COBA has a rich heritage of faculty members who contribute to helping the college excel in many areas. This is shown in several ways – research being one of them. Faculty members Dr. Monty Lynn, Dr. Sarah Easter, and Dr. Ryan Jessup- all professors in the Management Sciences Department – recently finished a collaborative project titled: “Harmonizing Work and Faith”, which was completed with the help of music professor and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Greg Straughn. “COBA faculty engage in creative research which keeps them sharp and contributes to knowledge,” Dr. Monty Lynn explained.
Dr. Lynn shared that the project’s inspiration stemmed from a common interest in seeing how Christians approach and practice business, both in the past and today. They came across a database of Christian hymns that peaked their curiosity earlier this summer, and the question was posed: What message do Christians communicate to each other in worship regarding work and do these messages change over time?
The three COBA faculty were very familiar with conducting research, but knew they needed professional insight into ‘hymnology’ – the study of hymns – in order to enrich and deepen their findings. They reached out to Dr. Straughn who graciously agreed to contribute to the project.
The specifics of their research focused on hymns written between the years 1500 and 2000, with content addressing vocation. They applied qualitative research methods and identified 28 different messages Christians sing about regarding work. Some of the themes that emerged were being diligent in our work, work can be offered to God in worship, and work can be toilsome.
Looking to see if these messages have shifted over time, the team found strong stability in the themes – with occasional shifts. These shifts seemed to align with different global events at the time which largely impacted the world.
For example, the theme of being rewarded for faithful work, both here and in Heaven, is strong. Yet, the theme declines after World War II, as the theme of solidarity with global workers rises. These findings, along with others, are shown in the data.
Lynn added, “For those who might say hymns are fading from many worship assemblies, we’re happy to report that contemporary music still connects with work – often indirectly, but sometimes in wonderful ways such as the hymns produced by The Porter’s Gate, such as their ‘Wood and Nails’ and ‘Your Labor is Not in Vain’.” The group presented their research at the Christian Business Faculty Association at John Brown University and their findings were highlighted on the Hymnary.org site (click here to read).
The group’s hope is that this study will be helpful in understanding the meaningfulness and spirituality of vocation. Speaking for all the contributors, Lynn closed with this: “This project was a distinct pleasure because of the complementary skills of the researchers and because we couldn’t help but sing our data!”
Senior management major, Autumn Flanders, recently completed her summer internship with a specialty coffee roaster based in Denver, Colorado. The Christian-based business’s purpose is to provide employment to young adults and teens who have been homeless and are looking to leave it behind. Flanders spent the summer in Denver aiding Purple Door in pursuing this mission.
Autumn explained that the internship held several roles for her to play. In her responsibilities, she wrote weekly blog posts that highlighted successful social enterprises around the US, she developed a year-long social media content calendar, worked to improve content for Purple Door’s media platforms, compiled and tracked data from customers and partners, helped cater a monthly event, and sold coffee at an REI conference. “I also assisted in the coffee production process by grinding the coffee, then packaging, sealing, and labeling the coffee bags”, Autumn said.
When asked what she enjoyed most about the internship, she shared that building relationships with her bosses and co-workers was huge, along with gaining first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to run a social enterprise. Autumn also appreciated engaging with customers at events and seeing regular customers while learning more about them. Connections with people were a big part of her experience.
“Interning at Purple Door Coffee provided me with an opportunity to cultivate my strengths,” Autumn explained when asked about
Mark Smesrud, Manager at Purple Door Roastery
how the internship will impact her future. She learned more about the types of future careers she might enjoy and what types of cities she might want to live in. “Now, when I look for future jobs, I have a better understanding of the types of work cultures and environments I prefer and the job sector that I would most enjoy working in”.
As a native to Abilene, Autumn learned a great deal from living in Colorado for the summer. When asked what grew her most, Autumn shared that being far away from home and navigating a new city were both difficult yet it pushed her to become more independent and confident in her own abilities. While at first learning new responsibilities and adjusting to the work environment of the internship was hard, looking back Autumn can see that she gained a greater understanding of the coffee industry, social enterprises, and what it is like to work with previously homeless youth and young adults.
For students looking for internships in the future, Autumn would share this advice: “[Students should] not be afraid to apply to internships in cities away from your home. I experienced a kind of growth that would’ve been more difficult to feel if I had been in my comfort zone near friends and family. Living in a new state gave me a unique perspective and allowed me to experience a city with a different culture and get out of my bubble. Even though it can be scary interning in a new city, it is worth it because of the type of growth you can experience, both personally and professionally”.
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a public policy think tank and research program that works to advance ideas rooted in democracy and free enterprise. Recently, three ACU College of Business students were accepted into the initiative on Faith and Public Policy Honors Weekend Program. Bryce Adams, junior financial management major, TX, Jemimah Wavamunno, junior management major, and the author of this blog (myself), Katie Norris, junior marketing major.
