Graham Cepica (’21) is a marketing major from Lubbock, TX. Graham recently began an internship with New York real estate developer, Horacio LeDon, where he has been able to receive real-world experience that he can translate to the classroom and his professional career development. When it comes to internships and job searches, networking often plays a vital role in finding the opportunities that will provide the most valuable experience. Initiative, interest, and passion also play a large role in obtaining such opportunities. Graham is a wonderful example of how networking brought him to a once in a lifetime internship opening.
“Last semester, I had the chance to attend the Abilene Young Professionals Summit. In one of the breakout sessions, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer named Tim Smith was speaking. After the panel, I introduced myself to him and got his information. It wasn’t long before I was spending my days downtown shadowing Tim, meeting people, and learning about the exciting developments in store for Abilene. Towards the end of the semester, I approached Tim about a possible internship for the coming spring. Even though he could use a hand with his projects in south downtown, he suggested a better alternative. Tim introduced me to a man by the name of Horacio LeDon, a prominent real estate developer from New York that was a fellow investor in the purchase of the Windsor Hotel. Horacio was the lead developer for the renovation and revitalization of the historic building and was willing to take me on as his intern. Tim recognized that this project would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the experience has been nothing short of exactly that.”
“I would go to my internship every weekday after I got out of class. A typical day looks like me meeting Horacio after lunch and updating him on any upcoming meetings that I have set up for us with different vendors and partners. For example, Abilene companies that sell flags that we want to extend from the balcony, potential businesses that we are interested in for the retail spaces connected to the lobby, interviews with local CPA’s to serve as part-time CFO’s, interior designers that can come alongside us in the project, architects, lighting designers, security services, etc. In addition to meetings, I organize floorplans, inspiration, official documents, and agendas into their corresponding files. Horacio and I have various shared photo albums with inspiration for the Windsor, as well as shared Notes with to-do lists. Sometimes, Horacio has his own meetings that I get to shadow. I have gotten to meet the city manager, chairman of the city council, and others by way of Horacio’s network. Horacio is always mindful of providing me with valuable experience and learning opportunities. The relationship I have with Horacio has been my favorite part of the internship. Due to a mutual respect for one another, we have developed an efficient working environment allowing me to serve the team and be part of a special development for downtown Abilene.”
This project has fueled a desire in Graham to further explore careers in real estate and real estate development. “I am intrigued by the creativity that real estate development presents. The ability to see something with potential and add value to it is something that I have a passion for. I would love to bring this passion into my career – whether I am adding value to a building, a project, or a team of people. But right now, my next best step is to ‘add value’ to this internship with the service I provide.”
The College of Business Administration seeks to provide all students with internship and job search help, professional development coaching, as well as helping students expand their professional network. Graham Cepica is definitely a testament to the power of networking, saying, “The networking opportunities at ACU had a domino effect that led me from one person to the next.”
Interested in learning more about professional development at ACU? Click here to learn more about the Professional Development program offered by COBA. Click here to learn more about ACU’s Career Center.
Christian Guerra speaks to students at a Lunch and Learn event.
ACU’s Career Center, Department of Engineering and Physics, and College of Business Administration worked together to host ACU alumnus Christian Guerra (’06) on January 28th. Christian serves as the Vice President and General Manager Operations for Avanzar Interior Technologies and returned to campus to address engineering, physics, and business students about the career opportunities available in automotive manufacturing. Christian was joined by other Avanzar team members including C.D. Rodriguez, who serves as the Human Resources Manager. Avanzar, an award winning manufacturer located in San Antonio, Texas, is a Toyota Motors production partner who manufacturers the seats for the Toyota Tundra.
