COBA Professors and ACU Alum Team Up For Research

Have you ever struggled to make a decision when given too many options? Choice overload, or overchoice, is a cognitive process where people have difficulty making a decision due to a variety of options. Why does this happen?

As part of the lifelong relationship vision of the College of Business Administration, Associate Professor of Marketing, Dr. Ryan Jessup,  and SITC Director and Professor of Computer Science, Dr. John Homer, partnered with ACU alum, Levi Ritchie (’15), to research the choice overload effect. Their paper,  “Hurry up and decide: Empirical tests of the choice overload effect using cognitive process models”, was featured in the American Psychology Association’s April issue on decision. According to Scimago Journal & Country Rank, this journal is in the top 10% in psychology, neuropsychology and physical psychology subfield.

Dr. Ryan Jessup

While in graduate school at Indiana University, Dr. Ryan Jessup collected data to study a theory of decision making that prompted him to conduct this research as a follow-up from that work. As the lead author, Dr. Jessup generated the research idea and designed the experiment which was programmed by Dr. Homer. Levi Ritchie helped program part of the experiment in Python, recruited participants, and collected data before analyzing the data along with Dr. Jessup. The team combined their expertise in their respective fields to compile and edit the paper that was then published in the APA Journal. Dr. Jessup described the goal of their research as, “We wanted to test between multiple competing hypotheses that I had proposed in an earlier paper for the choice overload aka too much choice effect. The effect is that people purchase more when they have fewer options to choose from, violating basic economic principles.” 

Levi Ritchie (’15)

The science of cognitive psychology is broad and contains a variety of potential research studies; however, Levi Ritchie described the importance of studying the choice overload effect as essential to the business field, “From a business perspective, understanding the elements that moderate the effect is crucial to marketing. Even when your selection of alternatives is plentiful, it may be beneficial to only present the strongest subset.” Similarly, Dr. Jessup commented on how important the understanding of this effect is when selling or promoting a product, as well as for personal decision making. 

“An interesting thing about conducting quality research is that it makes us better at teaching. In my case, it is particularly true because I tend to teach courses on how to conduct or analyze research. But, even if I were teaching a different type of course it would still improve my teaching for several reasons. First, when teaching on a relevant topic, I would be far more aware of the pioneering research – in some cases because I would have been the one to do it; in other cases, it would be because I had to examine all possible theories and explanations when conducting my research, simultaneously giving far more breadth and depth than I would have gotten had I just read about it in the textbook or merely just read a few things about it. In essence, researchers know more about these findings because they are the ones making them – we are not merely reading about them. It is the ultimate in experiential learning”, Jessup said. 

The conclusion of this research was explained in-depth in their publication, but Jessup summarized by saying, “We found that one of our proposed explanations well predicted the data whereas another one – the one that is commonly espoused as causing the effect – did not appear to play a role. A specific conclusion was time pressure appears to really drive the effect; so, if you are trying to sell things to people who are often hurried – think drive-thru’s or situations where people often have little children with them – you are better off giving them a very small set of options.”

Levi Ritchie is currently pursuing a career in Data Science, while Dr. Jessup continues to work on research on an improved theory of decision making that combines choice with learning. He is currently working on another project that involves the choices of married individuals and economic games with professors Katie Wick, John Homer and, recently graduated marketing major, Luke Stevens (’20).

COBA is Saying Goodbye to Three Legends in the Classroom

The end of the academic year brings about the season of awards, recognition, and change whether it occurs in elementary school, high school, or college. While we celebrate our graduates and the next chapter of their lives, the College of Business Administration is not immune to transition, either. We are  saying farewell to three inspirational professors: Dr. Rob Byrd (Associate Professor of IT and Computing), Dr. Malcolm Coco (Professor of Human Resource Management), and Dr. Terry Pope (Professor of Finance) as they retire. Students, colleagues, friends and family joined to honor them at receptions on May 6th where tributes and well wishes were shared with each of the retiring professors.

