“Harmonizing Work and Faith” Faculty Research

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!”

 

Autumn Flanders Intern Highlight

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”.

“Why I Teach” with Monty Lynn

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.

 

“Why I Teach” with David Perkins

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.