Alumni Spotlight: Carlee Pruden

When Carlee (Finkelstein ’14) Pruden graduated from ACU with a degree in marketing, she wasn’t exactly sure what the future held. But, as they often do, an internship led to her future career. After interning for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas post-graduation, Carlee has now been with the company for almost 8 years holding various roles in marketing, merchandising, and most recently as a merchant. As a merchant for tortillas, Tex-Mex, and salsa, she is responsible for selecting great-tasting items, negotiating the lowest costs, and giving the customers what they want and need in stores and online. Pruden furthered her studies at John Brown University graduating in 2016 with a Master in Business with a focus on International Business. She’s used her experience in retail to join in a class project for the past three semesters with Dr. Jennifer Golden.

Carlee assists and critiques students throughout the 7-week period of the accelerated course by working with Dr. Golden to create projects centered around her day-to-day duties as a merchant. These projects require students to think critically about who Walmart’s customer is, how to make their shopping experience valuable, and Walmart’s overall mission and goals.

This rare in-class opportunity has allowed students to gain insight into corporate marketing strategy and tactics and learn how these concepts relate to one of the largest employers in the world. Because of incredible alumni like Pruden, who give up their time to help educate students with real-world experiences, ACU’s College of Business continues to thrive. One member of the class said, “The fact that someone as successful as Carlee willingly sacrifices her time to teach us about what she does sets the example for future generations of graduates from ACU.” They continue, “Though this class is extremely fast-paced due to the nature of an accelerated course, it has shaped me professionally in ways I didn’t even think possible. I love that we can see what we learn be implemented in a real business environment.”

Carlee also benefits from the partnership with the class, saying, “Working with students is always a great reminder to always be learning. There are concepts they are being taught now that were not covered when I went through school, like digital marketing, that are critical to success in the workplace today. Students have taught me about upcoming technology ideas that can be applied in real time in my career.”

The seed for this classroom partnership was planted 10 years ago when Pruden was a student in Dr. Golden’s Introduction to Marketing course. Golden’s passion for teaching students about marketing sparked a desire to learn as much as possible for Pruden and many of the students in the class. Now, Golden and Carlee enjoy a friendship and mentoring relationship that has changed each of their lives for the better. Carlee says, “I am the career professional, wife, and woman I am today due to my time at ACU and my relationship with Dr. Jennifer Golden. When you sit back and watch Jennifer love God and love others it’s contagious. We have spent countless hours chatting about career life or family life, but at the end of the day, she always reminds me that our purpose in this world is to love God and love others.”

Golden’s example of loving God and loving others has spurred Pruden to action. Several years after graduating, Carlee realized that part of her passion for the community and serving others was not being completely filled by her job or other activities that she was a part of. To fill that void, she began getting involved with local non-profits and volunteering her time and talents to their causes. She has also been a part of Walmart’s Fight Hunger, Spark Change program for the past 5 years. As part of the campaign, Walmart has donated 7 billion pounds of food to Feeding America and their food bank network. In addition to her various philanthropic efforts, Carlee and her husband have 2 dogs, Barklee and Boone, and enjoy spending their time outside riding bikes, hunting, fishing, or trail riding in their side-by-side.

The College of Business Administration’s vision is to inspire, equip and connect Christian business and technology professionals to honor God and bless the world. Alumni like Carlee Pruden are walking, talking, real-life examples of that vision come to life as they inspire the next generation of COBA students.

Staff Spotlight: Jane Clark

We’re excited to welcome Jane Clark to the COBA team where she will serve as the new Enrollment and Student Development Manager. Originally from Wichita, Kansas, Jane and her husband have recently moved to Abilene as her husband joined the ACU Football coaching staff.  We asked Jane to tell us a little more about her background, her family and herself. Welcome to ACU, Jane!

 

Where did you go to school?

I completed my undergraduate degree at Kansas State University and went on to complete my Master’s degree at Oklahoma City University. 

 

Tell us a little about your family:

I am so proud to be the daughter of Tom and Maggie Keehn of Wichita, KS. My mother still lives there and welove visiting when we are able, especially for holidays! She still has a way of magically transforming my childhood home and making it so special. My father passed away 4 years ago, but I am still a “Daddy’s girl” through and through. I have an older sister, Mary who is married to Jack. They have a brand new baby and our first nephew on my side of the family, Luke. They live in Denver, CO. My youngest brother and best friend, Paul, lives in Kansas City, MO with his fiance, Paige. I am happily married to Matthew who is a member of the ACU athletics staff and we are the proud dog parents of our ever-shedding, quirky pup, Max. I am fortunate to have a large extended family consisting of my wonderful aunts and uncles and numerous cousins and cousins-in-law that are considered as close as brothers and sisters. 

