Alumni Spotlight: Carlee Pruden

When Carlee (Finkelstein ’14) Pruden graduated from ACU with a degree in marketing, she wasn’t exactly sure what the future held. But, as they often do, an internship led to her future career. After interning for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas post-graduation, Carlee has now been with the company for almost 8 years holding various roles in marketing, merchandising, and most recently as a merchant. As a merchant for tortillas, Tex-Mex, and salsa, she is responsible for selecting great-tasting items, negotiating the lowest costs, and giving the customers what they want and need in stores and online. Pruden furthered her studies at John Brown University graduating in 2016 with a Master in Business with a focus on International Business. She’s used her experience in retail to join in a class project for the past three semesters with Dr. Jennifer Golden.

Carlee assists and critiques students throughout the 7-week period of the accelerated course by working with Dr. Golden to create projects centered around her day-to-day duties as a merchant. These projects require students to think critically about who Walmart’s customer is, how to make their shopping experience valuable, and Walmart’s overall mission and goals.

This rare in-class opportunity has allowed students to gain insight into corporate marketing strategy and tactics and learn how these concepts relate to one of the largest employers in the world. Because of incredible alumni like Pruden, who give up their time to help educate students with real-world experiences, ACU’s College of Business continues to thrive. One member of the class said, “The fact that someone as successful as Carlee willingly sacrifices her time to teach us about what she does sets the example for future generations of graduates from ACU.” They continue, “Though this class is extremely fast-paced due to the nature of an accelerated course, it has shaped me professionally in ways I didn’t even think possible. I love that we can see what we learn be implemented in a real business environment.”

Carlee also benefits from the partnership with the class, saying, “Working with students is always a great reminder to always be learning. There are concepts they are being taught now that were not covered when I went through school, like digital marketing, that are critical to success in the workplace today. Students have taught me about upcoming technology ideas that can be applied in real time in my career.”

The seed for this classroom partnership was planted 10 years ago when Pruden was a student in Dr. Golden’s Introduction to Marketing course. Golden’s passion for teaching students about marketing sparked a desire to learn as much as possible for Pruden and many of the students in the class. Now, Golden and Carlee enjoy a friendship and mentoring relationship that has changed each of their lives for the better. Carlee says, “I am the career professional, wife, and woman I am today due to my time at ACU and my relationship with Dr. Jennifer Golden. When you sit back and watch Jennifer love God and love others it’s contagious. We have spent countless hours chatting about career life or family life, but at the end of the day, she always reminds me that our purpose in this world is to love God and love others.”

Golden’s example of loving God and loving others has spurred Pruden to action. Several years after graduating, Carlee realized that part of her passion for the community and serving others was not being completely filled by her job or other activities that she was a part of. To fill that void, she began getting involved with local non-profits and volunteering her time and talents to their causes. She has also been a part of Walmart’s Fight Hunger, Spark Change program for the past 5 years. As part of the campaign, Walmart has donated 7 billion pounds of food to Feeding America and their food bank network. In addition to her various philanthropic efforts, Carlee and her husband have 2 dogs, Barklee and Boone, and enjoy spending their time outside riding bikes, hunting, fishing, or trail riding in their side-by-side.

The College of Business Administration’s vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Alumni like Carlee Pruden are walking, talking, real-life examples of that vision come to life as they inspire the next generation of COBA students.

Internship Spotlight: Katie Carr

Any baseball fan knows how much the game has changed in the last ten years. Many managers have begun focusing on stats for every aspect of the game, using staff members that specialize in analytics to help their team gain competitive advantages. This past spring Katie Carr (’22), information systems major from Wichita, Kansas, snagged an on-campus internship that has provided her with bountiful experience as she interned for the ACU baseball team as the Data Collection & Baseball Projects Manager. Katie told us more about her time with the team and how this internship has given her tangible skills and understanding to set her up for a homerun post-graduation.  

 

WHAT DID YOU DO IN YOUR INTERNSHIP?

