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. 

An Interrupted Semester: A Study Abroad Student’s Perspective

(Maddy Crockett, sophomore accounting major from Lubbock, Texas shares her experience of living in Oxford, England with ACU’s Study Abroad program this spring and what it was like when they were forced to return home due to the Coronavirus.)  

Heartbroken – the moment we’d been dreading had come. We looked around at each other as they announced over the loud speaker on the bus that the Oxford program was forced to shut down. We were going home two months earlier than expected. President Trump had addressed the nation the night before, raising the travel restriction levels all throughout Europe, except for the UK. The other students in Leipzig were out of Germany when the news came, and they left immediately – without their belongings and without saying goodbye. The prospect of the Coronavirus interfering with our semester had been a topic of debate between the students for several weeks, but we were optimistic until the end. After that day, though, we began the dreaded process of saying goodbye.

Before I studied abroad, I might not have taken seriously how deeply one connects to the place they live. “Yes, they have to come home. So what? They just spent the last two months travelling and spending money. Surely it couldn’t have made that big of an impact, right?” And sadly, I make these assumptions for many activities I have no experience in. Yet, the past two months, while seemingly short, truly were life changing, and my heart ached at the prospect of leaving early and departing from that environment.

I really had no plans to study abroad. A friend convinced me to sign up freshman year, and thinking it would be a good way to push myself, I said yes and submitted my application. Yet, as the drop date steadily approached, I went back and forth, struggling over if it was something I truly wanted to commit to. Did I want to be gone for a whole semester? Would I regret the activities and people I’m missing on campus? What if I got over there and hated it? Was it even worth it? After almost backing out – twice, I might add – I decided to go through with it, and that was that. Fall semester flew by and Christmas break arrived, which led to packing, planning, and saying goodbye to friends and family in Texas.

The day we left for Oxford – a Wednesday morning after spring semester had started – we were teary-eyed and unsure what the next four months held. I had two close friends going abroad with me and others who I hoped to know better, but I was leaving many dear friends at ACU. ‘Why on earth am I leaving when I have so many good things right here?’ I thought as we all hugged each other goodbye. Then, we were whisked away on the bus, took several long flights, and arrived exhausted and unsure the next day in the city of Oxford. It was cloudy, cold, and completely foreign.

The next few days held room assignments, walking tours, scavenger hunts, and exploration as we settled into our new environment. The cloudiness and cold slowly shifted to cozy and ideal; the foreign turned into curiosity and adventure. We found bakeries with beautifully decorated cakes, coffee shops with upstairs seating and rickety wooden floors, the grocery store to load up on a few days’ worth of groceries (and no more than that — it’s a mile walk home, and you carry what you buy). We began our classes in a little establishment off of Woodstock Road – The Quaker Meeting House – and got plugged into a church that many study abroad alums told us about, St. Aldates. We went running through the abundant parks and meadows Oxford holds, and we grew accustomed to walking at least a mile to get places. The days faded into weeks, and without even realizing it, I had forgotten to be nervous or to miss home. This adventure had captured my attention, and each new day brought eagerness and excitement – a rhythm was found.

While a foreign country itself is an incredible journey, it wouldn’t have been half of what it was without the people I experienced it with. Oxford holds the largest ACU group, with thirty-five students, two professors, and an on-site director, but it never hindered us from learning to know one another. These were people we saw day in, day out, from breakfast to class, to the common rooms and everywhere in between. We were all on the same schedule, all in a new place, and all wanting to make the most of our time here – which is the perfect environment for connection. Not only did I grow closer to the friends I already had, but our community grew abundantly as we created one-of-a-kind shared experiences with each other. Class devotionals on Monday nights, breakfast for dinner with a smaller group, college night at church (and going for ice cream once it ended), and eventually, travelling to different countries in our free weekends. An environment affect change so much in a person, but the people there with you make all of the difference.

It would be impossible to convey everything I learned or experienced in Oxford, but there are a few that stick out to me. Something I have noticed since being at home is that study abroad gives students the opportunity to step back from their commitments, their activities, the people they spend time with, and really see who they are outside of that. It can help you think about what’s important to you back home, and what you want the rest of your college career to look like. For me, these past two months helped me grow in proactivity and confidence. Whether it be volunteering to plan out all the details of our next trip, using Apple maps to navigate us through the streets of a city, or choosing excitement instead of intimidation when countless opportunities present themselves, the experiences I had helped make me a little more well-rounded (I hope, at least!).

