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?
- Financial Management Association
- Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy
- 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!
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.
While many students long for the excitement of faraway places, you don’t have to look far from home for a valuable internship. For junior business management major Berkley Bruckner, this was exactly the case. Located in her hometown of Amarillo, TX, Fairly Group gave her the opportunity to enhance her career development, prepare her for difficult hiring scenarios, and strengthen her confidence in both decision-making and communications with like-minded professionals. The Fairly Group is a risk consulting firm advising clients throughout the United States and in over 100 countries in several business segments including corporate risk, human capital and benefits, and a broad array of risk consulting specialties. They are also the largest insurance broker in the Texas Panhandle.
Berkley was able to intern alongside the HR Director and learn first-hand the daily processes of human resources. “I was mainly a part of the hiring process for Fairly group and their sister company Occunet. I would look at resumes people would send in to the company website or I would go to Indeed and look for potential people to hire. I would also schedule interviews with the HR director and had the opportunity to sit in on the first initial phone interview with prospective job candidates.” This enabled her to put into practice what she had been learning about hiring new employees, including bias-free interviewing processes. Berkley also was included in a workshop that helped her gain more perspective on empathy for her co-workers.
“I participated in a workshop while interning for this company and it was one of the greatest lessons I learned. It was about having an outward mindset and how to always try and take into consideration the people around us. Even if we have conflicts or get frustrated with our coworkers, we never know what they are going through so we should try and be open minded and empathetic towards them and not try to retaliate against them.” Not only did Berkley learn about the strategic and logistical processes of working in Human Resource Management, she was also able to gain insight on the relational side of working with and for other people.
Like many other companies, the pandemic has been an agent of change for the workplace for the Fairly Group. This gave Berkley the opportunity to be in an in-person work environment while learning how to include and be intentional with the company’s remote employees. “I would say that almost 25% of the company was working virtually, and this was an initial challenge to work collaboratively with them and stay in contact, but I grew in this area tremendously.”
Berkley’s experiences in COBA prepared her to take on the workload of this internship through purposeful classes, connections with faculty and staff, and her involvement with the ACU Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. In addition to COBA classes, she has been involved in Freshmen Follies, Sing Song, Delta Theta, and has been a mentor group leader for Wildcat Week. Her involvement on campus gave her the practice she needed to connect with future employers. She advises future interns to “try and get to know as many people as you can in the company you intern for and connect with them on LinkedIn. They could be great connections to have in the future when you go into your career and pursue bigger opportunities.”
Through her internship, Berkley was able to put into action the lessons she has learned in the classroom and through her SHRM on how to recruit potential job candidates, communicate effectively with co-workers, and step outside of her comfort zone to further develop her leadership qualities. And not only did she gain invaluable experience in a work environment very new to her, she was able to spend the summer in her hometown – the best of both worlds. If you are a student looking for help with an internship or job preparation or searches, contact COBA’s Professional Development Manager, Steph Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COBA wants to give a warm welcome to Dr. Trent McNamara, Assistant Professor of Economics. This fall, McNamara will be teaching Principles of Microeconomics and Business Statistics. Trent was born in New Zealand, grew up in Ohio, and moved to Texas in 2007 shortly before starting high school. McNamara double majored in Economics and Pure Mathematics at the University of Texas, graduating in 2015. He then continued with his education, entering into a doctorate program at Texas A&M University where he earned his Ph.D. in Economics in May 2020. Dr. McNamara has been a lecturer for Texas A&M and has also worked in consulting. Trent has been married to his wife, Shelby, for 5 years and together they have a three-year-old son, Haydn.
McNamara said that he was drawn to teaching because it’s a way to contribute to making the world a better place. He shared “I was drawn to this line of work because I enjoy teaching and being able to give back to others. Having been so fortunate to pursue my education and recognizing everyone who helped me get to where I am, I am excited to be able to give back.” He was especially drawn to teach at ACU because of the unique environment, saying noting that the people, the culture, and the relationships that he has developed at ACU have been unique and a special thing to be a part of.
