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.
Karson Tutt, senior management major from Tuscola, Texas is a busy young entrepreneur. In addition to finishing her college courses, she is president of the Founders Club (part of the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy) and the owner of Karson’s, a jewelry and clothing boutique in downtown Abilene. Tutt began her business making jewelry that she sold online and to friends. In 2020, that small business expanded into a storefront with seven employees. Karson quickly experienced success in her new venture and saw an opportunity to start a new project that not only helped her own business but also helped other budding entrepreneurs. The Commons is a space connected to Karson’s that allows small businesses to set up a retail shop and have a chance to grow without the long-term contract and overhead fees normally associated with owning your own business or renting a space. The Commons features nine small businesses, two of which are run by current ACU students. Karson said that she was inspired to open this space because of a kindness that she was given when she was just starting out. “When I was in high school, my friend’s grandma let me do something similar in the front of her furniture consignment shop. She tracked all of my sales and checked everyone out, but I managed the inventory and advertising.” Having been inspired by Karson’s own experiences, she hopes the venture will benefit the vendors in many ways. “I am hoping it not only helps them make more sales but also gives them more exposure to customers who may not have known who they were before coming to The Commons. Between those 9 businesses and myself, we are encouraging tons of people from all different demographics to come to one place to shop.“
Being a highly involved ACU student and owner of two businesses, one might think that Tutt has her plate full managing both Karson’s and The commons but she says it’s gone well thus far. “It has been surprisingly smooth! There are a few things I wish I would’ve done before we opened (ex. signage outside, more social media content, etc.), but I can still get it done! All of the vendors have been so nice and are doing a great job with their booths.“
Karson received funding through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy when she won the Springboard Student Venture Competition in 2020. She credits COBA and the Griggs Center in helping her throughout her entrepreneurial journey saying, “They have given me an amazing community of like-minded business people. I love leaning into that community and I know even after I graduate that my friends and professors will be people who I can reach out to if I ever need it. I also won a pitch competition in April that helped fund my store. Getting that money helped me solidify my decision to open the store in the first place.“
Hearing about Karson’s vision for The Commons made us curious about what this opportunity is like for the ACU students who are able to participate in this new concept so we asked them a few questions to learn more about their experience.
Melissa Huffines is a junior youth and family ministry major from Abilene, Texas. Her business, Sideline Social Club, primarily provides fashionable purple and white game day clothing. She was inspired to start her business when talking with a former manager about her future dreams. That manager was able to help her start Sideline Social Club. One of Melissa’s biggest goals in being a part of The Commons is to learn how to manage a storefront as a college student. Melissa has already learned one lesson from the experience in determining which products sell the best and which products shouldn’t make the cut. She said, “It helped me see how beneficial a storefront is!”
Maddie Rogers, a sophomore graphic design major from Abilene, Texas runs a business called Oh So Sunny that sells products consisting mainly of stickers and apparel. “I design and create products that send a message of joy, sunshine, and hope.” Maddie started her business in high school when she made a sticker to commemorate her acceptance into ACU. The “Scratch ‘Em Cats” sticker spiked her interest and led Maddie to design new creations. Rogers has learned a lot from being a part of The Commons. “I’ve learned how important it is to network and put yourself out there in order to succeed. Being at The Commons has also helped me meet so many other small business owners in Abilene and helped me find a support system through the many trials that come with this crazy endeavor!” The space has given Maddie the chance to help her business grow. “This opportunity has helped me reach new customers I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise! It also helped me see what the experience would be like to own my own store if I ever wanted to. Karson has really utilized her talent and taught me what hard work looks like. I truly don’t know how she does it!”
COBA seeks to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Karson Tutt is living out that vision and helping her fellow entrepreneurs along the way before she’s even walked the stage at graduation. If you’d like to learn more about opportunities for students like Karson through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, click here.
