University Scholar Spotlight: Kathryn Crawford

Written by special contributor Lance Fleming

Each day, students across the ACU campus display the university’s mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world through their actions and acts of service on the campus. Each year, students like those are nominated by their academic departments. From those nominations, 50 scholars are selected by the ACU Faculty Senate to receive the University Scholars Award for their graduating class. 

Among those 50 scholars who demonstrated outstanding scholarship by maintaining a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher, earning 90 hours towards their degree, and continuing the pursuit of knowledge in their research field, seven are students from the College of Business Administration. The COBA students who received this year’s University Scholars Award are Kathryn Crawford, Gracie Isham, Matthew Roberson, Will Harris, Diego Lozano Welsh, Ben Blackmon, and Garrett Powell. 

We will highlight each of the seven over the next month, including this profile of Kathryn Crawford. A native of Flower Mound, Texas, Kathryn carries a 4.0 GPA and is graduating with a BBA degree double majoring in Financial Management and Management with a concentration in Leadership. After graduation, she will travel this summer and serve as a Resident Advisor for the Leipzig Study Abroad program. 

Kathryn is a member of Sigma Theta Chi and participated in Sing Song with her club each of the last two years. As a freshman, she was in Sing Song and directed a Freshman Follies Hall act. She also volunteered at Palm House as a freshman and sophomore and worked in the Lytle Center for Faith and Learning. 

Kathryn recently answered a few questions about her time at ACU and in COBA, covering everything from her most influential class to the most unique thing she’s been a part of while at ACU: 


Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself at ACU?

Crawford: “I grow the most when I am challenged. Even though it can be difficult, pushing myself out of my comfort zone has been pivotal to my development personally, academically, and spiritually.”


Q: What professor or class has impacted you most and why?

Crawford: “The class that impacted me most at ACU was International Business. I had the opportunity to take this course abroad during my junior year when I spent a semester in Leipzig, Germany. I not only learned how countries engage with one another, but I was also able to experience first-hand how businesses operate outside the United States. Touring companies such as BMW and Leipziger Messe allowed me to gain a new perspective on the possible operations and organizational structures of businesses in a way that would not have been possible in a traditional classroom setting. I came to appreciate cultural collaboration and international business through this course and plan to pursue this area more in my future career.”


Q: What has been your experience in COBA?

Crawford: “For someone who didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do entering college, I could not have ended up in a better place to explore my passions and cultivate my skills than COBA. Surrounded by encouraging faculty, I uncovered new areas of interest each year. The support I experienced from a few specific professors, such as Dr. Jody Jones, helped me find my affinity for research and ignited a desire to continue my education beyond a bachelor’s degree. With unique courses such as social enterprise consulting and S.T.A.R., I immersed myself in real-life situations that forced me to apply classroom concepts to actual projects. Most importantly, I will walk away most grateful for the integration of faith into every single aspect of my experience from my time at ACU. Between equipping courses like Leadership Summit and the consistent spiritual encouragement from my professors, particularly Dr. Marquardt, I was exposed to an incredibly unique experience. I leave ACU well-rounded and equipped to enter life as a young professional with confidence only possible from the strong foundation in knowledge, faith, and purpose that COBA cultivated.”


Q: Of all the things you’ve experienced at ACU, what do you believe will have the most impact on your life?

Crawford: “My semester abroad will have the most impact on my life. This experience gave me a new perspective on the world around me and my role in it. I came to appreciate living outside my normal, everyday comforts and continually found myself enamored by the cultural nuances surrounding me everywhere I traveled. It solidified my ability to love and appreciate my neighbors regardless of their customs, traditions, or beliefs. I hope that I never stop seeing the world with the awe and wonder I felt during this time, and I pray that God will use that for his glory wherever life leads me.”

University Scholar Spotlight: Gracie Isham

Written by special contributor Lance Fleming

Each day, students across the ACU campus display the university’s mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world through their actions and acts of service on the campus. Each year, students like those are nominated by their academic departments. From those nominations, 50 scholars are selected by the ACU Faculty Senate to receive the University Scholars Award for their graduating class.

