On January 27th, senior chemistry major Claire Shudde entered the Improve ACU Competition and left with a cash prize of $500 and the opportunity to make her idea come to life. The competition was co-hosted by the ACU Student Government Association (SGA) and the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.
Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator for the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy explained why they chose to create this competition. “We wanted to try and reach a larger sector of the student body and engage them in entrepreneurial thinking. The prompt was simply what are your ideas to improve ACU? We had 139 total entries and the finalists and winner were picked by the SGA student team. There were several really creative ideas submitted. Some of the top ideas included a community garden, a low-cost food pantry for students, and a student led spirit team at the ACU basketball games. Our hope was that students would take a moment to look around and see how their ideas could lead to real change at ACU. Every successful business, initiative or service starts with a great idea.”
Claire told us, “My idea to improve ACU is to have selected accounting and business students help lower income citizens in Abilene file their taxes. Filing taxes isn’t always easy and for people who either don’t have the education or ability to file for themselves, it can be a daunting task. If students at ACU — ideally selected by faculty who have witnessed the student’s desire and ability to serve the community in this way — can help locals file their taxes, they can gain real world experience while also benefiting the community.”
Shudde gave credit where credit is due for the idea. “I got the idea from a friend who attends St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Their school is situated in an impoverished part of town and the students intentionally work on reaching out and ministering to the community. As a Christian school, I think ACU could follow suit and reach out to the community in this way. There is potential for this to be an incredible ministry in Abilene, and while accounting/finance majors help people with money, other students can minister to the people waiting.”
Claire continued, “I think the best way to establish this would be to partner with ministries like Love and Care or the Mission that are currently working and established. As a senior chemistry major, I am fairly far removed from accounting and finance, so I doubt I could be involved in the actual functioning of the tax clinic. Rather than be hands on myself, I would love to brainstorm with those who are knowledgeable in this area and will be in Abilene longer than me. I think breaking the ACU bubble in this way will benefit both the community and the ACU students involved. My hope and prayer is that through simple actions such as helping a single mom file for a tax return, people can experience the love of God. Isaiah 1:17 says ‘Learn to do good, seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless, take up the case of the widow.’ While setting up a tax clinic does not fix all the problems in Abilene, I think it would be a chance for christians to live out this charge. I hope that in a few years I can look back and see ACU taking steps into the community beyond just a tax clinic.”
The ACU community often talks about the “ACU Difference”. Bright minded students who have a passion not only for ACU, but for making ACU and Abilene a greater place, are living, breathing examples of that difference. Congratulations to Claire Shudde on winning the competition! Want to learn more about the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy and how you can get involved? Click here to learn more.
Christian Guerra speaks to students at a Lunch and Learn event.
ACU’s Career Center, Department of Engineering and Physics, and College of Business Administration worked together to host ACU alumnus Christian Guerra (’06) on January 28th. Christian serves as the Vice President and General Manager Operations for Avanzar Interior Technologies and returned to campus to address engineering, physics, and business students about the career opportunities available in automotive manufacturing. Christian was joined by other Avanzar team members including C.D. Rodriguez, who serves as the Human Resources Manager. Avanzar, an award winning manufacturer located in San Antonio, Texas, is a Toyota Motors production partner who manufacturers the seats for the Toyota Tundra.
The Toyota automotive manufacturing production standards are truly world class and give Avanzar employees the tremendous opportunity to learn best practices and work to produce top of the line products. Christian gave students insights into the internship and career opportunities available with their company as well as the company culture. Guerra was a student worker for former COBA Dean Dr. Rick Lytle when he was at ACU. He shared with students that Dr. Lytle impressed on him the need to be “Christ in the workplace”. Christian said that he puts this lesson into practice every day as he works to lead this family owned business with 1,100 associates in San Antonio and 200 associates in Mexico. He also reflected on his time in LYNAY and Dr. Gary McCaleb’s encouragement to go back to your community and help where you can. Christian took this advice, returned home, and is helping Avanzar provide an excellent work opportunity for employees in his hometown of San Antonio. This same work ethic is exemplified throughout the Avanzar organization. Berto Guerra, founder of Avanzar and ACU Board of Trustee, was honored by EY as the 2015 Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year.
