COBA Students Study Abroad in Montevideo and Gain a New Perspective

Travel helps you realize that no matter how much you may think you know, there’s always more to learn.

Those who have been fortunate enough to travel abroad know they will return changed people. Traveling to another culture for an extended period of time leads us to see humanity from a new perspective. It also helps us see ourselves as cultural outsiders, where the language, food, clothing, and ways of thinking may all be very different than our ingrained expectations. Hopefully, a study abroad experience is ultimately humbling, as we see the way God moves in different cultures and places. 

This summer, Professors Andy Little and Jim Litton led a COBA Study Abroad trip with 8 students to Montevideo, Uruguay.  They also took an extended side trip to Argentina, and the students spent their free weekend at Iguazu Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. Students were able to receive course credit for ENTR 419 (Global Entrepreneur) and BLAW 365 (Law and Entrepreneurship). 

COBA partnered with Universidad ORT, a local Uruguayan university, to arrange for company visits and cultural excursions. The ACU group met with several local startups: GeneXus, a software development company, Verdeagua, a hydroponic farming company, and Qualabs, a video software development company. The group also hosted a diplomat from the U.S. Embassy at the ACU house in Montevideo, toured the Uruguayan Congress, met with consultants from the Montevideo office of PwC, and got to know leaders of two government agencies that offer grants to start-ups.

Senior management major Taylor Walling was one of the students traveling with the group and was moved by their visit to Verdeagua. She said, “One of the most memorable visits for me was with a company called Verdeagua. They are the largest producer of hydroponic vegetables in the country. We got to tour their facility with the founder of the company, who has been working there for 20 years. I learned a lot from this experience by seeing the passion the founder has for what he does. He continually talked about what they were doing to make their company better and to grow it, which really demonstrated an entrepreneurial mindset we all wanted to learn about. The company visits were a great way to see how business in Uruguay operates.”

Why travel to Montevideo with students? Little says it’s because “Montevideo is a hidden gem in Latin America, and an outstanding place for business and technology students to study abroad.” The experience of being immersed in a foreign culture provides students with unique experiences that will enhance their future education and work skills. Students learn more conversational Spanish and are able to interact with business professionals and entrepreneurs from a very different culture than America – providing valuable knowledge to anyone interested in working globally in the future. In addition, they’re able to gain insight about themselves and the world around them by living in another culture, even for such a short time. 

Walling agrees with that sentiment. “I think the unique experiences of visiting different companies in Uruguay will enhance my education and work experience in the future. I enjoyed learning about concepts and ideas in the classroom and then getting to see the ways it was all applied in actual companies. Hearing the leaders at these companies was beneficial to me in understanding how they operate business. One interesting thing was that we talked to a couple of companies about their working relationship with US companies. This piece of information could really help in my future career if I were to work with other countries in my job.” 

Studying abroad doesn’t just broaden students’ educational and vocational opportunities. It also broadens their relationships with their classmates and professors. Walling said, “Studying abroad is very different from the typical classroom setting in a multitude of ways. One of the things that stood out to me most was the relationship that we, as students, got to build with each other and with the professors and their families. Instead of just going to class and hearing our professors lecture we got to share meals with them and experience new things. Through Study Abroad I feel like I gained a lot of wisdom from my professors as they shared stories from their experiences and as they listened to our dreams for the future.” 

The experience doesn’t just change students. It also is a formative experience for the faculty traveling with them. Little said that he learned more about Uruguay, Argentina, and the Rio de la Plata region and, “I got to spend several weeks with 8 amazing students.  Diego Bravo, ACU’s local site director, continues to be a strong friend.” 

Walling encourages any student thinking about studying abroad to “go for it!” She continued, “And if you are a student who has never considered it, I would recommend you look into it. At the start of my college career, I told myself that studying abroad wasn’t for me. Now I can confidently say that it was an experience that I will always remember and that I will take the lessons I learned into my future career. The one lesson that stands out to me is to go for the things that might bring fear because you never know where it might lead you. I am glad I did not let my fears and worries get in the way of going to Study Abroad because of the amazing experiences I had during my time in Uruguay.” 

To learn more about ACU Study Abroad opportunities, click here.

Alumni Spotlight: Heath Beasley and Reagan Brown

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

 

Heath Beasley

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?

Reagan Brown

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!”

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Carlee Pruden

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.

University Scholar Spotlight: Tyler Merritt

Tyler Merritt, a junior double major in accounting and financial management from Abilene, TX, is one of 4 business majors recognized as a University Scholar this spring. To qualify as a University Scholar, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and show a demonstration of knowledge and skill in the research of their appropriate field. Students are nominated by faculty across the university and presented for selection to the Faculty Senate for the final decision. We asked Tyler to tell us what it means to be honored and share his best advice on how students can get the most out of their college experience. Congratulations, Tyler!

 

 

Being named a University Scholar is a great honor! What was your first reaction when you received the news?

I was excited and honored to be chosen as a member of this elite group of students.

 

What extracurricular activities/student orgs were you involved with on campus?

  • Treasurer of Frater Sodalis
  • Member of U-Chorale and the A Cappella Chorus
  • A/V live events technician
  • Teaching assistant
  • Library circulation desk worker

 

What are some of your favorite memories/experiences in your department?

  • Listening to all of Dr. Fowler’s extremely entertaining auditing stories
  • Dr. Perkins bringing his guitar to class and singing a Willie Nelson parody
  • Somehow passing Dr. Neill’s bonds exam

 

What has grown you as an individual the most in your time at ACU?

Seeing and experiencing the tightly bonded community that is ACU, especially through the men of Frater Sodalis.

 

What is your favorite thing about ACU?

The kindness and care that the professors put into their lectures and interactions with their students

 

Do you have any advice for future students?

