Written by special contributor Lance Fleming
In more than 30 years as the minister at The Hills Church in North Richland Hills, Rick Atchley (’78) has delivered thousands of sermons to millions of people, drawing listeners from near and far to a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Atchley’s tenure with The Hills Church, it has grown to be among the largest Church of Christ congregations in the world, averaging over 5,000 in attendance each week across three campuses.
As he said when he was named ACU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 2014, one of the themes of his life and his ministry is to live out Christ’s call to unify and to “bring down walls that God didn’t want up in the first place.”
Atchley spoke to both students and faculty and staff at ACU on Tuesday, September 6th. His address to students was a part of the Lytle Center’s Fall Speaker Series while his exhortation to faculty and staff was a part of the Lytle Center’s second annual Abiding in Christ dinner event. The Abiding in Christ dinner was established in 2021 with a vision of encouraging and challenging faculty and staff in the deepening of their relationships with Jesus in order to better influence and serve students. It should come as no surprise that Atchley had a challenge for each group. A mission to follow Christ no matter the setting or circumstances.
At the Abiding in Christ dinner, Atchley contended, that ACU should be a place where students attend to not only grow in academic ability but also in wisdom.
“We know there’s a difference between being intelligent and truly being wise, and that’s why I believe the mission of this university is so critical,” he said to a group of around 200 faculty and staff members gathered in the Brown Family Club Level at Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium. “Let’s be honest: young people don’t have to come to ACU to gain knowledge on how to be an accountant or how to manage the market. They can gain knowledge at many great universities. What I hope for when they come here is that, along with knowledge, they gain wisdom. They learn to be wise, not just smart.”
Atchley then spent several minutes challenging those in attendance to teach their students to look for wisdom and guidance from above and not from other sources.
“What is the wisdom of the world?” he asked. “It’s the knowledge that looks for truth from within instead of above. It’s the Kool-Aid of this culture. The young people you teach have been immersed in it. It’s all about finding their truth. The world has told them to look inside to find truth.”
“They don’t have to come here to get knowledge; you’re good at that,” Atchley told the crowd. “You’re good at that. But when they leave with the knowledge you’ve given them, will they be wiser? Will they leave with a worldview that says ‘I’m going to look at life through the lens of the wisdom of Christ? He will be where I get my truth. He will be the framework from which I understand what is right and wrong.’ Will they leave with wisdom, not just knowledge?”
Late in his address to the faculty and staff, Atchley reminded them that they are working and teaching in a society that has been battered by the constant battle between politics and religion. And it’s against that backdrop that ACU faculty and staff must equip students with the wisdom needed to traverse that world, no matter their chosen profession.
“For the Christian educator, the opportunity to prepare students for the world in which they will pursue varied and creative careers must include the role of faith and the pursuit of wisdom,” said Mitzi Adams, Director of Clinical Teaching and Field Experiences in the Department of Teacher Education. “We are challenged to consider how our courses are different from the courses offered at other prestigious universities where students could secure a solid education. At ACU, it must come back to the witness of faith.”
“I think it’s very important for students to hear and experience much more than just knowledge of their field of study,” she said. “At a Christian university, the faith we profess becomes the framework through which we view and experience this education.”
As Atchley pointed out numerous times to the faculty and staff, the prevailing mission of ACU should be to not only equip students with knowledge and wisdom but also the desire to live out their faith in the world around them.
“For a student to walk away from this Christian university without the opportunity to understand and apply where and how faith integrates into their chosen field of study is to have had an important aspect of this education withheld,” Adams said. “If not now, when will our students have the opportunity to be immersed in studies intended to prepare them for excellence in their field? Beyond this, at what other time in the lives of our students will they have the opportunity to be taught by exceptional practitioners, academics, and researchers who are compelled by the Christian faith? Our students are here now. This is an opportunity we have as a faculty to pour into our students not only our professional expertise but also the centering of our faith.”
Before Atchley spoke to the faculty and staff at the football stadium, he met with COBA students, challenging them to choose the battles that matter.