The Toyota automotive manufacturing production standards are truly world class and give Avanzar employees the tremendous opportunity to learn best practices and work to produce top of the line products. Christian gave students insights into the internship and career opportunities available with their company as well as the company culture. Guerra was a student worker for former COBA Dean Dr. Rick Lytle when he was at ACU. He shared with students that Dr. Lytle impressed on him the need to be “Christ in the workplace”. Christian said that he puts this lesson into practice every day as he works to lead this family owned business with 1,100 associates in San Antonio and 200 associates in Mexico. He also reflected on his time in LYNAY and Dr. Gary McCaleb’s encouragement to go back to your community and help where you can. Christian took this advice, returned home, and is helping Avanzar provide an excellent work opportunity for employees in his hometown of San Antonio. This same work ethic is exemplified throughout the Avanzar organization. Berto Guerra, founder of Avanzar and ACU Board of Trustee, was honored by EY as the 2015 Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year.
Addressing work challenges through effective teamwork is critical at Avanzar. In their visit to the Engineering Department, the Avanzar representatives had a chance to observe current students working in teams to determine objectives and alternative solutions all while
Engineering, physics and business students were invited to learn about careers and internships with Avanzar.
operating with constraints during their engineering classes. The opportunity to work with ACU engineering, physics and business students aligns with the needs of the manufacturer both with regard to their work ethic and with their Christ-centered focus in the workplace. HR representative C.D. Rodriguez was impressed with the Engineering and Science facilities and enjoyed meeting the professors and students, stating that they will be back later this spring to conduct interviews. COBA looks forward to creating more opportunities for our students as we continue to collaborate with our partners in the ACU Career Center and across campus. To learn more about the ACU Career Center and job and internship opportunities, click here.
Internships matter. That’s what the COBA Professional Development team and the ACU Career Center want to imprint in every student’s mind. According to a 2017 NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition study (click here to read), “Grade point average and the total number of internships a student completed as an undergraduate student are the major predictors of initial career outcomes.” What the study found was that participation in internships in college greatly increased a student’s chances of becoming employed within six months of graduation. In addition to creating better opportunities for employment, internships help students discern what types of careers they want to pursue after graduation. We talked to two students who completed internships this summer to see how their internships impacted them.
Jemimah Wavamunno, junior management major from Kampala, Uganda, interned for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., focusing on public and foreign policy. Her favorite part of the internship was, “Getting to grow alongside interns in my program (National Student Leadership). I feel in the professional work-space, I learned even more about my desired field of postgraduate study – Foreign Policy/ Affairs. Therefore, I have a better understanding of what I want to learn in the future.”
Jemimah’s advice for students who are looking for internships is to keep their options open while applying. “Don’t just search for what might look good on your resume. Look for something that will pertain specifically to you and your journey. Pray over all your offers to choose the right one, and don’t be so downcast over your rejections.”
Luke Stevens, senior marketing major from Montgomery, Texas, interned with Pharos Resources, LLC in Abilene. Luke served as a Retention Intelligence Specialist performing data analytics and visualization tasks. His favorite part of the internship was learning the Tableau software. “It is an amazing
program and will be very useful in any business setting.” Not only did he enjoy acquiring new skills, but Luke sees this internship helping him in the future in large part due to the support he received from the Pharos staff. “Pharos is a great support system, not just a job. The leaders care about you and want you to succeed in your career. Having their support along with the skills that I’ve learned here will propel me into a career of success.” Luke felt as though his largest area of personal and professional growth came from gaining responsibility “to perform tasks that will actually be seen by clients. I never felt an overwhelming fear of making a mistake. Instead, I learned to have a healthy understanding that I must constantly give my best work.”
Luke advises students looking for internships, “Don’t stop looking for internships or making connections. The offer to intern at Pharos came late in my search and it turned out to be better than I could have hoped.”
We spoke with Steph Brown, COBA’s Professional Development Manager, to learn how she is working to get students engaged with her office and prepare them for successful outcomes after graduation. Building on relationships with faculty, the ACU Career Center, and her ten years of experience in counseling, advising, coaching and leadership training, Steph is working to implement a new program that strengthens COBA’s business and technology professional development. The EDGE Professional Development Program (E = Explore, D = Develop a Plan, G = Gain Experience, E = Employment) helps students take intentional steps each semester to prepare for entry into the professional world of work. Steph says, “Intentional professional development planning in college is critical for students to successfully compete for and gain internships and jobs. Students who begin this process their first year of college have significant advantages over students who do not.”
