Written by special contributor Lance Fleming
It hasn’t taken long for Regi and Jasmine McCabe-Gossett to ingrain themselves into the community of Abilene. The two ACU graduates – Regi in 2009 and Jasmine in 2010 – have become a vital part of the fabric of the city, each serving on boards and committees to help direct the future of Abilene, and each helping charities, foundations, and businesses in the city raise money.
Yet despite having spent the last three-plus years as the Donor Services Director for the Community Foundation of Abilene, something was drawing Jasmine back “home” to ACU. And that draw is why she returned to campus this summer, leaving the Community Foundation to become the new Professional Development and Internship Director in the College of Business Administration.
“I’ve always had a connection to ACU; it’s where I earned my undergraduate degree, where I met the love of my life, and where I started my professional career,” she said. “Over the years, my involvement with COBA has continued to grow and evolve having served as a guest speaker, sat on the COBA Alumni Visiting Committee, and even teaching classes as an adjunct professor. Working with and teaching students has always been a sweet spot for me.”
But it wasn’t until she was in the process of interviewing for the new role that she truly understood that she was being called back to ACU.
“During the interview process, I unearthed Welcome Week pictures from my freshman year and felt a rush of emotions,” Jasmine said. “There were so many amazing experiences during my time at ACU that ultimately impacted the trajectory of my professional career.”
“I am forever grateful to those that invested their time in me sharing candid advice, empowering me to think outside of the box, and inspiring me to explore a career I never knew existed,” she said. “I am excited to serve and share key insights with COBA students as they prepare for this next season of their professional lives.”
And so, she finds herself back on campus, back in the building where she worked toward her Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources Management, and back where she launched a career that has seen her go from Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas to Hendrick Medical Center to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital to the Community Foundation. Each of those stops – where she’s done everything from human resources to writing business service plans to the creation of leadership and development programs to helping raise millions of dollars – has helped shape who she is as she begins her work at ACU.
At ACU, she will be executing the professional development program, directing all aspects of the internship program, and will serve as a member of the Holistic Student Development Team. She’ll truly be helping shape the futures of students each year.
“This job is truly the convergence of all the things I am passionate about: building relationships, coaching, mentoring, and teaching,” Jasmine said. “I’m looking forward to helping center COBA as an epicenter for top new graduate talent. I am also looking forward to building a pipeline for COBA alumni to connect with and mentor undergraduate students.”
“I can certainly attribute much of my career success to those that came before me and made a concerted effort to pay it forward,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the ripple effect that will continue after students graduate from COBA.”
Neither she nor her husband, Regi, are from Abilene. However, they decided to stay in the city after graduating from ACU and have taken their love of the community and turned themselves into a powerful team. Jasmine currently serves on eight boards, while Regi has served on six boards and in 2020 was named one of Abilene’s Top 20 Under 40.
“The decision we made to put down roots here has been both motivating and rewarding,” Jasmine said. “Serving on nonprofit boards, in our church, etc., allows us to actively contribute to the exciting changes we want to see. We are honored to serve however we can.”
And it’s that heart for service and the love of building key connections that Jasmine hopes to pass on to the students she’ll be guiding at ACU.
“Much of my career has centered on building key connections both in the community and within organizations,” Jasmine said. “I’ve had the opportunity to both connect employee candidates to career opportunities they desire and philanthropists to community causes they are passionate about. Maintaining this theme of connection, the intersection of my experiences will allow me to connect students to career opportunities while also sharing key insights with students eager to learn how to authentically live out their faith in the workplace and beyond.”
COBA is excited to have Jasmine at the professional development helm. To learn more about the College of Business Administration and professional development, click here.
Clay Development Partners Reagan Brown, Shane Seabolt, and Heath Beasley
COBA alums Heath Beasley (’16) and Reagan Brown (’19) are working to make their communities more connected places to live. Brown and partner, Shane Seabolt, founded Clay Development Partners, while Beasley joined their team shortly after. Clay Development Partners is a Dallas/Fort Worth-based real-estate development company focused on the single-family build-to-rent sector of the housing and rental markets. Their mission is “focusing on what it means, and what it takes, to build a true sense of community.” The company strives to “create communities that are designed to promote a true sense of belonging and encourage daily neighborly interactions.”
