Written by special contributor Lance Fleming
It only takes a few seconds of studying the mission of ACU’s College of Business Administration (COBA) to discern that the holistic development of its students is as important as anything else that goes on in the Mabee Business Building.
Dr. Andy Little and students during their Study Abroad trip to Montevideo last summer.
The first point of the mission statement is “holistic student learning and development.” That part of the mission goes on to say that ACU “seeks spiritual, academic, and professional growth over the life of each student through exemplary teaching, experiential learning, and relationships with Christian faculty, professional staff, and engaged alumni.”
It’s all part of equipping the next generation of global leaders with all the tools necessary to be successful in their homes, in their places of worship, in their communities, and in their places of work.
“While great teaching is essential to what we do, we want to emphasize how our students learn and develop both inside and outside the classroom,” said Dr. Brad Crisp, Dean of the College of Business Administration. “That is why we are partnering with the university in the design and implementation of the Compass initiative.”
The Compass initiative begins with a customized roadmap showing the key experiences the student can choose during their time at ACU. Then, they can utilize the Compass app or website to gain access to badges and activities that they can pursue at the appropriate times during their journey. The student will also have a record of their co-curricular experiences during their time at ACU and within COBA.
Crisp and Derran Reese – Director of Experiential Learning – presented this initiative at the Suitable conference last summer in Philadelphia where ACU Compass won two awards: Highest Student Engagement (91% engagement rate) and The Distinguished Program Award. Suitable provides the technology platform supporting the Compass initiative. Reese said Compass was designed to help students engage in various activities and experiences that help them grow in various ways: intellectually, spiritually, professionally, etc.
“We must think about creating an integrated student experience,” Reese said. “Designing curricular and co-curricular activities should be intentional, and we need to communicate to students that these activities all contribute to their holistic development. That is why we designed Compass.”
Leadership Summit 2020 attendees (a program of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership).
Compass, however, is about more than the teaching that goes on in the classroom. It is about merging different experiences into the classroom, engaging students in projects and internships, and providing opportunities for them to lead in student organizations, etc. It’s about bringing in speakers and employers, going on Study Abroad trips, and participating in the Griggs Center or Lytle Center. It’s not just what is done inside the classroom.
“We have a BBA badge for our pre-business students and are working on reformatting the professional development badge and including a Lytle Center badge,” said M.C. Jennings, Student Engagement and Marketing Manager for COBA. “We want students to be able to keep track of all of their accomplishments and have a portfolio that they will be able to share with future employers that show all of the things they were involved in (Study Abroad, speakers, special projects), holds their resume and cover letter, has academic accomplishments, etc. Eventually, we hope to have more class assignments tied to Compass through Canvas. This is a tool that will enable students to track their academic, professional, personal, and spiritual growth throughout their time at ACU.”
And all of this is part of the holistic learning environment being fostered in COBA, an environment that is necessary for students preparing to enter the world away from ACU.
Dr. Matt Deeg takes students out of the regular classroom to learn about HR in a more interactive setting.
“Excellence is demanded of our graduates upon graduation,” said Tim Johnston, Assistant Dean of COBA. “Professors have the tough task of teaching to a high standard and evaluating a student’s ability to complete the assignments to standard. At ACU, our class size and Christian mission make the learning experience very personal. Striking the balance between objective assessment and personal care for an individual student is complex. Our professional development program and alumni connections help support the need for a student to achieve learning excellence.”
But, Reese said, that learning excellence must now include many different facets than might have been required even as few as five years ago.
“Today education is more holistic, and the responsibility of a university – particularly a Christian university – is to help form the whole student. That means that curriculum and pedagogy matter, and additional equipping of students with professional and life skills is vital. Expanding their awareness of diverse cultures and peoples, while developing the type of character that will enhance their careers and bless the world are challenges we address with focused intentionality.”
Written by special contributor Lance Fleming
The College of Business Administration (COBA) recently undertook what Dr. Brad Crisp considers “the most significant change to business curricula at ACU in at least three decades” with revisions to the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) majors.
Those changes include updates to the core requirements for all business majors and to the major requirements for each business major, including an analytics track available within each major. The process that was undertaken was extensive and lasted a few years, including input from the COBA Dean’s Council, Visiting Committees, and other external stakeholders.