The EDGE Professional Development Program is designed to develop, equip, and connect business and technology students for career success. By utilizing online self-learning Canvas course modules, weekly workshops, one-on-one coaching appointments, and campus resources, students gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience that enables them to compete for internships and jobs. All business majors are encouraged to participate in this professional development program and all technology students have mandated requirements for participation.
Freshmen explore majors and career paths. In their sophomore year, students learn how to manage their professional impressions and create career plans. Each year, students update their resume and create professional portfolios to market themselves to employers. In their junior year, students begin developing professional networks in their industries of choice, learning how to search for, apply to, interview for, and secure internships. As a senior, students expand their networking skills and continue to market themselves professionally. Students also learn strategies to transition from college to the workforce.
COBA’s focus on internship and job preparation through the EDGE program is indicative of the importance placed on the investment that students and parents make in college; an investment of their money, time, and hard work. In the 2017 Job Outlook survey from NACE (click here to read), only 5 percent of employer respondents said that work experience is not a factor when hiring new graduates. The majority of employers are looking to hire college graduates who have completed an internship or gained some kind of work experience while in college. Professional development programs like EDGE and the ACU Career Center, along with internship experiences, accelerate entry-level career opportunities. We think that’s the kind of pay off a college investment should have. Do you have questions about the EDGE program? Email Steph Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a yearlong vacancy in the Professional Manager position in COBA, we’re excited to introduce you to Stephanie Brown, who was hired this summer to fill the post. Steph comes to us with an exceptional resume and a very interesting background as a collegiate and professional volleyball player. As a former athlete, here are Steph’s “stats”.
Steph grew up in Union, Missouri and earned a M.S. in College Counseling. She is married to Clint Brown, who is a Defensive Coordinator for ACU Football and they have one daughter, Ava, who is 11 years old. Their family also includes two German Shorthair pointers, Gunner, who is 14 and Buddy, who is 15 and a half.
In her position as Professional Development Manager for the College of Business Administration, Steph is tasked with orchestrating the Professional Development Program for all Business and Technology students, through teaching, training, coaching, leading, management and partnerships. She is highly qualified for such a large task. Steph worked for more than six years as a Career Coach at South Dakota State University (SDSU), for 3 years as a Professional Academic Advisor with SDSU, and for 2 years as an Academic Success Coordinator with SDSU. Prior to her work at SDSU, she had careers in social work, human resources, non-profit market management, teaching, coaching, counseling, and professional athletics.
We asked Steph what drew her to this work. “I have always known that I would work with people. Building upon an undergraduate major in psychology, I worked in the helping professions. My time spent in Division 1 athletics at the University of Nebraska (volleyball) and then later on the USA Olympic Team and professional athletic career abroad instilled in me a love for coaching people toward positive outcomes. When I went to solidify my Master of Science degree program, I chose college counseling as it was the best fit for my skill sets and career ambitions. I believe that college is such a formative time for students and if they get the right support and guidance, they can make effective decisions that will set them up for success for the rest of their lives.”
Steph may never have landed at ACU but her husband, Clint, interviewed for the Defensive Coordinator job in January of 2019 and Steph came with him on the interview. They were both very impressed with the mission of ACU, the campus personnel, facilities, and opportunities for students. Equally impressive was the family-friendly community of Abilene. The position for the Professional Development Manager was still open and Steph actively pursued applying for the position after she moved to Abilene in April, as it was a great fit for her skillsets and interests.
Steph enjoys working with college students because it’s such a formative period in their lives. “College students’ development happens across so many important domains and critical time frames in life. It is empowering to know that you can guide, coach, teach, and shape this development from a supportive position in their lives and know that you helped them on an aspect of their journey.”