 

Where have you worked in the past? 

  • Adjunct professor in Early Childhood Education at Luna Community College
  • 2nd grade reading specialist in Lubbock, TX
  • Director of Campus Tours and Events at New Mexico Highlands University Lead Primary Directress at Parkway Montessori in Kansas City, MO

 

What drew you to the work of higher education? 

I am passionate about education at all stages – as a student as well as a teacher. I look to my collegiate experience as some of the most formative years of my young adult life – experiences, opportunities, relationships, and learning about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. To be able to support students through that journey academically, spiritually, and experientially is a professional honor. Being passionate about your work can be a rarity. 

 

What drew you to ACU?

Even in my short time on ACU’s campus, I have seen the vision and mission within COBA come to life through staff, faculty, and students and I look forward to promoting this opportunity to all potential students whom I am able to meet. 

 

Why do you enjoy working with college students? 

Education has always been a passion and through most of my adult life, a trade. I look at this position as an opportunity to pour into potential and current ACU students as they begin to explore their options for their future. I see such vision, optimism, and passion in college students and it is absolutely contagious! Seeing young people that are so convicted in their faith and their future is inspiring. 

 

Outside of teaching/work, what passions/hobbies do you have? 

Matt and I love being active within our community! Whether that is trying out to a local restaurant or coffee shop, walking our dog, or finding a new park to explore, we love venturing out on our weeknights/weekends. I am a bit of a sports fanatic. I look forward to cheering on our ACU Wildcats and enjoy participating in recreational sports as well – running, hiking, pickleball, tennis, golf, volleyball, yoga, and soccer. I enjoy cooking and baking (and eating) new foods! I am always up for a new recipe to attempt or sample. 

 

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

I live/d a very active lifestyle – I have broken both of my arms twice, my right leg, and dislocated my right ankle. I just went ahead and bought the crutches at this point. Renting was silly. I hope to keep my cap on all of these numbers. *knock on wood* 

 

What do you hope to accomplish in this new position? 

I look forward to showcasing all the amazing experiences that are going on throughout COBA in a given academic year! Research, internships, classes, guest speakers, study abroad opportunities, involvement on campus, departmental chapels, and philanthropic events…I want potential students to come to COBA thinking about a certain major but leave hearing about our vision and seeing themselves growing as people in all areas of their lives as a COBA graduate. 

 

Internship Spotlight: Katie Carr

Any baseball fan knows how much the game has changed in the last ten years. Many managers have begun focusing on stats for every aspect of the game, using staff members that specialize in analytics to help their team gain competitive advantages. This past spring Katie Carr (’22), information systems major from Wichita, Kansas, snagged an on-campus internship that has provided her with bountiful experience as she interned for the ACU baseball team as the Data Collection & Baseball Projects Manager. Katie told us more about her time with the team and how this internship has given her tangible skills and understanding to set her up for a homerun post-graduation.  

 

WHAT DID YOU DO IN YOUR INTERNSHIP?

As Data Collections & Project Manager, I analyze game statistics for player development. For example, during practices and warmups, I track pitchers as they practice to gather information on attributes such as pitch velocity, spin rate, and horizontal/vertical break. This provides valuable information for the whole team – coaches can utilize this in making decisions about starting lineups, and players can assess their performance and see what weak spots to focus on. 

Following games, I produce several reports such as top velocities, opposing pitcher compositions, and umpire statistics. I’m also in charge of setting up cameras to film the games and preparing a video guide with player appearances and times for easy navigation. 

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE INTERNSHIP?

My favorite part of this job is that the sports industry is never dull. Each day, it provides a different experience that leads to new challenges or ideas. If we see a trend start to appear during a game, that gives us the opportunity to dive deeper into the data to see if we find anything interesting. 

 

WHAT WERE THE GREATEST LESSONS YOU LEARNED IN THE INTERNSHIP?

The greatest lesson I learned was to always be willing to learn. This role required a good understanding of the sport and knowing how it can be implemented in the player structure. While I had limited knowledge coming in, I didn’t let it discourage me. I come early and stay late after practices, scrimmages, and games to get more experience. 

 

HOW DO YOU SEE THIS EXPERIENCE AIDING YOU IN THE FUTURE?

There are countless industries you can pursue with data analytics, and being able to get experience in those fields is important in order to get ideas of future job options. Prior to working with ACU’s baseball team, I had never considered sports analytics. However, working on the field over the last semester has helped me discover an industry I want to pursue more after graduate school. 

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR FUTURE INTERNS OR STUDENTS LOOKING FOR INTERNSHIPS?