Don’t be afraid to try new things, but also don’t fill your plate up too much.  And always leave the biggest space for God and your faith life.

 

What will you be doing after graduation?

I will pursue a Master’s degree in accountancy and begin studying for the CPA certification exam.

 

University Scholar Spotlight: Destanie Crist

Destanie Crist, a financial management major from Valley Center, CA, is one of 4 business majors recognized as a University Scholar this spring. To qualify as a University Scholar, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and show a demonstration of knowledge and skill in the research of their appropriate field. Students are nominated by faculty across the university and presented for selection to the Faculty Senate for the final decision. We asked Destanie to share her best advice on how students can become involved on campus and gain experience for post-graduation life. Congratulations, Destanie! 

  

Being named a University Scholar is a great honor! What was your first reaction when you received the news? 

I was extremely grateful and honored that ACU faculty and staff picked me! It is a special reminder that God blesses, and that hard work always pays off.

  

What extracurricular activities/student orgs were you involved with on campus?

  • Heacock Scholars
  • LYNAY
  • Financial Management Association
  • Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy
  • STAR
  • AMA
  • CEO Chapel
  • Off-campus, I served as a mentor for 11th and 12th grade girls through Beltway Church

  

What are some of your favorite memories/experiences in your department?

Managing the Student Investment Fund (STAR) was by far one of my favorite experiences at ACU. I have invested from a very young age, and I enjoyed being hands-on in class with real day-to-day investing activities. Leading as the Fund Manager taught me how to bring together teams and people with many different talents. The fund also did exceptionally well that year, and I loved working with everyone in the class.

Working at the Griggs Center was such a great career-developing experience. Whether as President of Enactus or the Director of Student Competitions, there was always a task and challenges ahead that I got to help with and improve. It is a great place to learn soft skills and meet incredible leaders like Mindy, Amanda, and Jim.

 

What has grown you as an individual the most in your time at ACU?

The groups and organizations I am involved in have helped me grow the most during my time at ACU. As a leader or a learner training to be one, I was challenged in ways outside of normal academics to strengthen my soft skills and leadership abilities. Working at the Griggs Center, in COBA, and at JP Morgan Chase are all exceptional work environments which have allowed me to take the skills I learned on campus and in the classroom to an actual workplace.

 

What is your favorite thing about ACU?

My favorite thing about ACU is the people. The professors, students, faculty and staff make ACU an amazing community. ACU is unique in so many ways, but the professors and peers that I have been blessed to be friends with have brought abundant wisdom and joy into my life.

 

Do you have any advice for future students?

The best piece of advice would be to seek God in all things: school, career, relationships, and your day-to-day living. Enjoy your time at school, be involved, and try new things, but also make sure to think about your next steps and life after school.

 

What will you be doing after graduation?

After graduation, I will start working full time as a Commercial Real Estate Analyst for J.P. Morgan Chase and I will get married in August!

Faculty Spotlight: Nancy Kucinski

Dr. Nancy Kucinski
College Professor of Management and the Online Business Programs Director

Dr. Nancy Kucinski might be the definition of homegrown talent. Not only is she an Abilene native, but she comes from a family of professors instilling in her a calling to Christian Higher Education. “My father was a professor when I was born and I essentially grew up on a small university campus. Plus, both of my brothers are retired professors, so academia has always been part of my life.”

Kucinski comes to ACU from Hardin-Simmons University where she has been a Professor of Political Science and Management, as well as a former Dean of Graduate Studies. She graduated from Hardin-Simmons University with a Bachelor of Political Science and went on to receive her Masters of Public Administration from Texas Tech. Nancy holds not one, but TWO PhDs — a Ph.D. in Organizations, Strategy, and International Studies from UT Dallas and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Texas Tech.

Nancy began leading ACU Online and COBA’s online programs last fall when she was named a College Professor of Management and the Online Business Programs Director. She is currently leading her first ACU online course: Management and Organizational Behavior and is excited to teach the Graduate Leadership course next term.

As with many people, the pandemic provided a turning point in her career. “Over the last two to three years, I can see how God has been working in my life to make this opportunity at ACU the exact right place for me to be. Even though I had been teaching online for several years, it wasn’t until the pandemic that I began to really study and learn how to be the best professor I could be in the virtual learning environment. I also have been interested in new research areas, like environmental sustainability that align with the Christian mission of ACU as we are stewards of His creation. Besides God drawing me to ACU, the people here are so supportive and inspiring. And, as they say… life is better as a Wildcat!”

While online education may seem anonymous, Dr. Kucinski does her best to interact with and view each student as their own person. “My approach to teaching is to see each student as an individual. Each has different needs and styles of learning. My desire is to provide the best possible learning opportunities for my students and I’m always open to learning from them.”

Kucinski’s position is a joint appointment with COBA and ACU Online. COBA Dean Brad Crisp is enthusiastic about the future of the online programs saying, “We are so excited to have Dr. Kucinski lead our online business programs. She is an experienced administrator who knows what it takes to build and grow high-quality academic programs that serve Christian business professionals.”

Outside of work, Nancy loves to hike with her husband, Dale who is a retired airline pilot, and their Weimaraners, Maya and Marci. She also enjoys traveling, especially to Salzburg, Austria where she often teaches in an international studies program and to visit her son Neal who lives in San Antonio. It might surprise her students to know that she has a private pilot’s license, learning to fly when she was in college.

Being an adventurer is a trait that enables her to cast a vision for what she’d like to accomplish in this new role. “My dream for our Online Business Programs is to reach even more students. We provide quality learning opportunities and because our programs are offered online, more students are able to access our programs.”

Click here to learn more about ACU’s online programs and how they could change your professional future.