Among those 50 scholars who demonstrated outstanding scholarship by maintaining a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher, earning 90 hours towards their degree, and continuing the pursuit of knowledge in their research field, seven are students from the College of Business Administration. The COBA students who received this year’s University Scholars Award are Kathryn Crawford, Gracie Isham, Matthew Roberson, Will Harris, Diego Lozano Welsh, Ben Blackmon, and Garrett Powell.

We will highlight each of the seven over the next month, starting with Gracie Isham, the youngest of the four Isham siblings to attend ACU. A native of Decatur, she is a member of Ko Jo Kai, has served on the Executive CEO Leadership Board and the Executive Philanthropy Board, and sang in the Foundation and Grace Note a capella groups.

A double major in accounting and finance, she has already accepted a job offer at Weaver, an accounting firm in downtown Fort Worth. She is in the process of applying to schools across Texas so she can work toward getting her MBA.

Gracie recently answered a few questions about her time at ACU and in COBA, covering everything from her most influential class to the most unique thing she’s been a part of while at ACU:

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself at ACU?
Isham: “The most important thing I have learned is that we all need community, and that community looks different for each individual. As I’ve gone through the troughs and peaks of college, my community has kept me stable and looking toward my purpose: to be a good steward of God’s gifts. With this being said, my definition of community has changed throughout my time here. I would have used to say that community looks like being plugged in with a vast group of people across all areas and interests in my life. Still, as my time in college ends, my definition of a true community has changed to this: my caring roommate that sews the hole in my shirt, my lifetime friend that walks my dog while I’m sick, my friend that offers me a prayer whenever I need, and my family who constantly supports all of my future ideas. Community isn’t about quantity but the quality of people who know you best.”

Q: What professor or class has impacted you most and why?
Isham: “The class that had the most impact on me was the strategic philanthropy class I am currently taking (The why behind this answer is located in the last question!).”

Q: What has been your experience in COBA?
Isham: “COBA has been a great experience overall. It has offered me many opportunities to grow by presenting me with leadership opportunities, networking events, and an overall supportive environment with people who want to see me succeed!”

Q: Of all the things you’ve experienced at ACU, what do you believe will have the most impact on your life?
Isham: ACU’s constant push toward turning its faculty and students toward God will have the biggest impact on my life. I have grown spiritually through all the big chapels, small group chapels, the professor’s daily class prayers, and constant spaces of worship. The things I gained through these experiences are things I will implement into my life forever.”

Q: What is the most unique thing you’ve been a part of or learned at ACU?
Isham: The most unique thing I have been a part of at ACU has been sitting as the chairperson of the Strategic Philanthropy Board. I have had the opportunity to visit various non-profits in Abilene and witness God’s good work through the people of each organization. Through this, as a board, we have chosen several non-profits to allocate $50,000 for their use. This has challenged me to engage in more philanthropic endeavors in my life and home community.”


COBA Takes the Classroom to Costa Rica

Written by special contributor Lance Fleming

While most students around the country spent their Spring Break taking a break from college work and getting away from all things academia, 10 ACU students and their two professors spent a week in Costa Rica as part of the requirement for COBA’s Social Enterprise Consulting Class working with local entrepreneurs to launch products made from materials donated by Southwest Airlines. 

Dr. Laura Phillips and Dr. Jennifer Golden are teaching the class this semester and took the students to Costa Rica to work with the husband-and-wife duo of Lynne Corvaglia and Chris Riquelme, who are creating “upcycled” bags and other products from leather donated by the United States’ busiest airlines. 

As part of Southwest Airlines’ “Repurpose with a Purpose” program, each of the company’s fleet of airplanes is overhauled every four years, and as a part of that process, the seat leather is replaced. The leather pulled out of the planes is donated to nonprofit organizations for upcycling projects. One of the Southwest refurbishment facilities is in El Salvador, and the leather from that location has been donated to a university in Turrialba, Costa Rica, called CATIE. 

