As an Associate Director of Advising and as advisor to Financial Management majors, Kent Akers spends a lot of time talking with students while helping them plan their academic career at ACU. With counseling degrees in psychology (B.S. ’09) and Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT ’11), Kent also helps students with issues like pre-martial counseling, career aptitude, and more. Kent shared a few of his favorite memories with us on this Throwback Thursday.
What was your best memory from college?
My best memory from college was either being at the football game where ACU beat WTAMU 93-68 or playing baseball for Coach Britt Bonneau.
What is your best advice for college students?
My best advice would be to keep your dorm room door open as much as you can. My best friendships in college came from people who would walk through my open door and from the open doors I chose to walk through.
What do you wish you could tell your college self today?
I wish I could tell my college self that doing too many things is not a good thing. Choose a couple of things to be really involved in and do them well. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Assistant Professor of Management, Dr. Sarah Easter (’06) may be in front of the classroom teaching today, but not too long ago she was a student at ACU. In fact, she was a very involved student, participating in Beta Gamma Sigma, SHRM, Leadership Summit, Phi Eta Sigma, Spring Break campaigns, Alpha Kai Omega, Wildcat Week, and was named to Who’s Who and as a University Scholar. She’s got great advice for current students as she reflects on her time at ACU.
What was your best memory from college?
I had a wonderful group of friends as a student at ACU and I have so many fond memories from these years in Abilene – from movie nights complete with a jumbo Tron and stadium style seating in friends’ living rooms to themed parties to playing ultimate Frisbee followed by ice cream club. This was a fun and joyous time and my college friends and I still reflect fondly on our fun memories together.
What is your best advice for college students?
Enjoy the present journey. It passes by all too quickly!
What do you wish you could tell your college self today?
This relates to my advice for college students today above – I tend to be a planner (which can also correspond with being a worrier). I wish I would have learned to be more content in the present and enjoy right where God had placed me in Abilene as a college student rather than continually thinking about what was next after college.
Kelly Jeanne Lytle (’12) is flying high these days. Graduating with a B.B.A. degree in marketing from ACU and a M.B.A. from the University of North Texas, Kelly is using her marketing talents and customer service experience to bring extraordinary customer service at the next level at her position with American Airlines as a Senior Analyst for their Premium Guest Services. Customer service runs in the family. Kelly is the daughter of former Dean and Professor of Marketing, Dr. Rick Lytle and his wife, Jeanne. Dr. Lytle is known for his expertise in the area.
After graduating from ACU, Kelly worked as a Wilberforce Intern with Grace Nelson in Washington, D.C., as an Associate Marketing Manager at Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas, and then as a Business Development and Loyalty Program Account Manager at American Airlines in DFW. All of these experiences have helped shape her work ethic, her ideas, and her faith.
Kelly’s faith in the workplace is important to her. She says that she strives to use faith as the lens that she views all of her decisions, interactions, and the words with which she speaks. She says, “It is the hope I cling to and the rock I stand on. I know that sounds cliché, but in this environment with a politically charged climate, I have to remember who has the final say and who I am ultimately accountable to.”
Young alums often acknowledge the stark difference in their working environment vs. the environment at ACU. Kelly’s experience has been no different. “Leaving the world of ‘hugs and smiles’ at ACU is vastly different in the workplace. You begin to transition to handshakes and learning how to work without constant compliments and reassurance. However, you bring that mentality into your interactions in a professional way and learn that at the end of the day everyone has a story and is human. Give grace to those around you because you don’t know what they may be going through.”
Kelly hosts ACU AMA students
We asked her if she felt she had faced any challenges as a young female in the workplace and if so, what advice she has for other young alums who will likely experience many of the same issues. Kelly said that working with other females has been the most challenging. “I would encourage everyone to stay out of workplace drama. If they are talking to you about others, they are talking to others about you. Try to use your words to build others up, use your time at work to get your tasks done with excellence, assume the best of each other, and don’t rely too heavily on affirmation from your boss or other female leaders. Make sure and keep a healthy line between personal and professional conversation until you feel like that relationship welcomes it and is a trusted confidant.”
Kelly’s time at ACU helped shape the person that she is today. “I wouldn’t trade my time at ACU for anything. Business professors like Dr. Lytle, Dr. Pope, Dr. Phillips, Ms. Brister, and many others taught me that the marketplace is our mission field as business professionals. It is easy to think that because you aren’t a missionary, a pastor, a youth minister, etc., that you do not have a direct impact on the kingdom, but that’s wrong! We have the opportunity to be an influence to everyone we come into contact with that may not go to church. In the gospel of Matthew, we can see Jesus teaching in towns, synagogues, houses, grain fields, boats, and temple courts to name a few. All that to say, I realized at ACU that the marketplace is my mission field and to be excited about the work/people that God can touch through me! What a cool thing!”
