audiences as well as learning how to work with teams at the company.
“I have grown in confidence in my ability to work and gained real work experience,” Allie shared. This experience at Imaginuity has proved very beneficial as it led to a future job and she continued to work for the agency remotely throughout the fall semester.
Allie’s internship enriched her learning environment, both on campus and at the agency. She advises students looking for marketing internships to take an internship where you can learn multiple parts of an agency or facility. “I love that I got a taste of three different aspects in my agency because they wanted me to learn it all to see what I like.”
Even though Allie is not majoring in business, she felt that the COBA professors have shown her the same kind of care and value that business majors receive. She has appreciated the ways her professors have included and poured into her, whether it be through hand-written cards or simply showing interest in her well-being. She has also enjoyed getting exposure to the business side of marketing in addition to what she has learned through her major, the blend of which has given her a broader foundation for her future career.
COBA seeks to help our majors and minors alike gain internship opportunities that provide them with experience for their future careers, whether at home or far away. Interested in receiving more information about our internship program? Email COBA’s professional development manager, Steph Brown, at email@example.com.
In this new environment of learning, more and more professors are leaning into the online platform to teach their classes and interact with their students. One such professor is long-time COBA professor, Dr. Don Pope. Dr. Pope teaches undergrad and graduate classes, and within the past year, has transitioned to teaching his classes online. While it might seem intuitive to think online classes would lack much interaction, Pope has expressed that he is seeing “more engagement than ever.” That seemed surprising to us, so we sat down with him to understand how he encourages engagement in a virtual environment.
How have you noticed “more engagement than ever” while teaching your online classes?
Dr. Don Pope
Dr. Pope explains that while the engagement might look different than an in-person class, it is still strong. “The discussion questions in the Canvas online courses provide for a more structured environment for student responses and interactions.” He went on to say that because of the way the students can engage with each other, no student dominates the discussion as they might in a face-to-face environment. He shared that the online environment is also helpful in providing more detailed video explanations for solving problems and assignments, which is “especially helpful to students who struggle to absorb lectures or students who are sick or traveling for sports.”
Specifically, during COVID, how did you work to engage your students?
“When COVID first shut down our face-to-face class delivery in March 2020, I remember looking out my office window and seeing all those Redbud trees in bloom on the east side of our building, symbolic of God’s continued blessings. About that same time, my wife and I were sitting at home on a Sunday morning watching our church service using my computer, taking our own communion using crackers and grape juice. It occurred to me that my newly online students might need encouragement besides just instruction. So, I began sending out a Sunday devotional thought each week and I have continued that.” Dr. Pope has continued to send his Sunday devotional to his online classes since March of 2020.
How have you seen the Lord move through this transition to fully teaching online?
For Dr. Pope, the transition to teaching online was more than just a COVID response. About 5 years ago, he began to lose much of his speaking voice. Unable to regain the volume he needs to speak to an in-person class, he made the decision to teach online at this time. “I really, really enjoyed classroom teaching, so teaching online is something that I had to adjust to. But having said that, I have felt Spirit-led to engage my students more with the Sunday Bible verses and asking them how I can pray for them. My spiritual interactions with my students have been greater online than before in the classroom.”
Can students still stop by and see you in person?
“Yes. Some of my online classes are for Abilene residential students, and I would really like that. I still care about each student on a personal level.”
Dr. Pope’s ability to not only adjust to online teaching but go the extra mile in making this format even more personal for each student is indicative of the intentionality he has shown to all of his students throughout his teaching career. Inspiring, equipping, and connecting with our students is more than a mission statement for Pope. He is living this out daily in the lives of his students.
We’ll admit it, we are biased. We think that we have some of the greatest business and technology faculty and staff in the country. This past year they went above and beyond to pursue excellence and care for students during the challenging school year. We’re excited to announce those faculty and staff who were named as 2020-2021 COBA award winners for the Department of Management Sciences, the Department of Accounting and Finance, and the School of Information Technology and Computing.
Dr. Phil Vardiman
By student vote, the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Management Sciences is Dr. Phil Vardiman. Dr. Vardiman is a beloved professor who is known for his jokes, his enthusiasm, and his care for his students. He is often seen engaging with students in his office, the classroom, or on walks around campus. Presley Davis (’21) shared, “He has continued to be my number one supporter throughout my time with COBA. He cares for his students and wants to share our successes. He’s a lovely professor and friend.”
Skylar Morris (’21) expressed his gratitude for Dr. Vardiman saying, “This man is single-handedly the reason I am happy where I’m at with my choice of major and career. He is so exciting, passionate, and happy to be teaching us. He is also the reason I am pursuing grad school because he has made me feel like I can be better. Every time I have an accomplishment, I want to tell him because he cares so much about his students and gets so genuinely excited. This man is truly the best professor I’ve had.”