CATIE is primarily an agricultural university, but it does have economic development as an area of focus. That is part of the university with which ACU students have partnered this semester. In addition to donating a warehouse full of airline seats, Southwest has also provided funds for CATIE to build a leatherworking workshop and to provide training for people in the area who are interested (primarily women). The women come from around the region to learn leatherworking and business skills. 

The idea is to create a business incubator to launch businesses as people graduate from the training program. Jobs are also being created in rural communities because CATIE receives intact seat covers that must be deconstructed before they can be upcycled into new products. 

And that’s where the ACU students come in. 

The students’ client is called Wearsos – the first business to come out of the leather project – and it was started by Corvaglia and Riquelme. Aside from upcycled bags, the company also plans to make other products like passport holders, wallets, luggage tags, and shoes, but according to Phillips, the initial launch will be with three different styles of bags. 

“Our task this year is to support Lynne and Chris as they get ready to launch their products,” Phillips said. “While we were in Turrialba, Costa Rica, we conducted focus groups with two different target markets: faculty, staff, and students on the CATIE campus, as well as Southwest Airlines employees. 

“The first set of focus groups were done in person, while the Southwest Airlines focus groups were conducted via Zoom,” she said. “Our students are sorting through the information we collected through those sessions to provide marketing help to Lynne and Chris as they decide how to position the three products. That will also allow us to help them with information about shipping because they are working through the logistics of getting products from Costa Rica to the United States and Canada. 

The goal for the class, Phillips said, is to complete “one or two” consulting projects for the client, in this case, Wearsos. So far, in four years of teaching the class, each client has been in Costa Rica, although Philips said future classes could certainly take on a domestic client or a client in a foreign country other than Costa Rica. Phillips also said that she wants the students to learn problem-solving and critical-thinking skills each year to serve them when they enter the workforce. 

What the students will find, Phillips said, is that the context and scope of the project will always change between the start of the semester and the time they return from the Spring Break trip. In addition, the on-site schedule over Spring Break is always fluid, forcing students to adjust their plans, which is more difficult for some students than others. 

“We want the students to become much more comfortable dealing with ambiguity and learning to be flexible, both in a project context and a general life context,” Phillips said. “We hope the students learn how to be good team members. Most students have had several group projects by this point in their college careers. In many of these cases, the work is distributed unevenly across the team, with some students pulling more than their weight and others free riding. This is an opportunity for them to work in a group where everyone wants to be involved and contribute. 

“Finally, we hope the students will learn that consulting (and any cross-cultural project) is a co-creation between the parties involved,” she said. “We do not go to Costa Rica to solve our clients’ problems or fix their issues. We work with the client to develop solutions that will work in their context. We try hard to squash the ‘savior’ complex that people in general – and Americans specifically – sometimes bring to other contexts. We also try to cultivate the idea that everyone has valuable ideas and skills to bring to the project.”

The class was not only beneficial for the entrepreneurs and partners in Costa Rica but also for the students that attended. For many, it was life-changing. Senior marketing major, Angel Smith, said, “I learned new things from a brand-new culture and was humbled by the experience. This experience has influenced my current professional goals in changing the purpose behind applying meaningful work that can serve a higher purpose. It also humbled my experience of what it means to be successful; on our trip, Dr. Eliecer Vargas, the professor at CATIE who is in charge of the leatherworking project, said that finding happiness in your worth is also finding happiness from within, not just looking for monetary value. This past semester, I have worried about finding a job that will bring financial gain, but this trip has shown me that there is value in the community you surround yourself with. Five years from now, I could see myself working for a company with a program or even starting an outreach program supporting giving back and empowering communities in need.”