As Data Collections & Project Manager, I analyze game statistics for player development. For example, during practices and warmups, I track pitchers as they practice to gather information on attributes such as pitch velocity, spin rate, and horizontal/vertical break. This provides valuable information for the whole team – coaches can utilize this in making decisions about starting lineups, and players can assess their performance and see what weak spots to focus on. 

Following games, I produce several reports such as top velocities, opposing pitcher compositions, and umpire statistics. I’m also in charge of setting up cameras to film the games and preparing a video guide with player appearances and times for easy navigation. 

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE INTERNSHIP?

My favorite part of this job is that the sports industry is never dull. Each day, it provides a different experience that leads to new challenges or ideas. If we see a trend start to appear during a game, that gives us the opportunity to dive deeper into the data to see if we find anything interesting. 

 

WHAT WERE THE GREATEST LESSONS YOU LEARNED IN THE INTERNSHIP?

The greatest lesson I learned was to always be willing to learn. This role required a good understanding of the sport and knowing how it can be implemented in the player structure. While I had limited knowledge coming in, I didn’t let it discourage me. I come early and stay late after practices, scrimmages, and games to get more experience. 

 

HOW DO YOU SEE THIS EXPERIENCE AIDING YOU IN THE FUTURE?

There are countless industries you can pursue with data analytics, and being able to get experience in those fields is important in order to get ideas of future job options. Prior to working with ACU’s baseball team, I had never considered sports analytics. However, working on the field over the last semester has helped me discover an industry I want to pursue more after graduate school. 

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR FUTURE INTERNS OR STUDENTS LOOKING FOR INTERNSHIPS?

Create meaningful relationships with your professors – they often have plenty of connections and are happy to help you out if you’re struggling. On one of our many office visits, I had mentioned to Dr. Ryan Jessup that I was looking for a job. Shortly after, he connected me with the baseball team’s coach who had reached out to him looking for analytics assistance. 

 

HOW HAS YOUR TIME AT ACU PREPARED YOU FOR THIS INTERNSHIP AND FOR GRAD SCHOOL AFTER GRADUATION?

Assignments with real-world applications have been incredibly beneficial. I’ve always enjoyed projects where you can truly see the impact of your work (such as going to Costa Rica for the Enterprise Consulting class or assisting with the Suitable app onboarding in the System Analysis & Design class). These were all great opportunities to practice the skills learned in the classroom in a real-life scenario. 

 

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A COBA STUDENT?

My favorite part of being a COBA student is the number of faculty and staff who genuinely care about you and your future. I have received so much support and guidance from so many COBA professors that I know I wouldn’t get anywhere else. They truly believe in their students and their ability to succeed. 

 

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Katie as she explores careers in sports and analytics. Upon graduation, Katie plans to attend Wake Forest University for her Master’s in Business Analytics.  

University Scholar Highlight: Isabella Maradiaga Molina

Isabella Maradiaga Molina, a double major in marketing and graphic design from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is one of 4 business majors recognized as a University Scholar this spring. To qualify as a University Scholar, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and show a demonstration of knowledge and skill in the research of their appropriate field. Students are nominated by faculty across the university and presented for selection to the Faculty Senate for the final decision. We asked Isabella to reflect on her time at ACU and how it’s shaped who she has become. Congratulations, Isabella!

 

Being named a University Scholar is a great honor! What was your first reaction when you received the news?

I’ve looked up to many people who received this award in the past and feel extremely honored to be named a University Scholar. This is the best way to culminate my college career at ACU!

 

What extracurricular activities/student orgs were you involved with on campus?

  • Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society
  • International Students Association
  • COBA Ambassador Team
  • COBA Marketing Team
  • WorldWide Witness
  • Alpha Chi National Honor Society
  • American Marketing Association
  • Ko Jo Kai
  • Student Government Association
  • Wildcat Ventures
  • Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society

 

What are some of your favorite memories/experiences in your department?

The community I’ve built through the College of Business Administration has carried me through the highs and low of my college career. I’ve been mentored, supported, and prayed over by many professors and peers in this department. Additionally, working in COBA Dean’s Suite has been one of my favorite experiences at ACU. I’ve had the opportunity to see the work that faculty and staff put into elevating our college experience as business students. And the student ambassador team makes me look forward to coming to work every day!

