ACU Chapter of AMA Hosts First Virtual Networking Event

The ACU chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) hit the ground running as they began their second year back on campus. One of the goals of the AMA chapter is to equip students through professional development and provide real-world experiences. With this goal in mind, the chapter officers and advisors have set a goal to have an annual spring trip to the DFW area where they engage with alumni to visit their workplaces and show students what the life of a marketing professional in different fields looks like. 

Even though this year’s trip had to be canceled due to the current pandemic situation, the officers and advisors didn’t want members to miss out on such an opportunity.  As the team joined to brainstorm ideas to provide a similar experience to students, they used technology to their advantage and decided to plan the first AMA virtual event. There were a few challenges to take into consideration as the event was being planned, “I think there was a lot of uncertainty about the event during the beginning. Questions like, would students attend something like this? How long should the event be? Would it be weird to do it via zoom? How do we make it personal?” Lindsay Palmer commented. The faculty and staff advisors, Dr. Jennifer Golden and Lindsay Palmer, partnered with ACU alumni who could tell students about their marketing experience and personal branding, from the comfort of their homes.  After reaching out to professionals from various industries and marketing areas, four alumni joined with ACU AMA to tell students their stories. The panel included Jay Swinney from Indeed, Katherine Hall from Schaefer Advertising, Rachel Gilliam from Lev, and Reagan Morgan from PFSweb

Alumni Panel: Jay Swinney (’09), Katherine Hall (’13), Rachel Gilliam (’13) and Reagan Morgan (’08)

On June 8th, ACU AMA members and students from the College of Business Administration joined these alumni on Zoom for the virtual event, “What Now? Five Ways to Brand Yourself During a Crisis”. The event was kicked off by Dr. Jennifer Golden, who shared five ways for students to continue working on their personal brand during COVID-19 and stand out amongst job applicants. ACU AMA also partnered with COBA’s Professional Development office to offer additional opportunities and resources for students. Then, the alumni panel was introduced and each professional shared about their roles in their respective companies. From data analysts to account directors, each of the alumni had a different experience and perspective to share that was valuable for the wide range of interests of the students attending the virtual event. To provide a personal networking experience, students entered into break-out virtual rooms of 5 as one of the alumni guest speakers conducted a Q&A session.  

Besides learning practical ways to grow their network and develop their personal brand, students were able to connect with alumni and peers on LinkedIn with the information provided by the ACU AMA advisors. Social distancing did not limit the ability to connect with marketing professionals and learn insightful skills for the future. The alumni who willingly shared their time and experience with the students, once again, showed how ACU’s community is still valuable long after graduation. “We have such awesome alumni at ACU and in COBA specifically. They were all so willing to give up some of their time to advise and pour into current students. Overall, the event was a huge success in my opinion. It was cool to see how engaging the students and alumni were with each other. I think this event also helped bring a new opportunities to our students. I can’t wait to see what else AMA does.” Lindsay added.

Students joined by ACU Alumni for the virtual event via Zoom

The ACU AMA chapter is looking forward to another year of professional growth and events that empower students to fulfill their career goals. As the year was kicked off with an incredible event, the new officers and advisors hope to provide similar opportunities to all members throughout the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Click here to check out the landing page created for the event with the bios of participating alumni. Follow ACU AMA on Instagram @ama_acu to hear about our next event. If you have any questions about membership, please email ACU AMA advisor, Lindsay Palmer.

COBA Students Receive University Scholar Award

Student leaders across campus display ACU’s mission daily through their academic excellence, Christian service and leadership on our campus. Every year, students like these are nominated by their academic department and  from those nominations, fifty scholars are selected by the ACU Faculty Senate to receive the University Scholars Award for their graduating class. Among these fifty scholars who demonstrated outstanding scholarship by maintaining a GPA of 3.5 or higher, earned 90 hours towards their degree, and pursued knowledge in their research field, are four students from the College of Business Administration. The students who received this year’s award are Allie Sorrells, Bryce Adams, Jessica Herrera and Luke Stevens.

