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.

Internship Spotlight: Brooke Lenz

Brooke Lenz

Brooke Lenz, a MAcc student from Lakeway, Texas has made the most of the internship opportunities available to COBA students. Last summer, she completed an eight-week internship with Harper and Pearson in Houston. This summer, she wanted to see how working at one of the “Big 4” accounting firms compared to her previous internship experience. Brooke recently completed a five-week internship with EY in Dallas and has been offered a position at EY post-graduation. We asked Brooke to share the highlights of her internship and to give some advice to current students who are looking at internship possibilities.

 

What were the greatest lessons you learned in the internship?

Communication is so important if you want to learn and succeed at what you are doing. Communicate when you have questions about things, communicate when you want clarity, communicate when you finish a task, etc.. It shows the person you are working with that you want to learn and you are willing to listen. Once you are given an assignment or shown how to do something, write it down so you don’t have to repeat any of your questions and so you don’t forget how to do something.

 

How has your time at ACU prepared you for this internship and for employment after graduation?

ACU has really helped shape who I want to be as an employee and co-worker. The professors do a great job of showing you that you can succeed in whatever you set your mind to all while maintaining integrity and high moral character. 

 

What advice do you have for students who are preparing for an internship?

I would advise those who have upcoming internships to have confidence in themselves. Your grades are what qualified you for your internship, but how personable you are and how well you work with others is what solidified your internship. Be open to learning new things and remember to be yourself! Have fun, enjoy your internship experience, and bring a positive attitude to work everyday!

 

What’s been your favorite thing about your time at ACU and in COBA?

My favorite thing about ACU and being a COBA student has to be the relationships I have formed. I know that I would not have the personal connections and relationships I have with my professors at any other university. They truly care about you as an individual person, more than just your success in the classroom. They take the time to invest in each student and get to know them on a more personal level.

 

 

 

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. 

 

Internship Spotlight: Sarina Smith

Sarina Smith is a junior management major from Melissa, Texas. This summer, Sarina interned for Raytheon Technologies in McKinney, Texas in their Intelligence and Space Division as a program planning intern. Sarina is hopeful that this internship will lead to a full-time job with the company after graduation. “My management identified me as a ‘high performer’ and have invited me to intern again next summer as well as documented their desire to hire me upon graduation.” We asked Sarina a few questions about her internship and her preparation for her future career.

 

What were the greatest lessons you learned in the internship?

My role in the internship was performing schedule management and ensuring my programs had strong performance and robust project management analysis. This included cost estimating, earned value management, critical path, schedule risk, plus cost and schedule variance analysis. One important thing I learned about myself during this internship was that I am adaptable and highly capable. This internship took a lot of communication and advanced skills, however, with determination I accomplished more than I thought possible. Something else I have learned is the importance of being proactive and enterprising in the workplace. Much of the time I had to teach myself or find solutions independently. Taking initiative and not stopping until you reach your objectives is what leads to success. 

 

How has your time at ACU prepared you for this internship and for employment after graduation?

My time at ACU has prepared me through relevant coursework. My academic coursework went hand in hand with my internship. My COBA classes were outstanding preparation for me having the technical knowledge and proper tools to be successful and most importantly my coursework gave me real-world relevant business scenarios. As a communication minor, my communication classes aided me greatly in leading meetings and interacting professionally with all levels of the organization. The leadership opportunities ACU offers also helped as much as the coursework. Being the pledge class president and current social director in my social club helped tremendously with organizational skills. The experience of being an officer and active in ACU Acapella choir increased my self-discipline. My confidence and communication skills were also expanded by serving on leadership teams for Sing Song, TED Talks, and volunteering as a mentor leader at Wildcat Week. My time at ACU has prepared me for employment after graduation by giving me the necessary tools and skills to thrive in the workforce. 

I now understand more fully what being in the professional workplace entails. My goal is to excel in my career using as many resources as I can and through self-study. I will apply what I learned during my internship to my academic coursework by using my improved technology skills as well as better time management. Some transferable skills I developed during my experience were analyzing and prioritizing tasks, extracting important information, and facilitating group discussions. 

 

What’s been your favorite thing about being a COBA student?  

My favorite thing about being a COBA student is getting involved in the many opportunities COBA has to help you optimize your career goals. COBA’s Leadership Summit in Colorado was especially impactful. COBA truly cares about their students and will go to great lengths to see them grow. 

 

What advice do you have for students who are preparing for an internship?

My advice would be to not underestimate yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere. Next, find mentors. It can be overwhelming being a part of something much bigger than yourself. Just like your classmates depended on you in a group project, your coworkers depend on you to help elevate the team. Therefore, ask for help. Having someone to show you the ropes and answer questions is a great way to make sure you are maximizing your contributions to the team quickly.  Also, don’t be afraid to seek answers on your own. A mix of independence and self-direction but openness to learning from others is a winning combination. 