 

What has grown you as an individual the most in your time at ACU?

During my time at ACU, I’ve met incredible people that inspired the vision I have for my life moving forward. The Lord placed mentors and friends who stood next to me during challenging times and prayerfully encouraged me to push forward. All the growth and accomplishments of my college career have been a communal effort. This has been one of the greatest lessons I learned at ACU. We are meant to do life with one another.

 

What is your favorite thing about ACU?

My favorite thing about ACU is the lifelong connections we get to build. In the last few years, I’ve seen how many alumni return to campus with eagerness to connect with current students. I’m humbled by the generosity of these people and their desire to give back to our campus – with their time, wisdom, and experience. As I leave ACU, I finally understand what drives these Wildcats to come back home: community. I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of this.

 

Do you have a favorite memory you’d like to share of your time in your department?

My favorite memories in the College of Business are the ones in the Enrollment and Student Development office with Lindsay Palmer and our student ambassador team. These people made the Mabee Business Building feel a lot like home. I will always remember the meaningful conversations I had with Andy Little and M.C. Jennings – thank you for all your support. I’m also thankful for the dinners with Dr. Jennifer Golden and the hours we spent together navigating the challenges of life. I have a deep sense of gratitude for the professors, staff, and students in this department.

 

What will you be doing after graduation?

After graduation, I will join The Marketing Arm as Jr Art Director in their Dallas office.

 

Do you have any advice for future students?

From Glennon Doyle: “Each of us was born to bring forth something that has never existed: a way of being, a family, an idea, art, a community—something brand-new. We are here to fully introduce ourselves, to impose ourselves and ideas and thoughts and dreams onto the world, leaving it changed forever by who we are and what we bring forth from our depths. So we cannot contort ourselves to fit into the visible order. We must unleash ourselves and watch the world reorder itself in front of our eyes.”

Internship Spotlight: Allie Nichols

Did you know that in 2021 business was the #1 minor at ACU? Many ACU students find that their degree is enhanced with a minor in business, giving them even more professional avenues to explore. Senior Allie Nichols, an Advertising and Public Relations major from Abilene, Texas, is one of those students who was able to meld her major and minor in an internship last summer. Allie interned at Imaginuity, a digital marketing agency based in Dallas and shared how her experience at ACU and in COBA aided her in her time with the company.

Allie’s position at Imaginuity was as a client partnership intern. She explains, “I would sit in on all client meetings, build decks for the clients, etc. I got to do client partnerships work, social media work, and even creative work.” She was able to see first-hand what the day to day operations of a marketing agency looked like. Allie also attained knowledge in how to communicate with co-workers, clients, and her audiences as well as learning how to work with teams at the company.

“I have grown in confidence in my ability to work and gained real work experience,” Allie shared. This experience at Imaginuity has proved very beneficial as it led to a future job and she continued to work for the agency remotely throughout the fall semester.

Allie’s internship enriched her learning environment, both on campus and at the agency. She advises students looking for marketing internships to take an internship where you can learn multiple parts of an agency or facility. “I love that I got a taste of three different aspects in my agency because they wanted me to learn it all to see what I like.”

Even though Allie is not majoring in business, she felt that the COBA professors have shown her the same kind of care and value that business majors receive. She has appreciated the ways her professors have included and poured into her, whether it be through hand-written cards or simply showing interest in her well-being. She has also enjoyed getting exposure to the business side of marketing in addition to what she has learned through her major, the blend of which has given her a broader foundation for her future career.

COBA seeks to help our majors and minors alike gain internship opportunities that provide them with experience for their future careers, whether at home or far away. Interested in receiving more information about our internship program? Email COBA’s professional development manager, Steph Brown, at stephanie.brown@acu.edu.

Internship Spotlight: Isabella Maradiaga

Isabella Maradiaga

Have you ever heard the saying “getting a view from 50,000 feet?” Isabella Maradiaga, senior marketing and graphic design major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras quite literally did just that.  Last summer, Isabella completed an internship as a Junior Design Intern with Chicago based independent global brand consultant and creative agency, 50,000feet. As their website describes, 50,000feet “develops integrated experiences for the world’s most respected brands.”