Going into the weekend, I can speak for all of us when I say that we had no idea what to expect. Bryce says that if he did have expectations, “They would have been exceeded. This program was inspiring, insightful, and has given me renewed motivation for a broader, Christ-centered vision.”
The main speakers were Brian Brenberg and Haley Robison, previously the CEO of Kammock. Each taught us how to recognize the underlying values and tensions that shape our decisions through a series of tutorials and practicums. We learned how to rethink our assumptions and take the bold first steps toward making our faith infused business ideas a reality.
I asked Bryce and Jemimah which of the activities stood out to them and what they pulled from it. Bryce responded, “I loved the workshop we did with Brian Brenberg that related to assumptions and biases. In that workshop, he illustrated how we bring a set of assumptions baked into our worldview. Deconstructing those assumptions and creating practical steps to identify those was extremely helpful and impactful for me.” Jemimah said that thing that most resonated with her was, “The first segment of Design Thinking with Haley Robison, where we developed themes, metaphors, and conflicts in our inner passions with a supportive group of people.”
Each of us took something inspirational away from the program and came home with an overall sense of bewilderment and motivation.
Bryce said, “I loved seeing the other impressive students in the program. Their visions of the future give me hope that the world truly can be changed and it starts with people like us. Sitting across the table from people my age with the same ambitions was empowering for me.”
Jemimah reflected, “1) Nothing I do is neutral, everything I do has a narrative. 2) God sometimes allows you to endure wounds for you to be aware of and attuned to. In this, your purpose for a specific season is born because our wounds are individual to us, and therefore keep us attuned to others who carry the same wounds.”
I left the conference with the realization that I had the resources I needed to expand my business all along, I simply needed to find the motivation. This program gave me the confidence I had been lacking to take the next steps in bringing my business, ChronicallyBrave, to its full potential.
Jemimah is on the council of AEI executives and has attended many of their conferences. “This program was set up more intimately than most other AEI conferences are (in numbers, and living arrangements), which allowed for more genuine personal relationships, making following up with the relationships we made easier. It did not feel like people were getting to know you to get one more connection, but genuinely getting to know you, to learn the best way to serve and support you.”
We cannot recommend the program enough. The AEI team put together a truly motivating weekend experience and gathered some of the most inspiring faith based aspiring entrepreneurs that I have ever been in the same room with, nevertheless form life-long friendships with.
Every fall, more than 2,500 HR professionals attend the HRSouthwest Conference (HRSWC) held in Fort Worth, Texas. The conference is the largest regional educational and networking event for human resource professionals. HRSWC is organized by DallasHR, the Dallas-based SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) Affiliate Chapter, and has been designated as the official State of Texas SHRM Conference. 15,000 student members participating in the 27 chapters of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) are given the opportunity to attend this conference with working professionals. Dr. Malcolm Coco, faculty sponsor for the ACU Chapter of SHRM and Director of Internships for COBA said, “One of the highlights for students is the opportunity to be nominated for the Excellence in Education Scholarship. As you can imagine, the scholarship is very competitive with each chapter being able to nominate candidates for the award.”
Dayle Hayes, senior marketing and human resource management major and President of SHRM, is one of four recipients of the HR Excellence in Education Scholarship given this past October. Winners of the scholarship have shown excellence in academic pursuits as well as their professional and personal lives. The award selections were based on accomplishments in human resources, academics, campus and community involvement and recommendations from professors, advisors and/or employers. The scholarship recipients each receive a $1,500 grant plus shared proceeds from The HRSouthwest Conference Silent Auction.
Dayle says, “I am very excited and thankful to be awarded this scholarship. As Dr. Coco’s TA, I have been able to benefit from his leadership as the sponsor of SHRM’s student chapter on campus as well as attending some of the Big Country SHRM monthly meetings with him, where he sits on the board of directors.”
Dr. Coco felt that Dayle was a worthy candidate and nominated her because, “of her dedication and professionalism as the student chapter president and as a member of the local professional chapter Executive Board. Dayle has demonstrated leadership and high academic accomplishments. She deserved the nomination and being selected as the recipient of this scholarship.”
Dayle was thankful for the opportunity to gather with professionals in the field. “The conference was great, and I really enjoyed being able to attend for the second time. I went to several speaker sessions and heard about prevalent HR-related topics. There were thousands of HR professionals there, so I also got to network and meet several people in the field. I ran into one of my childhood friends who is a recent graduate and has been working in HR for a couple years now, which was really fun.”
Congratulations to Dayle Hayes on this outstanding honor. Click here to learn more about the HRSouthwest Conference. Learn more about the Big Country SHRM chapter by clicking here.
Dr. Dennis Marquardt
Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Assistant Professor of Management and Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, is one of the great examples in COBA of a well-developed, strong, and Christ-like individual. He says, “I often laugh at the thought of telling my 20 year old self that one day he would be a college professor. The idea of being a professor was not even in the realm of my thought space when I graduated from college. My plan was to work a year in a business-related job and try to get into law school. Instead, for some reason, as an organizational communication major, I ended up getting hired for a tax and compliance job at Bankers Trust (which was soon acquired by Deutsche Bank). I really enjoyed the work I did for DB and started an MBA program with plans to continue my business career.”