Allie Sorrells

Allie Sorrells is an accounting and management major from Waco, TX. During her time on campus, Allie enjoyed participating and creating long-lasting memories in ACU traditions like Sing Song, the Homecoming Parade, Freshman Follies, and Candlelight Devo. Allie has been an active member of the Honors College, Beta Gamma Sigma and the women’s social club Ko Jo Kai, where she served as treasurer this past academic year. Allie also served as project lead for the Enactus Children’s Business Fair through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. Among her favorite activities while at ACU was the opportunity to study abroad in Oxford with the College of Business Administration. While there, they visited the manufacturing plant of BMW and Porsche and participated in an extensive project with ASDA. “With ASDA, we analyzed the company’s business process at multiple locations and came up with our own solutions and improvements. We then shared these ideas with the corporate employees in a professional business presentation. Through that experience, we learned how to go about preparing for and giving formal presentations while incorporating what we were learning in class,” Sorrells stated. Allie commends her professors for bringing their industry expertise to the classroom, speaking from real-world experience and a place of faith, while preparing students to enter the world as ethical businessmen/women. With this faith and business incorporation in mind, Allie hopes to start graduate school, complete her CPA exams, and eventually work in corporate accounting or supply chain management. As she wraps up her time at ACU, Allie says, “I am very grateful for my time here at ACU and in COBA. It’s been a really special experience and I wouldn’t trade the past few years for the world. If you have not plugged in, find an organization in COBA, at ACU, or in the general community to become a part of. Also, get to know your professors; they can become some of your biggest advocates and supporters.” 

Bryce Adams

Bryce Adams is a financial management major from Dallas, TX. Coming from a family of ACU Wildcats, Bryce was drawn to the academic excellence that this university strives. “The quality of ACU’s business school really sealed the deal for me,” Adams said. As a student at the College of Business Administration, Bryce has enjoyed opportunities like Leadership Summit, a week-long course in January where his perspective on life and business was transformed. Additionally, the advice and guidance of business alumni who visited the ACU campus have served as motivation for Bryce. “I think COBA has instilled values that are nestled within the education that are more important than the actual education. You can get an education anywhere; COBA certainly educates you but, if you let it, it will give you principles that serve you for life beyond business,” Bryce added. Besides being involved in his department as a member of Heacock Scholars, he serves as an Apartment Leader for World’s Backyard, where he seeks to share the Gospel while growing in relationship with the kids he serves and creating a long-lasting impact in their lives. As someone who has decided to give full control to the Lord, Bryce says, “Anything I’ve achieved is through God’s grace and provision. He deserves the accolades, not me. If you have any business ideas you’re thinking about or you just want to talk about the Lord, let’s grab coffee.”

Jessica Herrera

Jessica Herrera is an accounting major with a minor in mathematics from Schertz, TX. After pursuing her dream of receiving an education that incorporated Christianity, she arrived at ACU where she was immediately impacted by prayers and scripture readings by her professors during class sessions. Her involvement on campus includes being a member of the women’s social club Delta Theta and W-Club, a group of women joined by academic excellence. After taking advantage of professional development opportunities such as “Meet the Firm Night”, a networking event with different accounting firms, she is planning on enrolling in the MAcc program with hopes to land a job in one of the Big 4 accounting firms. She attributes her preparedness for the future to those professors who have invested in her education and the professional development that guided her career aspirations for the future. “ACU is such a great school and I feel that I have grown exponentially in my faith and education in the few years that I have been here. I have had a great college experience by taking advantage of the many opportunities and activities that ACU has available to its students,” Jessica shared.

Luke Stevens

Luke Stevens is a marketing major from Montgomery, TX. Luke came to ACU seeking a high-quality education that was accompanied by a Christian foundation, “ I didn’t want to compromise on my conviction to be educated in this way and ACU offered the perfect opportunity to pursue my desire for a Christian education,” Stevens said. During his time at ACU, Luke participated as Junior Class Treasurer for the Student Government Association, worked for the College of Business Administration as a student worker and served as project lead for the Enactus Brainstorming Committee. Besides his involvement with student organizations, Luke was able to attend Leadership Summit and feel the support of faculty and staff in his department who helped him advance his career opportunities. When asked what his favorite thing about his time at ACU was, Luke said, “My favorite thing about COBA is the relationships I made there. I have made lifelong friends with fellow business students and will always be grateful for their influence on my education and spiritual growth. The faculty and staff are simply exceptional. They care about quality education, exemplify ethical leadership, and have a sincere desire to see you succeed. I certainly consider several of the faculty and staff at COBA to be my mentors and friends.” Luke is planning to attend Southern Methodist University in the fall to complete a Master of Science in Business Analytics in the fall. As he leaves ACU until his next visit, Luke says, “My time as a business student at ACU has changed my life in drastic ways. Some people might pass through college and 10 years later not be able recall what they learned or people they met. For me, I know I will never forget the family I became a part of at ACU and what they taught me.”

STAR Hits Another Milestone and Makes First Distribution of Earnings

Since its inception in 1999 with an initial amount of approximately $100,000, STAR has had several goals in mind. One of those goals was reached when the group hit a huge milestone with $1.5 million in their portfolio this past spring although the portfolio has dipped slightly with the recent economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another one of those goals was reached today when the group was able to make their first distribution from earnings.