Maradiaga was able to spend part of her internship at the agency in Chicago while also working remotely. She worked alongside disciplinary teams to develop and support client brands as well as assisting designers and creative directors on a daily basis using software like Adobe Creative Suite, Figma, and MailChimp. Additionally, she contributed in client and agency initiatives through strategic exploration and design assets.

In this role, Maradiaga was able to see how her double major could be integrated into her future work saying, “Pursuing a dual degree in college has been a challenging process. Through this internship, I was able to see how strategic business concepts merge with the creative practice of graphic design. My position as Junior Design Intern was an opportunity to narrow the career path I’m choosing post-graduation. Most importantly, I experienced a work environment that I can only aspire to have in the future. Designers, developers, writers, and all team members collaborate for a shared vision. The people at 50,000feet inspired and motivated me, and I am beyond thankful for the experience they provided.”

Some of the greatest lessons that Isabella learned during her internship were centered on creativity in the business world. “Creativity looks different for everyone. I honestly believe that we have mistakenly identified creatives as the people who pursue careers in art and design alone. There is creativity in design. There is creativity in strategy. There is creativity in business.”

Internships often give students experience and insight that they can take into their future careers. Isabella was no exception. “This internship exposed me to the agency environment that I desire to be in after graduation. I learned more than I could have imagined during the three months of this internship. Now, I can say with confidence that I plan to pursue a career in brand consulting/management.”

A great internship helps students grow and mature as they are stretched beyond what they have learned in the classroom. Isabella’s experience tested her in new ways. “Learning requires an abundance of humility. The College of Business has done an outstanding job at providing opportunities and courses that prepare students for their careers. However, putting all four years of education into practice is challenging. Starting any kind of job means developing new skills, adapting to an environment, understanding company culture, and many other learning opportunities. Approaching new seasons with humility is vital to our personal and professional growth. Most importantly, it is with this same humility that we should approach others as they begin their careers.”

Maradiaga has some advice for students as they look for their own internships. “Don’t be limited by the job postings you see online. Just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. I contacted numerous agencies that were not actively hiring for internships and heard back from most of them. Whether they have open positions or not, you are already making yourself available. Do your research, find companies you love, and pursue them intentionally.”

Isabella takes a “first day at work” pic

Isabella felt well prepared for her internship as she became involved with COBA’s professional development program and did her part to grow and develop herself by becoming involved on campus. “The professional development opportunities at ACU are endless. This place provides experiences that most people don’t get until they are out of school. Besides the academic excellence that is provided in the College of Business, I’ve benefited from many roles at ACU that have shaped my work ethic. During my time at ACU, I’ve served as Vice-President for the International Students Association, President of the American Marketing Association, Marketing Director for the Student Government Association, Design Director for Ko Jo Kai, President of Wildcat Ventures, and student ambassador for the College of Business Administration. All of these experiences have been crucial to my growth as a Christian professional.”

Inspired by “the standard of excellence that we communally pursue” at ACU, Isabella says that the glory belongs to God. “The Lord truly deserves all the glory for every opportunity, experience, and achievement in life. He’s been gracious at placing me in the right place, at the right time.”

Current and prospective students can learn more about the professional development program in the College of Business by contacting Steph Brown at stephanie.brown@acu.edu.

Recognizing Excellence: COBA 2020-2021 Award Winners

We’ll admit it, we are biased. We think that we have some of the greatest business and technology faculty and staff in the country. This past year they went above and beyond to pursue excellence and care for students during the challenging school year. We’re excited to announce those faculty and staff who were named as 2020-2021 COBA award winners for the Department of Management Sciences, the Department of Accounting and Finance, and the School of Information Technology and Computing.

Dr. Phil Vardiman

By student vote, the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Management Sciences is Dr. Phil Vardiman. Dr. Vardiman is a beloved professor who is known for his jokes, his enthusiasm, and his care for his students. He is often seen engaging with students in his office, the classroom, or on walks around campus. Presley Davis (’21) shared, “He has continued to be my number one supporter throughout my time with COBA. He cares for his students and wants to share our successes. He’s a lovely professor and friend.” 