Trent enjoys pushing students beyond their comfort zones to help them grow. “I enjoy helping people push the boundaries of what they thought was possible. Oftentimes, we put a lot of unnecessary constraints or doubt on ourselves – being able to positively encourage people to try something new or to learn something challenging, and to be there for them throughout that process is incredibly rewarding.”
Outside of teaching, McNamara enjoys a variety of hobbies. He said, “I find myself engaged in a lot of things. For days at home, I love to run, read, or cook. I also began woodworking recently and have built all our son’s furniture. For days away from home, you can find us camping and hiking.”
Through this position with COBA, Dr. McNamara told us that his biggest goal is to help others. “If I can make a positive difference in someone’s life each day, I would call that a success.” We pray blessings on Trent and his family as they begin a new milestone. We’re excited to see the ways that Trent will make a positive impact on the lives of COBA students and colleagues. Help us give a warm welcome Dr. McNamara and his family to Abilene and ACU by introducing yourself if you see them on campus or in town. Welcome to ACU, McNamara family!
Matt and Brittany Deeg
COBA is excited to add Dr. Matt Deeg to the faculty this year as Assistant Professor of Management. Deeg will be teaching Organizational Behavior and Compensation & Benefits Management this semester and will teach leadership and other HR/Management-focused courses. Matt earned his B.A. in Social Sciences and Organizational Studies from the University of Oklahoma, M.Ed. in Adult/Higher Education Administration from the University of Oklahoma, and Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior & Human Resource Management from University of Kansas with a research emphasis in meaningful work and why people choose to support one another in times of stress. Deeg also worked in student development for 5 years, mentoring and providing leadership development to students and organizations.
Matt and his wife, Brittany, are originally from Duncan, Oklahoma and Toledo, Ohio respectively. “We met when we were both working on the student development side of university life (separate schools). She excels at thinking deeply about any number of topics (probably why we mesh well!) and making them accessible to almost any audience. Her patience and love for others inspires me constantly.” Matt would like to introduce his pets as well, “Panther (the special one whom I bottle-fed from 1 week), Tippy (his ornery brother), and their dog brother Chase (who inspired all of Paw Patrol).” We asked Dr. Deeg a few questions so we could get to know him a little better.
Deeg was drawn to the work of teaching as he’s always been inquisitive. “I’ve always been curious about how things work and why. Growing up, I was a voracious reader and curious kid who just wanted to know stuff. In my undergraduate studies, I explored a whole lot of different majors (engineering to geology to math, and then some). I finally found my groove in the social sciences, exploring what makes people ‘tick’. The drive to become a teacher came from the influence of several faculty members who demonstrated great curiosity in subjects and exceptional care for their students. I put the Ph.D. on hold for a little while to figure out exactly what I wanted to study, and it was in the intervening time that I realized how much I loved helping students explore and develop skills that they can use throughout their lives (at work and in their communities). About 4 years into my career, I realized how influential someone’s work can be to their whole life; from there, it was easy to make that choice to focus on OB/HRM. This work truly is an incredible gift; I get to wake up each day and continue to learn new things and share what I’ve learned and am learning with others!”
Deeg was drawn to teach at ACU because he felt like it was in alignment with his own priorities. “In OB (Organizational Behavior) we talk about person-organization fit, the match an individual feels between their values and the values of a specific place. I’ve worked at a wide range of universities, from large state schools to very small liberal arts institutions. I was always attracted to places where the students came first and their successes were celebrated. So, ACU was a natural fit in that regard. But, even more so, when I was going through the job search process, ACU stood out so strongly because the values that are talked about here (love for God, for others, and for impacting the world) are the same values that I hold. The way that faith is celebrated, prized, and woven throughout an exceptional academic experience is such a gift. There was such a good match, and I was instantly drawn to the opportunity to bring my whole self to work.”
