Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

Pre-COVID-19: Dr. James Prather with SITC students

COVID-19 has brought changes and challenges all across the country, including the ACU campus. From the middle of the spring semester to the current fall semester, our faculty have continuously adjusted how they deliver their class material and how to interact with their students. We interviewed Dr. Laura Phillips (’88), associate professor of management, Clint Buck, assistant dean and instructor of accounting, and Dr. Don Pope, associate professor of management to hear about their experiences teaching during the pandemic and how they are working to overcome the challenges that it has presented. 

What challenges has COVID-19 brought to the classroom? 

Phillips: “My challenges were in the spring and Maymester terms. In the spring I was teaching two semesters of stats that were supposed to start the week after spring break. When we took that extra week off to regroup, I lost 14% of my semester. Also, since we’d never met in person, I didn’t know any of the students and we had not been able to create a class culture before shifting to online. My other class was supposed to be a one-week Maymester in Dallas with about 20 guest speakers and several field trips. That class went virtual as well, which was a huge shift.”

Buck: “FACE MASKS! While I understand the need for face masks, they pose a great challenge in the classroom. It’s hard to ‘read’ the classroom and see if concepts are making sense, if jokes are landing, etc., and it is also hard to teach while wearing a mask. Seeing people’s faces, sending and receiving smiles, and shaking hands are all actions relied upon in the past to establish and nurture connection and community – hallmarks of the COBA and ACU experience. The current realities are forcing us to rethink how we establish and nurture our community, which is very challenging.”

Pope: “The inability to talk with and help students face to face, along with reduced interaction with faculty and staff colleagues.”

Dr. Laura Philips

What did you do to overcome those challenges?

Phillips: “Lots of trial and error! We’d try some things for a week in stats, and if it wasn’t working, we’d make adjustments for the next week. My coworkers were all very supportive but since we were working remotely and everyone was scrambling, there wasn’t a lot of time to sit around and think philosophically about how we should approach our classes. My schedule didn’t always allow me to attend but the weekly COBA Zoom prayer times have been great! And throughout the summer, the staff in the Adams Center and the crew they assembled to provide resources and training for the faculty have been outstanding.”

Buck: “My teaching colleagues have been invaluable in navigating these issues, and they have also been helpful in the tactical aspects of the job (great suggestions for teaching online and in a distanced classroom, things to look for, things to avoid, etc.). My administrative colleagues have been very good to normalize the challenges we face. It is not easy to be a good employee, a good spouse, and a good parent while navigating a global pandemic, and I am grateful for their faithful demonstration of grace throughout this season.”

Pope: “Through the use of technology tools – online teaching in Canvas and Zoom, we carry on and push through. I would like to compliment the IT people in the background here who work tirelessly ‘below the radar’ and receive little thanks. I would also like to thank the educational technology support staff in the Adams Center and the Library. They are amazing.”

Clint Buck

What’s different about the current fall semester?

Phillips: “I can’t really address this question because I’m teaching online this semester. I am taking German, so I’ve experienced the classroom as a student, but not as a professor.”

Buck: “Can’t shake hands or see smiles; can’t see if a concept or idea is resonating or not. Things I took for granted – like handing out printed material in class! – are very noticeable in their absence. Also, I used to enjoy having a very special teaching assistant in class at least once each semester, but my eight-year-old daughter (Lillian) is unable to do so this semester.  :(  EVERYONE is very sad about this.”

Pope: “My classes ended up all being online this semester, so obviously that is really different. But when I/we return to in-person classes again, I plan to utilize many of the recorded lectures and clarified teaching materials that have been developed during the pandemic. In the past, I relied too much on being able to verbally explain something, and now I see that some of my notes are not very clearly written. So, the current situation is an opportunity to see things differently and learn and grow.”

COBA’s vision is to inspire, equip, and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. How are you integrating the vision with your students when you can’t always be with them? 

Phillips: “I don’t start teaching until October this semester so most of my interaction with students is coming through a community group I’m leading for some COBA freshmen and meeting with students about study abroad next fall. I’m trying to stay connected to students even though I’m not in the classroom. I guess right now I’m spending a lot of time trying to inspire them to spend a semester abroad. It is such a transformational experience but sometimes it’s hard for students to visualize themselves doing something so vastly different from their normal life. I’m also trying to help some of our freshmen connect in our small group. They have such a great attitude but I think it’s harder to get to know people with the masks and social distancing in the classrooms. I’m hoping that our community group helps them get to know a handful of their COBA peers and that they will have a few classmates with whom they have connected at a deeper level.”

