“Why I Teach” with David Perkins

Dr. David Perkins

A common theme among our faculty members is how many of them did not plan to become a professor after graduating college. This, too, was the case for Dr. David Perkins. In fact, teaching wasn’t even a thought for him until a position opened up at Harding University, his alma mater. When the dean called and asked him to teach principles of accounting, Perkins was almost through his MBA program, so he accepted the temporary position for a year. “That phone call was a life-changing event for me. I look at it as God giving me a nudge to consider teaching as a career”.

Perkins taught at Harding for 15 years after that, then joined the COBA family during its initial work to become AACSB accredited. His friend and college classmate, Dr. Monty Lynn, was a good contact for him at ACU while Perkins was making the arrangements to join the COBA faculty. Dr. Perkins was ready for a change, and has never regretted getting on board with COBA’s vision for excellence. He currently teaches Financial Accounting to undergraduates as well as graduate classes in the Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program and has led students on numerous study abroad programs with COBA.

When Perkins began to think about the impact of faith in his journey, he shared that it was humbling experience. “God opens doors of opportunity and sometimes he shuts others. That certainly helps with the decision-making process.” It is difficult for him to imagine what life would be like without faith, as it has played such a core part of his journey. He stressed that his faith doesn’t guarantee that he won’t ever doubt; still, in the midst of doubt, growth can be found. “God is my anchor” Perkins said. “Even when I stumble or stray, I know where to find Him… right there where He’s always been.”

Dr. Perkins explained that he enjoys teaching accounting not only to help students prepare for their future careers, but also in giving them more tools to make a better life. While initially Perkins wasn’t sure how different his teaching method was from other accounting classes at public schools, he’s been able to be more intentional about planting seeds in students’ minds that can grow into faith. He explained that in class,  he will “Try to apply the topics we cover to real life decisions so they will be positioned to make good choices.” Students who have had Perkins in class fondly recalled the ‘sermonettes’ he shared with them from time to time and were grateful for the weekly Bible study he offers outside of class for anyone willing to attend. 

Dr. Perkins with students this summer during Study Abroad to Oxford and Leipzig.

Dr. Perkins explained that his desire for students is for them to see college as an opportunity to develop their God-given skills – even if they don’t know what they want to do yet. He remembered being in a similar position at their age, of being unsure about what life would look like after college. His best advice was this, “Develop your talents, develop your character, develop friendships, develop your faith… then see what opportunities God brings your way”.

ACU is fortunate and thankful to have Dr. Perkins – not only for his knowledge and wisdom, but for his character and heart for his students.

Throwback Thursday with Katie Wick

Assistant Professor of Management Sciences, Katie Wick, has been a highly valued member of the ACU College of Business for the past four years, teaching economics, mentoring students, and conducting research. Our Throwback Thursday series continues this week, as we look back at Wick’s time in college. Dr. Wick attended the University of Virginia and was highly involved in everything from acapella groups to studying abroad. We asked Dr. Wick to reflect on her college experiences.

 

What is your best memory from college?

“Most of my best memories from college center around the friends I spent the most time with, my acapella singing group. We got the chance to be an integral part of campus life and meet people from all over the world. We also recorded two albums together and performed all over several states. These women make up the core of my strongest memories at UVA.”

 

What is your best advice for college students?

“Get involved on campus! The organizations I had the chance to be a part of made all the difference in my college experience. They also helped shape the friendships that held me up when my life was crumbling during my dad’s fight with terminal cancer. Study abroad! Spending time in another culture for an extended period of time will truly change your perspectives. Going abroad during college is especially important because these years are the time in life when traveling is both impactful and easy (for example, taking 4 kids to Italy sounds really hard right now).”

What do you wish you could tell your college self today?  

“Give yourself grace. God has spoken words of great love and worth over you that cannot be taken away by grades, failures, or any bad decision. You are a treasure and truly beloved. ”

“Why I Teach” With Andy Little

Some of the most incredible people in this world are influential because of how they have chosen to react to what life has given them. We all go through life’s highs and lows and do our best to learn from each experience. Often times, we look at certain figures in our life and think of them as more than human in terms of being incapable of making mistakes. This is an interesting misconception, since it is because of their life experiences that they have become the incredible people that they are. We were able to talk to Dr. Andy Little, Associate Dean of the College of Business Administration and Management Sciences professor, about how some of those experiences brought him to where he is now. 

