As part of the COBA Vision, Mission, and Values, we seek to inspire, equip, and connect Christian business and technology professionals for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. This past September, the strength of that connection was on full display as ACU alumni that work for Southwest Airlines came to visit campus – something they have done for the past several years.
The Southwest Airlines representatives spent time connecting with students, providing insight on resume-building, and highlighting internship opportunities within the SWA organization. Among those representatives were Laurie Barnett (’90), Managing Director, Communications & Outreach, Katie Coldwell (’00), Communications Director and recipient of the 2019 ACU Distinguished Alumni Citation, and Chris Grubbs (’95), Program Manager. Grubbs said that Southwest’s visits to ACU help to “Build alumni support and give graduates an opportunity to work for the best airline in the world”. Grubbs went on to share that a reason that SWA is so eager to reach out to ACU students is because the SWA company culture aligns so closely with ACU’s. Southwest holds the golden rule “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you” in the highest regard and runs their business with that principle in mind, which is evident through their hospitality and customer service.
With that in mind, SWA encouraged students to apply for internships and jobs with them to continue growing their customer friendly culture. While technical knowledge is important, Southwest emphasized that their focus tends to be on hiring for the right personality fit because technical components can be learned, but who you are shapes who the company is. Because the company’s foundations revolve around a servant’s heart, reflected in the personalities and actions of their employees, Southwest likes to have ACU alumni travel back to campus and share their experience with students who they believe demonstrate the same type of servant leadership.
Tim Johnston, Assistant Dean, shared his perspective on working for SWA. “Southwest Airlines is a company that believes if they take care of their people, their people will take care of their customers, and their customers will take care of their shareholders. We had seven ACU alumni come to campus to help ACU students learn about Southwest and to encourage our students to apply for internships with the company.”
Johnston went on to say, “SWA is a well respected company and they don’t have any problems fielding thousands of applicants for each internship opening. A recent graduate told her SWA story saying that she started applying for internships in October before finally receiving an interview in March. She consistently monitored the SWA career site and did not get discouraged when she was not offered an interview for several of the openings she pursued. Students walked away with a good understanding of the challenges associated with getting an opportunity to work with SWA. At the same time, they gained insight into qualities that will help their application standout. Finally, they have seen first hand the benefit of an ACU education. Our alumni made these two days happen. Their dedication to their alma mater, to Southwest Airlines, and their belief that the two organizations have matching values was the driver behind these two successful days on the ACU campus.”
Skyler Seidman, marketing major from Coppell, TX, finds ACU connections to businesses like Southwest Airlines beneficial to his professional development. The resume help that the SWA representatives provided was an influential part in Skyler’s interest in the company. This guidance helps students like Skyler see what experience and preparation they need to help find their place in a 60,000 employee, world-class company like Southwest Airlines. The SWA representatives expressed that this was a great opportunity for them to give back to their alma mater and help young professionals prepare to apply what they have learned in the classroom to the real world, creating career opportunity paths. Many thanks to our ACU alums at Southwest Airlines for sharing their time and talent with our students.
On Tuesday, March 26th, many gathered at the annual Ruth Allen Griggs Honor Luncheon, founded by Jack Griggs and Ann Griggs Berger in honor of their mother, Ruth Allen Griggs. They wanted a way to commemorate the spirit of generosity that Ruth Allen Griggs had in abundance and did so by creating an opportunity for student scholarship recipients and donors to interact. Around the room, stories about times at ACU were shared as well as stories about opportunities that demonstrate the importance and impact of giving back.
Two students were invited to speak about how the scholarships they received allowed them to experience a wide and unique variety of opportunities during their time at ACU. Kevin Pantoja, a senior finance and accounting major and first-generation college student from Roscoe, TX, spoke about the ways he has been able to live out Proverbs 27:17. “My time in the College of Business has allowed me the opportunity to grow not only as a man but as a man of God,” said Kevin. “Because of the interactions with my fellow students or with the amazing faculty and staff that we are blessed with, I can honestly say that I would not be standing here if it was not for the generosity of those in the room.” While at ACU, Kevin has studied abroad in Germany, attended Leadership Summit, been involved on campus, and most importantly has intentionally strived to build up the communities around him as others have built him up.