When she’s not working, you’ll most likely find Steph enjoying the outdoors. “Growing up in Union, MO I lived in an area north of the Ozarks full of river convergences where rafting, canoeing, camping, hiking, and exploring were our chosen recreational pursuits. I enjoy service to people and community. If given time, you will find me serving our environment on clean ups like the one I recently did with volunteers at Abilene State Park. I am a dog lover and adopt senior dogs, as they are a pet population that are often overlooked. I enjoy mentoring youth and exposing kids to the outdoor opportunities that can restore them. I also enjoy doing small random acts of kindness. Listening to others’ passions and interests and fulfilling them with small tokens of kindness that match those passions and interests is fun for me. “
Students and new co-workers might be surprised to learn that Steph is a twin. “I have a twin brother named Roger and have two other brothers who are twins, as well (Barry and Brad). I come from a family of seven kids and at 6’2” I am the third SHORTEST in my family. My dream is to thru-hike the AT (Appalachian Trail), a 2,200 trail that runs from Georgia to Maine.”
As a competitive person, Steph has lofty goals and ambitions for her new job. “I want to be an effective Professional Development Manager for our students. I want to help them identify their career strengths, empower them to set and work toward their career goals, and help them gain opportunities as a result of their work. I want students to walk out of my office stronger and more confident in their professional identities than when they walked in.”
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.
Written by junior marketing and art major, Isabella Maradiaga
With over 30,000 members, the American Marketing Association (AMA) is “the essential community for marketers” that offers national conferences, events, and professional training. As marketing continues to play an integral role in the business world, the demand for a similar community has grown in educational institutions. For this reason, AMA now has 390 college chapters and 14,000 student members across North America. Students are joined in collegiate chapters by faculty and staff who share their passion to grow in their field. ACU’s College of Business Administration wishes for students to have the same opportunity to be a part of this association and has officially re-joined this professional association with our own student chapter.
Reagan Morgan (’08), Director of Marketing for PFSweb, discusses marketing and customer service with AMA members
Marketing majors have been looking for real-world experience in their field and the American Marketing Association (AMA) chapter is back on campus, looking to provide opportunities for students to learn and grow. A few years ago, this student organization was very popular for organizing events like branding workshops and working along with faculty to develop marketing plans for the annual AMA International Collegiate Conference where students traveled to join over 1,700 marketers in New Orleans. At this competition, students presented their marketing plans on a case study determined by AMA to compete with other universities. AMA also provided students with the opportunity to have hands-on experiences, participate in networking events, and meet professionals in their field. Last spring, the newly formed AMA officer team hit the ground running to launch the return of this organization. In April, a group of five students led by AMA sponsor and Enrollment & Student Development Manager, Lindsay Palmer, went on a field trip to visit companies PFSweb, LiveArea, and American Airlines. In visiting these organizations, students had the opportunity to learn about the internal procedures that lead to successful marketing decisions and to meet with ACU alumni who are currently serving marketing roles in these companies. Because of the time volunteered by our alums, our students were able to learn about different areas in their field, such as: digital channels, customer loyalty programs, global marketing, channel strategy and customer service.
AMA members meet with Kelly Lytle (’12), Senior Analyst for American Airlines Premium Guest Services
At their visit to the American Airlines office, students were briefed on all of the different loyalty and customer service programs that American Airlines offers as well as having the opportunity to visit the Admiral’s Club, where they were able to observe the importance of the smallest marketing decisions, including things like partnerships with hand soap and printer brands, and how those decisions impact the customer experience.
After such a significant networking and learning experience, AMA’s officer team is working on a plan to provide similar opportunities to all of its members. This student organization wants to encourage students from every major to consider the chance to set themselves apart in the marketplace, gain some digital marketing skills, and enjoy networking events with business professionals. AMA’s President, Kaman Turner, says, “Everyone should be a part of AMA, especially marketing majors. The vast network and real life experiences AMA provides is THE place for young professionals to grow and build their own brand; while also working with others to impact the community and make a difference right now.”
Make sure you check out the ACU student chapter for AMA this fall and start gaining some real-world experience! For questions, contact Lindsay Palmer at email@example.com.