“My father was a biology professor here at ACU, so I always had in the back of my mind that I might teach at a university someday, but I didn’t have a defined plan. I left ACU and went straight to law school, and my goal after law school was to practice law. Teaching at a university bounced around in my mind from time to time, but I was too busy trying to establish myself as a lawyer to give much thought to a career change. The career change and entry into academics happened almost accidentally in 2010, when I wasn’t really looking for a job at ACU. The old business law professor at ACU left for another university that spring, and the Management Sciences department chair sent out inquiries to several practicing attorneys asking if we had any interest in applying for the open position. Given my interest, I jumped at the opportunity, went through a couple of rounds of interviews, got offered the job in spite of all my failings, and the rest is history. But there was never really a plan. It kind of just happened.”

An assumption could be made that for most of us, nothing ever goes along with what “our” plan was supposed to be. Life throws all of us a curve ball from time to time. Seeing others go through the same struggles and victories as our own is encouraging as we look at who we want to be and how that power is in our hands. 

“My faith has changed quite a bit over the years. I am less certain of things now that I am in middle age than I used to be when I was younger, when I was pretty sure of most things. I am also more open to different people having different faith experiences. I am in the process of learning to appreciate a less dualistic (the separation of spirit and body, mind and matter, eternal and temporal), cognitively-driven faith. This has significant ramifications for me, but it’s not an easy journey. I am definitely wandering through the wilderness, but I’ve come to enjoy being here, reliant on the presence and provision of God.”

Dr. Little’s incredible character is evident to students as he seeks support in God and his community to help him grow and find assurance in his identity in Christ. In the classroom, this testimony is lived out in the way that he encourages others to take new things into account and have their ideology challenged.

“I am hopeful that my lived experience, which includes teaching law courses in COBA, is part of my overall experience of faith. I think this would probably look fairly similar whether I am at ACU or an institution that claims no religious affiliation. While an ACU professor should self-identify comfortably as a Christian, an identification that could be a challenge elsewhere, the teaching methods of a Christian professor can occur anywhere. By this I mean, in our law classes in COBA, I attempt to speak truth to power, lay bare the logic of economic and legal structures and institutions, and provide alternative understandings. I usually try to befuddle students by convincing the humble that they know more than they think, and showing the proud that they have fewer answers than they would wish. I think these methods are some of the ways one might teach in a Christ-like manner, even if one never mentions Christ. I also try to be funny. I presume Jesus liked humor. At least I really hope so. Plus, if one doesn’t laugh at the tragedy of the law then one would likely cry.”

Little lives into the philosophy “let your actions speak louder than your words” with the juxtaposition that your words are your actions. Ask most COBA students, and they would agree that they have learned a lot from Dr. Little as he strives to stretch them in their learning while stretching himself in the process. 

In reference to COBA, he says “This is a good place, with outstanding people. It’s an honor to teach our students, and work alongside our staff and faculty. One thing I’ve learned in my nine years at ACU is that faculty are harder to manage than lawyers.“

A final word: “We need to learn to live in harmony with God’s creation, rather than assuming mastery and domination over it. Our relationships with God and with each other, our work, our cultures, our institutions, our techniques and technologies, and our futures would all benefit from a more humble approach to our place in creation. I am still learning this every day. “

 

“Why I Teach” with Don Pope

Faculty member, Dr. Don Pope, has been showing God’s love through his actions for as long as COBA has known him. We were fortunate enough to get to ask him a little bit about how his faith has shaped his journey and who he is now. As a part of the COBA Management Sciences department, Pope teaches quantitative classes including business statistics.

At some point in everyone’s educational career, they wonder how their teacher or professor decided they wanted to teach.  It is a puzzle that differs from person to person, but it reveals a lot about each individual. This is no different in the case of Don Pope. After graduating from Texas A&M, Pope was offered a position teaching Industrial Engineering at a reputable university. The timing just wasn’t right. “I decided at that time, however, to accept a position in the aircraft industry closer to my aging parents and I felt that the industry experience would make me a better teacher someday if that opportunity ever came.”

Faith played a large role in Pope’s journey and continues to do so today. It taught him to be humble and aware of the value of others. Pope says, “Faith shaped how I did my job at the aircraft plant – it shaped how I treated people, it shaped my level of effort and attention to detail, it shaped my honesty in things like travel expense reports, it shaped my language used in conversation, it shaped my choices to leave work on time and go home and be with my family. I tried to treat all people the same, from the janitor to the Vice President, and not wear my PhD on my sleeve for status. I tried to avoid being called Dr. Pope.”