Elisabeth Danelski, a senior accounting major from Burleson, TX, also shared her story at the luncheon. Elisabeth spoke of goals and plans, but mostly the opportunities she has been able to have at ACU that were not in her plan. Studying abroad twice, serving on short term mission trips, attending conferences, and immersing herself in many other experiences unique to ACU was not in her plan but was made possible through Elisabeth’s hard work and the generosity of others. “In my time here, I have learned a lot of things,” Elisabeth explained. “I have broadened my horizons, I’ve cultivated a wider worldview, I’ve shared my story and had the pleasure of hearing so many others. But the one thing I will cherish the most is learning that the incredible experiences I had that weren’t in or didn’t go according to ‘my plan’ happened because it was never supposed to be my plan in the first place.” Elisabeth looks forward to making it a priority to pay the opportunities she has had forward once she graduates and urged her peers to do the same.
David Shewmaker (’92), a member of the Dean’s Council, also spoke at the luncheon. He reflected on times at ACU and shared his heart for the students and the community they experience here. All of the speakers were inspiring and reminded all attending of the value and importance of generosity. Dean Brad Crisp said “the Ruth Allen Griggs luncheon was once again a highlight of the year. Kevin and Elisabeth did an impressive job of sharing their stories as first-generation college students and expressing their gratitude to our donors. I am grateful we have the opportunity to bring our students and donors together for an event like this.” We were proud to be able to host this luncheon, honor Ruth Ann Griggs, and to once again see the effect that a spirit of generosity can have on generations.
The 2019 Leadership Summit group.
In January, over seventy students traveled to the top of a mountain in Colorado and spent a week learning about leadership from thirteen speaker sessions and a team of faculty and staff from ACU. Through the dynamic speakers, practical application of what is taught, and spiritual insight, students are equipped for leadership in the family, in their community, in the church, and in the marketplace. This short course is one of the most transformational experiential learning opportunities COBA offers and is always a favorite for students that attend.
Wendy Davidson and Elise Mitchell speak to students.
A unique aspect of Leadership Summit is an opportunity for students to hear from CEO’s, inspiring speakers, and ACU faculty and staff and get to know these individuals on a personal level. “One of the speakers shared a really impactful story about facing significant troubles in the workplace as a direct result of sharing his faith,” said Lincoln Jones, a senior accounting and IS major. “His testimony encouraged me to not fear the backlash from bringing faith into the workplace.” Some of the speakers from this year include Brad Gautney, founder and president of Global Health Innovations, Rick Atchley, preaching minister at The Hills, Wendy Davidson, president of U.S. Specialty Channels Kellogg Company, Tim Goeglein, senior advisor to the president and vice president for External Relations at Focus on the Family and deputy director of the White House Office of Public Liaison from 2001-2008 for President George W. Bush, Carlos Sepulveda, chairman of Triumph Bancorp, Inc. and former president and CEO of Interstate Batteries, Mike Willoughby, CEO of PFSweb, Inc., Elise Mitchell, founder and chair of Mitchell Communications and CEO of Dentsu Aegis PR Network, and Pete and Austin Ochs, founder/chairman and CEO, respectively, of Capital III.
Students have the chance to ask speakers questions at the end of each session.
In addition to lecture sessions, students are able to spend time talking with speakers one-on-one and share meals with them. Some of the speakers serve as mentors for a ‘River Crossing’ project, a project that challenges students to make a plan to use their given leadership positions to make a difference in the world. Taylor Gould, a junior marketing major, said that her favorite part of the experience “was simply being in Colorado and feeling connected with my professors, classmates, and the speakers. It was amazing to be able to experience all of it with people who you would never meet otherwise and people you see every day. The lessons from the week were very applicable and made me feel so inspired.” A community connection is at the core of Leadership Summit and happens at many different levels between every person – speaker or student – in attendance.
Zach Smith, Hill Holloway, and Hayden Hood swing off the side of the mountain on ‘The Screamer.’
While the week offers many moments for educational, spiritual, and community-centric transformation, the location also allows students to have a lot of fun. The class is currently held at Frontier Ranch, a YoungLife camp outside of Buena Vista, Colorado and YoungLife staff serve the Summit attendees throughout the week. Students can hike up to the crosses at the top of a mountain peak, swing off the side of a mountain on the Screamer, play archery tag, and spend time building community and fellowship in the game room. These experiences give students the chance to spend time with each other and grow in deeper connection (and also face their fears, especially if they have a fear of heights).
Students spend time in community with each other throughout the week.
Every year, students return to Abilene refreshed and challenged to make a difference in their communities and this year was no different. Mariel Delgado, a senior architecture and interior design major, shared that Summit “is not like any other business class you will ever take and the lessons you learn and friendships you make are unlike any other. Hearing everyone’s life stories from such a raw perspective but also just the fact that so many people took the time to come speak to us and pour into our lives for that week.” We look forward to watching how Mariel and all of the other students take what they have learned from the mountaintop and incorporate it into their lives to bring about change that lasts.
