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.
Internships matter. That’s what the COBA Professional Development team and the ACU Career Center want to imprint in every student’s mind. According to a 2017 NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition study (click here to read), “Grade point average and the total number of internships a student completed as an undergraduate student are the major predictors of initial career outcomes.” What the study found was that participation in internships in college greatly increased a student’s chances of becoming employed within six months of graduation. In addition to creating better opportunities for employment, internships help students discern what types of careers they want to pursue after graduation. We talked to two students who completed internships this summer to see how their internships impacted them.
Jemimah Wavamunno, junior management major from Kampala, Uganda, interned for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., focusing on public and foreign policy. Her favorite part of the internship was, “Getting to grow alongside interns in my program (National Student Leadership). I feel in the professional work-space, I learned even more about my desired field of postgraduate study – Foreign Policy/ Affairs. Therefore, I have a better understanding of what I want to learn in the future.”
Jemimah’s advice for students who are looking for internships is to keep their options open while applying. “Don’t just search for what might look good on your resume. Look for something that will pertain specifically to you and your journey. Pray over all your offers to choose the right one, and don’t be so downcast over your rejections.”
Luke Stevens, senior marketing major from Montgomery, Texas, interned with Pharos Resources, LLC in Abilene. Luke served as a Retention Intelligence Specialist performing data analytics and visualization tasks. His favorite part of the internship was learning the Tableau software. “It is an amazing
program and will be very useful in any business setting.” Not only did he enjoy acquiring new skills, but Luke sees this internship helping him in the future in large part due to the support he received from the Pharos staff. “Pharos is a great support system, not just a job. The leaders care about you and want you to succeed in your career. Having their support along with the skills that I’ve learned here will propel me into a career of success.” Luke felt as though his largest area of personal and professional growth came from gaining responsibility “to perform tasks that will actually be seen by clients. I never felt an overwhelming fear of making a mistake. Instead, I learned to have a healthy understanding that I must constantly give my best work.”
Luke advises students looking for internships, “Don’t stop looking for internships or making connections. The offer to intern at Pharos came late in my search and it turned out to be better than I could have hoped.”
We spoke with Steph Brown, COBA’s Professional Development Manager, to learn how she is working to get students engaged with her office and prepare them for successful outcomes after graduation. Building on relationships with faculty, the ACU Career Center, and her ten years of experience in counseling, advising, coaching and leadership training, Steph is working to implement a new program that strengthens COBA’s business and technology professional development. The EDGE Professional Development Program (E = Explore, D = Develop a Plan, G = Gain Experience, E = Employment) helps students take intentional steps each semester to prepare for entry into the professional world of work. Steph says, “Intentional professional development planning in college is critical for students to successfully compete for and gain internships and jobs. Students who begin this process their first year of college have significant advantages over students who do not.”
The EDGE Professional Development Program is designed to develop, equip, and connect business and technology students for career success. By utilizing online self-learning Canvas course modules, weekly workshops, one-on-one coaching appointments, and campus resources, students gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience that enables them to compete for internships and jobs. All business majors are encouraged to participate in this professional development program and all technology students have mandated requirements for participation.
Freshmen explore majors and career paths. In their sophomore year, students learn how to manage their professional impressions and create career plans. Each year, students update their resume and create professional portfolios to market themselves to employers. In their junior year, students begin developing professional networks in their industries of choice, learning how to search for, apply to, interview for, and secure internships. As a senior, students expand their networking skills and continue to market themselves professionally. Students also learn strategies to transition from college to the workforce.
COBA’s focus on internship and job preparation through the EDGE program is indicative of the importance placed on the investment that students and parents make in college; an investment of their money, time, and hard work. In the 2017 Job Outlook survey from NACE (click here to read), only 5 percent of employer respondents said that work experience is not a factor when hiring new graduates. The majority of employers are looking to hire college graduates who have completed an internship or gained some kind of work experience while in college. Professional development programs like EDGE and the ACU Career Center, along with internship experiences, accelerate entry-level career opportunities. We think that’s the kind of pay off a college investment should have. Do you have questions about the EDGE program? Email Steph Brown at email@example.com.
