COBA has a rich heritage of faculty members who contribute to helping the college excel in many areas. This is shown in several ways – research being one of them. Faculty members Dr. Monty Lynn, Dr. Sarah Easter, and Dr. Ryan Jessup- all professors in the Management Sciences Department – recently finished a collaborative project titled: “Harmonizing Work and Faith”, which was completed with the help of music professor and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Greg Straughn. “COBA faculty engage in creative research which keeps them sharp and contributes to knowledge,” Dr. Monty Lynn explained.
Dr. Lynn shared that the project’s inspiration stemmed from a common interest in seeing how Christians approach and practice business, both in the past and today. They came across a database of Christian hymns that peaked their curiosity earlier this summer, and the question was posed: What message do Christians communicate to each other in worship regarding work and do these messages change over time?
The three COBA faculty were very familiar with conducting research, but knew they needed professional insight into ‘hymnology’ – the study of hymns – in order to enrich and deepen their findings. They reached out to Dr. Straughn who graciously agreed to contribute to the project.
The specifics of their research focused on hymns written between the years 1500 and 2000, with content addressing vocation. They applied qualitative research methods and identified 28 different messages Christians sing about regarding work. Some of the themes that emerged were being diligent in our work, work can be offered to God in worship, and work can be toilsome.
Looking to see if these messages have shifted over time, the team found strong stability in the themes – with occasional shifts. These shifts seemed to align with different global events at the time which largely impacted the world.
For example, the theme of being rewarded for faithful work, both here and in Heaven, is strong. Yet, the theme declines after World War II, as the theme of solidarity with global workers rises. These findings, along with others, are shown in the data.
Lynn added, “For those who might say hymns are fading from many worship assemblies, we’re happy to report that contemporary music still connects with work – often indirectly, but sometimes in wonderful ways such as the hymns produced by The Porter’s Gate, such as their ‘Wood and Nails’ and ‘Your Labor is Not in Vain’.” The group presented their research at the Christian Business Faculty Association at John Brown University and their findings were highlighted on the Hymnary.org site (click here to read).
The group’s hope is that this study will be helpful in understanding the meaningfulness and spirituality of vocation. Speaking for all the contributors, Lynn closed with this: “This project was a distinct pleasure because of the complementary skills of the researchers and because we couldn’t help but sing our data!”
Dr. Dennis Marquardt
Dr. Dennis Marquardt, Assistant Professor of Management and Director of the Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership, is one of the great examples in COBA of a well-developed, strong, and Christ-like individual. He says, “I often laugh at the thought of telling my 20 year old self that one day he would be a college professor. The idea of being a professor was not even in the realm of my thought space when I graduated from college. My plan was to work a year in a business-related job and try to get into law school. Instead, for some reason, as an organizational communication major, I ended up getting hired for a tax and compliance job at Bankers Trust (which was soon acquired by Deutsche Bank). I really enjoyed the work I did for DB and started an MBA program with plans to continue my business career.”
Dr. Marquardt does well to share his experiences in the classroom and apply the class concepts to his failures and his accomplishments. The humility and grace that he shows earns him the highest respect from his students to his coworkers. Part of that is an incredible amount of faith that he shows through his actions and choices. “I’ve always prayed heavily for each career path I’ve been presented with and asked a lot of advice from others to get a wiser and more well-rounded faith-based perspective. It’s usually when I look in the rear-view mirror that I see God’s direction in my journey most clearly. Most of all, I am overwhelmed by His grace and mercy for the many times I’ve failed and/or chosen the wrong path (and that’s happened more than I’d like to admit).“
Marquardt teaching at Leadership Summit
When asked if and how his faith plays a role in his teaching he was enthusiastic to talk about how he sees God working through COBA. This was his response: “Absolutely. As a management professor, I see the role of “manager” as an incredibly noble calling. The research is quite conclusive regarding the significant impact a supervisor has on the subjective well-being and overall quality of life of his or her subordinates. What an incredible opportunity management is, then, for people of faith to live out the servant life promoted by Christ. I think much of the Human Relations movement in management is not only conducive to but also indirectly (and sometimes directly) draws from the characters and virtues found in the teachings and life of Jesus. One of my priorities is to make these connections evident in the classroom and to help students see that faith does impact our careers and should create cycles of virtue in the lives of employees and customers alike.”
Dr. Marquardt responded with this wisdom when asked what he has learned since being at COBA: “ACU and COBA values relationships and creates settings that allow for a more holistic approach to learning that spans beyond the four walls of the classroom. I think this is one of the key differentiators for ACU and it provides a mutual learning environment for professors and students. Not only do I get to facilitate learning but I am also challenged and sharpened by my students as I see them wrestling with new ideas and living and working out their own faith.”
Dennis and Monique Marquardt
Final Words: “Early in my teaching career I became deeply convicted about the intrinsic value potential of each and every class session. Each time students come into a classroom with any instructor I think there is something almost sacred about the possibilities. I was recently reminded of a poem by former longtime President of Morehouse College and spiritual mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays that conveys this point:
I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.