In the coming weeks, we will be sharing photos from the trip on our Facebook page as well as some of the speaker sessions for you to revisit and enjoy on our YouTube channel. Keep an eye out for these posts and future ones concerning the incredible and unique opportunity that is Leadership Summit.
Students hike up to the crosses at the edge of one of the ridges of Mt. Princeton.
Last week, COBA partnered with the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership to host our annual Distinguished Speaker Series. We were honored to have Horst Schulze as our guest this year. Schulze was born in a small German village and knew he wanted to work in hotels at age 11. He left home at 14 to be a busboy and the rest, as they say, is history. Schulze spent nine years with Hyatt Hotels Corporation before becoming a founding member and president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. After resigning from The Ritz-Carlton, Schulze is now the chairman and CEO of Capella Hotel Group, an ultra-luxury hotel chain.
Schulze spent his time in Abilene connecting with students, faculty and staff, and community and university leaders conversing about exceptional customer service and what it means to be a leader striving for excellence. He shared stories from his years in the hotel industry and the absolute importance of having a vision and a purpose. Schulze advised that the steps to success are vision, commitment, and initiation. You must have a dream, a vision, to guide what you do and define what you are working toward. The dream becomes more than just a dream when you commit to it and decide to carry it out. Carrying it out entails taking the first step, initiating, and persevering to make the dream and vision a reality. Especially as a leader, the vision is very important and gives meaning and information to everything you do. According to Schulze, being a leader implies that you have something in your mind that you are bringing people to. People respond not to rules and orders, but to objectives and motives. Schulze shared that he thought it was immoral to hire people to fulfill functions; you hire people to join the vision and become a part of the dream.
Schulze also spoke about a seeming contradiction: what it means to be the best in the world but to live a life as Christian where we are called to not be of the world. In scripture, we are consistently reminded that our citizenship is in heaven, how we should not conform to the world, and how it is likely that the world will hate us because we are not of it. This leaves many questioning how can we be in the world, but not of the world. Schulze shared how he struggled with working in the luxury hotel business and wanting to create the very best hotel in the world, but not being sure how that connected with his calling as a Christian. He then realized that this was an opportunity to be an example and show the kingdom to the world. It all connects back to Schulze’s personal vision for his life: to be excellent in every role he fills. Excellence in how he treats and grows his employees, excellence in serving customers and shareholders, excellence in every aspect of his hotels points back to Christ. Creating the best hotel in the world sets his hotels apart and creates an example for others. Schulze believes that if we are not living with a mission to be excellent and not using our God-given gifts and abilities, then we are not fully living in every way we can for Christ. Being an example of excellence while living for Christ allows others to see Him through you and points people back to Him. Scripture also reminds us that being holy implies being different and unique. By being excellent, you are set apart like we are called to be.
Schulze’s messages were eloquent, inspiring, and convicting. Below are some of the testimonies that students shared after listening to him:
“This was the best part of my entire semester. I heard him in the morning and at the luncheon and wish I could have had him in all of my classes. I have a renewed commitment to living out my calling with Christ.”
“Horst made me grateful to be at ACU. I never realized how special this place was until I heard this accomplished man come to us and tell us that we bring him hope by what we do and how we aren’t ashamed of Christ.”
“The way he stayed consistent with his vision over his entire career is so impactful – I just want to live better after hearing him.”
“How often do you hear about someone who worked their way up from washing dishes and busing tables to running the #1 hotel brand in the world? This means we have to start being our best right now, where we are.”
It was our pleasure to have hosted Horst Schulze this year. To view pictures from the DSS luncheon, click here
The Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership Development is an emerging organization within COBA. The mission of the Lytle Center is to challenge individuals to wholeheartedly follow Christ, equipping them to be leaders of integrity at home, work and in their community. The Lytle Center holds weekly chapel for students, with guest speakers from a variety of backgrounds who come speak to students about the ways in which they enact their faith in their leadership roles and how students can do the same. This semester, Lytle Center Chapel has had the pleasure of welcoming guests like Anthony Williams, the mayor of Abilene, who encouraged students to have the courage to get out of their comfort zones and face the issues before them in order to lead well.