“It’s easy to get passionate and carried away with matters that don’t have much weight,” said Kathryn Crawford, a senior Finance and Management major from Flower Mound. “Instead, we need to recognize the fights that will have an impactful outcome and approach those with our chosen values.”
In addition, his theme with the students was much the same as it would be later with the faculty and staff: that knowledge is easily attainable anywhere but it’s wisdom and obedience in Christ that will make the most impact on the world.
“He made the point that we have to trust the impact of an obedient life,” Crawford said of Atchley. “When things become difficult, the easy way out seems so attractive. But this path does not guarantee obedience. Time and time again, scripture shows us our convictions will cause us to face difficult things in our lives. Choosing obedience may not be easy but the impact we can unknowingly have on the Kingdom is far greater than the temporary adversity we might face.”
Crawford said Atchley’s message to students about integrity and faith in the workplace resonated with her because he put special emphasis on how important the choice will be.
“As a student at a Christian university, it becomes easy to rely on circumstances and surroundings to motivate my faith,” she said. “However, I know this won’t necessarily be the case when I emerge into the workforce as a young professional. I value my faith deeply but have not been in many environments that challenge or counter my beliefs. I left the message feeling encouraged to stay true to my values regardless of circumstance and recognize how much of a difference it can truly make if I choose to let it.”
The Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership exists to foster environments for individuals to grow in faith and character, equipping them with cutting edge leadership competencies, and developing them to be ambassadors of hope, peace, and life in their workplaces. The Lytle Center Speaker Series and the annual Abiding in Christ dinner events are just one example of the ways the Lytle Center strives to encourage and equip the students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University. More information about the Lytle Center can be found by clicking here.
“Perhaps this was meant to be.” When thinking about the cancellation of Leadership Summit earlier this year, these are not the words one expects to hear. Yet a pivot from the disappointment of the canceled course to bring the student experience to Abilene has created an opportunity like no other.
Leadership Summit, 2020
Leadership Summit is a weeklong mountain-top experience that combines an executive conference-style environment featuring high-profile speakers with a close-knit community. It has been a beloved COBA event for the past two decades. Last year, the virus canceled the event. This year, hoping to resume the tradition, disappointment struck again. The Young Life camp facility where the course was to be held sustained damage from a burst water pipe in the kitchen on the day that students, speakers, faculty and staff arrived. Because there was no water in the camp due to the damage, Leadership Summit had to be canceled, leaving students, speakers, and faculty devastated.
In the days that followed the cancellation, communication was frequent and plans were made to allow students enrolled in the course the opportunity to complete the credit hours needed for Leadership Summit. Part of the new coursework included watching videos from past Summit speakers and writing reflections on the content.
A Slice of Summit, 2022
However, Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, said it still didn’t feel quite right. “We had selected speakers specifically for this experience [Summit] – I couldn’t believe we were missing this.” After the cancellation, Dr. Marquardt and his team spent the next two weeks in prayer and listening to student’s stories of how they were impacted by the experience.
With the rest of the spring semester remaining and the impacts of the recent events felt throughout the college, Dr. Marquardt pondered the potential to make the best of the situation. “God allowed these speakers to be on the list and students to be in the program. How can we be good stewards of that despite the change?”
As this question lingered, the idea for “A Slice of Summit” began to emerge. If the students couldn’t go to Summit, could Summit be brought to the students? The speaker list for the year had long been set with the content planned out in advance. Perhaps the speakers would be willing to come to Abilene to speak with the students here?
Elise Mitchel speaking at the first “A Slice of Summit” event.
And so, the idea became a reality. What began as an ask to one speaker – Elise Mitchell – turned into a series featuring five of the guest speakers with an opportunity for the Summit students to gather, share meals together, and be uplifted by the speakers and mentors pouring into them. Elise Mitchell, Kent Brantley, Mo Isom, and others are joining the students in Abilene over the remainder of the semester to share their Summit message in person. Marquardt shared that the speakers have jumped at the new opportunity to travel to Abilene and share the message they had prepared to share in January.