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.
Assistant Professor of Management Sciences, Katie Wick, has been a highly valued member of the ACU College of Business for the past four years, teaching economics, mentoring students, and conducting research. Our Throwback Thursday series continues this week, as we look back at Wick’s time in college. Dr. Wick attended the University of Virginia and was highly involved in everything from acapella groups to studying abroad. We asked Dr. Wick to reflect on her college experiences.
What is your best memory from college?
“Most of my best memories from college center around the friends I spent the most time with, my acapella singing group. We got the chance to be an integral part of campus life and meet people from all over the world. We also recorded two albums together and performed all over several states. These women make up the core of my strongest memories at UVA.”
What is your best advice for college students?
“Get involved on campus! The organizations I had the chance to be a part of made all the difference in my college experience. They also helped shape the friendships that held me up when my life was crumbling during my dad’s fight with terminal cancer. Study abroad! Spending time in another culture for an extended period of time will truly change your perspectives. Going abroad during college is especially important because these years are the time in life when traveling is both impactful and easy (for example, taking 4 kids to Italy sounds really hard right now).”
Dr. Wick studying abroad in Italy (2001)
Graduation weekend with Katie’s parents and sibling
What do you wish you could tell your college self today?
“Give yourself grace. God has spoken words of great love and worth over you that cannot be taken away by grades, failures, or any bad decision. You are a treasure and truly beloved. ”
COBA sends students and professors across the world every summer. It’s an initiative that ACU and the College of Business feel strongly about and one that always leaves the professor and the student changed. During the summer of 2019, COBA had two student groups in Asia and Oxford. While the classes offered and excursions were different, one thing is the same. Students unanimously endorse studying abroad.
MGMT 419: Global Entrepreneur was the two-week class that sent eight students to Asia – specifically China, Thailand, and Hong Kong SAR – and was led by professors Andy Little and Jim Litton. To make the most of the group’s short time on the continent, classes were held on campus during the spring semester, with some of the work being completed ahead of time online. While in Asia, students and faculty gathered for several academic class discussion sessions. The trip also included a day spent in the Thai mountains visiting coffee farms and a visit with a group of “digital nomads” in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Among the unique experiences that students had in Asia, they climbed the Great Wall of China, spent two days in the mountains of Thailand visiting Karen hill tribe villages and hiking through the jungle, had a fun session learning about Muay Thai (Thai boxing), explored Hong Kong, and visited numerous religious sites in Thailand and Hong Kong.
Litton and Little are not strangers to China but no matter how many times they go abroad; they learn something new during each trip as well. Dr. Little said, “I learned a lot about eight great students and four distinct cultures (traditional Chinese, Thai, Karen hill tribe, and Hong Kong). It was interesting to compare and contrast the Confucian values and culture of China with the predominantly Buddhist values and culture of Thailand.”
Emily Goulet, junior accounting major from Austin, Texas reflected on the trip. “Assessing this program in the literal sense is something that I have found hard to do because the benefits and knowledge that this trip has allowed for me to gain have an immeasurable value that doesn’t align with any quantitative scale in my mind. Travel allows for a certain intrinsic value to be added to one’s knowledge and perspective and these are how we end up having a new shape to our worldview. One way that I feel able to begin to understand and measure the impact of this program is within the amount of time I have spent in reflection after I returned home from the trip.”
Katie Norris, sophomore marketing major from Texas City, Texas said that Study Abroad gave her an opportunity to get to know her professors in a different setting. “It was really cool to have professors that I have not yet had in a traditional setting believe in me. I was the youngest one on the trip, but the professors did not make me feel like I was any less knowledgeable. I was also glad to pick their brain a bit about their journey and what they learned on their way to their current position in life.”
One of Katie’s favorite experiences was traveling to a small village in the Thailand mountains where students were greeted and taught to roast their own coffee. “This experience showed us how simple life could be when separated from the consumerism food chain. It also showed us the simple and pure joy that comes from creating something you are passionate about with your own hands and how important that is to take into a successful business as an entrepreneur.” She advises any student thinking about studying abroad to, “Choose a trip that is a culture you would be least likely to visit in the future.”
Professors Phil Vardiman and David Perkins took 27 students to Oxford, England with a side trip to Leipzig and Berlin, Germany. Students were able to earn up to 6 hours of course credit in International Business and a choice between Operations Management or Leadership in Organizations.
