Dr. Phil Vardiman Named Director of COBA’s Online Graduate Business Programs

Dr. Brad Crisp announced last week that Dr. Phil Vardiman, Professor of Management, will begin serving as director of COBA’s online graduate business programs beginning August 1, 2017. Dr. Vardiman will have responsibility for the MBA and MS in Management (MSM) programs offered in collaboration with ACU-Dallas and will interface with other ACU-Dallas programs through their academic and leadership councils.

 Dr. Phil Vardiman

Vardiman earned a Bachelor of Science from ACU in 1976, earned his MBA from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 1992, and holds a Doctor of Philosophy from Texas A&M. Phil has a long history both in education and industry, having served as the Regional Human Resources Director for Cardinal Health from 1997-2000, Human Resources Manager for Avery Dennison Corporation from 1986-1997, and Production Supervisor/Quality Analyst for General Tire & Rubber Company from 1977-1986. He has been heavily involved with human resources and entrepreneurship organizations in both educational and industry settings and has published numerous articles in academic journals as well as presenting papers at 16 academic conferences. Dr. Vardiman also actively consults for businesses, working with them in the areas of human resources, training, quality, safety, and leadership development. Vardiman has taught at ACU since 2002, with special teaching interests in Human Resource Management, Entrepreneurship, Management & Organizational Behavior, Leadership Development, Safety & Health, and Organizational Development. In addition to these teaching interests, he has been active in leading students on COBA Study Abroad trips, traveling to Australia, China, Honduras, and Oxford as well as working with numerous university service activities, advising and club sponsored activities. Known to his students for his “Conceptual Truths” and enthusiasm, to say that Phil Vardiman has a passion for helping others grow and succeed would be an understatement.

When talking about his new appointment, Dr. Vardiman says that he is excited about serving on the COBA and ACU-Dallas Leadership Teams and for the opportunity to understand ACU-Dallas better. While serving as ACU Faculty Senate Chair, one goal of his had been to help ACU faculty become more familiar with ACU-Dallas and to build relationships between the ACU on-campus faculty and the ACU online faculty. When asked what his priorities will be while serving as the Director of the COBA online graduate programs, Vardiman said that he will look at faculty, possible changes or additions to course curriculum, and increasing student enrollment. He anticipates looking at the MBA concentrations to affirm what is working and what can be developed to increase offerings to online graduate students, stating that at this time, there is no intention to add concentrations but there may be additions in the future.

Dr. Vardiman said that he is most excited about the learning opportunity that this new position will require. His desire is to have a rigorous and solid MBA that is well respected and he is excited to play a part in making that happen. Should current undergraduate students fear they won’t have the opportunity to have him as a professor, don’t worry – he will still be teaching his favorite class MGMT 330 in the fall along with International Business while in the spring he will teach his Safety, Health and Security class. Vardiman said that he was adamant that if he accepted this new positon, that he be allowed to continue to keep teaching undergraduates, stating, “If I lost that, it wouldn’t be worth it.” Teaching is his passion and helping ACU grow into the future is the catalyst for deciding to enter into this administrative role.

Dr. Brad Crisp stated his support by saying, “Phil is an excellent teacher and mentor, and he recently completed a term in leadership of ACU’s Faculty Senate. Joey Cope, Stephen Johnson, and I are all excited about what Phil will bring to this role to support the growth and quality of our MBA and MSM program.” Congratulations to Dr. Phil Vardiman on his appointment as Director of COBA’s Online Graduate Business Programs.



COBA Meet the Dean Tour stops in Texas and Silicon Valley

Dr. Brad Crisp officially began his tenure as the Dean of the College of Business Administration in June and has been building an agenda since for his new role. One of the items on that agenda has been to reach out to and connect with alumni from the College of Business and the School of Information Technology and Computing, giving alumni and friends an opportunity to meet or reacquaint themselves with Dr. Crisp as well as learning more about the state of our college and what our plans are for the future. Thus, the idea for the “Meet the Dean Tour” was born and implemented in partnership with the Alumni Relations Office.

Dr. Brad Crisp, Dean of the College of Business Administration

Dr. Brad Crisp, Dean of the College of Business Administration

The tour began in Abilene with 56 alumni and friends and at each stop, Dr. Crisp illustrated ACU’s long standing success in business education and our recent path of progress with our School of IT and Computing.  Along with our first event in Abilene, alumni and friends gathered in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Silicon Valley at networking breakfasts and lunches. Alumni who graduated within the past 10 years were invited to join Dr. Crisp for a “Beat the Dean” event at Top Golf in several of these cities, as they attempted to best the new Dean. It was a fun time of networking and Dr. Crisp was able to withstand the challenge brought by our young alums.