Create meaningful relationships with your professors – they often have plenty of connections and are happy to help you out if you’re struggling. On one of our many office visits, I had mentioned to Dr. Ryan Jessup that I was looking for a job. Shortly after, he connected me with the baseball team’s coach who had reached out to him looking for analytics assistance. 

 

HOW HAS YOUR TIME AT ACU PREPARED YOU FOR THIS INTERNSHIP AND FOR GRAD SCHOOL AFTER GRADUATION?

Assignments with real-world applications have been incredibly beneficial. I’ve always enjoyed projects where you can truly see the impact of your work (such as going to Costa Rica for the Enterprise Consulting class or assisting with the Suitable app onboarding in the System Analysis & Design class). These were all great opportunities to practice the skills learned in the classroom in a real-life scenario. 

 

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT BEING A COBA STUDENT?

My favorite part of being a COBA student is the number of faculty and staff who genuinely care about you and your future. I have received so much support and guidance from so many COBA professors that I know I wouldn’t get anywhere else. They truly believe in their students and their ability to succeed. 

 

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Katie as she explores careers in sports and analytics. Upon graduation, Katie plans to attend Wake Forest University for her Master’s in Business Analytics.  

University Scholar Spotlight: Tyler Merritt

Tyler Merritt, a junior double major in accounting and financial management from Abilene, TX, is one of 4 business majors recognized as a University Scholar this spring. To qualify as a University Scholar, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and show a demonstration of knowledge and skill in the research of their appropriate field. Students are nominated by faculty across the university and presented for selection to the Faculty Senate for the final decision. We asked Tyler to tell us what it means to be honored and share his best advice on how students can get the most out of their college experience. Congratulations, Tyler!

 

 

Being named a University Scholar is a great honor! What was your first reaction when you received the news?

I was excited and honored to be chosen as a member of this elite group of students.

 

What extracurricular activities/student orgs were you involved with on campus?

  • Treasurer of Frater Sodalis
  • Member of U-Chorale and the A Cappella Chorus
  • A/V live events technician
  • Teaching assistant
  • Library circulation desk worker

 

What are some of your favorite memories/experiences in your department?

  • Listening to all of Dr. Fowler’s extremely entertaining auditing stories
  • Dr. Perkins bringing his guitar to class and singing a Willie Nelson parody
  • Somehow passing Dr. Neill’s bonds exam

 

What has grown you as an individual the most in your time at ACU?

Seeing and experiencing the tightly bonded community that is ACU, especially through the men of Frater Sodalis.

 

What is your favorite thing about ACU?

The kindness and care that the professors put into their lectures and interactions with their students

 

Do you have any advice for future students?

Don’t be afraid to try new things, but also don’t fill your plate up too much.  And always leave the biggest space for God and your faith life.

 

What will you be doing after graduation?

I will pursue a Master’s degree in accountancy and begin studying for the CPA certification exam.

 

University Scholar Spotlight: Jose Rodriguez

Jose Rodriguez, a senior finance, accounting, and political science major originally from Reynosa, Mexico is one of 4 business majors recognized as a University Scholar this spring. To qualify as a University Scholar, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and show a demonstration of knowledge and skill in the research of their appropriate field. Students are nominated by faculty across the university and presented for selection to the Faculty Senate for the final decision. We asked Jose to talk about his experience thus far at ACU and give current and future students advice on how to make the most of their time here. Congratulations, Jose!

 

Being named a University Scholar is a great honor! What was your first reaction when you received the news? 

After receiving the email saying that I was nominated as a University Scholar, I immediately shared the news with my parents. I do not think that I would be the person who I am today without their sacrifices, support, and love. My parents trust my capabilities and know that I can take care of business. However, I always keep them up to date with my academic performance. 

 

What extracurricular activities/student orgs were you involved with on campus? 

I am the current Vice President of Frater Sodalis. I am part of LYNAY (a community service group), I am a tour guide for ACU Admissions, I am part of Chess Club, and I am a member of Financial Management Association chapter here at ACU. 

 

What are some of your favorite memories/experiences in your department? 

My first ever Departmental Chapel was special because I got to meet most of the faculty in my department. I thought that I would never get to know them all but now I can say that I have had a conversation with every one of my professors. Secondly, the COBA networking event that happened during the fall of 2021 was a great way to meet ACU alumni and to get internship/job opportunities (fun fact: that is how I got my summer internship for summer of 2022). Finally, just studying in the Griggs Center and getting to know all the COBA students is truly a blessing and something I enjoy of being a finance/accounting major.

 

What has grown you as an individual the most in your time at ACU? 

First, being able to do jail ministry has been a blessing. God has used me in a way that glorifies His name and has allowed me to serve others who need Him. Moreover, I have met great people who are in desperate need of love. All they want is to be heard and they want to know that there is someone praying for them, regardless of the conditions they are in.