The members of each of those committees and groups were looking at in-depth benchmarking, analysis, and solution alternatives identified by the BBA Task Force. Those committees undertook extensive discussions on a wide range of proposals from the faculty task force, which was formed in early 2019 and delivered its recommendations later that fall. After the committees did their work, the changes were approved last spring by faculty and administrators at all levels of the university.
The goal of the core revision largely focused on faith and ethics, analytics and technology, and professional development.
“Faith and ethics are central to our identity as a Christian university,” said Dr. Crisp, the Dean of the College of Business Administration, “and we added some ethics content to a required business law course. All business majors will now take a two-course sequence in analytics and can choose a nine-hour or more track in analytics. Finally, we are placing greater emphasis on professional development by requiring a professional internship in management, marketing, and information systems and offering an internship as an option for accounting and finance majors.”
Photo by Jeremy Enlow
Those recommendations and changes are part of COBA keeping up with the pace of change that is currently being seen in the business world, said Andy Little, associate dean for COBA and associate professor of Business Law.
“The pace of change in the business world – and society in general – necessitates some level of change in two dimensions: first within a specific course, faculty need to stay up to date with new developments; and second, from time to time, the curriculum in general needs to be evaluated and potentially updated,” Little said. “It’s easy for most faculty to update specific courses on a regular basis. I’ve added three new readings to my introductory law class, all of which deal with recent developments in the legislature.
“Maybe more clearly, a course like Digital Marketing requires near-constant revision, just to keep up with all the changes in how people and companies use platforms to market products and services,” he said. “To a certain extent, the velocity of change works in favor of a stable curriculum: foundational subjects like Accounting, Economics, and Statistics need to be included in every iteration of a core curriculum over time because those are the building blocks on which much of the business enterprise rests.”
Every major was reviewed and now has more market aligned pathways giving students more direction and professional guidance as they look toward their future profession. As the business world evolves, COBA is continually looking for ways to prepare students both inside and outside of the classroom. We do this through holistic student development, offering foundational business courses and major specific tracks, and including ethics in our offerings. This combination helps us strive to produce graduates who honor God and bless the world.
To learn more about the College of Business at ACU, click here.
Written by special contributor Lance Fleming
Growing up in Cameroon as the oldest child in a family of five, Dr. Joseph Manga never imagined where his life would take him.
Four different universities for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral work, as well as tutoring and teaching experience, have all been part of the experience. And this past summer, it led him to Abilene Christian University and the College of Business Administration where he is teaching Management Information Systems.
Manga now joins the full-time faculty as a tenure-track assistant professor of Information
Systems and Management Science. None of this was what Manga expected to be his life’s work
while living in Cameroon. But as he would come to learn, God had other plans for his life.
“As we know, many may be the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord determines the end,” he
continued. “I began with Mathematics, did a little bit of Computer Science, and then moved on
to business (MIS). This all worked out because I didn’t just want to be crunching numbers and
not know how to interpret them. So, I developed my love for learning from my personal
experience. As an introvert, I thought that doing something that would keep me from talking to
people would be great. That’s why I’m so passionate about research. That was all my plan. But
God’s plan was to send me to love and talk to people.”
Knowing all of that, it still took a chance conversation with a friend that pointed him toward
teaching and meeting the needs of young people.
“I vividly remember sometime in 1998 a friend walked up to me and said, ‘I see you as a
teacher,’ “ Manga said. “I didn’t want to hear that because I never wanted to teach, partly
because of my personality. But as I applied myself to learning, I realized there is more to
teaching than just transferring knowledge. It involves mentoring and discipleship, which are
godly assignments that we are called to fulfill. I believe that teaching brings transformation to
many when it is done in a godly way. That’s why I’m excited to be part of a family and
community that focus on raising a holistic generation in terms of spiritual academic formation,
who will, in turn, move on to serve and transform their world.”
He’s also motivated by the memory of his father, who passed away last January. Manga is the
first person in his family to attain a doctorate, and he attributes his decision to reach the
highest level of education to his father, who worked as a janitor at the university Manga
attended in Cameroon.
