When Sarah (Hailey) Bacon (‘13) graduated with an undergraduate degree in accounting and then with a MAcc degree in 2015, she likely did not imagine that she would become the Vice President, Accounting Officer at First Financial Bankshares, Inc. at such a young age. Sarah’s passion for numbers, her diverse background in accounting, and the pull of being close to family all had a hand in shaping her future career path.
During her time at ACU, she worked in the COBA Dean’s office as a student employee and also held a job as a controller for a local insurance agency. Bacon was able to apply many of the principles she was learning in both her undergraduate and graduate classes during this time. She also gained a firm understanding of the business world which she says helped tremendously at her first post-graduation job in public accounting as an auditor at a firm in Dallas. “I could relate to clients having been one myself. Ultimately, the combination of industry and audit experience lead me to my current position with First Financial.”
In early 2018, Sarah and her husband Michael (’12) decided they wanted to move back to Abilene to be closer to family. It didn’t take long for her Abilene connections to notify various people at First Financial that the Bacons were moving back to town. One morning, Sarah received a call from the previous CFO of First Financial Bankshares and, after interviewing in person a week later, they created a position for Sarah. “I was very excited because I had dreamed of working there since I first went to college.”
As most new grads find out, learning to navigate the world of working young adulthood can be hard. Sarah said, “Learning to balance work and life has always been a struggle for me. I’ve learned that there is a balance, however. That balance is different for everyone and is ever-evolving throughout the different stages of life. My best advice to anyone, including myself, is to be patient with yourself.” One of her favorite take-aways from ACU was a quote that came from Dr. Gary McCaleb to “be a life-long learner”. “This is so prevalent in today’s world where things are constantly changing and evolving at an unprecedented pace. I must always strive to be better and more knowledgeable in my field and in general. My time at ACU provided me the tools and the drive to be a life-long learner.”
Bacon said that one of the biggest surprises she’s encountered since leaving ACU is that she’s found ACU alums everywhere she has gone. “There have been ACU alumni at every company I’ve worked for, lots of networking events and several places that I’ve traveled. It’s so fun to reminisce about common professors, social clubs and Sing Song.”
COBA believes in empowering students and alumni to weave their faith into their vocation. This is something that truly resonated with Sarah as a student and now in her current position. “My faith has impacted my work most from the standpoint that I have long-believed accounting has been my calling. I try to use Christian beliefs and strong morals in everything I do, and every decision I make. I had a strong faith in Christ before I was a part of COBA, but learning in a Christian environment only helped strengthen that faith.”
Along with growing deeper in her faith, some of Sarah’s favorite memories were made at ACU; most importantly meeting her husband, Michael Bacon, in the Fall of 2014 in Dr. Paul Lakey’s communication class while they were both in graduate school and then marrying him in the Chapel on the Hill on ACU’s campus in 2016. To top off the magical day, the ceremony was conducted by Sarah’s dad, Joe Hailey (’69). Sarah also has a special place in her heart for the ACU tradition of singing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”. She said, “I can’t narrow down one specific time that is my favorite, but the feeling of unity and common love felt when this song is sung at ACU is something that will stick with me forever. It’s the kind of feeling that gives me chills and brings a smile to my face. I associate this song with ACU.”
During her time at ACU, Sarah enjoyed being a COBA Dean’s office student employee. “I had the opportunity to get to know several professors and back-office associates better than most. I learned how down to earth they are and how much they really care. Dr. Jonathan Stewart is one of my favorite professors. His podcasts were a big deal before podcasts were a big deal and made learning fun. I loved how several COBA professors integrated fun, out-of-the-box ways of learning. Dr. Bill Fowler’s audit stories always made me laugh.”
Sarah encourages students, especially freshmen, to spend time talking to their professors. “Invest not only in your studies but in your relationships with the people around you. The content of studies is always evolving but your connections will only go away if you let them. Building a network of professionals and fellow students can be more valuable than you could imagine.”
Bacon also has some advice for current accounting students preparing for their future. “I suggest current accounting students evaluate early on if they plan to sit for the CPA exam. Adjust your class schedule so you have the right classes completed in order to take exams while still in school. Take advantage of the resources COBA provides for study materials and take as many exams as possible prior to beginning your career after college. It’s helpful to do this while you’re still in the habit of studying.” And for all COBA students, she suggests, “Participate in the practice job interviews and learn to keep up with current events in your field.”