Young Alums in Dallas

Young Alums in Dallas

Dr. Crisp aims to win

Dr. Crisp aims to win

COBA Beat the Dean at Top Golf in Dallas

COBA Beat the Dean at Top Golf in Dallas

Not only were we able to reconnect with alumni, but we also met with parents of current students as well as prospective students and their families as they sought to learn more about the College and our programs and opportunities. Recent graduates were hard at work at these events, helping us connect students to internships and job opportunities in their organization. Alumni who have risen to leadership roles in their companies expressed their desire to create and sustain pipelines of ACU talent to their organizations. Many of our alums shared stories of the encouragement and strengthening they received both professionally and personally while attending ACU. They were encouraged by Dr. Crisp’s consistent reference to our heritage of business excellence, rooted in our personal commitment to living out the mission of Christ and bringing this mission to the workplace.

Meet the Dean lunch stop in Austin

Meet the Dean lunch stop in Austin

Today, Dr. Crisp leads a College offering 5 business degrees and 4 technology degrees at our Abilene campus, the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy which is leading the nation in student engagement for entrepreneurship programs, and the new Lytle Center for Leadership and Faith Development which is continuing our Distinguished Speaker Series and Leadership Summit course.  The reach of ACU’s mission to educate Christian servants and leaders has expanded with the on-line MBA program, offered through the ACU Dallas campus in addition to our residential Master of Accountancy program and additional on-line graduate programs are in the discussion phase. The College of Business enjoyed an enrollment of exactly 1,000 total students this fall and is positioned for additional growth.  Our Master of Accountancy and Computer Science programs supply a steady stream of employers coming to campus to interview for talent as the changing landscape of business is driven by technology and entrepreneurship, demanding ethical leaders in this rapidly transforming environment.

alums top golf

Young alums at Beat the Dean in San Antonio

Young alums at Beat the Dean in San Antonio

The opportunity to begin Dr. Crisp’s tenure by connecting with alumni was emphasized by an intentional effort to listen to and involve alumni and friends in our efforts to develop the next generation of business and technology servant leaders. All in attendance were encouraged to give us feedback via an on-line survey. If you were unable to attend one of the stops but would like to give feedback as we continue to shape the direction and future of ACU’s College of Business and School of Information Technology and Computing, please fill out the survey by clicking on this link.

Your support of our work to educate business and technology professionals for Christian service and leadership throughout the world is a great encouragement to us and we cannot achieve our goals without support from alumni and friends. Thank you!



Spotlight on Jenni Williams

What is your educational background?

I received my bachelors in Public Relations and Advertising from Hardin-Simmons University and I will complete my masters in Higher Education from ACU in 2016.


Jenni Williams

Jenni Williams

What is your work background?
My first job was in PR for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This was an amazing opportunity and had a great impact on my life. I learned so much from the wish kids and will always be grateful for that opportunity.

Following that role, I began working in Higher Education in 2004. I have worked in several areas of Higher Ed at two universities, including campus visits, financial aid, admissions, student life, retention, recruiting, event coordination, and student services.


What do you do at ACU?
I manage the recruiting process for SITC and assist in bringing new students to ACU. Additionally, I manage marketing communication to current and prospective students. I also play a role in other areas in SITC, including coordination of special events, SITC news, and staff contact for Women in Tech.


What’s the best part of working with students? 
I love working with students! It is so amazing to watch students transition from their first visit to campus through to their graduation. I play a small role in their ACU experience and I love being able to share in this transformational process. I enjoy being able to encourage and cheer on students as they take on new challenges, navigate their demanding schedules, and ultimately, interview for jobs. We are able to witness the process of development from the front row. While it is sometimes painful, there is nothing quite like sharing in the moments when they realize that they are capable of more than they imagined.


Have you ever given up any big opportunities to keep working with students? 

No. I’m right where I want to be.


Outside of work, what passions and hobbies do you have?

So many things. First and foremost, I have an amazing husband and two precious daughters that I love very much. Our girls keep us extremely busy and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I also love baking and have a sugar cookie business. This hobby-turned-business started out by making cookies for my daughters’ class parties. I really love the creative and artistic outlet!