Dr. Jody Jones
By student vote, the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Accounting and Finance is Dr. Jody Jones, another widespread student favorite. A newer addition to the COBA faculty, he stands out for his engagement with students and his ability to simplify hard topics. Senior finance major, Jon Bennett, explained, “He makes the topics interesting and applicable to real life. He goes above and beyond for his students. He makes going to class seem fun even at 8:00 AM.” Dr. Jones shared that it is a blessing and honor to know you are appreciated by your students and peers and to know one is valued.
Rebekah Jones, a senior finance and marketing major, expressed the impact Dr. Jones has had on her. “Jody goes above and beyond to ensure his students’ success not only in college but also post-graduation. His class has offered the most real-world applicable information in my COBA experience. Additionally, the level of difficulty is at a perfect point where you are motivated to try hard and learn, but he always offers grace with grades if you show that you are willing to work hard and redo assignments. Jody has a great sense of humor which makes him very approachable and easy to talk to before or after class. I appreciate getting to know him a bit each class and learn from his experiences. So much of why I love ACU is because of the opportunities there are to get to know professors who truly care about you – Jody has exemplified that.”
Dr. Brian Burton
By student vote, the 2020-2021 SITC Teacher of the Year is Dr. Brian Burton. Senior digital entertainment technology major Camila Rodriguez shared, “Dr. Burton is an amazing mentor. He always pushes us to do our best work and encourages us to pursue our goals and ambitions.” Dr. Burton is a valuable member of the SITC team and SITC Director Dr. John Homer shares why. “Dr. Burton has led the DET program for more than a decade, mentoring and working with every student who has gone through. He is dedicated to his work and cares deeply about his students. I think this award shows that his students feel similarly about him.”
Dr. Mindy Welch
Finally, the 2020-2021 Online Teacher of the Year is Dr. Mindy Welch. As a member of the ACU Dallas online team, Mindy has been a valuable asset to her students. Dr. Jennifer Golden explained that Dr. Welch loves her ACU students. “She is patient, encouraging, helpful, and a great professor overall. She receives consistent exceptional feedback in her classes. It is a pure joy to work with her because she is always coming up with new and innovative ideas to make the online classroom engaging, challenging, and spiritually encouraging. I cannot think of a better person for our Online Teacher of the Year.”
Director of the online MBA program, Dr. Vardiman, expressed, “Mindy is a teacher who not only wants her students to learn but also succeed in life. She loves teaching!!! Mindy is willing to go the extra mile for each of her students. She is wonderful to work with and sets the bar very high in her teaching style. She shares the example of Christ in how she cares for her students.” Upon receiving the award, Dr. Welch shared, “Honestly, it means so much to me! I know that Christian higher education is an act of service in God’s Kingdom. It is about preparing the next generation to show passion and leadership. Getting an award like this is just an affirmation from God that I am where he needs me to be.”
The Dean’s Award for Research was given to Dr. Monty Lynn for his outstanding research that resulted in the publication of two books this summer. Dr. Lynn hopes his research results in helping others. “Having these books recognized with the Dean’s Award for Research is an honor and adds to the hope that these works make a contribution to scholars, practitioners, the church, and students.”
Dr. Monty Lynn
Dr. Lynn’s research and the resulting books were born from his own experiences in the classroom and his desire to teach others how to use their vocation to reach out to help a hurting world. “Several years ago, a couple of ACU business students inquired about how they might apply what they had learned in business within developing economies. Because of their inquisitiveness, we created a special topics course in the class, International Poverty and Development. The course was cataloged a couple of years later and we still offer it today. Although my training in this field was limited, I looked for learning and research opportunities. Two observations became clear along the way. One was that while many Christian congregations engaged in relief and development activities, they often did so without the benefit of international development insights. A second observation was that a wonderful history of Christian engagement in relief, development, and advocacy existed but few knew the actors or ideas that flowered through the ages.”
Dr. Lynn went on to explain how the books came to fruition. “I pursued these two questions and two books were published in summer 2021 which are the fruit of that labor. With the help of Rob Gailey (Point Loma Nazarene University) and Derran Reese (ACU), Development in Mission was released by ACU Press. It attempts to surface fresh insights in missions and development that can aid churches and individuals who engage in global poverty alleviation. The second book, Christian Compassion published by Wipf & Stock, recounts in quick procession, the thoughts and actions of Christians endeavoring to extend the love of Christ to others, from the first century to the present.”
The 2020-2021 COBA Staff Person of the Year was awarded to Professional Development Manager Steph Brown. Steph has taken the COBA professional development program to the next level with the implementation of COBA EDGE which helps prepare students for internships and jobs beginning their freshman year. She keeps business and technology students engaged and on track as they learn and grow professionally during their time in the college. Dean Brad Crisp explained why Steph is such a valuable member of the COBA team. “Steph took on two significant challenges for the college over the last year. First, she took over the Internship for Credit courses for each major, both administering the growing program and teaching the academic portion of the students’ internship course experience. Internships make a huge difference in the professional development and career placement of our students. Second, Steph partnered in the pilot of the Suitable platform, which was initially called Accelerate in the spring and will be called Compass this fall. COBA believes strongly in holistic student development, and we appreciate Steph’s contributions to not only help our students grow professionally but in all parts of their lives.”