As part of the vision, mission, and values of the college, COBA strives to create excellence and impact by upholding high moral and professional standards of excellence for faculty, staff, students and alumni, calling each person to a life of service and leadership that glorifies God and transforms communities and society. Sermons aren’t just lived out from the pulpit. Sometimes, the best sermons are seen at places like banks. Thank you to Sarah Bacon for making the world a better place by living out faith in the workplace.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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.”
Lexi Koon, graduating senior accounting and major from Denver, Colorado.
Lexi Koon is a senior accounting and management major with a concentration in entrepreneurship from Denver, Colorado. She is in the integrated Masters of Accountancy program and wants to pursue a career as a CPA after graduation. We asked Lexi a few questions about her time at ACU. Read her answers below!
Q: How has your education at ACU, especially in your department, prepared you for the future?
A: My education at ACU has taught me a lot about learning how to see the world from other people’s perspectives and to be a better listener. That applies primarily to my classes outside of my business classes such as my bible classes, my communications classes, and other electives I have had to take over the years. As far as my education in the accounting department, I feel as though I have been prepared by the accounting department to understand the technical skills I will need to further my career as a CPA. It feels really great to come out of four years of school and know that I actually have the skill sets to be successful in a specific field and to also know that I will use what I learned in those classrooms every day in my career. In the business management department, my professors prepared me for my future by exposing me to different aspects of business as a whole, they inspired me to set extraordinary goals and challenged me to dream big (like in entrepreneurship class with Jim Litton), and above all else, they prepared me by showing me they believed in me.
Q: What has been your favorite thing/memory about your time at ACU and COBA?
A: Wow, that is a really hard question. I don’t know if I can necessarily pick a favorite, but it’s more-so a combination of all the times professors tried really hard to make bad jokes in class, when they invited us over for “Grilleniums” or when they invited us to worship events at their church. My most cherished memories have been when professors stopped class to give us a “real talk” about life or when they shared what was going on in their lives to give us encouragement in ours. My favorite experience at ACU by far has been getting to have my professors over and over again in class and building relationships with them to where I know they actually care about their students. From book club with Dr. Laura Phillips to bible study with Dr. Easter, they all have made a huge impact on my life as a student at ACU. The professors at ACU are funny, they are thoughtful, they are kind, and they are beyond caring.
Q: What was your favorite class in the accounting department?
A: Answering this question is difficult because the professors are all so different. All of the professors are great and they all bring a different character to the classroom. Content-wise and professor-wise, I would have to say Income Tax with Dr. Fowler has been my favorite class as an undergraduate. I dreaded having to take that class because, well, who wants to learn about taxes? I found that Dr. Fowler is one of few people in the world who can actually make learning about tax fun. He made us laugh almost every day and he challenged us, but he also believed in us. I’m also currently in his Corporate Tax class in the MAcc program and I can say that may be the hardest class I have ever taken but I still love it because he teaches it and constantly re-affirms us that we can do it.
Q: Who was your favorite professor and why?
A: I spoke a little about Dr. Fowler in that last question, but to answer this question, Dr. Fowler was my favorite professor because he went above and beyond to make us know that we are more than just a number in his class. He is typically known for teaching some of the hardest classes in the accounting department but he is also the professor that sends us emails to tell us he believes in us, that he is proud of us, and that he is here for us. Almost every day in class, he tells us a funny story to make what should be boring content enjoyable, and several times throughout the semester he has stopped class to point out seasons of celebration in our own lives and other times he took the time to be real with where he’s at and the hardships that life faces us all. He made our classes become family and I would go back and take those extremely hard classes again as long as I knew he was teaching it.
Q: If you could talk to a prospective student considering coming to ACU, why would you tell them to choose ACU?
A: I would tell them to choose ACU because it is like no other college they will go to. The “ACU Difference” is the community that you find along the way. This should be apparent in my responses from earlier questions, but the professors, the faculty, and the students have shown me what it is to look at those who are different from me and want to learn from them, to learn how to love them, and to be surrounded by a circle of people who have your back 100%. As I leave ACU, I feel completely supported and surrounded by an extraordinary amount of love and I am thankful. You will never be a number here. The first year is tough at any college, but as you continue to grow your experience here, you will walk around and be known, and that is what the walking in the Kingdom looks like.