Addressing work challenges through effective teamwork is critical at Avanzar. In their visit to the Engineering Department, the Avanzar representatives had a chance to observe current students working in teams to determine objectives and alternative solutions all while
Engineering, physics and business students were invited to learn about careers and internships with Avanzar.
operating with constraints during their engineering classes. The opportunity to work with ACU engineering, physics and business students aligns with the needs of the manufacturer both with regard to their work ethic and with their Christ-centered focus in the workplace. HR representative C.D. Rodriguez was impressed with the Engineering and Science facilities and enjoyed meeting the professors and students, stating that they will be back later this spring to conduct interviews. COBA looks forward to creating more opportunities for our students as we continue to collaborate with our partners in the ACU Career Center and across campus. To learn more about the ACU Career Center and job and internship opportunities, click here.
Zach Jennings is a Management major from Abilene, Texas and graduated in December 2019. Zach interned with Edward Jones this last summer. “I learned the basics of what it takes to be a financial advisor. I got to work with other offices and two other interns in town. There were about 200 interns nationwide, so having even one intern in Abilene was awesome, but we had three!”
As Zach prepared for graduation, he also prepared to begin work with Edward Jones as a financial advisor. He says, “I believe my time at ACU helped me find out what I wanted to do moving forward. Not only did it prepare me for my future career, but I grew so much in my relationship with God because of the wonderful people here.” Zach found that he wanted a career with Edward Jones after his experience as an intern and is looking forward to the great opportunities laid before him.
Zach enjoyed his college career at ACU. We asked him what his favorite thing about being a part of COBA was and how the environment influenced his growth throughout his time here. “My favorite thing about COBA was attending Leadership Summit. I grew a lot in the Lord and made so many good friendships as well. It was a refreshing and soul-quenching experience. I would say that ACU offers not only some of the best education programs out there, but what makes ACU great is the community. You actually get to know your professors and you’ll realize they want to get to know you too. The community of ACU is welcoming, inclusive and Christ-like. The people here are what sets ACU apart from the rest.”
Helping students find how their gifts and talents can be used for God in the workplace is something COBA is passionate about. For those students who aren’t sure what career path they want to take, COBA and ACU provide exploration through the COBA Edge professional development program and the guidance offered at the Career Center. To learn more about the COBA Edge program, students can email Steph Brown at email@example.com. Students can also learn more about internships, interviewing, and career search information by reading the COBA student newsletter, looking through Handshake, or contacting Steph Brown or the ACU Career Center.
Internships matter. That’s what the COBA Professional Development team and the ACU Career Center want to imprint in every student’s mind. According to a 2017 NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition study (click here to read), “Grade point average and the total number of internships a student completed as an undergraduate student are the major predictors of initial career outcomes.” What the study found was that participation in internships in college greatly increased a student’s chances of becoming employed within six months of graduation. In addition to creating better opportunities for employment, internships help students discern what types of careers they want to pursue after graduation. We talked to two students who completed internships this summer to see how their internships impacted them.
Jemimah Wavamunno, junior management major from Kampala, Uganda, interned for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., focusing on public and foreign policy. Her favorite part of the internship was, “Getting to grow alongside interns in my program (National Student Leadership). I feel in the professional work-space, I learned even more about my desired field of postgraduate study – Foreign Policy/ Affairs. Therefore, I have a better understanding of what I want to learn in the future.”
Jemimah’s advice for students who are looking for internships is to keep their options open while applying. “Don’t just search for what might look good on your resume. Look for something that will pertain specifically to you and your journey. Pray over all your offers to choose the right one, and don’t be so downcast over your rejections.”
Luke Stevens, senior marketing major from Montgomery, Texas, interned with Pharos Resources, LLC in Abilene. Luke served as a Retention Intelligence Specialist performing data analytics and visualization tasks. His favorite part of the internship was learning the Tableau software. “It is an amazing
program and will be very useful in any business setting.” Not only did he enjoy acquiring new skills, but Luke sees this internship helping him in the future in large part due to the support he received from the Pharos staff. “Pharos is a great support system, not just a job. The leaders care about you and want you to succeed in your career. Having their support along with the skills that I’ve learned here will propel me into a career of success.” Luke felt as though his largest area of personal and professional growth came from gaining responsibility “to perform tasks that will actually be seen by clients. I never felt an overwhelming fear of making a mistake. Instead, I learned to have a healthy understanding that I must constantly give my best work.”