Angel’s words echo the mission and values of the College of Business: As a Christian college of business and technology, we call our members to faith and vocation, learning and innovation, students and relationships, and excellence and impact. We can’t wait to see what fruit comes from the seeds that have been planted for both our partners and our students.

Karson Tutt Gives Entrepreneurs Space

Karson Tutt, senior management major from Tuscola, Texas is a busy young entrepreneur. In addition to finishing her college courses, she is president of the Founders Club (part of the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy) and the owner of Karson’s, a jewelry and clothing boutique in downtown Abilene. Tutt began her business making jewelry that she sold online and to friends. In 2020, that small business expanded into a storefront with seven employees. Karson quickly experienced success in her new venture and saw an opportunity to start a new project that not only helped her own business but also helped other budding entrepreneurs. The Commons is a space connected to Karson’s that allows small businesses to set up a retail shop and have a chance to grow without the long-term contract and overhead fees normally associated with owning your own business or renting a space. The Commons features nine small businesses, two of which are run by current ACU students. Karson said that she was inspired to open this space because of a kindness that she was given when she was just starting out. “When I was in high school, my friend’s grandma let me do something similar in the front of her furniture consignment shop. She tracked all of my sales and checked everyone out, but I managed the inventory and advertising.” Having been inspired by Karson’s own experiences, she hopes the venture will benefit the vendors in many ways. “I am hoping it not only helps them make more sales but also gives them more exposure to customers who may not have known who they were before coming to The Commons. Between those 9 businesses and myself, we are encouraging tons of people from all different demographics to come to one place to shop.“

Being a highly involved ACU student and owner of two businesses, one might think that Tutt has her plate full managing both Karson’s and The commons but she says it’s gone well thus far. “It has been surprisingly smooth! There are a few things I wish I would’ve done before we opened (ex. signage outside, more social media content, etc.), but I can still get it done! All of the vendors have been so nice and are doing a great job with their booths.“

Karson received funding through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy when she won the Springboard Student Venture Competition in 2020. She credits COBA and the Griggs Center in helping her throughout her entrepreneurial journey saying, “They have given me an amazing community of like-minded business people. I love leaning into that community and I know even after I graduate that my friends and professors will be people who I can reach out to if I ever need it. I also won a pitch competition in April that helped fund my store. Getting that money helped me solidify my decision to open the store in the first place.“ 

Hearing about Karson’s vision for The Commons made us curious about what this opportunity is like for the ACU students who are able to participate in this new concept so we asked them a few questions to learn more about their experience.

Melissa Huffines is a junior youth and family ministry major from Abilene, Texas. Her business, Sideline Social Club, primarily provides fashionable purple and white game day clothing. She was inspired to start her business when talking with a former manager about her future dreams. That manager was able to help her start Sideline Social Club. One of Melissa’s biggest goals in being a part of The Commons is to learn how to manage a storefront as a college student. Melissa has already learned one lesson from the experience in determining which products sell the best and which products shouldn’t make the cut. She said, “It helped me see how beneficial a storefront is!”

Maddie Rogers, a sophomore graphic design major from Abilene, Texas runs a business called Oh So Sunny that sells products consisting mainly of stickers and apparel. “I design and create products that send a message of joy, sunshine, and hope.” Maddie started her business in high school when she made a sticker to commemorate her acceptance into ACU. The “Scratch ‘Em Cats” sticker spiked her interest and led Maddie to design new creations. Rogers has learned a lot from being a part of The Commons. “I’ve learned how important it is to network and put yourself out there in order to succeed. Being at The Commons has also helped me meet so many other small business owners in Abilene and helped me find a support system through the many trials that come with this crazy endeavor!” The space has given Maddie the chance to help her business grow. “This opportunity has helped me reach new customers I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise! It also helped me see what the experience would be like to own my own store if I ever wanted to. Karson has really utilized her talent and taught me what hard work looks like. I truly don’t know how she does it!”

COBA seeks to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Karson Tutt is living out that vision and helping her fellow entrepreneurs along the way before she’s even walked the stage at graduation. If you’d like to learn more about opportunities for students like Karson through the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, click here.