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

Assistant Professor of Finance Dr. Jody Jones, said that the distribution will be “$63,000, roughly 4.5% of the December 31, 2019 balance.  Students ‘final’ this Thursday is to make sure they have the cash to distribute back to the endowment. The cash for this disbursement came primarily from gains made this semester on Ford (F), Gold (GLD), and decreasing the holdings in Healthcare Inc (HCA). As of this writing, the fund is $1.3 million (almost to the penny) and STAR is beating the S&P 500 by almost 5% YTD.”

STAR is a student-managed equity fund that is part of the university’s endowment. This semester the students must have $63,000 (4.5% of the 12/31 value) in cash. That money will be used to support the operation of the university as a whole. Jones says that students gain experience that will career over into their professional careers in the future. “Managing over $1 million dollars is something they can put on their resume and shows they have experience – especially this semester when many students lost jobs and internship opportunities.”

Senior Finance major Hunter Jennings said that he learned many things from his time in STAR. “I learned that in order to learn and be successful, you have to be willing to take risks. This experience will translate into my professional career because it pushed me to make decisions and effectively communicate my thoughts and ideas with my peers.”

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

As for learning during a time when the stock market was particularly volatile, Jennings said, “The stock market can be rewarding and it can hurt you. It is all about how you react to those changes. There was a point where we had the fund to its highest value, just to have the market crash and the value go back to where we started.”

Hunter encourages students to consider being a part of the group. “I think that if anyone is interested in getting to work with a team and see real-world results, then they should join STAR. You don’t have to have any experience trading stocks or even be a finance major. Overall, it was one of my favorite classes to take at ACU.”

Students Utilize Virtual Interviewing for Internships

Cliff Crockett (’89), Partner at the accounting firm KPMG in Dallas, Texas, has been conducting interviews for accounting internships at ACU for the past twenty years. This year’s global pandemic proved to be a bit of a challenge. Yet, the social distancing guidelines moved them in the direction that many companies across the country are taking: adapting to virtual interviews.

“We have always done face to face interviews and much prefer them. So this was the first time to do Skype interviews on a broad basis,” Cliff explained. While exceptions have been made before to accommodate students out of the country on study abroad, in-person interviews are the ideal platform to allow interaction with the students.

“We typically have a pre-interview dinner the evening before the interview so that we can get to know them better. This also allows the students to ask a lot of questions to multiple KPMG employees to help them feel more comfortable and get to know KPMG better. The students also get to interact with our greeters right before the in-person interview, so they miss out on this as well.”

Students initially had their interviews scheduled for March 26th, but when the campus closed, they instead began to prepare for virtual ones. When asked if this changed their approach in preparing, sophomore Lacy Mayes explained, “I had to practice looking at the camera instead of the screen. It’s definitely a different approach when you can’t shake hands or look at them directly in the eyes.”

Mikel-Ann Terry

One of the main concerns for virtual interviewing is technology issues, from poor connections to glitches. “I think it is harder for students doing it this way than for the interviewer actually,” Mr. Crockett explained, as KPMG is accustomed to meeting virtually with clients and employees. He advised students to double-check that their technical setup was working well before their interview. However, even when issues arose, junior Mikel-Ann Terry said that the interviewers were very understanding of any issues encountered, saying, “I would encourage anyone thinking about an internship to interview with them, even if it is just for the experience!”

Hannah Pinson

Even though face to face is the ideal platform for interviewing, going virtual is providing students with valuable experience – regardless of location. Senior Rachel Rankey shared, “I learned to speak with confidence so they know what you’re saying and why you were right for that position. I also learned that oftentimes, they just want to get a sense of who you are rather than grilling you with a lot of questions that might be hard to answer”. Junior Hannah Pinson said that she enjoyed the virtual aspect, once she grew accustomed to it.

Crockett concluded by sharing how much he loves being on campus and interviewing ACU students. He and his team look forward to being on campus as soon as they can. “ACU does a great job preparing their business and accounting students for the real world, so take full advantage of your education!”

Venture Out — Home Edition

In the College of Business Administration, students across the board have experienced the challenge of creating and selling a product to their peers however students this semester are facing an additional challenge: creating and selling their product — from home. All business students are required to take the class Intro to Business. This class gives students an idea of what different fields of business are all about. One of the main projects in the course is an entrepreneur-type activity called ‘Venture Out’. Teams are built to create, market, and sell a product to the ACU community; incentives include grades throughout the course, entrepreneur experience, and the opportunity to donate additional profits to the beneficiary of the team’s choice. Products in the past have ranged from t-shirts, stickers, sweatshirts, or anything that can be dreamed up. The teams must keep track of expenses, create a business plan, and pitch their product to a board of professionals for approval.