A Slice of Summit, 2022
While Leadership Summit is a packed week full of content, “A Slice of Summit” is sprinkled throughout the semester. Typically, the longer the semester goes on, the more worn down students become. The hope is that these “slices” will encourage students in the perfect moments; key junctures to uplift and encourage them in the middle of their challenges. Marquardt said, “It is all falling into place.”
While the last two years of cancellations have been discouraging, Dr. Marquardt said they aren’t giving up and are already planning for the future. The date for next year’s Leadership Summit is set and preparations are underway to ensure the travel plans work better for students and speakers. In the meantime, the Lytle Center is able to bring a little slice of that Leadership Summit pie to the ACU campus. Students can learn more about guest speakers through the Lytle Center, the COBA Newsletter, or the Compass app. To learn more about Leadership Summit, 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. 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 Founders Club President, Karson Tutt, and Founders Club member, Lauren Gumm, were awarded for their presentations. Gumm, an elementary education major from Abilene, TX, runs a screen printing company called Wear It to Share I”. Lauren screen prints thrifted shirts by hand in order to bring people environmentally conscious and unique shirts. Tutt, a senior management major from Tuscola, TX, started Karson’s, an online jewelry company, which is now in the process of adding an in-person location in Abilene where many other products will be available. We interviewed both award winners to learn about their experiences participating in the Founders Club and the Springboard Student Venture Competition.
Wear It to Share It
How has being involved in the Founders Club impacted your business?
Lauren: “Founders Club has provided so many resources for me and my little company! I’ve gotten financial advice and marketing consultations and had the opportunity to speak in front of members of the Abilene community about the awesome entrepreneurs at ACU! I started my business in my dorm room and being able to have an office space where I can work is another great resource that the Founders Club has given me. Founders Club has also given me a community to walk through business ownership with. My friends have always been super supportive of my business but having a group of people who also own their own businesses that I can talk through ideas and problems with has been a huge blessing.”
Karson: “I have loved getting to meet with other student entrepreneurs who understand the struggles I go through. I also participated in one of the pitch competitions and won money to put towards opening my store.”
What did you learn from the competition experience?
Lauren: “The competition gave me a sense of confidence in my abilities as a business owner. To be able to present the work I constantly pour into and receive validation that what I’m pursuing is smart and in demand was really reassuring! I also learned how important it is to be confident in your abilities. The judges were looking for business owners who happen to be full-time students. I walked away really feeling like they saw me as a business owner and a student.”
Karson: “I learned that I am actually more confident in my business as a whole than I thought. I used to think my business was just kind of small and not that big of a deal, but it’s actually really cool that I’m doing this and it’s not as hard as I thought to talk to adults about what I do and my plans for the future.”
What is your plan for your business now that you have won the competition?
Lauren: “Winning the competition gave me the ability to purchase new equipment that I desperately needed. The equipment I started out with in 2018 still functioned perfectly fine but it was the cheapest option available and therefore required every element of the process to be done by hand. My new equipment is what allowed me to fully pursue printing on thrifted shirts! I simply didn’t have the time to thrift and print but with the time saved using my new equipment I am able to do both!”
Karson: “I was planning on opening the store regardless of if I won or not, but now that I did win the extra funding I was able to literally expand the space of the store and get nicer versions of the things I was already going to be getting (ex. cash register, security system, light fixtures, etc.).”
Is there anything you would like to add?
Lauren: “I just want to encourage anyone who thinks they want to begin a business to go for it! Even if it isn’t a business you want to pursue long-term you can learn so much through the process! I have an appreciation for entrepreneurs that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and started Wear It to Share It!”
Karson: “The Griggs Center and Founders Club truly have been a great asset to me and my business. I love the community that has come from being involved.”
The ACU chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) hit the ground running as they began their second year back on campus. One of the goals of the AMA chapter is to equip students through professional development and provide real-world experiences. With this goal in mind, the chapter officers and advisors have set a goal to have an annual spring trip to the DFW area where they engage with alumni to visit their workplaces and show students what the life of a marketing professional in different fields looks like.