As part of the Operations Management course, the group visited the BMW and Porsche production plants in Leipzig, Germany. They learned about the automation innovations that have taken place at BMW and the craftsmanship approach that Porsche boasts in the assembly line at their facility. The group also visited Oxford Analytica. Oxford Analytica helps their clients “actively manage the impact of geopolitical, macroeconomic and global social factors on their performance.” One of the highlights of the trip for all involved was a project that the students completed with Asda, a British supermarket retailer whose parent company is Walmart. Students visited an Asda superstore and an Asda dark store as part of the International Business course to see first-hand the technological revolution happening overseas in the grocery industry. Students were asked to analyze Asda after visiting different store locations, give feedback about what they saw, and provide ideas for improvement in various areas. Near the end of the trip, student teams then gave professional presentations and recommendations to some of the corporate managers at Asda’s corporate auditorium.
Dr. Perkins and Dr. Vardiman were impressed with the students’ presentations and extremely proud of the way in which they represented COBA. They said that many of the recommendations were things that Asda was beginning to consider or would now look into considering because of the students’ findings. Vardiman also said that many of the Asda corporate managers encouraged the students to connect with them on LinkedIn and reflected, “You never know what kind of doors these presentations have opened for you and your career.”
Ben Fridge, sophomore financial management major from Sugar Land, Texas, enjoyed the experience that the Asda presentation gave to him. “Asda allowed us to visit some stores and examine the production and check-out systems they had. Towards the end of the month, after weeks of preparation, we came back together for a “Ted Talk-esque” presentation of innovations and plans that we had developed since visiting the store.” Ben said that the most unique experience of the trip involved the time spent at Asda. “Being courted by the division heads at Asda Superstores was an experience that I was beyond blessed to encounter as we were ushered into their facilities to tell them what we saw that could be improved in their stores. They allowed us to consult for them and offer multiple paradigm shifts that could benefit their company as a whole. The experience was nearly surreal as a group of (some still teen) college students offered ideas and innovations that were seriously considered and discussed by adults in executive positions.”
Allie Sorrells, junior management major from Waco, Texas said, “I think the Asda project was probably one of the most beneficial learning experiences I have ever had. We had to work together with our teams to come up with some really solid and creative ideas and learn how to professionally relay those to the managers at Asda. The presentation was very nerve-racking for me, but it was an excellent opportunity to grow in that area and learn how to express to others the ideas that our group worked so hard on. The Asda employees were so helpful and encouraging throughout the entire process and provided a lot of helpful feedback on our presentations. It was definitely an experience I will never forget.”
Along with gaining real world work experience, Allie and Ben grew as individuals and made life-long friends. Ben loved getting to know his professors outside of the classroom. He said, “I loved the ways our professors poured into us through intimate conversations about our plans and big vision items, encouraging us through what they had seen thus far on the trip. Two on ones (the two professors sitting down with each student individually) were incorporated at least once during the experience to dig deep into the things we’d seen, plans we had coming home and reflections on our growth and team bonding.”
Allie really appreciated the time and attention that Dr. Perkins and Dr. Vardiman gave to each student. “I really enjoyed that they were dedicated to spending time with the students outside of the classroom. Those 2-on-1 conversations allowed for the professors and students to learn more about each other and provide encouragement to each other. It was a favorite memory for me as well as for lot of other students. Their wives were also so great and kind and made an effort to get to know the students and provide encouragement for us whether that be in the form of homemade pastries one morning or endlessly praying for us as we took tests and embarked on journeys in smaller groups.”
Allie would encourage other students to study abroad. “DO IT! You won’t regret it. There are so many opportunities abroad for growth intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Even if you don’t know anyone else going, just go for it. It is so easy to make friends abroad because you are all going through the same culture shock and newness. You will make so many memories that you will cherish for the rest of your life, and you will get to see so many places you wouldn’t get to see otherwise. So yes, 100% do it!”
Ben is also a big proponent of Study Abroad. “Absolutely take on this journey. You will grow in obvious and non-obvious ways due to the cultural, environmental, social and academic ways that you are tested. I cannot recommend seeing the world in this way enough. I would recommend, for the bold, jumping into Study Abroad not knowing anyone or bringing close friends along, as I did. Going in, I planned to make connections that will last with every member of my team by the time we had finished. Coming out of the experience, I have twenty-six new best friends who I have crossed the globe with and made specific, diverse memories with that I will hold onto for longer than just these next few years in school.”
As an Associate Director of Advising and as advisor to Financial Management majors, Kent Akers spends a lot of time talking with students while helping them plan their academic career at ACU. With counseling degrees in psychology (B.S. ’09) and Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT ’11), Kent also helps students with issues like pre-martial counseling, career aptitude, and more. Kent shared a few of his favorite memories with us on this Throwback Thursday.
What was your best memory from college?
My best memory from college was either being at the football game where ACU beat WTAMU 93-68 or playing baseball for Coach Britt Bonneau.
What is your best advice for college students?
My best advice would be to keep your dorm room door open as much as you can. My best friendships in college came from people who would walk through my open door and from the open doors I chose to walk through.
What do you wish you could tell your college self today?
I wish I could tell my college self that doing too many things is not a good thing. Choose a couple of things to be really involved in and do them well. Don’t spread yourself too thin.