Buck: “I’m working hard to use Canvas better so information is accessible and organized for students.”

Pope: “In terms of connection, I am trying to encourage more emailed thoughts about prayer needs, scripture, and other personal concerns. My wife has, for 20 years, invited students into our home for meals and we typically have had large groups. This fall, she is going to considerable effort to plan, prepare, and host multiple smaller groups in a safe manner.”

Dr. Don Pope

What are you excited about for this semester?

Phillips: “Getting to know some of our new freshmen, seeing students get excited about spending a semester abroad, ‘meeting’ my students – even though we will not be gathering in person.”

Buck: “Seeing how we expand our vision of community. We’ve relied on very traditional definitions and expressions of community (e.g. shaking hands, sharing a meal, attending a sporting event or attending the performing arts) for a long time, and the current moment forces us to rethink them. When things return to something resembling what we used to call ‘normal’, we will hold these definitions/expressions even more sacred and special than before.”

Pope: “‘Excited’ is probably not a word that we would use about this situation.  But, I do think that we are all learning some valuable lessons about the human need to be with other people, to accept each other’s different perspectives on things, and live together in community.  It will be interesting to see how family, education, business, and church are changed long term by this experience.”

While the ACU campus looks and works differently in 2020, COVID-19 hasn’t stopped faculty members from looking for ways to put students first. Echoed in the comments of each of our faculty members is the theme that is so central to ACU – community. We value our students and our relationships with them as faculty and staff. We will continue to strive to connect in the best ways possible this semester and we look forward to the day that we can see those smiles in the classroom.

Alumni Spotlight: Matt Boisvert

Matt Boisvert

When Matt Boisvert (’97), President and co-founder of Pharos Resources, graduated from ACU with a degree in marketing he never would have dreamed that his professional life would be so heavily influenced by his time as a student and as an educator. Matt has given back to his alma mater by being consistently involved in helping current students with professional development by providing internships and support at Pharos Resources as well as serving on COBA’s Visiting Committee.

After graduating from ACU, Matt began his career at C&W Manufacturing in Alvarado, Texas as the Director of Marketing. It didn’t take long for Boisvert to return to the classroom. In 2001, while working on his MBA in Services Marketing and Management at Arizona State, he began interning with Hallmark Cards at their headquarters (Kansas City, MO) in their Specialty Retail Group, implementing and measuring the grand opening marketing strategy for Hallmark stores. Matt received his MBA in 2002 and came back to ACU’s College of Business Administration to become the Director of COBA’s Career Development Center, building a comprehensive career readiness and employer relations program for business majors.

Some of the colleges and universities that Pharos works with.

In 2004, Boisvert became the Director of Career Development for ACU and, in 2006, the Executive Director of the Office of Career and Academic Development. It was during these years that he learned about the challenges of student success, as this office was tasked with overseeing the “Support Our Students” program and related SOS software, as well as providing career development and academic counseling services to students. In 2007, Matt returned to COBA and served as the Assistant Dean of Marketing Operations and as a marketing instructor. He said, “Teaching taught me the power of actually ‘seeing’ your students in the classroom… identifying those who were struggling in academic and non-academic ways. At the same time, I was consulting with ACU to help commercialize the SOS software for the higher education market…which led to me making an offer to purchase and transfer the ACU-developed technology to a newly formed entity (Pharos Resources) in 2008.” In 2010, Matt entered Pharos Resources in the Springboard Ideas Challenge and won the “most fundable” business plan. It was time to fully pursue growing Pharos Resources – which meant leaving ACU in order to do so. However, this did not mark the end of his relationship with ACU. In fact, it has led to many opportunities for Matt to collaborate with COBA through Pharos Resources. Today, Pharos Resources serves 61 institutions across the United States and Canada. Its solutions are used by over 10,000 faculty and staff and provides support to over 125,000 college students.