The Williams Family having fun


Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
At this juncture, completing my masters will be a huge accomplishment. I have enjoyed the entire process and love how it has cultivated a passion for learning.


Do you do any charity or non-profit work? 
I am on the parent council at Alliance for Women and Children.


Who is your role model, and why?
I have a strong network of men and women in my life, who have taught me a great deal about living life. They have served as spiritual, professional, and personal mentors. They have guided me in times of uncertainty and doubt, as well as times of joy and success. I have learned what it means to love others, how to be a better parent, how to walk through challenges and failures, and how to live a life worthy of the calling placed on my life.


Who was your most inspirational professor and why?
Several professors come to mind, but one of the most inspirational was Dr. Susan Piggott. She was one of my Bible profs and I had her for Theological Research and Writing (I was a Bible major at one point).  That course was easily one of the most challenging courses I had in undergrad. Dr. Piggott had a reputation of being a pretty tough teacher. When it came time for me to take her course, I experienced this first hand. However, I learned so much from her about questioning preconceived ideas and learning to think on my own. Some of her ideas conflicted with mine, allowing me to examine why I believed what I believed. This experience strengthened my faith and propelled my spiritual development.


If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Power over time, hands down. Primarily to slow down time. Obviously, this would be helpful for accomplishing a lot. However, I think it would be more useful for the ability to slow down and cherish the priceless moments that are over too quickly.


The Williams Family

The Williams Family


What is something that students might be surprised to find out about you?

I love Christmas and have a sizable collection of Christmas paraphernalia, which nearly fills up our entire storage shed, seven Christmas trees, and over 700 Christmas songs in my iTunes library. It’s absolutely my favorite time of the year.


What would you really want students and alums to know about you?

I have spent 11 years in higher education working with students in some facet. In this time, I have learned that there is so much more to college than awarding degrees. I view this as a calling. I have the opportunity to impact students in a measurable way, by simply being here. I am committed to the holistic development of students as they explore their identity in relation to others and to God. I will not have all the answers, but I am always available to listen, encourage, and pray for students.


Spotlight on Brad Crisp

What is your educational background?

I majored in accounting at ACU, completed an MBA at UT with an emphasis in change management, and received my PhD in Information Systems from UT. Accounting was a great way to learn about business, the MBA broadened that experience and my interest in change management created a springboard into Information Systems.

Dr. Brad Crisp

Dr. Brad Crisp

What is your work background?

My audit experience at Arthur Andersen was a fantastic way to learn about business. I spent a lot of time in nonprofit work. I worked for a brokerage firm, worked in real estate, for a tech start-up – which was actually one of the first internet providers, and on the consolidated financial statements for the U.S. government. It was a great way to learn about a lot of different organizations.

My experience in consulting allowed me to dive deeper into how organizations use both financial aspect and the systems aspect to execute tasks. I witnessed many interesting reactions to how technology is used. This is how I became interested in technology. It is just a piece of software, but people have different reactions to what it should do and how it should be used. This experience raised some interesting questions for me, ultimately leading me to pursue graduate work.

What do you teach at ACU?

I teach Systems Analysis and Design, which is a smaller project-based course focused on an organizational problem, where technology is part of the solution.  I also teach Management Information Systems, which focuses on what business students need to know about technology and how information technology is used within the organization.

What committees/other duties do you have at ACU aside from teaching?

I am a sponsor of the ACU chapter of the Association of Information Systems, I am an advisory member of the student-run software company, Wildcat Software, and Director of the School of Information Technology & Computing, which is an academic unit within the College of Business Administration with majors in computer science, digital entertainment technology, information systems, and information technology. Most recently, I have been named Associate Dean for Graduate Business and charged with executing the launch of COBA’s new online MBA program.

What drew you to teaching?

I had a set of mentors that helped me begin thinking about academia not long after I graduated from college. Jack Griggs, former dean of COBA and one of my professors, would call once a year and ask about what I was going to do with my life. He encouraged me to think about being a professor. Also, when I was in Maryland, several of the folks that I met in church were professors. The interactions with them encouraged me to think about the benefits of being a professor, including teaching and research.

What’s the best part of working with students?

I am at ACU because I want to know students. During my first semester at ACU, I spent more time with students than during the five years I spent at Indiana. It wasn’t because I am a different person here, it was because the expectation was different. Students did not expect to to know their faculty and the reverse is true as well. ACU encourages those type of relationships and I enjoy spending time with students. I appreciate the opportunities to be involved in student organizations, go to chapel or lunch with students, have a chance to learn about what is important to them and be able to speak into their life in small ways.