Rob Byrd with SITC students Paula Berggren and Lauren Walker

Rob Byrd came to ACU in 2009 and was known for not only helping students dive deep into the world of Information Technology and Security, but also helping them develop a deeper faith and spiritual walk. Recent SITC graduate, Lauren Walker (’19) described Byrd as a passionate teacher who wanted to maximize students’ learning and push them to be their best selves. She said, “He never missed an opportunity to show us how the knowledge and skills we were gaining can transcend all areas of life. He never settled on just letting us ‘get by’ with our education. He constantly challenged us and pushed for excellence and innovation. As a mentor, he was a person who saw the best in his students. He wasn’t afraid to say the hard things, and encouraged us to go after the things in life we never thought we could achieve. ” Dr. Byrd baptized Lauren last October and she recounted that Byrd was “just simply himself”, never afraid to be transparent, witty, cynical, and show a genuine interest in his students. She said, “If anyone of us needed help with something school related, or even personal, it wasn’t a doubt that he was just one phone call or text away.”

Dr. Byrd

While some students might have been intimidated by a professor like Byrd, Walker said, “The last thing I guess I want to say is that like all of the SITC professors, Dr. Byrd is so special. Dr. Byrd is such a softy, but of course he would never say it. He has such a servant heart, and has touched so many students’ lives over the years, and of course I just happen to be one of them. He’s one of those professors I will end up telling my children stories about!”

Byrd is transitioning into a new career as Staff Technical Project Engineer with Collins Aerospace at their headquarters location in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He said, “This position will be a challenging adventure for me-just what I was hoping for. Working at this level will allow me to be involved and responsible for both the design/development and the budgetary/systems aspects of the assigned projects and programs. The nature of the work will be classified, but will be in support of national defense and will draw from my education, experience and certifications. I thank my colleagues for their support.”

Coco with students Grace Smith and Dayle Hayes

Malcolm Coco arrived at ACU in 1989. Coco was well known for helping students find jobs through his internship class, mentoring students through Human Resource classes and the Student Chapter of the Human Resource Management organization, his love for the outdoors, and playing the Beach Boys loudly during office hours.

Coco said that when he came to ACU, he only intended to teach for 2 or 3 years and then planned to pursue a career as a pilot for an airlines. Thirty years later, he says, “I’m still teaching and enjoying every minute. Associating with great Christian faculty and staff and having the opportunity to shape young lives has been a blessing to me. I’m wondering where the 30 years went to!”

Dr. Coco with his family

When asked what the best advice he would offer to students would be, he encouraged students to be the best you that you can be. Always strive to be your bosses “go to” person, meaning when there is an important project with a short turn around and it needs to be done correctly, you want your boss to always think of  you as the person he or she trusts to get the job done. He said, “Winners make it happen and losers let it happen.”

To his colleagues, Coco said, “It has been a blessing to me to have the fortune of knowing so many God fearing, Christian faculty. Your example and support for me and my family for these past 30 years has been tremendous. Thanks for the memories.”

Retirement for Coco will be a mixed bag. He will continue to teach as an adjunct faculty member and will continue to manage the COBA internship program. Coco has no plans to slow down. He said, “My children and grandchildren all live in Abilene, so I’m planning for some serious grandchild time. Hobbies of hunting and fishing will continue. I have already joined several civic organizations and intend to do volunteer work for several non-profits.”

Pope with daughter Abby Pimentel and wife Gayla

When he wasn’t teaching a finance class like STAR (Student Trading and Research), you could find Terry Pope on the golf course, working on his new baseball podcast with Tim Johnston, or in his shop working on his next furniture project.

Terry Pope answered the call by Jack Griggs to come and teach at ACU in 1992. Pope said that teaching at ACU has been a great experience, “When I came to Abilene, having already worked for twenty-three years in industry and academics, I was thinking that I would teach for about fifteen years. However, teaching at ACU was so rewarding that I just kept showing up, year after year. ACU is a special place to our family, since Gayla and I, all three of our children, and three of our grandchildren have attended.  Our other six grandchildren will likely follow in these steps.” Pope went on to say that it’s been great to be a part of the ACU community.  He said, “I felt that everyone on campus strove for excellence in what they did and sought to be pleasing to God.  Being a part of that environment made me a better person.”

Terry, Gayla, Beth, and Don Pope

When asked if there was anything he’d like students to know, he said, without question that the favorite part of teaching at ACU was getting to know so many students.  Pope estimates that he has taught about four thousand students and tried to get to know each one of them saying, “I have many great friendships today with former students.  Every student was different – different backgrounds, different interests, and different personalities.  That diversity made our community better. I hope that I communicated to my students that being a Jesus follower comes before all else.  While I taught Finance, I said ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’.  Brilliance in Finance is not the main thing, but only a compliment to following Jesus.”