While this project provides students with valuable experience, current Intro to Business students impacted by the campus closure are having to promote and sell their products remotely. Intro to Business professor Dr. Monty Lynn explained that due to this issue, not all of the teams were able to proceed with the project due to funding and selling issues. Venture Out teams who were already underway in their project chose to continue and are now facing the challenge of selling that product away from the ACU campus. Dr. Lynn commented that despite this extra obstacle, “They are doing a tremendous job”. 

Two of these current participating teams shared their experience so far. “It was more difficult to connect with our customers and explain why we were selling this product,” explained Berkley Bruckner, member of Team Foundation T’s. They chose to sell t-shirts, and created the design in hopes of boosting school spirit and promoting awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters, their chosen beneficiary. “Since most of our group members are freshmen, we wanted to incorporate a class we all have to take this year. We chose our Bible class and wrote ‘Wildcats’ in Greek”.

Another team experienced similar issues. When asked what has been a challenge for them, member Estefany Hernandez stated that “We couldn’t express our feelings about where the money will be donated or to express our love for children and giving back”. They chose the Hendrick Home for Children as their beneficiary and decided on t-shirts as well for their product. 

Despite the challenges posed for this unprecedented sales environment that COVID-19 has brought on, these student teams are persevering and are learning valuable skills. Dr. Monty Lynn shared a customer’s experience with one of these continuing Venture Out teams: “An ACU graduate student recently contacted me to say she purchased some stickers from a team and was so impressed with the transaction. She received the ordered stickers in the mail shortly after purchasing it online. The product even arrived with customer service touches and an e-invoice! So just a shout-out to our freshmen business teams who have pivoted quickly and are serving well!” COBA is proud of these teams for their success and perseverance during this time and believes that unique business lessons are being learned about the need for flexibility and agility in small businesses that will stay with these students for a lifetime. 

Internship Spotlight: Graham Cepica

Graham Cepica (’21) is a marketing major from Lubbock, TX. Graham recently began an internship with New York real estate developer, Horacio LeDon, where he has been able to receive real-world experience that he can translate to the classroom and his professional career development. When it comes to internships and job searches, networking often plays a vital role in finding the opportunities that will provide the most valuable experience. Initiative, interest, and passion also play a large role in obtaining such opportunities. Graham is a wonderful example of how networking brought him to a once in a lifetime internship opening.

“Last semester, I had the chance to attend the Abilene Young Professionals Summit. In one of the breakout sessions, a local entrepreneur and real estate developer named Tim Smith was speaking. After the panel, I introduced myself to him and got his information. It wasn’t long before I was spending my days downtown shadowing Tim, meeting people, and learning about the exciting developments in store for Abilene. Towards the end of the semester, I approached Tim about a possible internship for the coming spring. Even though he could use a hand with his projects in south downtown, he suggested a better alternative. Tim introduced me to a man by the name of Horacio LeDon, a prominent real estate developer from New York that was a fellow investor in the purchase of the Windsor Hotel. Horacio was the lead developer for the renovation and revitalization of the historic building and was willing to take me on as his intern. Tim recognized that this project would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and the experience has been nothing short of exactly that.”

“I would go to my internship every weekday after I got out of class. A typical day looks like me meeting Horacio after lunch and updating him on any upcoming meetings that I have set up for us with different vendors and partners. For example, Abilene companies that sell flags that we want to extend from the balcony, potential businesses that we are interested in for the retail spaces connected to the lobby, interviews with local CPA’s to serve as part-time CFO’s, interior designers that can come alongside us in the project, architects, lighting designers, security services, etc. In addition to meetings, I organize floorplans, inspiration, official documents, and agendas into their corresponding files. Horacio and I have various shared photo albums with inspiration for the Windsor, as well as shared Notes with to-do lists. Sometimes, Horacio has his own meetings that I get to shadow. I have gotten to meet the city manager, chairman of the city council, and others by way of Horacio’s network. Horacio is always mindful of providing me with valuable experience and learning opportunities. The relationship I have with Horacio has been my favorite part of the internship. Due to a mutual respect for one another, we have developed an efficient working environment allowing me to serve the team and be part of a special development for downtown Abilene.”

This project has fueled a desire in Graham to further explore careers in real estate and real estate development. “I am intrigued by the creativity that real estate development presents. The ability to see something with potential and add value to it is something that I have a passion for. I would love to bring this passion into my career – whether I am adding value to a building, a project, or a team of people. But right now, my next best step is to ‘add value’ to this internship with the service I provide.”

The College of Business Administration seeks to provide all students with internship and job search help, professional development coaching, as well as helping students expand their professional network. Graham Cepica is definitely a testament to the power of networking, saying, “The networking opportunities at ACU had a domino effect that led me from one person to the next.”

Interested in learning more about professional development at ACU? Click here to learn more about the Professional Development program offered by COBA. Click here to learn more about ACU’s Career Center.