Skylar Morris (’21) expressed his gratitude for Dr. Vardiman saying, “This man is single-handedly the reason I am happy where I’m at with my choice of major and career. He is so exciting, passionate, and happy to be teaching us. He is also the reason I am pursuing grad school because he has made me feel like I can be better. Every time I have an accomplishment, I want to tell him because he cares so much about his students and gets so genuinely excited. This man is truly the best professor I’ve had.”

Dr. Jody Jones

By student vote, the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Accounting and Finance is Dr. Jody Jones, another widespread student favorite. A newer addition to the COBA faculty, he stands out for his engagement with students and his ability to simplify hard topics. Senior finance major, Jon Bennett, explained, “He makes the topics interesting and applicable to real life. He goes above and beyond for his students. He makes going to class seem fun even at 8:00 AM.” Dr. Jones shared that it is a blessing and honor to know you are appreciated by your students and peers and to know one is valued.

Rebekah Jones, a senior finance and marketing major, expressed the impact Dr. Jones has had on her. “Jody goes above and beyond to ensure his students’ success not only in college but also post-graduation. His class has offered the most real-world applicable information in my COBA experience. Additionally, the level of difficulty is at a perfect point where you are motivated to try hard and learn, but he always offers grace with grades if you show that you are willing to work hard and redo assignments. Jody has a great sense of humor which makes him very approachable and easy to talk to before or after class. I appreciate getting to know him a bit each class and learn from his experiences. So much of why I love ACU is because of the opportunities there are to get to know professors who truly care about you – Jody has exemplified that.”

Dr. Brian Burton

By student vote, the 2020-2021 SITC Teacher of the Year is Dr. Brian Burton. Senior digital entertainment technology major Camila Rodriguez shared, “Dr. Burton is an amazing mentor. He always pushes us to do our best work and encourages us to pursue our goals and ambitions.” Dr. Burton is a valuable member of the SITC team and SITC Director Dr. John Homer shares why. “Dr. Burton has led the DET program for more than a decade, mentoring and working with every student who has gone through. He is dedicated to his work and cares deeply about his students. I think this award shows that his students feel similarly about him.”

Dr. Mindy Welch

Finally, the 2020-2021 Online Teacher of the Year is Dr. Mindy Welch. As a member of the ACU Dallas online team, Mindy has been a valuable asset to her students. Dr. Jennifer Golden explained that Dr. Welch loves her ACU students. “She is patient, encouraging, helpful, and a great professor overall. She receives consistent exceptional feedback in her classes. It is a pure joy to work with her because she is always coming up with new and innovative ideas to make the online classroom engaging, challenging, and spiritually encouraging. I cannot think of a better person for our Online Teacher of the Year.”

Director of the online MBA program, Dr. Vardiman, expressed, “Mindy is a teacher who not only wants her students to learn but also succeed in life. She loves teaching!!! Mindy is willing to go the extra mile for each of her students. She is wonderful to work with and sets the bar very high in her teaching style. She shares the example of Christ in how she cares for her students.” Upon receiving the award, Dr. Welch shared, “Honestly, it means so much to me! I know that Christian higher education is an act of service in God’s Kingdom. It is about preparing the next generation to show passion and leadership. Getting an award like this is just an affirmation from God that I am where he needs me to be.”

The Dean’s Award for Research was given to Dr. Monty Lynn for his outstanding research that resulted in the publication of two books this summer. Dr. Lynn hopes his research results in helping others. “Having these books recognized with the Dean’s Award for Research is an honor and adds to the hope that these works make a contribution to scholars, practitioners, the church, and students.”

Dr. Monty Lynn

Dr. Lynn’s research and the resulting books were born from his own experiences in the classroom and his desire to teach others how to use their vocation to reach out to help a hurting world. “Several years ago, a couple of ACU business students inquired about how they might apply what they had learned in business within developing economies. Because of their inquisitiveness, we created a special topics course in the class, International Poverty and Development. The course was cataloged a couple of years later and we still offer it today. Although my training in this field was limited, I looked for learning and research opportunities. Two observations became clear along the way. One was that while many Christian congregations engaged in relief and development activities, they often did so without the benefit of international development insights. A second observation was that a wonderful history of Christian engagement in relief, development, and advocacy existed but few knew the actors or ideas that flowered through the ages.”