“My dad was a strong motivator and proponent for pursuing education, which is a passion for
me now – to see young people educated,” Manga said. “As a janitor, my dad would wake up
very early to go clean the classrooms before students started classes. I still remember one
instance when my dad’s supervisor verbally demeaned him, and I felt bad. But I decided to get
to the highest level of education and use it to honor the janitors who keep our work
environment clean. It was an awful life experience, but it served as a challenge to the
educational experience I have today, which I see as a blessing.”
Manga earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Buea in Cameroon before earning a
Master’s of Business Administration from Midwestern State University in 2014, a Master of
Science in Management Information Systems from the University of North Texas in 2018, and
finally his Ph.D., in Business Administration from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in
During all of his academic work, Manga has continued his research in several different areas of
management information systems, technology, information security policy compliance,
business analytics, health information technology, cyber security, and many others.
“Research is a passion,” Manga said. It’s one way to apply my background knowledge in
Mathematics, which is problem-solving. Identifying problems and looking for ways to provide
solutions to these problems is what drives me into research. Finally, I see research as making a
little contribution to academia and giving back to the community.”
Manga has also worked as a Men’s Ministry Coordinator at Abundant Grace Community Church
in Edinburg and as a tutor while in Wichita Falls. And he’s kept up with a family that includes
wife Clarise and four children: Abijoy (9), Solien-Pearl (6), Zoe-Ann (5), and Joe-Praise (4), all of
whom he calls “inquisitive disciples.”
And now the family of six has found its way to Abilene and ACU where Manga is ready and
willing to serve as God leads.
“I am passionate to serve, especially in an environment that aligns with one’s beliefs and
values,” he said. “When the opportunity opened to be part of a culture and institution that
trains godly business leaders in whatever capacity they find themselves, I was glad to jump on
it. God opened this door and I love to follow His lead.”
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.
We’re excited to welcome Jane Clark to the COBA team where she will serve as the new Enrollment and Student Development Manager. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, Jane and her husband have recently moved to Abilene as her husband joined the ACU Football coaching staff. We asked Jane to tell us a little more about her background, her family and herself. Welcome to ACU, Jane!
Where did you go to school?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Kansas State University and went on to complete my Master’s degree at Oklahoma City University.
Tell us a little about your family:
I am so proud to be the daughter of Tom and Maggie Keehn of Wichita, KS. My mother still lives there and welove visiting when we are able, especially for holidays! She still has a way of magically transforming my childhood home and making it so special. My father passed away 4 years ago, but I am still a “Daddy’s girl” through and through. I have an older sister, Mary who is married to Jack. They have a brand new baby and our first nephew on my side of the family, Luke. They live in Denver, CO. My youngest brother and best friend, Paul, lives in Kansas City, MO with his fiance, Paige. I am happily married to Matthew who is a member of the ACU athletics staff and we are the proud dog parents of our ever-shedding, quirky pup, Max. I am fortunate to have a large extended family consisting of my wonderful aunts and uncles and numerous cousins and cousins-in-law that are considered as close as brothers and sisters.
Where have you worked in the past?
- Adjunct professor in Early Childhood Education at Luna Community College
- 2nd grade reading specialist in Lubbock, TX
- Director of Campus Tours and Events at New Mexico Highlands University ● Lead Primary Directress at Parkway Montessori in Kansas City, MO
What drew you to the work of higher education?
I am passionate about education at all stages – as a student as well as a teacher. I look to my collegiate experience as some of the most formative years of my young adult life – experiences, opportunities, relationships, and learning about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. To be able to support students through that journey academically, spiritually, and experientially is a professional honor. Being passionate about your work can be a rarity.
What drew you to ACU?
Even in my short time on ACU’s campus, I have seen the vision and mission within COBA come to life through staff, faculty, and students and I look forward to promoting this opportunity to all potential students whom I am able to meet.
Why do you enjoy working with college students?
Education has always been a passion and through most of my adult life, a trade. I look at this position as an opportunity to pour into potential and current ACU students as they begin to explore their options for their future. I see such vision, optimism, and passion in college students and it is absolutely contagious! Seeing young people that are so convicted in their faith and their future is inspiring.
Outside of teaching/work, what passions/hobbies do you have?