Outside of teaching, what passions and hobbies do you have?

I spend a lot of time going to sports and other events for my sons. I like to play golf, sing on the praise team at Highland, and I serve on two nonprofit boards.

The Crisp Family

The Crisp Family

Do you have a good story from your early career in teaching?

When I was at Indiana, I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery as part of the treatment. This was right before my third year of teaching. I remember how much that life event changed my perspective. During the process of recovery and going through radiation, being able to teach was a bright spot that provided a lot of joy during that time.

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant

in your career.

I published some papers in journals and I’m very proud of those accomplishments. I don’t believe that most people understand how much time is involved in that process. There is a paper published a couple of years ago, that I worked on for about 15 years. This was a test of perseverance more than anything else, however, it was a great accomplishment.

I have also enjoyed consulting over the years. I wrote the business plan for one of the nonprofits that I serve and I have enjoyed seeing how far they have come.

I am proud of the recent ABET accreditation of the School of IT & Computing and in my work with curriculum revision, for the business core and now, in the creation of the MBA curriculum.

Who was your most inspirational professor and why?

Dr. Don Jackson, who taught economics, was a charismatic and enjoyable professor. He served as Deputy Director for Administration, Programs, and Resources at the National Security Agency (NSA) in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He often used the phrase, “I could tell you more, but I’d have to kill you.” Also as I mentioned before, Jack Griggs’ influence was definitely pivotal in my college experience and in my life.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

I would like to have the ability to slow down time.

What is something that students might be surprised to find out about you?

Right out of college, I was on a church planting team in Washington, D.C. and I also proposed to my wife on the summit of a mountain in Salzburg, Austria because her favorite movie is The Sound of Music.

What would you really want students and alums to know about you?

I would actually like for students to know that God creates each of us with purpose. I like to talk to students about how to find meaning in what you’re doing. For some, desire for meaning and faith may mean changing careers or going into ministry. For most of us, it means learning how to honor God in our daily lives. Having been involved in church planting, I believe it is easy to move across the country and say that you want to follow God. However, it is hard to actually live on a day-to-day basis in that way. More of following God, is in the process of making the small choices to serve him daily.


An Interview with the Director of ACU’s New MBA Program by Jenni Williams

ACU will welcome the first class of its online MBA program this fall. I had the opportunity to sit down with Brad Crisp, COBA’s Associate Dean for Graduate Business, to learn more about the new program.

Brad Crisp


Why is ACU launching a Master of Business Administration program?

We offered a residential MBA for most of the 1980s and 90s, but it was difficult to attract the number of students that we wanted to serve in Abilene. With the launch of ACU Dallas, ACU is better equipped to serve graduate students through online programs. We now have the opportunity to reach a new market of graduate students who are established in their careers, yet wanting to be challenged and have the opportunity to grow professionally. The online MBA is the perfect vehicle for allowing them to continue their careers and attain their educational goals.


What is the focus of the curriculum?

The MBA curriculum is designed to equip students in four key areas:

  • leadership skills that will enable them to lead in their career, but also in their homes, churches, and communities
  • organizational innovation that prepares them to meet new opportunities
  • decision-making that engages data available in today’s tech-driven workplace
  • the ability to let faith and ethical principles guide their work


What role is COBA faculty playing in the creation of this program?

COBA faculty in Abilene designed the program and have played an important role in the development of the core courses that will be taken by all students. Additionally, some of the courses will be taught by our Abilene faculty, while other courses will be led by qualified faculty in Dallas and elsewhere.


How is graduate education different from undergraduate education?

Education ideally helps us think about theory and practice, that is, how we combine great ideas with implementation. One of the key differences in graduate education is that the adult learner has a greater amount of work experience to connect with the learning. Having an environment where students can bring their work experience into class discussions and on assignments is a key component of a professional program like the MBA. That is why I encourage students to work for a couple of years before making the transition to graduate education, because the knowledge gained in industry adds a great deal of depth to their graduate experience.


What excites you about the launch of this new program?

Most ACU faculty come to Abilene to teach the traditional undergraduate student, and we are excited to help students in that stage of their formation. Now we have decided that we aren’t stopping there. We have the chance to connect with adults in the next phase of their lives as they’ve grown in their careers, their communities, and their families. We have the opportunity to serve them in another important stage of their life, as they are learning where faith intersects with work and life.


For more information on ACU’s online MBA program, visit www.acu.edu/mba.