Steph was humbled by the honor. “The award is, of course, sincerely appreciated. In all transparency, however, I have a difficult time accepting an award for myself when I have witnessed our other staff members have such a positive impact themselves. The past year has shown how every staff person in COBA has risen to the occasion and taken care of business, no pun intended. They have taken more responsibilities on top of their existing initiatives and done it with such a spirit of collegiality. I care for my colleagues and feel cared for by them. That, in itself, is better than receiving a reward.”
Dr. James Prather
The Outstanding Junior Faculty Member Award was given to SITC professor Dr. James Prather. Dr. Prather is known for engaging with students both inside and outside the classroom to help them pursue their goals. He said, “The Weathers Fellowship for Outstanding Junior Faculty is indicative of the excellent support we have here at ACU for teaching and research. I’m excited for what this award will enable me to do with my students over the next year. Many talented faculty have received this award in the past and I’m honored to be counted among their number.”
Dean Crisp added, “Drawing on his education in computer science and biblical studies, Dr. James Prather combines his passion for faith and technology in ways that inform and strengthen his teaching, scholarship, and service. He actively mentors students spiritually, inside and outside of class. James engages students in undergraduate research, supervising students as they present research at international conferences. And, he is a fun and loyal colleague. Dr. Prather shows that the future is bright for the School of Information Technology and Computing.”
Finally, the Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership was given to all of the COBA faculty and staff. Juggling what the year brought forth was not an easy task. Dr. Crisp was proud of the way the faculty and staff members showed students and their colleagues’ dedication and perseverance throughout the challenges of the pandemic.
Dr. Brad Crisp
“As I have watched COBA faculty and staff navigate a pandemic over the last year or more, I have seen our faculty and staff serving and leading in so many ways beyond their normal roles. Faculty learned new skills in online teaching, taught in classrooms scattered all across campus (while also engaging the students on Zoom), engaged in important and difficult conversations about how we can better serve our students, and all the while cared for students dealing with health challenges and other disruptions. And, our staff continued to advance their individual responsibilities while rising to unique challenges related to the pandemic, building renovations, the winter storm, and so much more. I couldn’t give the Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership to just one individual this year because all of our faculty and staff are so deserving.”
As a college, our vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. The past year has taught us that this vision is more than words on a page. This vision came alive in countless classrooms and offices all over this campus and inspires us to be the change we want to see. Let’s go change the world, Wildcats.
Junior accounting and management major, Maddy Crockett, from Lubbock, TX interned this summer at the corporate headquarters of City Bank, a publicly-traded company in Lubbock, Texas. While there, Maddy worked for the director of the Project Management Office and said, “The internship I held this summer with City Bank went beyond my expectations, and I am incredibly grateful for the experience the company provided me”.
Maddy learned so much during her time at City bank. “Project management within companies has always been fascinating to me, and I was able to learn it first-hand this summer. Over the nine weeks I was with City Bank, I was shown the timeline of a project, both in theory and in practice. I was able to shadow the director of the department in all areas – project implementations, team touchpoints, leadership development, and meetings with department heads and bank executives. I was also given a project of my own to work on, where I communicated with corporate and branch team members to complete a data initiative. The leaders in the Project Management Office showed me real tools to initiate and carry out projects from start to finish.”
Real-world experience with an opportunity to apply what she had learned was invaluable to Maddy. “One of my greatest lessons from this experience was getting to lead a meeting of my own for the director and other members of PMO. I also enjoyed experiencing seeing individuals from all different departments come together to accomplish a project; individuals were chosen to utilize their specific skill sets, and it was encouraging to see that teamwork and cooperation from everyone involved. City Bank is an excellent organization to work for; they treat employees like family, they provide great opportunities for growth, and they execute top-notch service for their customers.”
Maddy felt ready to take on the summer internship saying, “ACU has prepared me to be proactive and professional in this internship, along with being willing to work hard. By our professors encouraging us to be inquisitive and prepared for questions, I was able to learn from my director and peers. COBA has taught me that excellence is worth pursuing, and it is a goal I should seek after in all areas of work.”
Maddy’s favorite thing about being a COBA student is the variety of opportunities the college offers. “I love the learning opportunities COBA provides; nowhere else have I gotten the applicable experience that I have here. Additionally, the relationships we get to have with our professors has been a favorite of mine.”
For those students preparing for an internship, Maddy advises, “Have a teachable attitude, say yes to what is asked of you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Your internship is what you make of it – it can be average, or it can be exemplary. Take advantage of the opportunity your internship provides for you and make it exemplary!”
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!”