Matt and I love being active within our community! Whether that is trying out to a local restaurant or coffee shop, walking our dog, or finding a new park to explore, we love venturing out on our weeknights/weekends. I am a bit of a sports fanatic. I look forward to cheering on our ACU Wildcats and enjoy participating in recreational sports as well – running, hiking, pickleball, tennis, golf, volleyball, yoga, and soccer. I enjoy cooking and baking (and eating) new foods! I am always up for a new recipe to attempt or sample.
What is something that students might be surprised to find out about you?
I live/d a very active lifestyle – I have broken both of my arms twice, my right leg, and dislocated my right ankle. I just went ahead and bought the crutches at this point. Renting was silly. I hope to keep my cap on all of these numbers. *knock on wood*
What do you hope to accomplish in this new position?
I look forward to showcasing all the amazing experiences that are going on throughout COBA in a given academic year! Research, internships, classes, guest speakers, study abroad opportunities, involvement on campus, departmental chapels, and philanthropic events…I want potential students to come to COBA thinking about a certain major but leave hearing about our vision and seeing themselves growing as people in all areas of their lives as a COBA graduate.
Any baseball fan knows how much the game has changed in the last ten years. Many managers have begun focusing on stats for every aspect of the game, using staff members that specialize in analytics to help their team gain competitive advantages. This past spring Katie Carr (’22), information systems major from Wichita, Kansas, snagged an on-campus internship that has provided her with bountiful experience as she interned for the ACU baseball team as the Data Collection & Baseball Projects Manager. Katie told us more about her time with the team and how this internship has given her tangible skills and understanding to set her up for a homerun post-graduation.
WHAT DID YOU DO IN YOUR INTERNSHIP?
As Data Collections & Project Manager, I analyze game statistics for player development. For example, during practices and warmups, I track pitchers as they practice to gather information on attributes such as pitch velocity, spin rate, and horizontal/vertical break. This provides valuable information for the whole team – coaches can utilize this in making decisions about starting lineups, and players can assess their performance and see what weak spots to focus on.
Following games, I produce several reports such as top velocities, opposing pitcher compositions, and umpire statistics. I’m also in charge of setting up cameras to film the games and preparing a video guide with player appearances and times for easy navigation.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE INTERNSHIP?
My favorite part of this job is that the sports industry is never dull. Each day, it provides a different experience that leads to new challenges or ideas. If we see a trend start to appear during a game, that gives us the opportunity to dive deeper into the data to see if we find anything interesting.
WHAT WERE THE GREATEST LESSONS YOU LEARNED IN THE INTERNSHIP?
The greatest lesson I learned was to always be willing to learn. This role required a good understanding of the sport and knowing how it can be implemented in the player structure. While I had limited knowledge coming in, I didn’t let it discourage me. I come early and stay late after practices, scrimmages, and games to get more experience.
HOW DO YOU SEE THIS EXPERIENCE AIDING YOU IN THE FUTURE?
There are countless industries you can pursue with data analytics, and being able to get experience in those fields is important in order to get ideas of future job options. Prior to working with ACU’s baseball team, I had never considered sports analytics. However, working on the field over the last semester has helped me discover an industry I want to pursue more after graduate school.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR FUTURE INTERNS OR STUDENTS LOOKING FOR INTERNSHIPS?
Create meaningful relationships with your professors – they often have plenty of connections and are happy to help you out if you’re struggling. On one of our many office visits, I had mentioned to Dr. Ryan Jessup that I was looking for a job. Shortly after, he connected me with the baseball team’s coach who had reached out to him looking for analytics assistance.
HOW HAS YOUR TIME AT ACU PREPARED YOU FOR THIS INTERNSHIP AND FOR GRAD SCHOOL AFTER GRADUATION?
Assignments with real-world applications have been incredibly beneficial. I’ve always enjoyed projects where you can truly see the impact of your work (such as going to Costa Rica for the Enterprise Consulting class or assisting with the Suitable app onboarding in the System Analysis & Design class). These were all great opportunities to practice the skills learned in the classroom in a real-life scenario.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A COBA STUDENT?
My favorite part of being a COBA student is the number of faculty and staff who genuinely care about you and your future. I have received so much support and guidance from so many COBA professors that I know I wouldn’t get anywhere else. They truly believe in their students and their ability to succeed.
We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Katie as she explores careers in sports and analytics. Upon graduation, Katie plans to attend Wake Forest University for her Master’s in Business Analytics.