 

 

Internship Spotlight: Kennedy Barnett

Kennedy Barnett is a senior management major with an emphasis on leadership and communications from Rockwall, Texas. Kennedy has interned for Encompass Health-Home Health in Dallas for the last two years. She is hopeful that this internship will transition into a full-time position after graduation. We asked Kennedy a few questions about her internship and her preparation for a future career as a student at ACU.

 

What were the greatest lessons you learned in the internship?

I have interned in the Professional Development department at Encompass Health for the last 2 years. In that role, I was able to interact with all departments and observe a lot of executive coaching and leadership development. I learned how to coach and give feedback, as well as how to show up professionally in the workplace.

 

How has your time at ACU prepared you for this internship and for employment after graduation?

Being able to successfully apply the things that I have learned in class motivates me to want to dig in and learn more. Dr. Marquardt’s Leadership in Organizations course and leadership theories have been especially helpful in preparing me for the workplace. 

 

What’s been your favorite thing about being a COBA student?

The thing that stands out to me about COBA is the investment that the professors make in each of their students. They encourage, motivate, and build relationships with their students and it enriches our learning experience.

 

Kennedy with CEO of Encompass Home Health and ACU Alum and Board of Trustees Chair, April Anthony

What advice do you have for students who are preparing for an internship?

One of the most beneficial things for me has been sitting in on meetings or spending one on one time with people in positions that I could potentially be interested in. I would advise anyone entering an internship to go in open-minded and be willing to try out different positions or projects that might be outside of your comfort zone. You may discover that you are a great fit somewhere that you never would have considered otherwise!

I would like to encourage everyone to seek out an internship. It changes your mindset in class whenever you have some real-life experience that you can apply to the things that you are learning about. Interning at Encompass gave me a new perspective and made my junior year so much more enriching. I want that for each of you as well.

 

Dennis Marquardt: Leader Goal Orientation and Ethical Leadership

COBA professors have been in a researching groove lately (as Don Pope would say, “They must be butter; they’re on a roll.”). We have seen professors such as Dr. Monty Lynn, Dr. Ryan Jessup, and now Dr. Dennis Marquardt, continue to conduct important research and have their work published in industry journals. Dennis Marquardt recently wrote a paper entitled: “Leader Goal Orientation and Ethical Leadership: A Socio-Cognitive Approach of the Impact of Leader Goal-Oriented Behavior on Employee Unethical Behavior.” The paper was written with co-authors Dr. Wendy Casper at UT-Arlington and Dr. Maribeth Kuenzi at SMU.  

We asked Dr. Marquardt where his motivation and inspiration to work on this research came from. “For the past decade, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of ‘unintended consequences,’ specifically as this applies to leader/follower dyads. In other words, are there attitudes or behaviors that managers engage in that don’t necessarily seem unethical, but may have the consequence of unknowingly encouraging unethical behavior among employees.”

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

Dr. Marquardt summarized the concepts in the research and what type of consequences can come from such situations saying, “In this paper, we propose that leaders with high levels of a performance-avoid goal orientation are perceived to be less ethical and in turn, encourage employees to engage in unethical behaviors. Performance-avoid goal orientation refers to the extent to which a person approaches tasks or goals with a desire to not look incompetent compared to their peers. When a leader has such an orientation they are likely to send cues and signals to employees that making mistakes is to be avoided at all costs, that having the appearance of incompetence is unacceptable, or that making the leader look bad is a cardinal sin.”

He continued, “These cues and signals don’t seem unethical on their own, but imagine what they might do to employees over time. If I’m constantly hearing about avoiding mistakes and failures and trying to not look incompetent, what do I do when I actually do make a mistake? We propose that you might have a higher propensity to consider covering things up, blaming others, or lying about your performance. Our study analyzing several hundred leader/follower dyads found that leaders with high levels of avoid-goal orientation have significantly lower levels of ethical leadership (as perceived by their followers) and have employees who are more likely to engage in unethical behavior. Only when leaders also had a high learning goal orientation did the effects of avoid goal orientation become non-significant.”

Photo by Jeremy Enlow

Having this paper published is definitely a feeling of joy and accomplishment for Marquardt. “This paper has been in the works since 2014 and out of all my published papers, it’s the one I’m most proud of. God is good! There are many times I was going to give up on it because it took so many hours of work over these past six years. I’m thankful for great co-authors who are people I respect and people who have modeled a learning goal orientation for me.”

Dr. Marquardt’s paper “Leader Goal Orientation and Ethical Leadership: A Socio-Cognitive Approach of the Impact of Leader Goal-Oriented Behavior on Employee Unethical Behavior.” was published in the Journal of Business Ethics this May and is available for reading by clicking here.