Pope said that his colleagues at ACU were great and continue to be his close friends.  He recounted, “I remember telling someone early in my career at ACU that I had underestimated the joy of being able to work daily in a Christian environment.  I felt a closeness and shared purpose with colleagues all over campus, even though we might not have been well acquainted. To all of these colleagues, I say ‘keep it going’.  Investment managers must communicate to their clients that ‘Past performance is no guarantee of future results.’  Every day is a new day that requires our best efforts and a continuing renewal of our minds.”

Pope plans on staying in Abilene and continuing to be closely connected to ACU while spending time playing more golf and tennis, doing more woodworking, taking piano, traveling, studying, and volunteering. “There are many more things that I will want to do that time will allow.”

Combined, the three educators have almost 75 years of experience teaching ACU students. Their dedication to students and peers as well as their example of excellence in the classroom and in their faith walks will truly be missed. The words “thank you” seem inadequate for what they have meant to the lives of thousands of students.

Click on the highlighted links below to view pictures and video messages in tribute to each of the retiring professors.

Pics from the retirement reception

Rob Byrd video

Malcolm Coco video

Terry Pope video

COBA Celebrates December Business and Technology Graduates

It’s graduation day for our December graduates and we wanted to take one more opportunity to celebrate this milestone in their lives. Last week, on December the 4th, COBA hosted a luncheon in their honor celebrating them and all of the hard work that has helped them reach this day. Faculty, staff and students enjoyed fellow-shipping with each other, learning more about students’ favorite experiences at ACU and what advice those that were a little older would give them as they go out into the world.

It’s our tradition for a faculty member to give a blessing over the graduates as we say goodbye to them. Dr. David Perkins, Professor of Accounting, did this in an unusual way this year. Known for his guitar ballads in class, he chose to sing the blessing over them with a David Perkins original song.

We hope you’ll enjoy hearing his message to the students as well as seeing some pictures from the event. To the class of 2018 we say thank you for choosing ACU, for investing of yourself in the process, and for making us all better people during your time here. May God bless you and give you wisdom and direction knowing that He has designed you for His purpose and good works, which he has planned and prepared in advance for you to do.

To view the video, click here.

To view all of the pictures from the luncheon, click here.

 

COBA Welcomes Rich Tanner

Rich Tanner

 

COBA would like to welcome Rich Tanner, new Clinical Professor of Digital Entertainment. Rich has taught for the School of Information Technology and Computing part-time for the past several years and will now be working with technology students on a full-time basis. Tanner has an A.A.S. in Computer Graphics and Programming from Missouri State University, a B.S. in Information Technology with a Concentration in Graphics and Game Development from Abilene Christian University, and a M.S. in Human Computer Interaction from Iowa State University. Rich was contracted as an iOS Developer and Consultant for the KAART Group, was contracted to develop a number of mobile applications for ACU, and worked as a Mobile and Senior Software Developer for USAA. Tanner teaches 3D Modeling, Animation, Mobile Application Development, Game Asset Creation and Texturing, and Character Creation in Maya, Photoshop, and Unity. Tanner brings skills and ingenuity to his classes that will instruct and develop technology students in new and exciting ways.

What do you teach at ACU?

The cool stuff!  As a DET faculty, I get to teach 3D Modeling, Animation, and Mobile Application Development (a CS course).

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

I have been assigned as a Developer Mentor for Wildcat Software, our student run software company.

What drew you to teaching? Why did you want to work with students?

It’s what I do!  Even at USAA, I often found myself drawn to roles where I could teach and mentor new employees and interns.  My wife and I also spent 3 years as Youth Ministers while we were in Plano, and I’ve been practicing my teaching on my own children for the past 19+ years.  I love seeing people get excited about new ideas and material, and helping people realize their potential.  Plus, I just generally get excited about the kinds of things that I get to teach!  It’s only natural to share that excitement with a room full of people.