The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, located in COBA, founded the Springboard Student Venture Competition to support the growth of ACU undergraduate and graduate student businesses and nonprofit organizations. Winners receive one-time funding from $500 – $3,000.
In order for the students to be able to compete in front of the Springboard judging panel, the students must be enrolled at ACU, must own at least 51% of their venture, and must be engaged in entrepreneurial activities such as the Founders Club, a student venture club led by Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator in the Griggs Center. Awards are based on the panel’s assessment of the potential of the business and the “spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the student(s)”. Students come prepared with a 3 – 4-minute speech and the necessary financial reports for their business. Each student receives feedback on their presentation/business model and a chance to compete again in the next competition for those who are not awarded funding in the current competition. This year, the students gave their pitch to three local business owners via video chat.
A.J. Brown, senior management major from Midland, Texas won this round of competition receiving a total of $3,000 to put towards his business, Southern Sno Shaved Ice.
We asked Brown about his business and how he got started. “Southern Sno is a mobile shaved ice trailer in Midland. We have a location that is open daily during the summer, while also catering to events/parties with an outfitted gas-powered cart that we like to call the ‘Jolly Trolley’. We pride ourselves on being the fastest shaved ice drive-thru in town, with the nicest employees. Our sno-cones have fun and unique flavors with the softest ice.”
One thing that unites many of the Founders Club members is how they got started. Each student has a unique story, but they could all agree that they put themselves out there and went for what they wanted to achieve. “During my freshman year of college, I changed my major to business after the first semester. Because of that, I was looking for something that I could do in the summer that could teach me about business while still getting to hang out with my friends. Options were limited because it had to be a seasonal business, so that is where the idea of sno-cones came into play. I used the money I saved up from a mobile car detailing business I ran in high school and hit the ground running!”
We love hearing Brown’s story and his inspiration to create his own work experience based on what he has been learning in COBA. From beginning his business to winning the competition, we asked Brown what he learned from the experience. “The competition was a great experience for me. It gave me a reason to step back, analyze what things I have done well, and what things I need to improve on. I also loved the experience of having to come prepared and confident about presenting my business in front of a group of successful entrepreneurs. I am very grateful for the Griggs Center and all that it does!”
Now that Brown has won, he says, “In all that I do with this business, I want to go about it in a smart and professional manner. I have heard of many companies that scale too fast and it ends up hurting them. My dream is to expand Southern Sno into other cities in Texas. But for now, I am focused on mastering the operations in Midland. At Southern Sno, everything is made in-house: syrups, ice, etc. The last two years I have been very blessed to be able to use a commercial kitchen from a group in Midland. I have realized that this isn’t a great long-term solution for scaling the business. So, with the money I have won from the competition, I will outfit the small warehouse that Southern Sno leases from a group in Midland. This allows me to have all of the supplies, ice, syrups, and trailers all in one place which really helps operations. Once we master that, we will look to move forward with possibly expanding into other markets.”
Owning a small business during COVID-19 has proved to be a difficult task for business owners all across the nation. We asked Brown what it has been like to continue operations as a young entrepreneur. He told us, “COVID-19 brought about some crazy instances. The first crazy thing we had to deal with was on our ‘Opening Day’ that we had been advertising for over a month. Thirty minutes before opening, the owner of the lot we were using called and said we could not be there. So that was a mess, but we recovered and ended up finding a great location. I would say the main thing that we had to change was we completely pivoted into a drive-thru only location. Before, people could only walk up. The drive-thru actually created a quicker and more efficient way for us to get cars in and out, and it showed in our daily revenue. The biggest downside we faced was that our business was hurt with not really being able to do many events throughout the summer. The year before that was our primary source of income. We are hoping to increase both of those streams of revenue this next summer, hoping that Covid calms down!”
Congratulations to A.J. Brown for all of his hard work and accomplishments that have led him to this point in his entrepreneurial journey. We look forward to seeing his continued growth as an entrepreneur as he continues to learn and expand his business.
You can check out Southern Sno Shaved Ice here!