Even though this year’s trip had to be canceled due to the current pandemic situation, the officers and advisors didn’t want members to miss out on such an opportunity. As the team joined to brainstorm ideas to provide a similar experience to students, they used technology to their advantage and decided to plan the first AMA virtual event. There were a few challenges to take into consideration as the event was being planned, “I think there was a lot of uncertainty about the event during the beginning. Questions like, would students attend something like this? How long should the event be? Would it be weird to do it via zoom? How do we make it personal?” Lindsay Palmer commented. The faculty and staff advisors, Dr. Jennifer Golden and Lindsay Palmer, partnered with ACU alumni who could tell students about their marketing experience and personal branding, from the comfort of their homes. After reaching out to professionals from various industries and marketing areas, four alumni joined with ACU AMA to tell students their stories. The panel included Jay Swinney from Indeed, Katherine Hall from Schaefer Advertising, Rachel Gilliam from Lev, and Reagan Morgan from PFSweb.
Alumni Panel: Jay Swinney (’09), Katherine Hall (’13), Rachel Gilliam (’13) and Reagan Morgan (’08)
On June 8th, ACU AMA members and students from the College of Business Administration joined these alumni on Zoom for the virtual event, “What Now? Five Ways to Brand Yourself During a Crisis”. The event was kicked off by Dr. Jennifer Golden, who shared five ways for students to continue working on their personal brand during COVID-19 and stand out amongst job applicants. ACU AMA also partnered with COBA’s Professional Development office to offer additional opportunities and resources for students. Then, the alumni panel was introduced and each professional shared about their roles in their respective companies. From data analysts to account directors, each of the alumni had a different experience and perspective to share that was valuable for the wide range of interests of the students attending the virtual event. To provide a personal networking experience, students entered into break-out virtual rooms of 5 as one of the alumni guest speakers conducted a Q&A session.
Besides learning practical ways to grow their network and develop their personal brand, students were able to connect with alumni and peers on LinkedIn with the information provided by the ACU AMA advisors. Social distancing did not limit the ability to connect with marketing professionals and learn insightful skills for the future. The alumni who willingly shared their time and experience with the students, once again, showed how ACU’s community is still valuable long after graduation. “We have such awesome alumni at ACU and in COBA specifically. They were all so willing to give up some of their time to advise and pour into current students. Overall, the event was a huge success in my opinion. It was cool to see how engaging the students and alumni were with each other. I think this event also helped bring a new opportunities to our students. I can’t wait to see what else AMA does.” Lindsay added.
Students joined by ACU Alumni for the virtual event via Zoom
The ACU AMA chapter is looking forward to another year of professional growth and events that empower students to fulfill their career goals. As the year was kicked off with an incredible event, the new officers and advisors hope to provide similar opportunities to all members throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.
Click here to check out the landing page created for the event with the bios of participating alumni. Follow ACU AMA on Instagram @ama_acu to hear about our next event. If you have any questions about membership, please email ACU AMA advisor, Lindsay Palmer.
Every fall, more than 2,500 HR professionals attend the HRSouthwest Conference (HRSWC) held in Fort Worth, Texas. The conference is the largest regional educational and networking event for human resource professionals. HRSWC is organized by DallasHR, the Dallas-based SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) Affiliate Chapter, and has been designated as the official State of Texas SHRM Conference. 15,000 student members participating in the 27 chapters of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) are given the opportunity to attend this conference with working professionals. Dr. Malcolm Coco, faculty sponsor for the ACU Chapter of SHRM and Director of Internships for COBA said, “One of the highlights for students is the opportunity to be nominated for the Excellence in Education Scholarship. As you can imagine, the scholarship is very competitive with each chapter being able to nominate candidates for the award.”
Dayle Hayes, senior marketing and human resource management major and President of SHRM, is one of four recipients of the HR Excellence in Education Scholarship given this past October. Winners of the scholarship have shown excellence in academic pursuits as well as their professional and personal lives. The award selections were based on accomplishments in human resources, academics, campus and community involvement and recommendations from professors, advisors and/or employers. The scholarship recipients each receive a $1,500 grant plus shared proceeds from The HRSouthwest Conference Silent Auction.