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

Obviously, I enjoy spending time with my family.  My wife and I have been married for almost 21 years, and we have four children. Richelle, who is 19, is a new transfer student to ACU, studying Elementary Education.  Kira is 15 and goes to Abilene High.  Xandra is 12 and is a student at Craig Middle School.  And Connor, who is 7, goes to Bonham Elementary.  Connor is the only boy, and was born here in Abilene right before I graduated from ACU.  We all enjoy watching lots of movies together and playing various games.  I spend my free time (when I have any) working on home renovations, playing video games (usually single player adventures), and doing lots and lots of reading.

Spotlight on Karen St. John

What is your educational background?

  • BBA in Business Computer Information Systems, UNT cum laude
  • MS in Information Technology, UNT

 

Karen St. John

 

What is your work background?

  • Worked as an Academic Advisor – ten years both graduate and undergraduate
  • Computer Audit Specialist training for IRS/ Treasury department for seven years
  • Started teaching at the University level in 2009

 

What do you teach at ACU?

Information Technology courses: Scripting, Networking, Database Administration

 

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

  • Board member for family business – Pinecrest Cemetery in East Texas
  • Wife, married 17 years (18 this May)
  • Mom to six kids

 

The St. John Family

 

What drew you to teaching? Why did you want to work with students?

I have always loved to learn as much as possible.  Working with students is enjoyable and rewarding.

 

What’s the best part of working with students?

Taking an intimidating concept, breaking it down and explaining it, and watching students have the “lightbulb” moment when it clicks.

 

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

Turned down opportunity to work at a major bank doing anti-money laundering.

 

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

I love to cook. We live in the country and have chickens, sheep, goats, and cattle.

 

Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.

I was recognized by the Treasury department for my contribution and efforts in working with the Regulatory Audit division, which was nice.  However, I am most proud that I have balanced having a big family with my career.  Most of the women I went to school with had to choose one or the other.

 

Who is your role model, and why?

I think my Dad is my biggest role model.  He has a strong work ethic, is smart, unselfish and one of the best examples of what a good Christian looks like.  His professional career was that of a programmer and database administrator.  He has been a song leader at church for as long as I can remember.  He has been happily married to my mom for over fifty years.

 

Who was your most inspirational professor and why?

I was incredibly fortunate to earn my degree at UNT.  I had several professors that taught me important lessons that I try to pass on to my students.  Dr. Steve Guynes taught me that the way to look good is to make everyone around you look good.

 

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

I learned handwriting analysis for a project in a government class once.  And I am colorblind.

 

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

I feel incredibly blessed to be working at ACU.  I love to come to work every day!  The students are fantastic.  The faculty and staff are wonderful to work with.

Visiting Committee Provides Insight To COBA Leadership

On March 27th, COBA hosted Visiting Committee and Dean’s Council members on campus. The Visiting Committee provided feedback on each academic program to help evaluate and improve the learning experience for each major. Thirty-three alumni with careers in various disciplines traveled across Texas and represented accounting firms, Fortune 500 companies, fast-growing startups, and nonprofit organizations.

Because of the diversity of industries and career experience among our alumni, COBA was able to obtain a wide range of insight. Tim Johnston, Assistant Dean, stated that “The visiting committee was pleased to hear that ACU has sustained our long-standing advantage of personal attention and instruction by professors who excel in their discipline and are committed Christians.”

The visiting committee reviewed business and technology degree plans, met with students, talked to faculty members, and offered their recommendations for improvement in all areas of the student experience. This helps keep COBA in-tune with the expectations that employers and companies have for our graduates, and helps us clarify our priorities and goals. The members are deeply committed to the mission of ACU, Business and Technology education and their advice will strengthens our strategic plan.

The visiting committee talked to students directly about their experiences in COBA. The most outstanding aspect of COBA, according to the students, was the personal attention received from prepared professors who care about their scholarship and students as individuals. Leah Montgomery, junior marketing major, had the opportunity to talk with committee members. Montgomery values “being included in the conversations about our classes and majors” and appreciates COBA’s measures to include and place weight upon student input.

The visiting committee also met with students to network at a root beer float mixer held in the COBA atrium. Students were able to meet with professionals in their field, ask questions about careers and opportunities, and solicit advice from our experienced alumni. Bethani Culpepper, sophomore management major, said that she “received valuable advice from accomplished and professional individuals who have been in her shoes” and that the networking event was her favorite part of the day.

COBA would like to thank the Dean’s Council and Visiting Committee for giving of their time and talents to help us continue to improve and provide distinctive offerings to current and future students.