They recently came to campus to speak with students in the Griggs Center’s CEO (College Entrepreneur’s Organization) weekly chapel about their real estate startup, sharing with students the reason for starting this particular kind of company, how they got started, as well as their previous work experience and how that helped them in this current endeavor. They also gave students a glimpse into their daily work life and how it is very different than what they’d imagined they’d be doing when they were ACU students themselves.
Beasley, with an undergraduate degree in accounting and a Master in Accountancy (’17), serves as the CFO of Clay Development Partners. He previously worked as a CPA for PricewaterhouseCoopers and for a year as the Development Officer for the ACU Athletic Department. Brown, who majored in accounting and finance, serves as President of Clay Development Partners having gained experience in the real estate market as a broker for Moriah Real Estate Company in Midland, TX and as a Development Associate for Republic Property Group in Dallas, TX. We asked Heath and Reagan to share a little about their work experiences and how their time at ACU influenced how they live out their own faith and the company’s mission with the people they come into contact with.
How does your faith impact your work?
Heath: I am reminded of God’s grace every single day I am in the office. When challenges arise in the workplace, my faith reminds me that He is in control. Our core job at CDP is to build neighborhoods and communities that are welcoming and accepting; we also believe this is our call as Christians. While we may fall short of this often, we strive to represent Christ in the way we carry out business.
Reagan: It has a huge impact. Every project we develop is focused on bringing people together. We try to design our projects in a way that allows the residents daily opportunities to connect and create meaningful relationships with one another. Ultimately, this opens the door for our residents to experience a kind of genuine fellowship that God wants for us.
Were there any big surprises when you entered the working world after college?
Heath: Honestly, there were not many surprises coming out of school as COBA did a wonderful job preparing me for the working world. However, I will say the biggest challenge when entering public accounting is getting used to the ever-changing work schedule. Some weeks I could work up to 80 hours while others I could work only 20. All the work can be taught and learned over time; however, I don’t think anyone every really gets used to the long hours. The long hours do pay off though as those years prepared me for the role I am in today.
Reagan: The world moves quickly, and it doesn’t slow down. I remember a professor at ACU that used to say “Time is money.” I didn’t think about it very much, but I do now.
How did your time at ACU shape your future?
Heath: ACU shaped my future because it provided me with relationships that will last a lifetime. It is rare for me to go a full week without connecting with at least one ACU alum in some form or fashion. Sometimes we are trying to do business together and other times someone is providing me insight and guidance. ACU is an incredible place, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to attend. Without ACU, I would not be doing what I am doing today.
Reagan: While I would like to say I was an incredible student, I was incredibly average (ask my professors). When I think back on my time at ACU it was the relationships that carried the most weight. I connect and reconnect with ACU alumni on a weekly basis, many of whom were critical parts of us starting our company.
What advice would you give to current students to prepare them for their future? What should current students take advantage of while on campus to prepare for their future?
Heath: My advice and what to take advantage of are the same. While still on campus, meet and connect with as many ACU students as you can. For me, these friends were in my wedding, have given me dental advice, have represented my wife and I as we bought our first home, have travelled the world with me, have provided me insight and guidance on how to make strategic decisions, and have also partnered with me in business. Most importantly, I married one those incredible people I met while at ACU.
Reagan: Invest in relationships. Obviously, the coursework is crucial to your degree, but the relationships you invest in during your time at ACU will prove to be more valuable than anything else.
What is your favorite ACU memory?
Heath: It is tough to pick one, but I remember going on a road trip my sophomore year to play baseball against Arizona State and Arizona. It was memorable because we played in the last game at Arizona State’s historic Packard Stadium. The crowd was huge for the game, and it felt special to be a part of history. Later in that same trip we ended up beating the University of Arizona in Tucson, this was our first win against a power conference in our first year of being a Division I program. We did not win a lot while I was there so that win will always stick out to me as a great memory.
Reagan: Galaxy Sing Song (Sweep Song) 2019
Did you have a favorite professor? If so, who were they and why were they a favorite?