Students have enjoyed learning from community leaders and being able to participate in the founding and forming of the Lytle Center. A student-run Advisory Board meets once a month to talk about the progress of the Lytle Center, to brainstorm new ideas, and to strategize how goals for the Center can be reached. We think that the student involvement is key; their help in structuring the center is essential to establishing the value and utility students will receive by involvement. The Lytle Center wants students of all majors – not just business – to become involved. A significant part of the foundation and forming of the Lytle Center has focused on how leadership extends beyond the business world. The Lytle Center believes that all students, regardless of major or career path, need to have the tools to lead in an effective, Christ-like manner. We look forward to seeing increased participation with students all over ACU’s campus.
The Lytle Center has become the point organization for many of COBA’s pre-existing leadership programs, uniting them under one body. Now in its 20th year, Leadership Summit is being planned within the Lytle Center, with guests like 2014 Time Person of the Year, Kent Brantley and President of Kellogg U.S. Specialty Channels, Wendy Davidson, scheduled to speak at the January short-course held in Colorado. Additionally, the Lytle Center is home to the Distinguished Speaker Series, which brings in Fortune 500 executives from around the country to speak to students about Christian business leadership perspectives they have learned through trial and error in their own careers.
The Lytle Center is working to form small groups for students who are interested in being mentored by older peers and ACU faculty and staff. The center is also working with churches around the city of Abilene to get students more involved in college ministries. The Lytle Center is in the early stages of exploring and planning a week-long service project for Spring Break to South Texas to help relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. The service trip will be open for all students to participate.
We are excited to see what the Lytle Center will become and where it will take our students. We envision a new generation of leaders coming forth from involvement with the Lytle Center who rely on their faith to be effective in their communities. Keep up to date with the Lytle Center as it grows and develops by liking the Facebook page and watch for events like Leadership Summit and Distinguished Speaker Series for a chance to get involved. You can learn more by going to their blog: http://blogs.acu.edu/lytlecenter/
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
The Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership Development hosted Brett Biggs, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on October 25th, as the speaker at COBA’s annual Distinguished Speaker Series luncheon.
Brett Biggs, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Biggs is responsible for accounting and control, corporate strategy and development, business planning and analysis, internal auditing, treasury, tax, global shared services and several other key areas of the company. Before being appointed to his current role, Biggs was executive vice president and chief financial officer for Walmart International, where he was responsible for all global finance activities, including accounting and controls, business planning and analysis, financial services, and support for real estate, M&A and Strategy. Prior to that, Brett served as executive vice president and chief financial officer for Walmart U.S., where he was responsible for U.S. finance functions including strategy, merchandising, logistics, financial services, real estate, operations, and financial planning and analysis.
Biggs began his visit to ACU with a Q&A meeting with approximately 30 COBA students. The students had unfettered access to ask Biggs questions about his career path, how Walmart works and his best advice on how to jump start their own careers. After the private gathering with students, he then addressed the luncheon crowd of about 200 guests, talking to them about Walmart’s corporate philosophy as well as his own beliefs on what it means to be a Christian leader in the workplace.
Mr. Biggs meeting with COBA students
Biggs stated that the “Joy of working at Walmart is that it is a company that stands for things: take care of your people, do your best, and take care of the people that come through your door.” Biggs also said that he believes, “The world needs places that stand for something. I love ACU’s mission. If you can combine your passion and your vocation with your mission, that’s where it’s at. Sometimes being a person of faith is tough. You have to stand your ground when others around you aren’t. Rosa Parks said it well when she said, ‘Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.’ Matt 5:14 says, ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.’ I know that’s what this university is about and I appreciate that.”
Biggs also gave a personal anecdote when he told a story about meeting Sam Walton, who he described as a once in a lifetime kind of man and the greatest entrepreneur of all time. Biggs said that he met Walton on a field trip in college. Biggs happened to be carrying around a very big notebook while studying for the CPA exam. Sam Walton asked what the book was for and Biggs explained to him that he was intensely studying for the exam. Walton then told him that, “If you study hard and work hard you never know what you’ll be able to achieve.” Biggs said that today, his office is next door to Sam Walton’s former office.
Biggs encouraged students to find a company that fits your values, to be intentional about your faith and to stay grounded and focused on your faith. He also exhorted the audience to know who you are before you are faced with big decisions. He stated, “You have to know what you would do and make a choice ahead of time. You have to really know who you are. Students, take advantage of your time here and form that person now. Take advantage of all the spiritual opportunities you have here.”
Mr. Biggs meeting with COBA Faculty
Biggs wrapped his trip to ACU up with a private meeting with some of COBA’s faculty, where they discussed current markets and opportunities for students. COBA would like to thank Brett Biggs for so graciously giving of his time and energy to our students, faculty, staff and community.
For pictures from the event, please click on this link for COBA’s FaceBook page.