When Sarah (Hailey) Bacon (‘13) graduated with an undergraduate degree in accounting and then with a MAcc degree in 2015, she likely did not imagine that she would become the Vice President, Accounting Officer at First Financial Bankshares, Inc. at such a young age. Sarah’s passion for numbers, her diverse background in accounting, and the pull of being close to family all had a hand in shaping her future career path.
During her time at ACU, she worked in the COBA Dean’s office as a student employee and also held a job as a controller for a local insurance agency. Bacon was able to apply many of the principles she was learning in both her undergraduate and graduate classes during this time. She also gained a firm understanding of the business world which she says helped tremendously at her first post-graduation job in public accounting as an auditor at a firm in Dallas. “I could relate to clients having been one myself. Ultimately, the combination of industry and audit experience lead me to my current position with First Financial.”
In early 2018, Sarah and her husband Michael (’12) decided they wanted to move back to Abilene to be closer to family. It didn’t take long for her Abilene connections to notify various people at First Financial that the Bacons were moving back to town. One morning, Sarah received a call from the previous CFO of First Financial Bankshares and, after interviewing in person a week later, they created a position for Sarah. “I was very excited because I had dreamed of working there since I first went to college.”
As most new grads find out, learning to navigate the world of working young adulthood can be hard. Sarah said, “Learning to balance work and life has always been a struggle for me. I’ve learned that there is a balance, however. That balance is different for everyone and is ever-evolving throughout the different stages of life. My best advice to anyone, including myself, is to be patient with yourself.” One of her favorite take-aways from ACU was a quote that came from Dr. Gary McCaleb to “be a life-long learner”. “This is so prevalent in today’s world where things are constantly changing and evolving at an unprecedented pace. I must always strive to be better and more knowledgeable in my field and in general. My time at ACU provided me the tools and the drive to be a life-long learner.”
Bacon said that one of the biggest surprises she’s encountered since leaving ACU is that she’s found ACU alums everywhere she has gone. “There have been ACU alumni at every company I’ve worked for, lots of networking events and several places that I’ve traveled. It’s so fun to reminisce about common professors, social clubs and Sing Song.”
COBA believes in empowering students and alumni to weave their faith into their vocation. This is something that truly resonated with Sarah as a student and now in her current position. “My faith has impacted my work most from the standpoint that I have long-believed accounting has been my calling. I try to use Christian beliefs and strong morals in everything I do, and every decision I make. I had a strong faith in Christ before I was a part of COBA, but learning in a Christian environment only helped strengthen that faith.”
Along with growing deeper in her faith, some of Sarah’s favorite memories were made at ACU; most importantly meeting her husband, Michael Bacon, in the Fall of 2014 in Dr. Paul Lakey’s communication class while they were both in graduate school and then marrying him in the Chapel on the Hill on ACU’s campus in 2016. To top off the magical day, the ceremony was conducted by Sarah’s dad, Joe Hailey (’69). Sarah also has a special place in her heart for the ACU tradition of singing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”. She said, “I can’t narrow down one specific time that is my favorite, but the feeling of unity and common love felt when this song is sung at ACU is something that will stick with me forever. It’s the kind of feeling that gives me chills and brings a smile to my face. I associate this song with ACU.”
During her time at ACU, Sarah enjoyed being a COBA Dean’s office student employee. “I had the opportunity to get to know several professors and back-office associates better than most. I learned how down to earth they are and how much they really care. Dr. Jonathan Stewart is one of my favorite professors. His podcasts were a big deal before podcasts were a big deal and made learning fun. I loved how several COBA professors integrated fun, out-of-the-box ways of learning. Dr. Bill Fowler’s audit stories always made me laugh.”
Sarah encourages students, especially freshmen, to spend time talking to their professors. “Invest not only in your studies but in your relationships with the people around you. The content of studies is always evolving but your connections will only go away if you let them. Building a network of professionals and fellow students can be more valuable than you could imagine.”