Heath: It is tough to pick one as all of them impacted me in a positive way. Dr. Little taught me how to not take things too seriously and how to identify the aspects of a business I should really focus on. Professor Fowler gave me real life examples of how companies apply accounting principles and standards. Dr. Stovall taught me how to operate a company ethically and to always do right even if it is not necessarily the easy route. Dr. Golden’s marketing class was the most fun I’ve had in a classroom. Dr. Taylor spoke about scripture with a conviction I have heard from few others.
Reagan: Professor Fowler was my favorite. Fowler once told me, “Someday you are going to be sitting in a meeting with your boss. Your boss will say, ‘Someone needs to go get some coffee.’ For the first few years of your career, your name is Someone.” Paying your dues early is important. I never forgot that.
What would you say to a prospective student who was trying to decide if they should attend ACU?
Heath: ACU is a place for people to stand out and to have a more personal education. The smaller classes give you a better opportunity to learn and interact with your professors while also making it easier to connect with your classmates as you all work through the same course track. I had classes with the same core group from my freshman year all the way through the graduate program. We all got comfortable studying together, encouraging one another, and learning from each other. ACU has a culture perfectly suited for someone who is looking to surround themselves with students/professors who will make them better.
Reagan: You won’t find a more well-connected community than ACU. I have various childhood friends who attended larger state schools, and they are consistently amazed at the amount of people I am able to connect with because of my time at ACU. It is a special place.
The vison of the College of Business Administration is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. As Heath and Reagan strive to live out that vision in their company, with the communities they are working to build and connect, and in giving back of their time and advice to current ACU students, we see that vision lived out in them. We’re thankful for alumni who seek to serve the world around them and make it a better place. As we tell our students, “Go change the world, Wildcats!”
When Carlee (Finkelstein ’14) Pruden graduated from ACU with a degree in marketing, she wasn’t exactly sure what the future held. But, as they often do, an internship led to her future career. After interning for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas post-graduation, Carlee has now been with the company for almost 8 years holding various roles in marketing, merchandising, and most recently as a merchant. As a merchant for tortillas, Tex-Mex, and salsa, she is responsible for selecting great-tasting items, negotiating the lowest costs, and giving the customers what they want and need in stores and online. Pruden furthered her studies at John Brown University graduating in 2016 with a Master in Business with a focus on International Business. She’s used her experience in retail to join in a class project for the past three semesters with Dr. Jennifer Golden.
Carlee assists and critiques students throughout the 7-week period of the accelerated course by working with Dr. Golden to create projects centered around her day-to-day duties as a merchant. These projects require students to think critically about who Walmart’s customer is, how to make their shopping experience valuable, and Walmart’s overall mission and goals.
This rare in-class opportunity has allowed students to gain insight into corporate marketing strategy and tactics and learn how these concepts relate to one of the largest employers in the world. Because of incredible alumni like Pruden, who give up their time to help educate students with real-world experiences, ACU’s College of Business continues to thrive. One member of the class said, “The fact that someone as successful as Carlee willingly sacrifices her time to teach us about what she does sets the example for future generations of graduates from ACU.” They continue, “Though this class is extremely fast-paced due to the nature of an accelerated course, it has shaped me professionally in ways I didn’t even think possible. I love that we can see what we learn be implemented in a real business environment.”
Carlee also benefits from the partnership with the class, saying, “Working with students is always a great reminder to always be learning. There are concepts they are being taught now that were not covered when I went through school, like digital marketing, that are critical to success in the workplace today. Students have taught me about upcoming technology ideas that can be applied in real time in my career.”
The seed for this classroom partnership was planted 10 years ago when Pruden was a student in Dr. Golden’s Introduction to Marketing course. Golden’s passion for teaching students about marketing sparked a desire to learn as much as possible for Pruden and many of the students in the class. Now, Golden and Carlee enjoy a friendship and mentoring relationship that has changed each of their lives for the better. Carlee says, “I am the career professional, wife, and woman I am today due to my time at ACU and my relationship with Dr. Jennifer Golden. When you sit back and watch Jennifer love God and love others it’s contagious. We have spent countless hours chatting about career life or family life, but at the end of the day, she always reminds me that our purpose in this world is to love God and love others.”