Faith has played a vital role in Boisvert’s work throughout his life. “Having my identity in Christ has sustained me during the lows and keeps me humbly grateful in the highest highs. It is an incredible experience to be able to create value, impact lives, and build a team of people who are passionate about meaningful work. I feel so blessed to do this work.” Matt allows his faith to guide him day by day in all seasons, reminding him that he is uniquely made and loved by God. “God is investing in me, wanting to teach and continuously lead me for His plan. That has given me the freedom and confidence to create Pharos in a way that honors Him.” This is lived out by the way that Pharos treats their clients, how they interact with competitors, and how they invest in their client’s success.

Mission First with Anthony Melchiorri

Pharos’ current challenge, like most of the rest of the world, is helping clients navigate COVID-19. In May, COVID-19 forced universities to face difficult decisions about their summer and fall reopening plans. After hearing Anthony Melchiorri on the daily podcast “No Vacancy”, Matt reached out to the “Hotel Impossible” host and hospitality expert to see if he would share his insights from the hard-hit travel industry to improve the success of higher education institutions during the pandemic. Anthony is an expert on how to create clean, safe spaces with visual signs of sanitization, and provides an exceptional understanding of how to deliver service excellence. The Travel Channel host, Melchiorri, is known for being direct, honest, and committed to excellence. In addition, he is deeply passionate about student success! Melchiorri points to his own higher education and military experiences as life-changing and the fact that he has three daughters in college right now makes his investment clear and personal. He is also involved in the business of higher education, by serving on the board of Park University, his alma mater. Anthony’s response was immediate and definitive: “If this partnership can change the life of one student, it is worth it.” Pharos Resources is partnering with Anthony through 2020 and has already hosted four Mission First webinars with him, providing practical advice and encouragement with an engaging and entertaining format: readers can access those webinars at the links below.

Tres Cox

Helping Boisvert and Melchiorri drive the Mission First marketing campaign is Tres Cox, senior marketing major from Lewisville, Texas. Tres has been a marketing intern with Pharos since fall of 2018. While the Mission First marketing campaign promotes the Pharos partnership with Anthony Melchiorri, Tres has had the opportunity to work on a wide range of marketing projects for Pharos including COVID-19 resources, brochures, conference sponsorships and exhibits, digital/social media marketing campaigns, and marketing new product launches. Boisvert is highly complimentary of Cox, saying, “He is incredibly talented, with a great combination of valuable skills. It is clear that COBA continues to develop talented students into business professionals. Tres has added significant value to our brand and the team.” 

Matt’s student experience at ACU, especially with faculty members, was formative as he described each of his COBA professors as exceptional and still appreciates them for connecting him to real-world applications while in the classroom. He said that COBA gave him confidence in his ability and instilled in him the value of service as a Christian leader in business. Dr. Rick Lytle was Matt’s overall favorite professor for the reason that “he modeled a life in Christ through his love and leadership” which has greatly influenced who Matt has become.

Boisvert’s favorite ACU memory? That would be Welcome Week during his senior year. “For my friends, roommates and me, it was junior/senior wars and my house was the de facto headquarters for seniors. My roommates and I had crates of eggs set on the roof of Bob Hunter’s rent house as massive egg fights erupted. In the middle of this ‘war’, I met my wife Melissa and we have been together ever since.”

Matt advises incoming freshmen to complete at least one internship before graduation. “They expand your network, allow you to explore your career options, and will test your competence.” And to current students, he says, “I would strongly encourage COBA students to invest in learning more about who they are and how they can make an impact in the world. Then, to prepare for their future, I really encourage students to develop their ACU network: peers, faculty, mentors. The value of a college degree is more than the classes you take…the people who love the ACU mission will be valuable connections for life.”

 

COBA Welcomes Jenni Trietsch

Jenni Trietsch, Director of Administration

We want to give a warm welcome to Jenni Trietsch (’98), the new Director of Administration in the College of Business Administration. Jenni comes to us with a wealth of accounting and administration experience having worked as a CPA for the past 20 years. In this new role, Jenni assists and supports the COBA Dean and leadership in strategic and operational initiatives, and oversees COBA’s human resource functions, finances, building, and technology resources.

We asked Jenni what drew her to this current position in COBA: My dad worked at ACU for 30 years, so I’ve been on campus most of my life. I graduated with a BBA in Accounting and Finance in 1998 and a Master’s of Accountancy in 1999. I’ve always loved the idea of giving back to COBA and ACU and, when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up.” Looking forward, Jenni says, “It is so interesting to me how higher education has evolved since I was a student. I’m looking forward to seeing that in action and learning how our faculty integrates faith and learning in the classroom in new ways.”