Pope did fulfill that goal of becoming a professor and now teaches in ACU’s College of Business saying,

Don and his wife, Beth

“Eventually, faith was a factor in leaving a good job and choosing to come teach at a Christian university.” Pope is loved by the students and faculty. His integrity is apparent through his intentional Christ-like actions. “I try to treat everyone – students, staff, everybody with respect. I am no more important than the hard-working people who clean our building every night, out of sight. I try hard to get to know all my students, even in large classes. I ask them individually for what I can pray for. Although I teach quantitative courses, I still try to consider Christian perspectives in arriving at best decisions in business. Working with amazing faculty and staff colleagues has been very special.”

Each phase of life brings new lessons and opportunities. When asked what he has learned from teaching at ACU, Pope said, “I have learned from seeing students mature over the 4 years here and beyond that the Christian journey is a slow transformation into His (God’s) image and not to be too frustrated when students are not there yet.  Neither am I. Like Forrest Gump, that is all I have to say about that.”

COBA Students Travel the Globe in 2019

COBA sends students and professors across the world every summer. It’s an initiative that ACU and the College of Business feel strongly about and one that always leaves the professor and the student changed. During the summer of 2019, COBA had two student groups in Asia and Oxford. While the classes offered and excursions were different, one thing is the same. Students unanimously endorse studying abroad.

MGMT 419: Global Entrepreneur was the two-week class that sent eight students to Asia – specifically China, Thailand, and Hong Kong SAR – and was led by professors Andy Little and Jim Litton. To make the most of the group’s short time on the continent, classes were held on campus during the spring semester, with some of the work being completed ahead of time online. While in Asia, students and faculty gathered for several academic class discussion sessions. The trip also included a day spent in the Thai mountains visiting coffee farms and a visit with a group of “digital nomads” in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Among the unique experiences that students had in Asia, they climbed the Great Wall of China, spent two days in the mountains of Thailand visiting Karen hill tribe villages and hiking through the jungle, had a fun session learning about Muay Thai (Thai boxing), explored Hong Kong, and visited numerous religious sites in Thailand and Hong Kong.

Litton and Little are not strangers to China but no matter how many times they go abroad; they learn something new during each trip as well. Dr. Little said, “I learned a lot about eight great students and four distinct cultures (traditional Chinese, Thai, Karen hill tribe, and Hong Kong).  It was interesting to compare and contrast the Confucian values and culture of China with the predominantly Buddhist values and culture of Thailand.”

Emily Goulet, junior accounting major from Austin, Texas reflected on the trip. “Assessing this program in the literal sense is something that I have found hard to do because the benefits and knowledge that this trip has allowed for me to gain have an immeasurable value that doesn’t align with any quantitative scale in my mind.  Travel allows for a certain intrinsic value to be added to one’s knowledge and perspective and these are how we end up having a new shape to our worldview.  One way that I feel able to begin to understand and measure the impact of this program is within the amount of time I have spent in reflection after I returned home from the trip.”

Katie Norris, sophomore marketing major from Texas City, Texas said that Study Abroad gave her an opportunity to get to know her professors in a different setting. “It was really cool to have professors that I have not yet had in a traditional setting believe in me. I was the youngest one on the trip, but the professors did not make me feel like I was any less knowledgeable. I was also glad to pick their brain a bit about their journey and what they learned on their way to their current position in life.”

One of Katie’s favorite experiences was traveling to a small village in the Thailand mountains where students were greeted and taught to roast their own coffee. “This experience showed us how simple life could be when separated from the consumerism food chain. It also showed us the simple and pure joy that comes from creating something you are passionate about with your own hands and how important that is to take into a successful business as an entrepreneur.” She advises any student thinking about studying abroad to, “Choose a trip that is a culture you would be least likely to visit in the future.”

Professors Phil Vardiman and David Perkins took 27 students to Oxford, England with a side trip to Leipzig and Berlin, Germany. Students were able to earn up to 6 hours of course credit in International Business and a choice between Operations Management or Leadership in Organizations.

As part of the Operations Management course, the group visited the BMW and Porsche production plants in Leipzig, Germany. They learned about the automation innovations that have taken place at BMW and the craftsmanship approach that Porsche boasts in the assembly line at their facility. The group also visited Oxford Analytica. Oxford Analytica helps their clients “actively manage the impact of geopolitical, macroeconomic and global social factors on their performance.” One of the highlights of the trip for all involved was a project that the students completed with Asda, a British supermarket retailer whose parent company is Walmart. Students visited an Asda superstore and an Asda dark store as part of the International Business course to see first-hand the technological revolution happening overseas in the grocery industry. Students were asked to analyze Asda after visiting different store locations, give feedback about what they saw, and provide ideas for improvement in various areas. Near the end of the trip, student teams then gave professional presentations and recommendations to some of the corporate managers at Asda’s corporate auditorium.