Luke advises students looking for internships, “Don’t stop looking for internships or making connections. The offer to intern at Pharos came late in my search and it turned out to be better than I could have hoped.”
We spoke with Steph Brown, COBA’s Professional Development Manager, to learn how she is working to get students engaged with her office and prepare them for successful outcomes after graduation. Building on relationships with faculty, the ACU Career Center, and her ten years of experience in counseling, advising, coaching and leadership training, Steph is working to implement a new program that strengthens COBA’s business and technology professional development. The EDGE Professional Development Program (E = Explore, D = Develop a Plan, G = Gain Experience, E = Employment) helps students take intentional steps each semester to prepare for entry into the professional world of work. Steph says, “Intentional professional development planning in college is critical for students to successfully compete for and gain internships and jobs. Students who begin this process their first year of college have significant advantages over students who do not.”
The EDGE Professional Development Program is designed to develop, equip, and connect business and technology students for career success. By utilizing online self-learning Canvas course modules, weekly workshops, one-on-one coaching appointments, and campus resources, students gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience that enables them to compete for internships and jobs. All business majors are encouraged to participate in this professional development program and all technology students have mandated requirements for participation.
Freshmen explore majors and career paths. In their sophomore year, students learn how to manage their professional impressions and create career plans. Each year, students update their resume and create professional portfolios to market themselves to employers. In their junior year, students begin developing professional networks in their industries of choice, learning how to search for, apply to, interview for, and secure internships. As a senior, students expand their networking skills and continue to market themselves professionally. Students also learn strategies to transition from college to the workforce.
COBA’s focus on internship and job preparation through the EDGE program is indicative of the importance placed on the investment that students and parents make in college; an investment of their money, time, and hard work. In the 2017 Job Outlook survey from NACE (click here to read), only 5 percent of employer respondents said that work experience is not a factor when hiring new graduates. The majority of employers are looking to hire college graduates who have completed an internship or gained some kind of work experience while in college. Professional development programs like EDGE and the ACU Career Center, along with internship experiences, accelerate entry-level career opportunities. We think that’s the kind of pay off a college investment should have. Do you have questions about the EDGE program? Email Steph Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graduation is only a few days away and it’s the time of year we sadly say goodbye to our graduating seniors. We are proud of our students and we’d like to introduce you to a few of them on this blog, letting you know how their time at ACU has molded them, where they are headed after graduation, and what advice they have for the new freshmen class coming in the fall.
Allie Cawyer, Marketing major from Plano, Texas
After graduation, I will be moving back to Dallas and hoping to work in the corporate event industry.
For the last year, I have been working with University Events here at ACU and it has only made me more excited to pursue events full time. So, getting to actually do events all the time and working in that position is making me excited for graduation. Plus, no event is the same so I will not have to worry about doing the same thing every day.
My favorite ACU memory was probably when I studied abroad two summers ago. The experience was unlike any other and I not only learned about all of the other cultures but also about myself.
My favorite class was Leadership Summit because I got credit for taking a class in the mountains of Colorado, but the takeaway was much more than just the credit hours. So many people poured into us during that week with life lessons, truth and God’s word that nothing can compare to it.
My advice would be to be as involved as you can within your department, no matter what it may be. Get to know not only your classmates but also your professors because they truly care about you and your life. Start it early on, so that you get the full experience all four years.
Steven Yang, English major and COBA Student Worker from Chiang Rai, Thailand
After graduation, I am going to Regent University of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I am excited to be done with my undergrad and be able to travel home and see my family in Thailand.
Steven (tan jacket in the middle) and friends hiking over Spring Break.
My favorite memory at ACU is climbing different buildings, having game nights, and biking around Abilene.
My favorite class was Literature for Young Adults because reading stories from this class connects me to my past and helps me find my identity.
I would tell incoming freshmen to work hard
but never lose the ability to see the silver-lining in life. Life is too short and too hard to not be happy.
Katie Isham, Accounting major from Decatur, Texas
After graduation, I plan to work at PwC in Dallas as an Audit Associate. I’m most excited to go out and use the skills and knowledge I’ve learned throughout college to bless others. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I know that God has big plans- I’m just glad to be a part of them!