Matt loves teaching and interacting with students. “My main life purpose is helping people thrive and positively impact others; as a professor, I get the opportunity to teach (and hopefully inspire) students to go out and make a difference in others’ lives. In my college career, I had an incredible mentor named Kevin who helped me grow in my relationship with God and as a student leader. He inspired me to lean into my work with college students, and I’m so grateful for a role that allows me to continue to pay forward the impact so many professors and mentors have had in my life. College is a time when you’re still learning and have a lot of freedom to make mistakes; being a participant in this ‘life lab’ with students as they figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how they want to serve the world feeds my spirit.”
Outside of teaching, you’ll most often find Matt in the kitchen or the workshop. “Brittany and I both enjoy cooking, especially cuisines we’re not super familiar with. We’ve been cooking our way through an Asian cookbook (using my outdoor wok burner ) and recently got a cookbook of recipes from 8 countries in east Africa that we’re excited to try. I really enjoy woodworking – building lamps, desks, and the occasional dog food bowl holder. To relax after work, I also enjoy playing classical music on the piano.”
Deeg is looking forward to making a positive impact in his new position. “I’m excited to help students as they prepare to do good work wherever their life takes them – building relationships with students in class and outside of it so they have resources to draw on as they move through life. I’m looking forward to working more closely with students to do research on stress and support; the research process is such an invigorating experience full of learning opportunities. And, I’m hoping to bring my own research (on support and meaningfulness in life) into classes, either through class sessions on these topics or through honors colloquia. Additionally, I’m hoping to build strong relationships with our local business leaders to find more opportunities for our students to get practical experience.”
We’re looking forward to the ways in which Dr. Deeg will positively impact COBA students and the COBA team. Be sure to introduce yourself to Matt and Brittany as you see them on campus and in our community as we welcome them to ACU.
In this new environment of learning, more and more professors are leaning into the online platform to teach their classes and interact with their students. One such professor is long-time COBA professor, Dr. Don Pope. Dr. Pope teaches undergrad and graduate classes, and within the past year, has transitioned to teaching his classes online. While it might seem intuitive to think online classes would lack much interaction, Pope has expressed that he is seeing “more engagement than ever.” That seemed surprising to us, so we sat down with him to understand how he encourages engagement in a virtual environment.
How have you noticed “more engagement than ever” while teaching your online classes?
Dr. Don Pope
Dr. Pope explains that while the engagement might look different than an in-person class, it is still strong. “The discussion questions in the Canvas online courses provide for a more structured environment for student responses and interactions.” He went on to say that because of the way the students can engage with each other, no student dominates the discussion as they might in a face-to-face environment. He shared that the online environment is also helpful in providing more detailed video explanations for solving problems and assignments, which is “especially helpful to students who struggle to absorb lectures or students who are sick or traveling for sports.”
Specifically, during COVID, how did you work to engage your students?
“When COVID first shut down our face-to-face class delivery in March 2020, I remember looking out my office window and seeing all those Redbud trees in bloom on the east side of our building, symbolic of God’s continued blessings. About that same time, my wife and I were sitting at home on a Sunday morning watching our church service using my computer, taking our own communion using crackers and grape juice. It occurred to me that my newly online students might need encouragement besides just instruction. So, I began sending out a Sunday devotional thought each week and I have continued that.” Dr. Pope has continued to send his Sunday devotional to his online classes since March of 2020.
How have you seen the Lord move through this transition to fully teaching online?
For Dr. Pope, the transition to teaching online was more than just a COVID response. About 5 years ago, he began to lose much of his speaking voice. Unable to regain the volume he needs to speak to an in-person class, he made the decision to teach online at this time. “I really, really enjoyed classroom teaching, so teaching online is something that I had to adjust to. But having said that, I have felt Spirit-led to engage my students more with the Sunday Bible verses and asking them how I can pray for them. My spiritual interactions with my students have been greater online than before in the classroom.”
Can students still stop by and see you in person?
“Yes. Some of my online classes are for Abilene residential students, and I would really like that. I still care about each student on a personal level.”
Dr. Pope’s ability to not only adjust to online teaching but go the extra mile in making this format even more personal for each student is indicative of the intentionality he has shown to all of his students throughout his teaching career. Inspiring, equipping, and connecting with our students is more than a mission statement for Pope. He is living this out daily in the lives of his students.