Dr. Marquardt does well to share his experiences in the classroom and apply the class concepts to his failures and his accomplishments. The humility and grace that he shows earns him the highest respect from his students to his coworkers. Part of that is an incredible amount of faith that he shows through his actions and choices. “I’ve always prayed heavily for each career path I’ve been presented with and asked a lot of advice from others to get a wiser and more well-rounded faith-based perspective. It’s usually when I look in the rear-view mirror that I see God’s direction in my journey most clearly. Most of all, I am overwhelmed by His grace and mercy for the many times I’ve failed and/or chosen the wrong path (and that’s happened more than I’d like to admit).“
Marquardt teaching at Leadership Summit
When asked if and how his faith plays a role in his teaching he was enthusiastic to talk about how he sees God working through COBA. This was his response: “Absolutely. As a management professor, I see the role of “manager” as an incredibly noble calling. The research is quite conclusive regarding the significant impact a supervisor has on the subjective well-being and overall quality of life of his or her subordinates. What an incredible opportunity management is, then, for people of faith to live out the servant life promoted by Christ. I think much of the Human Relations movement in management is not only conducive to but also indirectly (and sometimes directly) draws from the characters and virtues found in the teachings and life of Jesus. One of my priorities is to make these connections evident in the classroom and to help students see that faith does impact our careers and should create cycles of virtue in the lives of employees and customers alike.”
Dr. Marquardt responded with this wisdom when asked what he has learned since being at COBA: “ACU and COBA values relationships and creates settings that allow for a more holistic approach to learning that spans beyond the four walls of the classroom. I think this is one of the key differentiators for ACU and it provides a mutual learning environment for professors and students. Not only do I get to facilitate learning but I am also challenged and sharpened by my students as I see them wrestling with new ideas and living and working out their own faith.”
Dennis and Monique Marquardt
Final Words: “Early in my teaching career I became deeply convicted about the intrinsic value potential of each and every class session. Each time students come into a classroom with any instructor I think there is something almost sacred about the possibilities. I was recently reminded of a poem by former longtime President of Morehouse College and spiritual mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays that conveys this point:
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.
Dr. Monty Lynn
Dr. Monty Lynn, a staple in the College of Business, has been teaching at ACU for over thirty years. Lynn is the one of the first professors business students take courses from, as he teaches the Intro to Business class required for beginning business students. He is also active outside of the classroom, taking groups on study abroad trips and conducting research for COBA.
Yet, teaching was not always on his radar. Although higher education felt comfortable to him, as he has family in that career field, Lynn shared, “Before and during college, I explored several career paths – architecture, public health, social work, urban family planning, and a few others. I enjoy learning and find a lot of subjects interesting.” During his last semester of graduate school, however, he interviewed for positions with business, consulting, and teaching organizations. Once he honed in on business, the rest fell into place. After he and his wife, Libby, visited ACU, Lynn explained that “Higher education felt like a great fit. Thankfully, the business faculty agreed to give me a try. That was 35 years ago.”
Monty and Libby Lynn
When asked about the role faith has played in his journey, Lynn looks back to his upbringing in a family of faith, along with his fascination with how people relate to God and how God relates to people. With his father being a minister, he spent a good amount of time at church. As a teenager, he enjoyed broadening his experiences by attending Sabbath services and mass at a local synagogue and a parish. “Schooling in secular and faith-based colleges shaped me as well,” he explained, “as have years of life in a local community of faith”. When he started his career at ACU, Lynn initially faced some challenges. He struggled with doubt about God and questions about faith, but, “Over time, I came to peace with many of my questions.” This perspective shift came from several sources. “A Walk to Emmaus connected my head and heart, the example of friends continues to teach me, and sharing with others in weekly prayer and reading groups has blessed me”. Lynn feels a great deal of gratitude for his journey and for what is to come.
By teaching business courses, Lynn hopes that “[My] faith leavens who I am and what I do, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.” He went on to explain how he must be intentional not to allow faith and work to migrate into parallel – but separate – spheres of life, as “It’s not too difficult to encounter value differences between the marketplace and in the way of Jesus.” Lynn’s aim is to emphasize the unique call of faith in life throughout the courses he teaches, and he is grateful that ACU has an abundance of resources available for spiritual formation. “It is truly unique and a joy”, he says, “to journey with students and colleagues. There’s so much more we have to learn and live together.”
Lynn also embraces the role as researcher. “I love to dig into ideas”, Lynn expressed. Scholarly opportunities are scarce at many faith-based institutions and he has been grateful that ACU and COBA encourage scholarly growth. Students and faculty alike are grateful for the steady presence Dr. Monty Lynn has been through the years. We look forward to learning and growing more from him in the years to come.