The Coronavirus had been a topic of discussion, first jokingly back in February, then more seriously as other universities began to pull their programs. To us, it was something in China, then in Italy — but not Oxford, not where we were. The week before we left, our class was scheduled for a trip to Northern Spain. We were elated because we would all be together to explore that new place. As we packed and prepared to leave for it, we heard about more and more programs that were being called back home and that the numbers of the sick in Italy were growing exponentially. There was debate if we would be pulled, too, but the ACU Study Abroad office continually communicated with us that our program would continue as planned, as long as our area was safe and that the US deemed it so. Looking back, our time all together in Spain was one of the high points of our semester, and we could not have ended on a better note.

When we learned that we were going home early, we were blessed to have two whole days left to say goodbye to our temporary home. Souvenirs were bought, scones and pastries were consumed in unhealthy quantities, we had one last breakfast for dinner, and we ran through the parks and meadows that were slowly greeting spring. The last day held flurried packing, tearful conversations, and a bus ride to the airport that came all too soon. I thought back to that first bus ride, where I questioned why on earth I was wanting to do this. Now, I never wanted to leave. Life can be funny that way.

As I sit here at home, saddened by what these next two months could have held in Oxford, but even more so by the devastation and chaos that the Coronavirus has brought upon everyone, I am still grateful. Friends and family reaching out to see how we are holding up, class Zoom calls that feel a little more like reunions, a virtual breakfast for dinner, and time to sit and dwell on what the Lord has done in us since we left the US back in January. Study Abroad gave me the dearest friends, an abundant atmosphere and culture, and instilled a drive in me to go after and get done ideas that I have. I am so incredibly grateful for this opportunity, in the midst of its interruption, and I am curious to see what the rest of this year will look like. Still, I am eager for the day when I can return again to visit this temporary home.

Claire Shudde Wins “Improve ACU Competition”

Claire Shudde

On January 27th, senior chemistry major Claire Shudde entered the Improve ACU Competition and left with a cash prize of $500 and the opportunity to make her idea come to life. The competition was co-hosted by the ACU Student Government Association (SGA) and the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy. 

Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator for the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy explained why they chose to create this competition. “We wanted to try and reach a larger sector of the student body and engage them in entrepreneurial thinking. The prompt was simply what are your ideas to improve ACU? We had 139 total entries and the finalists and winner were picked by the SGA student team. There were several really creative ideas submitted. Some of the top ideas included a community garden, a low-cost food pantry for students, and a student led spirit team at the ACU basketball games. Our hope was that students would take a moment to look around and see how their ideas could lead to real change at ACU. Every successful business, initiative or service starts with a great idea.” 

Claire told us, “My idea to improve ACU is to have selected accounting and business students help lower income citizens in Abilene file their taxes. Filing taxes isn’t always easy and for people who either don’t have the education or ability to file for themselves, it can be a daunting task. If students at ACU — ideally selected by faculty who have witnessed the student’s desire and ability to serve the community in this way — can help locals file their taxes, they can gain real world experience while also benefiting the community.” 

Shudde gave credit where credit is due for the idea. “I got the idea from a friend who attends St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Their school is situated in an impoverished part of town and the students intentionally work on reaching out and ministering to the community. As a Christian school, I think ACU could follow suit and reach out to the community in this way. There is potential for this to be an incredible ministry in Abilene, and while accounting/finance majors help people with money, other students can minister to the people waiting.”

Claire continued, “I think the best way to establish this would be to partner with ministries like Love and Care or the Mission that are currently working and established. As a senior chemistry major, I am fairly far removed from accounting and finance, so I doubt I could be involved in the actual functioning of the tax clinic. Rather than be hands on myself, I would love to brainstorm with those who are knowledgeable in this area and will be in Abilene longer than me. I think breaking the ACU bubble in this way will benefit both the community and the ACU students involved. My hope and prayer is that through simple actions such as helping a single mom file for a tax return, people can experience the love of God. Isaiah 1:17 says ‘Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, take up the case of the widow.’ While setting up a tax clinic does not fix all the problems in Abilene, I think it would be a chance for christians to live out this charge. I hope that in a few years I can look back and see ACU taking steps into the community beyond just a tax clinic.” 

The ACU community often talks about the “ACU Difference”. Bright minded students who have a passion not only for ACU, but for making ACU and Abilene a greater place, are living, breathing examples of that difference. Congratulations to Claire Shudde on winning the competition! Want to learn more about the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy and how you can get involved? Click here to learn more.