Springboard Student Venture Competition

Founders Club

The Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, located in COBA, founded the Springboard Student Venture Competition to support the growth of ACU undergraduate and graduate student businesses and nonprofit organizations. Winners receive one-time funding from $500 – $3,000. 

In order for the students to be able to compete in front of the Springboard judging panel, the students must be enrolled at ACU, must own at least 51% of their venture, and must be engaged in entrepreneurial activities such as the Founders Club, a student venture club led by Mindy Howard, the Student Engagement Coordinator. Awards are based on the panel’s assessment of the potential of the business and the “spirit of entrepreneurship displayed by the student(s)”. Students come prepared with a 3 – 4-minute speech and the necessary financial reports for their business. Each student receives feedback on their presentation/business model and a chance to compete again in the next competition for those who are not awarded funding in the current competition. 

This year Founders Club President, Karson Tutt, and Founders Club member, Lauren Gumm, were awarded for their presentations. Gumm, an elementary education major from Abilene, TX, runs a screen printing company called Wear It to Share I”. Lauren screen prints thrifted shirts by hand in order to bring people environmentally conscious and unique shirts. Tutt, a senior management major from Tuscola, TX, started Karson’s, an online jewelry company, which is now in the process of adding an in-person location in Abilene where many other products will be available. We interviewed both award winners to learn about their experiences participating in the Founders Club and the Springboard Student Venture Competition. 

Wear It to Share It

How has being involved in the Founders Club impacted your business?

Lauren: “Founders Club has provided so many resources for me and my little company! I’ve gotten financial advice and marketing consultations and had the opportunity to speak in front of members of the Abilene community about the awesome entrepreneurs at ACU! I started my business in my dorm room and being able to have an office space where I can work is another great resource that the Founders Club has given me. Founders Club has also given me a community to walk through business ownership with. My friends have always been super supportive of my business but having a group of people who also own their own businesses that I can talk through ideas and problems with has been a huge blessing.”

Karson: “I have loved getting to meet with other student entrepreneurs who understand the struggles I go through. I also participated in one of the pitch competitions and won money to put towards opening my store.”

What did you learn from the competition experience?

Lauren: “The competition gave me a sense of confidence in my abilities as a business owner. To be able to present the work I constantly pour into and receive validation that what I’m pursuing is smart and in demand was really reassuring! I also learned how important it is to be confident in your abilities. The judges were looking for business owners who happen to be full-time students. I walked away really feeling like they saw me as a business owner and a student.”

Karson: “I learned that I am actually more confident in my business as a whole than I thought. I used to think my business was just kind of small and not that big of a deal, but it’s actually really cool that I’m doing this and it’s not as hard as I thought to talk to adults about what I do and my plans for the future.”


What is your plan for your business now that you have won the competition?

Lauren:Winning the competition gave me the ability to purchase new equipment that I desperately needed. The equipment I started out with in 2018 still functioned perfectly fine but it was the cheapest option available and therefore required every element of the process to be done by hand. My new equipment is what allowed me to fully pursue printing on thrifted shirts! I simply didn’t have the time to thrift and print but with the time saved using my new equipment I am able to do both!”

Karson: “I was planning on opening the store regardless of if I won or not, but now that I did win the extra funding I was able to literally expand the space of the store and get nicer versions of the things I was already going to be getting (ex. cash register, security system, light fixtures, etc.).”

Is there anything you would like to add?

Lauren: “I just want to encourage anyone who thinks they want to begin a business to go for it! Even if it isn’t a business you want to pursue long-term you can learn so much through the process! I have an appreciation for entrepreneurs that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith and started Wear It to Share It!”

Karson: “The Griggs Center and Founders Club truly have been a great asset to me and my business. I love the community that has come from being involved.”

Claire Shudde Wins “Improve ACU Competition”

Claire Shudde

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.