After a yearlong vacancy in the Professional Manager position in COBA, we’re excited to introduce you to Stephanie Brown, who was hired this summer to fill the post. Steph comes to us with an exceptional resume and a very interesting background as a collegiate and professional volleyball player. As a former athlete, here are Steph’s “stats”.
Steph grew up in Union, Missouri and earned a M.S. in College Counseling. She is married to Clint Brown, who is a Defensive Coordinator for ACU Football and they have one daughter, Ava, who is 11 years old. Their family also includes two German Shorthair pointers, Gunner, who is 14 and Buddy, who is 15 and a half.
In her position as Professional Development Manager for the College of Business Administration, Steph is tasked with orchestrating the Professional Development Program for all Business and Technology students, through teaching, training, coaching, leading, management and partnerships. She is highly qualified for such a large task. Steph worked for more than six years as a Career Coach at South Dakota State University (SDSU), for 3 years as a Professional Academic Advisor with SDSU, and for 2 years as an Academic Success Coordinator with SDSU. Prior to her work at SDSU, she had careers in social work, human resources, non-profit market management, teaching, coaching, counseling, and professional athletics.
We asked Steph what drew her to this work. “I have always known that I would work with people. Building upon an undergraduate major in psychology, I worked in the helping professions. My time spent in Division 1 athletics at the University of Nebraska (volleyball) and then later on the USA Olympic Team and professional athletic career abroad instilled in me a love for coaching people toward positive outcomes. When I went to solidify my Master of Science degree program, I chose college counseling as it was the best fit for my skill sets and career ambitions. I believe that college is such a formative time for students and if they get the right support and guidance, they can make effective decisions that will set them up for success for the rest of their lives.”
Steph may never have landed at ACU but her husband, Clint, interviewed for the Defensive Coordinator job in January of 2019 and Steph came with him on the interview. They were both very impressed with the mission of ACU, the campus personnel, facilities, and opportunities for students. Equally impressive was the family-friendly community of Abilene. The position for the Professional Development Manager was still open and Steph actively pursued applying for the position after she moved to Abilene in April, as it was a great fit for her skillsets and interests.
Steph enjoys working with college students because it’s such a formative period in their lives. “College students’ development happens across so many important domains and critical time frames in life. It is empowering to know that you can guide, coach, teach, and shape this development from a supportive position in their lives and know that you helped them on an aspect of their journey.”
When she’s not working, you’ll most likely find Steph enjoying the outdoors. “Growing up in Union, MO I lived in an area north of the Ozarks full of river convergences where rafting, canoeing, camping, hiking, and exploring were our chosen recreational pursuits. I enjoy service to people and community. If given time, you will find me serving our environment on clean ups like the one I recently did with volunteers at Abilene State Park. I am a dog lover and adopt senior dogs, as they are a pet population that are often overlooked. I enjoy mentoring youth and exposing kids to the outdoor opportunities that can restore them. I also enjoy doing small random acts of kindness. Listening to others’ passions and interests and fulfilling them with small tokens of kindness that match those passions and interests is fun for me. “
Students and new co-workers might be surprised to learn that Steph is a twin. “I have a twin brother named Roger and have two other brothers who are twins, as well (Barry and Brad). I come from a family of seven kids and at 6’2” I am the third SHORTEST in my family. My dream is to thru-hike the AT (Appalachian Trail), a 2,200 trail that runs from Georgia to Maine.”
As a competitive person, Steph has lofty goals and ambitions for her new job. “I want to be an effective Professional Development Manager for our students. I want to help them identify their career strengths, empower them to set and work toward their career goals, and help them gain opportunities as a result of their work. I want students to walk out of my office stronger and more confident in their professional identities than when they walked in.”