Golden’s example of loving God and loving others has spurred Pruden to action. Several years after graduating, Carlee realized that part of her passion for the community and serving others was not being completely filled by her job or other activities that she was a part of. To fill that void, she began getting involved with local non-profits and volunteering her time and talents to their causes. She has also been a part of Walmart’s Fight Hunger, Spark Change program for the past 5 years. As part of the campaign, Walmart has donated 7 billion pounds of food to Feeding America and their food bank network. In addition to her various philanthropic efforts, Carlee and her husband have 2 dogs, Barklee and Boone, and enjoy spending their time outside riding bikes, hunting, fishing, or trail riding in their side-by-side.
The College of Business Administration’s vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Alumni like Carlee Pruden are walking, talking, real-life examples of that vision come to life as they inspire the next generation of COBA students.
While many students long for the excitement of faraway places, you don’t have to look far from home for a valuable internship. For junior business management major Berkley Bruckner, this was exactly the case. Located in her hometown of Amarillo, TX, Fairly Group gave her the opportunity to enhance her career development, prepare her for difficult hiring scenarios, and strengthen her confidence in both decision-making and communications with like-minded professionals. The Fairly Group is a risk consulting firm advising clients throughout the United States and in over 100 countries in several business segments including corporate risk, human capital and benefits, and a broad array of risk consulting specialties. They are also the largest insurance broker in the Texas Panhandle.
Berkley was able to intern alongside the HR Director and learn first-hand the daily processes of human resources. “I was mainly a part of the hiring process for Fairly group and their sister company Occunet. I would look at resumes people would send in to the company website or I would go to Indeed and look for potential people to hire. I would also schedule interviews with the HR director and had the opportunity to sit in on the first initial phone interview with prospective job candidates.” This enabled her to put into practice what she had been learning about hiring new employees, including bias-free interviewing processes. Berkley also was included in a workshop that helped her gain more perspective on empathy for her co-workers.
“I participated in a workshop while interning for this company and it was one of the greatest lessons I learned. It was about having an outward mindset and how to always try and take into consideration the people around us. Even if we have conflicts or get frustrated with our coworkers, we never know what they are going through so we should try and be open minded and empathetic towards them and not try to retaliate against them.” Not only did Berkley learn about the strategic and logistical processes of working in Human Resource Management, she was also able to gain insight on the relational side of working with and for other people.
Like many other companies, the pandemic has been an agent of change for the workplace for the Fairly Group. This gave Berkley the opportunity to be in an in-person work environment while learning how to include and be intentional with the company’s remote employees. “I would say that almost 25% of the company was working virtually, and this was an initial challenge to work collaboratively with them and stay in contact, but I grew in this area tremendously.”
Berkley’s experiences in COBA prepared her to take on the workload of this internship through purposeful classes, connections with faculty and staff, and her involvement with the ACU Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. In addition to COBA classes, she has been involved in Freshmen Follies, Sing Song, Delta Theta, and has been a mentor group leader for Wildcat Week. Her involvement on campus gave her the practice she needed to connect with future employers. She advises future interns to “try and get to know as many people as you can in the company you intern for and connect with them on LinkedIn. They could be great connections to have in the future when you go into your career and pursue bigger opportunities.”
Through her internship, Berkley was able to put into action the lessons she has learned in the classroom and through her SHRM on how to recruit potential job candidates, communicate effectively with co-workers, and step outside of her comfort zone to further develop her leadership qualities. And not only did she gain invaluable experience in a work environment very new to her, she was able to spend the summer in her hometown – the best of both worlds. If you are a student looking for help with an internship or job preparation or searches, contact COBA’s Professional Development Manager, Steph Brown at email@example.com.
Destanie Crist, senior financial management major from Valley Center, CA, hit the ground running when she stepped foot on the campus of ACU. She quickly became involved on campus and is active in leadership roles for multiple student organizations and currently serves as the fund manager for STAR (Student Trading and Research). This past summer, Destanie interned for J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in Irvine, CA where she was able to learn about a variety of roles at the organization. “During my internship, I was trained in four rotations under the Commercial Real Estate Bank division. Each week I would hear from a variety of executives and senior managers about their line of business whether it was Treasury Services or Commercial Term Lending. After my training, I was given a specific case study where I had to take everything that I learned and apply it to a presentation, loan decision, and underwriting process. At the end of that week, I had to present the final decision that I made alone or with a team to a group of senior executives. The final two weeks were immersion weeks where I conducted real loans and sat with sales teams. I also had many networking opportunities where I learned from people both inside and outside of the commercial bank and made some really sweet friends.”