Some of Kelly’s favorite ACU memories revolve around being a member of Sigma Theta Chi, participating in Homecoming, playing in rivalry intramural games, and pledging. When asked who her favorite ACU professor was, the answer should not surprise anyone that knows her. “I have to say Dr. Lytle was my favorite professor….I am a little biased ! I was very nervous to have my Dad as the Dean and try to impress all his friends (all my business professors), but I am so thankful I did. I want to be like my Dad when I grow up; making the work environment fun, developing strategy for hard to solve problems, being able to craft a vision for the future, and making his personal interactions count. Like my Dad, I want to leave people feeling special after they talk with me, bringing energy into the room, having an easy laughter that’s contagious, and ultimately seeking God in everything – in the good times and bad. Obviously, I could go on and on, but this man has changed me for eternity and I am so blessed to have learned from him at ACU and every day.”
Kelly advises current students to, “Listen to your professors and ask them questions. They literally have dedicated their life to teach you, so they care a lot and want to help! At ACU, it is super unique in the fact that they want to invest in you, so invite them to your intramural games, go eat at their homes, and sit with them in chapel. I would also encourage you to learn more about how to read through legal contracts and write creative briefs; ask your professors about this and they would be happy to help you. Lastly, for interviews, dress business professional and arrive early; set up a practice run with your professors or Tim Johnston or the Career Center for free coaching.”
She advises incoming freshmen to, “Have fun, buckle up, and cling to friends that seek God in public and private (they may be your best friends for life). Be thankful to whoever is paying for your education or has granted you scholarships. Get involved. Get sleep. Dig deep into Jesus Christ and the opportunities in front of you to learn about him (chapel, bible class, World’s Backyard, Meals on Wheels, etc.).”
Kelly also advises students to use at least one summer for a professional internship and one to spend time in something that creates memories, helps you grow, and that you enjoy. “I was able to work at T Bar M Summer Camps for one summer and then PFSweb for the second summer. Also, study abroad and go to Leadership Summit! I dare you. You won’t be disappointed if your heart is in the right place.”
*The comments mentioned in this blog reflect the beliefs of the interviewee and not those of the company.
The end of the school year brings about the season of awards, recognition and many changes, whether it occurs in elementary school, high school, or college. We’d love to share a recap of our celebrations over the last month as we honored our graduates and their transition into the next chapter of their lives.
MAcc Class of 2019
The Master of Accountancy program holds an annual luncheon honoring their graduates and recognizing an outstanding student. This year’s luncheon, sponsored by Ernst & Young, featured an inspiring speech from 2008 MAcc alum, Dustin Marshall who works as a Senior Assurance Manager with EY in Fort Worth, Texas. He encouraged the graduates not to make working their sole priority but to get involved with a church and develop a support system there, noting that the support of your spiritual family is invaluable in helping you navigate the difficulties that life will inevitably bring to each of us. Lexi Koon, from Arvada, CO, received the Outstanding MAcc Graduate Award for 2019 for her excellent grades, character, and integrity. Of her time at ACU, Lexi said, “The professors, the faculty, and the students have shown me what it is to look at those who are different from me and want to learn from them, to learn how to love them, and to be surrounded by a circle of people who have your back 100%. As I leave ACU, I feel completely supported and surrounded by an extraordinary amount of love and I am thankful.”
You can view and download or order pics of the MAcc luncheon by clicking here.
Business Graduates from the Class of 2019
The COBA Senior Dinner was held on May 10th, giving faculty, staff, grads and their families time to reflect on their years in the College of Business and to recognize outstanding faculty and staff. It’s COBA tradition to have students speak on behalf of their class and to have a parent speak on behalf of the families of the graduates. This year’s speakers expressed their gratitude for their experience in COBA and challenged their peers to integrate their faith into their vocation and personal life.
Dr. Kathy Crockett
Parent speaker, Dr. Kathy Crockett, mom to Calley (’19) an accounting major and Maddy, a sophomore marketing major, said she was, “Grateful for faculty and staff who strive for excellence and also love the Lord. That my daughter is taught by excellent professors living out their faith is incredibly important to us. My husband, Steve, and I are so confident in the curriculum of what Calley learned. She did well in her internship and was offered a full time position, which is another marker of the excellence of the program. We are grateful for the ways the faculty and staff also served Calley. They knew her name, said hello even off campus, assisted with resume and career advice, and also life advice at times when things may have been hard. We hope the faculty and staff will always remember the good you do – in and out of the classroom. We certainly will.”