Furthermore, finding the right group of friends at ACU has had a huge impact on me because I know I can rely on them and they can trust me. I have made so many good friendships that I would not otherwise have made if I had not stepped out of my comfort zone and wanting to meet new people. 

 

What is your favorite thing about ACU?

Spending time with my fraternity, with my closest friends, and the community are things that I cherish and I take pride in here at ACU. Additionally, being able to know my professors outside of the classroom has been something I enjoy doing because of how my professors care about me and about what is going on in my life outside of the classroom. 

Finally, the community at ACU is welcoming and hospitable. I found a group of friends who I could hang out with all the time and it easy to get plugged in into the dozens of student organizations on campus.

 

Do you have any advice for future students? 

My advice to future students is:

  • Be disciplined. You will thank yourself down the road when you graduate and take these skills into the workplace. Find a routine that works for you and that is efficient and stick to it—sometimes it’s okay to change it around. 
  • Make study groups. It is a great way to enhance your knowledge and to help each other out. 
  • Get to know your professors. They care about you, they are for you, and they want to be resources for you.
  • Enjoy yourself and give yourself time for fun! Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in our busy schedules that we forget that we are entitled to have fun in college. Go to the gym, go on a walk, hang out with friends, or do something that gives you energy.

What will you be doing after graduation? 

Although I graduate on May 2023, I will be preparing for the CPA exam. I hope to land a job in accounting somewhere in the DFW metroplex.

University Scholar Highlight: Isabella Maradiaga Molina

Isabella Maradiaga Molina, a double major in marketing and graphic design from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is one of 4 business majors recognized as a University Scholar this spring. To qualify as a University Scholar, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher and show a demonstration of knowledge and skill in the research of their appropriate field. Students are nominated by faculty across the university and presented for selection to the Faculty Senate for the final decision. We asked Isabella to reflect on her time at ACU and how it’s shaped who she has become. Congratulations, Isabella!

 

Being named a University Scholar is a great honor! What was your first reaction when you received the news?

I’ve looked up to many people who received this award in the past and feel extremely honored to be named a University Scholar. This is the best way to culminate my college career at ACU!

 

What extracurricular activities/student orgs were you involved with on campus?

  • Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society
  • International Students Association
  • COBA Ambassador Team
  • COBA Marketing Team
  • WorldWide Witness
  • Alpha Chi National Honor Society
  • American Marketing Association
  • Ko Jo Kai
  • Student Government Association
  • Wildcat Ventures
  • Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society

 

What are some of your favorite memories/experiences in your department?

The community I’ve built through the College of Business Administration has carried me through the highs and low of my college career. I’ve been mentored, supported, and prayed over by many professors and peers in this department. Additionally, working in COBA Dean’s Suite has been one of my favorite experiences at ACU. I’ve had the opportunity to see the work that faculty and staff put into elevating our college experience as business students. And the student ambassador team makes me look forward to coming to work every day!

 

What has grown you as an individual the most in your time at ACU?

During my time at ACU, I’ve met incredible people that inspired the vision I have for my life moving forward. The Lord placed mentors and friends who stood next to me during challenging times and prayerfully encouraged me to push forward. All the growth and accomplishments of my college career have been a communal effort. This has been one of the greatest lessons I learned at ACU. We are meant to do life with one another.

 

What is your favorite thing about ACU?

My favorite thing about ACU is the lifelong connections we get to build. In the last few years, I’ve seen how many alumni return to campus with eagerness to connect with current students. I’m humbled by the generosity of these people and their desire to give back to our campus – with their time, wisdom, and experience. As I leave ACU, I finally understand what drives these Wildcats to come back home: community. I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of this.

 

Do you have a favorite memory you’d like to share of your time in your department?

My favorite memories in the College of Business are the ones in the Enrollment and Student Development office with Lindsay Palmer and our student ambassador team. These people made the Mabee Business Building feel a lot like home. I will always remember the meaningful conversations I had with Andy Little and M.C. Jennings – thank you for all your support. I’m also thankful for the dinners with Dr. Jennifer Golden and the hours we spent together navigating the challenges of life. I have a deep sense of gratitude for the professors, staff, and students in this department.

 

What will you be doing after graduation?

After graduation, I will join The Marketing Arm as Jr Art Director in their Dallas office.

 

Do you have any advice for future students?

From Glennon Doyle: “Each of us was born to bring forth something that has never existed: a way of being, a family, an idea, art, a community—something brand-new. We are here to fully introduce ourselves, to impose ourselves and ideas and thoughts and dreams onto the world, leaving it changed forever by who we are and what we bring forth from our depths. So we cannot contort ourselves to fit into the visible order. We must unleash ourselves and watch the world reorder itself in front of our eyes.”