Bacon also has some advice for current accounting students preparing for their future. “I suggest current accounting students evaluate early on if they plan to sit for the CPA exam. Adjust your class schedule so you have the right classes completed in order to take exams while still in school. Take advantage of the resources COBA provides for study materials and take as many exams as possible prior to beginning your career after college. It’s helpful to do this while you’re still in the habit of studying.” And for all COBA students, she suggests, “Participate in the practice job interviews and learn to keep up with current events in your field.”
As part of the vision, mission, and values of the college, COBA strives to create excellence and impact by upholding high moral and professional standards of excellence for faculty, staff, students and alumni, calling each person to a life of service and leadership that glorifies God and transforms communities and society. Sermons aren’t just lived out from the pulpit. Sometimes, the best sermons are seen at places like banks. Thank you to Sarah Bacon for making the world a better place by living out faith in the workplace.
For students, the winter break can be one of the most optimal times to work on your resume and career search because you have spare time to search for internships or apply for jobs depending on where you are in your academic journey towards graduation. To help students get started, we have been posting Tip Tuesday advice on our social media that guides you through small and easy steps that you can take over the next four weeks to help you find interesting career options and get your resume and social media ready for potential employers.
To give you some encouragement on your internship journey, we wanted to share an internship story from one of our current students, senior management major Meagan Thomason from Midland, TX. She interned for ER Senior Management, LLC which provides service across Texas to owner-operated/managed senior living retirement communities. Meagan worked in one of their Abilene locations where she assisted in Human Resource (HR) functions. Meagan’s internship duties were varied as she told us, “This semester I have specialized in the Associate Satisfaction Surveys in pulling data and displaying the survey results. I mostly worked with Excel and Canva. I also assisted in recruitment by reading resumes, scheduling interviews, and sitting in on those interviews. Along with all that I assisted in coding insurance invoices among other HR-related tasks.”
Meagan found that seeing the tangible results of her labor was incredibly satisfying and made this the favorite part of her internship as she saw the findings being put to good use within the company. She told us, “I worked so hard on the surveys for so long and finally seeing the results and all my hard work being sent back out to the four different communities. It felt good to finally have others see what I had been working on for so long.”
Internships offer students more than just course credit or, in some cases, financial gain. They can also offer great experience and insight as Meagan found, telling us that she learned, “The stress of dealing with a crisis in the office along with the importance of writing a good solid resume. It’s important to keep a level head, especially when working in the healthcare industry during a pandemic. This internship also allowed me to figure out what part of the business I wanted to go into after graduation. I was unsure before, but this internship taught me the value of Human Resources and why HR exists.“
Looking forward, this internship is shaping her future as she gained invaluable hands-on experience teaching her lessons that she could not have learned in a classroom. Her internship helped her explore and discover what area of HR she was interested in and what it would take to be hired by another company in the future. Meagan told us that the experience as a whole has helped her to take initiative and prepare to make the transition from a university student to her future career in the industry.
Meagan advises future interns, “Keep a notebook and write down EVERYTHING you do. This will help you in updating your resume and in future interviews when you’re asked about what you did during your internship. It also helps you keep track of your tasks you’re assigned and if you’re asked about something you did a month previously, you can turn to that page and explain exactly what you did.” She also suggested to “Keep a google calendar of everything you have going on. This semester I worked at my internship and a part-time job. I’m also one of Delta Theta’s pledge officers and a full-time student. It can be a lot and Google Calendar helped me schedule out my weeks.”
Meagan said that the classes she took, particularly in excel and personal selling, prepared her for the internship and future employment as they directly applied to her internship as she developed surveys and assisted in recruitment and resume review. Meagan also felt that the mock interviews she participated in through COBA Edge assisted in her interview process.