Student speakers Hanna Roberts (’19), management/marketing major from Corpus Christi, Texas, and Kevin Pantoja (’19), finance/management/accounting major from Roscoe, Texas spoke on behalf of graduating COBA students. Hanna said, “We are grateful for the leadership and examples of character that have been set for us by professors and faculty who became mentors and friends. Most of all, we are grateful for the presence of Christ on this campus and in the Mabee Business Building that fills those within it. We are forever changed for the faith and life that has been poured into us during our time here.”
Kevin added, “It’s important to be thinking of the path you are currently on and asking yourself if it will truly make you happy. In other words, asking, ‘Am I happy with where I am right now?’ and understanding that you can always keep learning and keep pushing yourself to higher standards even after college. I am so thankful to everyone at COBA for helping me to believe in myself and helping me find new opportunities that I would enjoy after graduation. COBA is definitely blessed to have some of the best professors in the business and their compassion has reached every student in more than one way.”
Dr. Jonathan Stewart, Accounting and Finance Teacher of the Year
Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Management Sciences Teacher of the Year
At the end of the academic year, students have the opportunity to show their appreciation for their professors by voting for the COBA Teacher of the Year for Management Sciences and for Accounting and Finance. This year’s winners were Dr. Dennis Marquardt (Assistant Professor of Management) and Dr. Jonathan Stewart (Professor of Finance). Dr. Marquardt said, “Every graduation is special and this one was especially so since several of this year’s graduates started at ACU the same time I did in August 2015. Many students at the senior dinner were in my Introduction to Business courses that very first semester and it has been such a unique privilege to walk alongside them each year until now. These graduates not only worked hard learning skills and abilities worthy of a resume, but it was inspiring to also see them grow in virtues worthy of eternity. Thank you for your hard work and for the ways you challenged and inspired me. As you go from here may you seek God and His ways with all of your being, you will not regret it!”
Tim Johnston, Outstanding COBA Staff Person of the Year
Dean Brad Crisp gave the Staff Person of the Year Award for COBA to Assistant Dean, Tim Johnston. Dr. Crisp said, “Tim offers great mentorship to our students, both professionally and personally. His fingerprints can also be seen in our efforts at professional development and external connections.” Johnston added that, “Each year it is a privilege to meet and thank the parents of our graduating seniors.”
Dr. Katie Wick
The Weathers Fellowship for Outstanding Junior Faculty recognizes an untenured faculty member who shows outstanding potential for the classroom and for research. This year’s recipient was Dr. Katie Wick, who Crisp said, “Has in a very short period of time, re-established a strong stream of research and become a valued colleague.”
Dr. Monty Lynn
The Dean’s Award for Research was awarded to Dr. Monty Lynn, who has recent publications in outlets as diverse as the Journal of Business Education, Journal of Biblical Integration in Business, and Journal of Development Studies in his distinguished research career.
Dr. Andy Little
The Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership was given to Dr. Andy Little for leading the charge of COBA’s accreditation efforts as we successfully navigated another re-accreditation process with AACSB International.
Dr. Brad Crisp
Dr. Terry Pope
Dr. Terry Pope gave a blessing to the students through scripture, encouraging them to stay close to the Lord and lean on Him as they go through life. Dr. Crisp concluded the evening saying, “Students, as you prepare for graduation, know that your relationship with ACU and COBA does not end. We want to continue to be a part of your life, and we want you to be a part of ours. We want to hear from you about your experiences, to encourage you in exploring additional learning opportunities, to provide opportunities for you to financially invest in COBA, to invite you to mentor current students, and most importantly, we want to support you as you discover the places where your faith and business converge.”
Congratulations to the Class of 2019. Go change the world, Wildcats!
Click here to view pics from the dinner.
Phil Garcia graduated from ACU in 1999 with a degree in marketing. We asked Phil to reflect on his time in the College of Business and asked how that shaped his life post-graduation. Phil said, “The most fundamental thing I took away from ACU is my Christian faith. I did not arrive at ACU with a relationship with Jesus Christ, but I was very quickly influenced by the Christian friends and professors who took time to get to know me. Being a Christ follower is core to everything that I do. My faith has allowed me the success I have because I am genuine and ethical with all of my business practices. Both clients and co-workers know that I am real and I care about them outside of our work relationship. I believe many of my professors showed me what humility and authenticity look like by the way they worked with me and lived their lives both on and off campus.”