My favorite ACU memory…. hmmm. There’s not a certain memory that sticks out to me, rather my favorite thing about ACU is the people. Finding and creating friendships with diverse people who have the same aim, to love the Lord by loving others, has been instrumental in making me who I am.
My advice to incoming freshmen is don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. You’ll regret the opportunities you didn’t take and the friends you didn’t make. Keep your relationship with the Lord your main priority and join a church and Bible study right away! Regardless of what happens in your next four years, know that God so loved you that he sent his son to die for you as an atonement for your sins, so that through GRACE you are saved, not by your own works. Give all the glory to God!
Jack Oduro, Accounting major from Garland, Texas
After graduation, I am going to take a missional focused trip to Ghana for
the summer. Then, I begin getting ready for my full time job with Weaver & Tidwell LLP in Dallas. I am excited about graduation and grateful that all of my family is in one place for the first time in two years.
My favorite ACU memory is…truly, any time I got to spend time with the people at this school was inspiring. Some of my best moments may include late night strolls around campus and potential trespassing with life-long friends, friendships which began here.
My favorite classes were Social Entrepreneurship with Laura Philips and Leadership Summit with the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership. They are both up there in the extraordinary classes category. They both live up to ACU’s commitment of creating leaders for Christian service around the world.
My advice for the fishy is to seek to genuinely serve others because big changes start with the little acts of service.
Congratulations to the class of 2018! As Minor Meyers said, “Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”
Allison (left) in Norway with her college roommate.
Allison Phillips graduated from the College of Business in 2015 with a marketing degree. She is currently working for Deloitte Consulting as a Data Scientist for clients and lives in Denver, Colorado. She is also passionate about traveling and her job allows her to pursue that.
Q: How have your foundations at ACU and in COBA helped you in life post-graduation?
A: During my time in COBA, I had the chance to lead student organizations, conduct research with faculty, and launch a student-run analytics consultancy through Wildcat Ventures. These experiences gave me the chance to gain experience as a researcher and consultant really early in life, which made my transition from school to work much easier. Professional skills aside, COBA gave me a lengthy list of mentors who guided and supported me as I tried to figure out the career direction I wanted to pursue. Having adults in my life who listened and gave me honest opinions about the decisions I was making has had a huge impact on the way I make decisions in my personal and professional life.
Q: Can you describe your work in data analytics and the experiences you’ve had with your company?
A: I’m currently a Data Scientist in Deloitte’s Consulting practice, which allows me to work with different clients to understand what has happened, predict what will happen in the future, and make more effective decisions with that information. I’ve gotten to work with companies as well as federal agencies, and I enjoy the challenge of learning about new industries and continuing to develop my technical skills while solving a wide variety of business challenges. In a given week, I work with teammates from all across the country to write code, conduct statistical analysis, design experiments, build slides, and brief clients. I’ve met some really incredible people at Deloitte, and it’s been fun to work with teammates whose backgrounds are very different than mine.
Allison with friends hiking Machu Picchu in Peru.
Q: What should students who are interested in data analytics be doing while they are in school to prepare for that after graduation?
A: Students interested in analytics should take data mining and programming classes to understand if they enjoy the kind of work they would be doing as a data scientist. Outside of class, students should look for relevant internships, opportunities to conduct research with faculty or job openings at ARG (the analytics piece of Wildcat Ventures). A lot of different paths lead to analytics careers so I would recommend learning some basic technical skills and looking for opportunities to apply those in ways that interest you.
Q: Would you share some of your favorite memories or experiences of traveling? How do you balance that with work?
A: I love traveling and definitely take advantage of all my time off! One of my goals is to visit all 59 National Parks, so I spend a lot of weekends hiking and camping with friends. Last year I also hiked to Machu Picchu with a big group of friends, road tripped through Norway with my college roommate (where we tried to break into a house that turned out not to be our AirBnB), and traveled through Southeast Asia with my family, where we ziplined to the tallest treehouses in the world. Learning about different cultures and experiencing ways of life that are different than mine is really important to me, and I’ve been lucky to have colleagues who are supportive of that. Plus it’s super fun!