Dr. Perkins and Dr. Vardiman were impressed with the students’ presentations and extremely proud of the way in which they represented COBA. They said that many of the recommendations were things that Asda was beginning to consider or would now look into considering because of the students’ findings. Vardiman also said that many of the Asda corporate managers encouraged the students to connect with them on LinkedIn and reflected, “You never know what kind of doors these presentations have opened for you and your career.”

Ben Fridge, sophomore financial management major from Sugar Land, Texas, enjoyed the experience that the Asda presentation gave to him. “Asda allowed us to visit some stores and examine the production and check-out systems they had. Towards the end of the month, after weeks of preparation, we came back together for a “Ted Talk-esque” presentation of innovations and plans that we had developed since visiting the store.” Ben said that the most unique experience of the trip involved the time spent at Asda. “Being courted by the division heads at Asda Superstores was an experience that I was beyond blessed to encounter as we were ushered into their facilities to tell them what we saw that could be improved in their stores. They allowed us to consult for them and offer multiple paradigm shifts that could benefit their company as a whole. The experience was nearly surreal as a group of (some still teen) college students offered ideas and innovations that were seriously considered and discussed by adults in executive positions.”

Allie Sorrells, junior management major from Waco, Texas said, “I think the Asda project was probably one of the most beneficial learning experiences I have ever had. We had to work together with our teams to come up with some really solid and creative ideas and learn how to professionally relay those to the managers at Asda. The presentation was very nerve-racking for me, but it was an excellent opportunity to grow in that area and learn how to express to others the ideas that our group worked so hard on. The Asda employees were so helpful and encouraging throughout the entire process and provided a lot of helpful feedback on our presentations. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.”

Along with gaining real world work experience, Allie and Ben grew as individuals and made life-long friends. Ben loved getting to know his professors outside of the classroom. He said, “I loved the ways our professors poured into us through intimate conversations about our plans and big vision items, encouraging us through what they had seen thus far on the trip. Two on ones (the two professors sitting down with each student individually) were incorporated at least once during the experience to dig deep into the things we’d seen, plans we had coming home and reflections on our growth and team bonding.”

Allie really appreciated the time and attention that Dr. Perkins and Dr. Vardiman gave to each student. “I really enjoyed that they were dedicated to spending time with the students outside of the classroom. Those 2-on-1 conversations allowed for the professors and students to learn more about each other and provide encouragement to each other. It was a favorite memory for me as well as for lot of other students. Their wives were also so great and kind and made an effort to get to know the students and provide encouragement for us whether that be in the form of homemade pastries one morning or endlessly praying for us as we took tests and embarked on journeys in smaller groups.”

Allie would encourage other students to study abroad. “DO IT! You won’t regret it. There are so many opportunities abroad for growth intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Even if you don’t know anyone else going, just go for it. It is so easy to make friends abroad because you are all going through the same culture shock and newness. You will make so many memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life, and you will get to see so many places you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. So yes, 100% do it!”

Ben is also a big proponent of Study Abroad. “Absolutely take on this journey. You will grow in obvious and non-obvious ways due to the cultural, environmental, social and academic ways that you are tested. I cannot recommend seeing the world in this way enough. I would recommend, for the bold, jumping into Study Abroad not knowing anyone or bringing close friends along, as I did. Going in, I planned to make connections that will last with every member of my team by the time we had finished. Coming out of the experience, I have twenty-six new best friends who I have crossed the globe with and made specific, diverse memories with that I will hold onto for longer than just these next few years in school.”

Throwback Thursday with Dr. Sarah Easter

Assistant Professor of Management, Dr. Sarah Easter (’06) may be in front of the classroom teaching today, but not too long ago she was a student at ACU. In fact, she was a very involved student, participating in Beta Gamma Sigma, SHRM, Leadership Summit, Phi Eta Sigma, Spring Break campaigns, Alpha Kai Omega, Wildcat Week, and was named to Who’s Who and as a University Scholar. She’s got great advice for current students as she reflects on her time at ACU.

 

What was your best memory from college?

I had a wonderful group of friends as a student at ACU and I have so many fond memories from these years in Abilene – from movie nights complete with a jumbo Tron and stadium style seating in friends’ living rooms to themed parties to playing ultimate Frisbee followed by ice cream club. This was a fun and joyous time and my college friends and I still reflect fondly on our fun memories together.

 

What is your best advice for college students?

Enjoy the present journey. It passes by all too quickly!

 

What do you wish you could tell your college self today?

This relates to my advice for college students today above – I tend to be a planner (which can also correspond with being a worrier). I wish I would have learned to be more content in the present and enjoy right where God had placed me in Abilene as a college student rather than continually thinking about what was next after college.