Dayle says, “I am very excited and thankful to be awarded this scholarship. As Dr. Coco’s TA, I have been able to benefit from his leadership as the sponsor of SHRM’s student chapter on campus as well as attending some of the Big Country SHRM monthly meetings with him, where he sits on the board of directors.”
Dr. Coco felt that Dayle was a worthy candidate and nominated her because, “of her dedication and professionalism as the student chapter president and as a member of the local professional chapter Executive Board. Dayle has demonstrated leadership and high academic accomplishments. She deserved the nomination and being selected as the recipient of this scholarship.”
Dayle was thankful for the opportunity to gather with professionals in the field. “The conference was great, and I really enjoyed being able to attend for the second time. I went to several speaker sessions and heard about prevalent HR-related topics. There were thousands of HR professionals there, so I also got to network and meet several people in the field. I ran into one of my childhood friends who is a recent graduate and has been working in HR for a couple years now, which was really fun.”
Congratulations to Dayle Hayes on this outstanding honor. Click here to learn more about the HRSouthwest Conference. Learn more about the Big Country SHRM chapter by clicking here.
As part of the COBA Vision, Mission, and Values, we seek to inspire, equip, and connect Christian business and technology professionals for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. This past September, the strength of that connection was on full display as ACU alumni that work for Southwest Airlines came to visit campus – something they have done for the past several years.
The Southwest Airlines representatives spent time connecting with students, providing insight on resume-building, and highlighting internship opportunities within the SWA organization. Among those representatives were Laurie Barnett (’90), Managing Director, Communications & Outreach, Katie Coldwell (’00), Communications Director and recipient of the 2019 ACU Distinguished Alumni Citation, and Chris Grubbs (’95), Program Manager. Grubbs said that Southwest’s visits to ACU help to “Build alumni support and give graduates an opportunity to work for the best airline in the world”. Grubbs went on to share that a reason that SWA is so eager to reach out to ACU students is because the SWA company culture aligns so closely with ACU’s. Southwest holds the golden rule “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you” in the highest regard and runs their business with that principle in mind, which is evident through their hospitality and customer service.
With that in mind, SWA encouraged students to apply for internships and jobs with them to continue growing their customer friendly culture. While technical knowledge is important, Southwest emphasized that their focus tends to be on hiring for the right personality fit because technical components can be learned, but who you are shapes who the company is. Because the company’s foundations revolve around a servant’s heart, reflected in the personalities and actions of their employees, Southwest likes to have ACU alumni travel back to campus and share their experience with students who they believe demonstrate the same type of servant leadership.
Tim Johnston, Assistant Dean, shared his perspective on working for SWA. “Southwest Airlines is a company that believes if they take care of their people, their people will take care of their customers, and their customers will take care of their shareholders. We had seven ACU alumni come to campus to help ACU students learn about Southwest and to encourage our students to apply for internships with the company.”
Johnston went on to say, “SWA is a well respected company and they don’t have any problems fielding thousands of applicants for each internship opening. A recent graduate told her SWA story saying that she started applying for internships in October before finally receiving an interview in March. She consistently monitored the SWA career site and did not get discouraged when she was not offered an interview for several of the openings she pursued. Students walked away with a good understanding of the challenges associated with getting an opportunity to work with SWA. At the same time, they gained insight into qualities that will help their application standout. Finally, they have seen first hand the benefit of an ACU education. Our alumni made these two days happen. Their dedication to their alma mater, to Southwest Airlines, and their belief that the two organizations have matching values was the driver behind these two successful days on the ACU campus.”
Skyler Seidman, marketing major from Coppell, TX, finds ACU connections to businesses like Southwest Airlines beneficial to his professional development. The resume help that the SWA representatives provided was an influential part in Skyler’s interest in the company. This guidance helps students like Skyler see what experience and preparation they need to help find their place in a 60,000 employee, world-class company like Southwest Airlines. The SWA representatives expressed that this was a great opportunity for them to give back to their alma mater and help young professionals prepare to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world, creating career opportunity paths. Many thanks to our ACU alums at Southwest Airlines for sharing their time and talent with our students.