In his work as a Senior Vice President in investments, he provides professional asset management and consulting for client’s investment portfolios. His clients are business owners, corporate executives, foundations/endowments and retirees and Phil finds great joy in helping clients reach their goals and funding a lifestyle that they’ve grown accustomed to. Phil believes that being a Christian creates positive occasions for him to live out his faith with his work. He says, “It encourages me to be humble, allows me to give grace and mercy to those around me, and creates authentic relationships. Being real and vulnerable with people has opened many doors and created great business opportunities. My authentic relationships have created clients and friendships that have become like family, and much of my business growth can be attributed to referrals from these clients.”
Phil says that students need to know that business is about relationships. “Students should make all the friends and connections they can. Meet board members, trustees, guest speakers on campus, etc. I made the mistake of limiting my interactions with my social club for most of my time at ACU, and that kept me from making many connections that could have helped me in my career. People whom you have a relationship with are more likely to make introductions for you in the business world, and this is what leads to success.”
When reflecting on his favorite memories while at ACU, Phil said that Welcome Week was an incredibly positive experience for him as he was the first in his family to attend college and had some trepidation after moving 8 hours away from home. He said, “I met people that became lifelong friends and eventually led me to finding the Lord my junior year. Pledging Knights introduced me to a great group of men, and some fun experiences like Sing Song and intramurals. We still meet once a year for an annual fishing trip and they provide me with a solid foundation for moral support. They are the true meaning of ‘iron sharpening iron’.”
Phil also says that one of the most significant memories he has was having a private Bible study with Dr. Rick Lytle. He goes on to explain, “His simple invite and desire to take an interest in me has impacted my life forever. We still have an ongoing relationship, and he still plays a significant role in my life. I attribute a large part of my success to that faithful servant of God.”
Phil says that the absolute BEST memory he has from his time at ACU is meeting his wife, Brittney Binder (’00). He says, “She is the backbone of our family, and without her I wouldn’t be who I am today. She wanted to travel the world with her International Business degree, but selflessly gave that up to raise our family, encourage me daily and be there for others.”
Phil advises incoming freshmen to “Make friends with everyone! Do all the activities that you can possibly do….even if they might not sound cool. Be authentic, volunteer, tryout, put your phones down and do life!”
Phil says he didn’t plan on attending ACU. He explains, “ I just want to share about my beginnings…I did not come from a privileged home. No one in my family had ever gone to college, and I had no help or expectations on what I should do. By the grace of God (and some great family friends) I landed at ACU. I had never heard of ACU until the summer after my senior year. On a whim, I applied and was accepted and a month later, I was dropped off at my dorm. I was scared and felt alone. I had no way to pay for school, and I ended up taking out loans for all the years I was there. I feel that in order to understand my success, others need to know my background. Looking back I can see God’s hand in all of this, and I know He had a plan for my life. I am forever grateful for my time at ACU and the path it paved for my life!”
Meet Jonathan Rugamba, one of our newest COBA alumni. Jonathan graduated on Saturday, May 12th, with a double major in accounting and finance. After graduation, he will be returning to his hometown of Kigali, Rwanda. His goal is to build up an equity firm within the next 10 years through which he can channel as many job opportunities as possible for the people of Rwanda.
Rugamba will be creating the start-up with a team of 5 of his “fellows” back home. Three of the team members build software and the other teammates will work to find clients to purchase the software. He said the start-up is still struggling to get off the ground but they hope for the best in the future. When asked how being a Christian will mold his work with co-workers and clients, Jonathan said that “I think most of my Christian values of love and unity will be vital in forming a strong team bond.”
When asked how the education and experiences at ACU and in COBA have helped him prepare for life after graduation, Jonathan stated, “Future is always the future, we can only guess at what it truly holds. We may feel prepared but we can’t certainly be sure. However, I have really gained a lot of knowledge, and that is the best preparation in my opinion. Knowledge never expires but grows.” One of Rugamba’s favorite experiences while in COBA was his time in STAR (the Student Trading and Research class) because it most mimicked the reality of the business world.
Rugamba’s advice to current students who want to follow this same type of work is to find your strength and remember that this is a never-ending journey. He advises incoming freshmen to “Have an end-in-mind, work towards it, love people and try to find the best in them. However, you are the best judge for yourself so the challenge lies in your hands. And above all strive to make sure that one day you will live your dream.”