The internship experience was valuable for many reasons. Destanie said, “The people I met, connections I made, and friends developed over this summer were by far my favorite part. JPMC and specifically the Irvine office has some of the most incredibly hardworking and driven people I have ever met. The immersion weeks where we worked with real clients and finally got to put all that training to the test was truly fulfilling. I pitched an idea to improve one of the processes in the bank with a few other interns and spent most of my internship working on that idea with a senior executive who I respect and greatly appreciate to bring this project to life!”
With so many great experiences to choose from, we asked Destanie what the greatest lesson she had learned was. “Be yourself, always work hard even when nobody expects you to, and talk to everyone and anyone you can regardless of their title because you can learn from them.” Destanie made it a goal to always put these principles into action. She went the extra mile to help herself stand out from the crowd and encourages future interns to do the same. “Whether it was showing up to work 20 minutes early to make sure all the technology was working for the day, staying late to help with community service projects, organizing meetings with my peers to complete case studies, and setting up Zooms to learn more about different parts of the bank and its people. I was blessed to be able to work closely with analysts and executives who taught me their ways and asked for my feedback or ideas for improvement. It was a huge eye-opener and it allowed me to see how much JPMC cares about each employee and values their ideas or improvement suggestions.”
Internships provide students with opportunities to not only learn about potential future careers but also to reflect on how to improve their skills at graduation. “This experience has shaped a lot of my mentality and approach to jobs or tasks in the future. It opened my eyes to the fact that people who are in more senior roles than you truly care about you and see the potential we hold as the younger generation for the advancement of the future. It also pushed me to understand the greater importance of work-life balance and the emphasis people must place on it to maintain their best selves. I would also say it taught me to not be afraid of speaking up and sharing ideas I have that could potentially help better a process or the firm as a whole. It is a strong foundation that has allowed me to learn a variety of skills and meet incredible people that I can turn to if I ever need help or a suggestion.”
Internships offer students a great foundation for their future careers through exploration, experience, and connections as well as stretching them both personally and professionally. “A lot of growth happened during my internship. I would say professionally I feel more prepared to graduate. Learning the fundamentals in school is crucial; however, after working in this internship over the summer, I would argue to say having experience by working a summer job or internship in the profession you are interested in allows you to see the purpose and gift of college to a greater extent. My faith was challenged and encouraged. I was able to share God and love with others around me in a respectful and caring way while also being encouraged by others in the workplace who know the Lord. Overall, I think the most growth happened in myself and developing who I am as Destanie both inside and outside of the office.”
Destanie was offered a full-time position as a Commercial Real Estate Analyst at JPMC and will be working for the company after graduation. She feels that her time at ACU prepared her for this internship and career through her experience as a leader in various clubs, class presentations, and intentionally getting to know each person in the process. Destanie encourages any student who is thinking about participating in an internship to “first and foremost remember who God is. Remember that regardless of your background, financial status, GPA, or college you are attending God can and will do great things through you. You must trust Him by taking that leap of faith or chance and putting your best foot forward. I applied to a variety of firms both big and small. God is the one who opens the doors and shuts them. He blessed me with this internship and a full-time offer. I put in the work of filling out resumes and cover letters and researching companies that fit the mission I wanted to be a part of. He was the one to open the door and help me through the intensive process to this job!”
Students who are interested in having an internship experience like this one or who would like help preparing for their job search can contact Steph Brown, COBA’s Professional Development Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt and Brittany Deeg
COBA is excited to add Dr. Matt Deeg to the faculty this year as Assistant Professor of Management. Deeg will be teaching Organizational Behavior and Compensation & Benefits Management this semester and will teach leadership and other HR/Management-focused courses. Matt earned his B.A. in Social Sciences and Organizational Studies from the University of Oklahoma, M.Ed. in Adult/Higher Education Administration from the University of Oklahoma, and Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management from University of Kansas with a research emphasis in meaningful work and why people choose to support one another in times of stress. Deeg also worked in student development for 5 years, mentoring and providing leadership development to students and organizations.