Dr. Lynn went on to explain how the books came to fruition. “I pursued these two questions and two books were published in summer 2021 which are the fruit of that labor. With the help of Rob Gailey (Point Loma Nazarene University) and Derran Reese (ACU), Development in Mission was released by ACU Press. It attempts to surface fresh insights in missions and development that can aid churches and individuals who engage in global poverty alleviation. The second book, Christian Compassion published by Wipf & Stock, recounts in quick procession, the thoughts and actions of Christians endeavoring to extend the love of Christ to others, from the first century to the present.”

Steph Brown

The 2020-2021 COBA Staff Person of the Year was awarded to Professional Development Manager Steph Brown. Steph has taken the COBA professional development program to the next level with the implementation of COBA EDGE which helps prepare students for internships and jobs beginning their freshman year. She keeps business and technology students engaged and on track as they learn and grow professionally during their time in the college. Dean Brad Crisp explained why Steph is such a valuable member of the COBA team. “Steph took on two significant challenges for the college over the last year. First, she took over the Internship for Credit courses for each major, both administering the growing program and teaching the academic portion of the students’ internship course experience. Internships make a huge difference in the professional development and career placement of our students. Second, Steph partnered in the pilot of the Suitable platform, which was initially called Accelerate in the spring and will be called Compass this fall. COBA believes strongly in holistic student development, and we appreciate Steph’s contributions to not only help our students grow professionally but in all parts of their lives.”

Steph was humbled by the honor. “The award is, of course, sincerely appreciated. In all transparency, however, I have a difficult time accepting an award for myself when I have witnessed our other staff members have such a positive impact themselves. The past year has shown how every staff person in COBA has risen to the occasion and taken care of business, no pun intended. They have taken more responsibilities on top of their existing initiatives and done it with such a spirit of collegiality. I care for my colleagues and feel cared for by them. That, in itself, is better than receiving a reward.”

Dr. James Prather

The Outstanding Junior Faculty Member Award was given to SITC professor Dr. James Prather. Dr. Prather is known for engaging with students both inside and outside the classroom to help them pursue their goals. He said, “The Weathers Fellowship for Outstanding Junior Faculty is indicative of the excellent support we have here at ACU for teaching and research. I’m excited for what this award will enable me to do with my students over the next year. Many talented faculty have received this award in the past and I’m honored to be counted among their number.”

Dean Crisp added, “Drawing on his education in computer science and biblical studies, Dr. James Prather combines his passion for faith and technology in ways that inform and strengthen his teaching, scholarship, and service. He actively mentors students spiritually, inside and outside of class. James engages students in undergraduate research, supervising students as they present research at international conferences. And, he is a fun and loyal colleague. Dr. Prather shows that the future is bright for the School of Information Technology and Computing.”

Finally, the Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership was given to all of the COBA faculty and staff. Juggling what the year brought forth was not an easy task. Dr. Crisp was proud of the way the faculty and staff members showed students and their colleagues’ dedication and perseverance throughout the challenges of the pandemic.

Dr. Brad Crisp

“As I have watched COBA faculty and staff navigate a pandemic over the last year or more, I have seen our faculty and staff serving and leading in so many ways beyond their normal roles. Faculty learned new skills in online teaching, taught in classrooms scattered all across campus (while also engaging the students on Zoom), engaged in important and difficult conversations about how we can better serve our students, and all the while cared for students dealing with health challenges and other disruptions. And, our staff continued to advance their individual responsibilities while rising to unique challenges related to the pandemic, building renovations, the winter storm, and so much more. I couldn’t give the Dean’s Award for Service and Leadership to just one individual this year because all of our faculty and staff are so deserving.”

As a college, our vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. The past year has taught us that this vision is more than words on a page. This vision came alive in countless classrooms and offices all over this campus and inspires us to be the change we want to see. Let’s go change the world, Wildcats.