 

A Milestone for STAR

Jody Jones mentoring the STAR Fund Managers

Do you know about everything that goes on in COBA? We have so many awesome student programs, that chances are, you may have missed a few! STAR (Student Trading and Research) is a program where students learn to research an investment portfolio and trade assets based off their information. STAR began as an idea in 1999 and with an initial gift by a generous donor of $110,000 in June of 2000, ended its first full year of operation in 2001. Today, STAR manages a portion of ACU’s endowment and reports to the ACIMCO Board annually. STAR began as a student organization guided by Dr. Terry Pope and Dr. Jonathan Stewart. Now, students can earn course credit while they earn valuable real-world experience.

That kind of learning is something that Assistant Professor of Finance Dr. Jody Jones, who began teaching at ACU this past fall, is passionate about. Jones took over the STAR course after Dr. Pope retired last spring. Jones feels that one of the greatest learning opportunities that STAR affords is autonomy to the students in learning to make financial decisions. “All decisions are made by students. Although a faculty member helps guide decisions, the buying and selling of assets is dictated by student managers.”

Since inception, STAR has achieved an average return of nearly 50 basis points above its benchmark: S&P 500
Total Return Index. That’s reason enough to celebrate for any advising firm but this week STAR hit a huge milestone – the portfolio currently holds an outstanding $1.5 million.

Why is that such an important milestone? Dr. Jones explained, “The rising value of STAR allows students to better diversify and have more freedom in investment decisions. With the primary goal of the course being educational, students can buy and sell many assets and gain a broad perspective on the market. Also, this year will make it the first year that STAR has made distributions. The fund will return 4.5% of its value to the endowment to support scholarships, campus initiatives, and operations of the university.”

While STAR mainly consists of finance majors, anyone who is interested can join and is encouraged to do so. If needed, students can even apply to receive course credit for being a fund manager.

Dr. Jody Jones loves his profession for more than the numbers. He is passionate about integrating faith into his work and teaching. “While many of the student managers intend to work in the investment and financial services fields after graduation, financial management is important for all organizations and households. Stewardship is also a spiritual discipline.”

 

Alumnus Christian Guerra brings Avanzar Interior Technologies to Campus

Christian Guerra speaks to students at a Lunch and Learn event.

ACU’s Career Center, Department of Engineering and Physics, and College of Business Administration worked together to host ACU alumnus Christian Guerra (’06) on January 28th. Christian serves as the Vice President and General Manager Operations for Avanzar Interior Technologies and returned to campus to address engineering, physics, and business students about the career opportunities available in automotive manufacturing. Christian was joined by other Avanzar team members including C.D. Rodriguez, who serves as the Human Resources Manager. Avanzar, an award winning manufacturer located in San Antonio, Texas, is a Toyota Motors production partner who manufacturers the seats for the Toyota Tundra.  

The Toyota automotive manufacturing production standards are truly world class and give Avanzar employees the tremendous opportunity to learn best practices and work to produce top of the line products. Christian gave students insights into the internship and career opportunities available with their company as well as the company culture. Guerra was a student worker for former COBA Dean Dr. Rick Lytle when he was at ACU. He shared with students that Dr. Lytle impressed on him the need to be “Christ in the workplace”. Christian said that he puts this lesson into practice every day as he works to lead this family owned business with 1,100 associates in San Antonio and 200 associates in Mexico. He also reflected on his time in LYNAY and Dr. Gary McCaleb’s encouragement to go back to your community and help where you can. Christian took this advice, returned home, and is helping Avanzar provide an excellent work opportunity for employees in his hometown of San Antonio. This same work ethic is exemplified throughout the Avanzar organization. Berto Guerra, founder of Avanzar and ACU Board of Trustee, was honored by EY as the 2015 Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year.

Addressing work challenges through effective teamwork is critical at Avanzar.  In their visit to the Engineering Department, the Avanzar representatives had a chance to observe current students working in teams to determine objectives and alternative solutions all while

Engineering, physics and business students were invited to learn about careers and internships with Avanzar.

operating with constraints during their engineering classes. The opportunity to work with ACU engineering, physics and business students aligns with the needs of the manufacturer both with regard to their work ethic and with their Christ-centered focus in the workplace. HR representative C.D. Rodriguez was impressed with the Engineering and Science facilities and enjoyed meeting the professors and students, stating that they will be back later this spring to conduct interviews. COBA looks forward to creating more opportunities for our students as we continue to collaborate with our partners in the ACU Career Center and across campus. To learn more about the ACU Career Center and job and internship opportunities, click here.