We asked Jenni to share a little about herself and she told us, “My family is very important to me – I have two nieces and spend much of my time and energy with them. I love to travel and explore new places. The art of Dale Chihuly particularly captured my interest a few years ago after a trip to Seattle. Something surprising [about me]: one interesting experience I had in a former job was visiting an oil production platform offshore in the Dutch sector of the North Sea.” Jenni was also one of the first students to enter the MAcc program at ACU. 

As a product of COBA and ACU, Jenni is a living, breathing example of alumni that carry the vision of the college, to honor God and bless the world, into the workplace. We’re excited about the experiences and ideas that she brings to the college and look forward to the ways that she will contribute to our mission to educate business and technology professionals for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

 

 

The Lytle Center Welcomes Nick Gonzales

Nick Gonzales

The Lytle Center is excited to welcome Nick Gonzales (’20) to the team. Nick will serve as the administrative coordinator for the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership. Nick will be handling all administrative tasks while working alongside Director Dr. Dennis Marquardt to plan, prepare, and execute events for the Lytle Center such as Leadership Summit. 

Nick received his undergraduate degree in ministry and vocation this past May before he began working with the College of Business Administration. He told us that he is excited to learn about everything that goes on in COBA and to be a part of some of the events that he was not involved in as a Bible major.

Nick said, “I became interested in this position because of my previous experience working with SGA (Student Government Association) and Midnight Worship last year as a student at ACU. While I was Chief of Staff, I had a lot of administrative tasks that I learned that I really enjoyed doing and I was also part of a team that helped create strategic yet meaningful events and ideas for ACU’s campus. The position at the Lytle Center combined the best of both worlds!”

Nick and his wife, Sarah

Nick recently married Sarah Ross Gonzales (’20) who he met during his freshman year at ACU. His hobbies “Include loving photography and actively taking pictures with my camera, playing guitar and drums, as well as being the most avid John Mayer Fan.”

Nick is a great addition to the COBA and Lytle Center team. We encourage our students to come by, meet him, and learn how you can become involved with the Lytle Center. 

 

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.”

Monty Lynn: The Impacts of COVID-19 On Global Food Security

Do you ever wonder what COBA professors do when they aren’t teaching class? You may not know it, but many of our professors commit their time to conducting research of all different types. Dr. Monty Lynn recently co-authored a research article titled, “Better Together: Improving Food Security and Nutrition by Linking Market and Food Systems”. The article is a literature review of market and food systems informing on the latest impacts of COVID-19 towards global food security.

Dr. Lynn says, “The article is the fruit of a collaborative effort with technical advisors at World Vision and CARE, supplemented by faculty members at ACU and the Catholic University of America. To share the findings, the article authors will host a webinar in June to describe our work, mostly with a global CARE and World Vision audience. In the article, we combine two popular approaches in global food security which attempt to strengthen markets and nutrition, and we describe CARE and World Vision food security programming that illustrates the model. In the webinar, we will describe the latest information from CARE and World Vision on how the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 are impacting global food security.” Dr. Lynn notes that “It is a welcome and special opportunity to join a research team with two of the largest development organizations in the United States and to collaborate with my colleague, Dan Norell, a Senior Technical Advisor in Economic Development at World Vision in Washington, D.C.”

The article and webinar will explore the following:

  • The Inclusive Market and Food Systems Model
  • The importance of bringing the market to vulnerable households
  • How empowering women multiplies nutritional outcomes
  • How access does not necessarily equal consumption
  • The impact of COVID-19 on programming and adaptive management for livelihood programs

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

International development is a topic that Dr. Lynn stays current with for his research and an International Development class that he occasionally teaches at ACU. His recent research shows that “Major gains have been made in global food security, reducing global hunger. Gains began eroding in 2015, however, and global food insecurity began rising again. Nearly one billion people are food insecure today and 140 million of those became food insecure because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and mitigation efforts that have disrupted food production and supply chains.”

This blog post is just a glimpse of the information that is covered in the research article. We encourage you to read the full article HERE and join the webinar on May 19th at 12:30 pm EST, Washington, D.C. time zone HERE.