Meagan has enjoyed her time in COBA and says one of her favorite things about being a business major happened early on in her academic career. “I would say the Venture Out project in Monty Lynn’s Intro to Business class was one of my favorite classes. Trusting a bunch of freshmen with the funds to buy and sell products? That was a really fun first project for college.” Meagan’s hands-on holistic COBA experience has been extremely valuable to her in preparing her for her internship and in preparation for her future career.
We love assisting students as they journey through classes, internships, and career searches. If you would like help with your resume and internship or job search, you can contact Steph Brown with COBA Edge at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also check out our social media every Tuesday during break to get tips on what you can be doing now to prepare for internships and future careers!
Accomplishing their goal to add a new venture this semester, Wildcat Ventures acquired Right Hand Media (RHM), making it their sixth student-run business on campus. President of Wildcat Ventures, Riley Simpson, originally founded Right Hand Media as a freelance videographer. However, seeing that it would thrive in the market Wildcat Ventures caters to, the team made the decision to bring the business on board, hiring Tres Cox as the CEO.
Tres is a marketing and management major from Lewisville, TX. Working alongside Tres is account manager Bekah Penton, content creator David Mitchell, creative designer Ashley Lang, videographers/editors Emily Shafer and Tavian Miles, and videographer and web designer Matthew Jungling.
Tres sees RHM as helping to fill a communication gap on campus. “In this season, everyone is looking for an effective way to connect with their audience, and visual media is one the best ways to do that. Our services help our clients make an impression and make connections.” RHM specifically works in video production, digital marketing, photography, and design.
CEO, Tres Cox
Cox said that their customer base is varied. “Our services are businesses and organizations who want to present themselves and express their message with quality content. At Right Hand Media, we encourage our partners to play their best hand.”
RHM has worked on many projects over the semester that encapsulates the mission behind that statement. Every project has elegant evidence to show for the team’s workmanship. The company has been working closely with Dr. Dennis Marquardt and Nick Gonzales from the Lytle Center to produce the Leadership Link podcast. Nick is a fan of the work of RHM, saying, “What is unique about Right Hand Media is that they are an organization that is very easy to work with. Their adaptability is a trait that no one should take for granted. They have worked with the Lytle Center for multiple episodes and each time we pitch a new idea or have second thoughts on something they are quick to go with the flow, brainstorm, and even build upon ideas.” Gonzales noted that working with RHM means “working with excellence” and gives high praise to the team’s professionalism and collegiality.
RHM filming Mary Gregory’s Class
Another great testimony about what RHM is helping clients accomplish is the growth of painter Mary Gregory’s online painting class, Egg, Feather, Nest. Cox detailed how RHM has worked to help Gregory market her talents. “Our team films and produces the video lessons that go into her courses, creating graphics and promotional content, and managing the digital marketing strategy for the company’s online presence. It’s been an incredible journey, taking Mary from teaching only small workshops when she had the time to now teaching hundreds of students online.”
Account Manager, Bekah Penton
Not only have these client accounts created experiential learning opportunities for RHM student employees, but the students are also building on their strengths and gaining valuable experience for their future careers. Bekah Penton said, “Working at Right Hand Media has been different than any other position I have held before, but I have learned something new every day. While I have done freelance social media management before, this position at RHM has allowed me to take more of a leadership role on a team instead of independent work. It has also allowed me to continually grow in my knowledge of digital marketing such as social media, email, and content creation.”
Creative Designer, Ashley Lang
Ashley Lang told us that she loves her team because “Our people are diverse and incredibly creative in unique ways. Everyone has something different to bring to the table, and we get to utilize those strengths to create killer projects that cater to the needs of our clients. Each of us is heavily involved in things outside of RHM, and I think that reflects the potential for leadership and the amount of talent that exists within our team. These are people that come willing to learn and try new things together, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!”
Inspiring and equipping students is part of the vision of the College of Business – to connect business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. The creative spark that the Right Hand Media team shows through their work to help others shine while continuing to learn and excel at their professional skills is something that COBA aspires to instill in all of its students. To follow RHM’s team on their Instagram page click HERE.