Matt and his wife, Brittany, are originally from Duncan, Oklahoma and Toledo, Ohio respectively. “We met when we were both working on the student development side of university life (separate schools). She excels at thinking deeply about any number of topics (probably why we mesh well!) and making them accessible to almost any audience. Her patience and love for others inspires me constantly.” Matt would like to introduce his pets as well, “Panther (the special one whom I bottle-fed from 1 week), Tippy (his ornery brother), and their dog brother Chase (who inspired all of Paw Patrol).” We asked Dr. Deeg a few questions so we could get to know him a little better.
Deeg was drawn to the work of teaching as he’s always been inquisitive. “I’ve always been curious about how things work and why. Growing up, I was a voracious reader and curious kid who just wanted to know stuff. In my undergraduate studies, I explored a whole lot of different majors (engineering to geology to math, and then some). I finally found my groove in the social sciences, exploring what makes people ‘tick’. The drive to become a teacher came from the influence of several faculty members who demonstrated great curiosity in subjects and exceptional care for their students. I put the Ph.D. on hold for a little while to figure out exactly what I wanted to study, and it was in the intervening time that I realized how much I loved helping students explore and develop skills that they can use throughout their lives (at work and in their communities). About 4 years into my career, I realized how influential someone’s work can be to their whole life; from there, it was easy to make that choice to focus on OB/HRM. This work truly is an incredible gift; I get to wake up each day and continue to learn new things and share what I’ve learned and am learning with others!”
Deeg was drawn to teach at ACU because he felt like it was in alignment with his own priorities. “In OB (Organizational Behavior) we talk about person-organization fit, the match an individual feels between their values and the values of a specific place. I’ve worked at a wide range of universities, from large state schools to very small liberal arts institutions. I was always attracted to places where the students came first and their successes were celebrated. So, ACU was a natural fit in that regard. But, even more so, when I was going through the job search process, ACU stood out so strongly because the values that are talked about here (love for God, for others, and for impacting the world) are the same values that I hold. The way that faith is celebrated, prized, and woven throughout an exceptional academic experience is such a gift. There was such a good match, and I was instantly drawn to the opportunity to bring my whole self to work.”
Matt loves teaching and interacting with students. “My main life purpose is helping people thrive and positively impact others; as a professor, I get the opportunity to teach (and hopefully inspire) students to go out and make a difference in others’ lives. In my college career, I had an incredible mentor named Kevin who helped me grow in my relationship with God and as a student leader. He inspired me to lean into my work with college students, and I’m so grateful for a role that allows me to continue to pay forward the impact so many professors and mentors have had in my life. College is a time when you’re still learning and have a lot of freedom to make mistakes; being a participant in this ‘life lab’ with students as they figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to serve the world feeds my spirit.”
Outside of teaching, you’ll most often find Matt in the kitchen or the workshop. “Brittany and I both enjoy cooking, especially cuisines we’re not super familiar with. We’ve been cooking our way through an Asian cookbook (using my outdoor wok burner ) and recently got a cookbook of recipes from 8 countries in east Africa that we’re excited to try. I really enjoy woodworking – building lamps, desks, and the occasional dog food bowl holder. To relax after work, I also enjoy playing classical music on the piano.”
Deeg is looking forward to making a positive impact in his new position. “I’m excited to help students as they prepare to do good work wherever their life takes them – building relationships with students in class and outside of it so they have resources to draw on as they move through life. I’m looking forward to working more closely with students to do research on stress and support; the research process is such an invigorating experience full of learning opportunities. And, I’m hoping to bring my own research (on support and meaningfulness in life) into classes, either through class sessions on these topics or through honors colloquia. Additionally, I’m hoping to build strong relationships with our local business leaders to find more opportunities for our students to get practical experience.”
We’re looking forward to the ways in which Dr. Deeg will positively impact COBA students and the COBA team. Be sure to introduce yourself to Matt and Brittany as you see them on campus and in our community as we welcome them to ACU.