Capital campaign closes exceeding set goal, benefiting students, faculty and facilities
Stories by Johanna Gilmore
You can see the results of it all over campus — the funds raised during the Elevate SFA comprehensive capital campaign are already making an impact.
More than 16,000 donors have given $121 million for undergraduate student scholarships, faculty and program support, and facility enhancements. This far exceeds the original goal of $100 million for the campaign, which launched publicly in October 2021 and wrapped up in September 2022.
A special gift from Ashley and Greg Arnold '87 of Dallas gave the campaign a big boost and established the Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship in the Nelson Rusche College of Business.
"Greg Arnold is not a man to think small — he thought large and asked us to continue to think in that way, too," said Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA president. "The activities and opportunities this center will create are almost limitless in scope. This is the right type of initiative at exactly the right time, and all of us at SFA are grateful for Greg Arnold's dynamic leadership and vision."
Officially launched in summer 2022, ACE will advance its mission through services provided to East Texas businesses by center staff and faculty, as well as SFA students under the direction of faculty members.
"Ashley and I wanted to establish the Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship to provide students a greater chance to achieve their dreams and find business-building success," said Arnold, CEO of TAC - The Arnold Companies, a multi-business company built on a foundation of wholesale petroleum distribution and aviation services. "Being able to give back to SFA has been personally very rewarding."
The ACE offers mentoring, scholarships and internships for students; travel to competitions and field trips; support for SFA's Society for Entrepreneurial Advancement; and funding for the campuswide Lumberjack Entrepreneurship Competition inspired by ABC's "Shark Tank."
"Supporting students and faculty to ultimately impact the greater business communities of East Texas and the entire state has long been a goal," Arnold said. "When students' hard work, expanded knowledge and effort come together, great things happen. SFA has designed an innovative, forward-thinking program as a true center of excellence in higher education that trains and develops future business leaders."
Three of the people directly impacted by the funds raised through Elevate SFA shared their stories with Sawdust.
Ryan Waugh '22
Current Graduate Student
Ryan Waugh was already interested in entrepreneurship when he arrived at SFA because he had participated in an entrepreneurship program at Crockett High School in Austin. At the time, SFA's Department of Management and Marketing only offered the subject as a minor, so Waugh initially majored in marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship.
When funds from the Elevate SFA campaign helped the Rusche College of Business establish the entrepreneurship program and major as well as the Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship, Waugh immediately switched majors and started recruiting other students to the program.
From his entrepreneurship courses, Waugh developed a mindset that seeks opportunities, takes risks, tolerates failure and helps him use resources creatively. From events like the Lumberjack Entrepreneurship Competition, SFA's version of "Shark Tank," he received feedback from local business leaders on making his pitch compelling to the audience.
"Often, business students go with general business for their majors not realizing that entrepreneurship can help them if they're planning to start their own businesses one day," Waugh said. "This was an awesome opportunity to talk about a major I'm passionate about and maybe help open the door to other students who were on the fence about which path to follow."
He also earned the $1,500 third-place prize for his educational video game Play Gov during the inaugural competition.
"The competition is a great way for students to explore that business idea they've always had but don't know where to start," Waugh said.
The next SFA-wide all-major Lumberjack Entrepreneurship Competition, sponsored by the ACE, is scheduled for April 21 and is open to the public.
Waugh is now working toward his Master of Business Administration at SFA and a venture capital career.
"I would love to help raise funding for great business ideas!"
Dr. Stephanie Ross
Assistant Professor of Accounting and Sammie L. Smith Endowed Professor
Rusche College of Business
One of the biggest challenges for universities is recruiting and retaining high-quality faculty members. The Sammie L. Smith Professorship in Accounting has helped ensure SFA students benefit from the talent of skilled professors like Dr. Stephanie Ross, assistant professor in the Schlief School of Accountancy.
Ross earned her doctoral degree in accounting from The University of Texas at San Antonio and her Bachelor of Arts in economics, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Science in accounting from The University of Texas at Dallas.
A certified public accountant, Ross has served as a financial accountant, auditor and tax accountant in industry and public accounting. She also served as the National Association of Black Accountants' advisor, and her research interests include compensation, corporate governance and auditing.
Ross said her goal as a professor is to use concern, competence and clarification in her teaching to help students solve puzzles, a skill accountants need.
"Accounting is not math — we are not just adding and subtracting numbers," Ross said. "Some accountants focus on auditing corporations or preparing tax returns. Others work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help solve cases. Still some specialize in fields like oil and gas accounting. Regardless of the specialty, critical thinking is key."
To provide this level of teaching expertise to accounting students, SFA must offer competitive salaries to faculty members. Endowed professorships like the one Ross was awarded and the Beverly Hatfield Smith Professorship in Accounting do just that.
These professorships were created by a couple who believes that a university's most important asset is its faculty: Dr. Sammie Smith, a regents scholar and former chair and director of the Schlief School of Accountancy, and his wife, Beverly, who is an SFA accounting alumna.
Carly Cash '23
Current Undergraduate Student
Major: Special Education
As the youngest of three children in her family who all attended college, Carly Cash is grateful for the financial help the Dixie and Paul Kellerhals Scholarship has provided. It's one of the undergraduate scholarships funded by the Elevate SFA campaign to help reduce the average debt of students and increase retention.
"This scholarship was an honor to receive," said Cash, a senior from Georgetown. "It allowed my parents and me to not stress as much going into my last semester of college. For me, personally, it took a weight off my shoulders so I could focus on my clinical teaching semester."
Like Dixie Kellerhals, who graduated from SFA with a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1984 and a master's degree in special education in 1985, Cash has chosen to focus on special education. She's also minoring in deaf education.
"My goal with those specialties is to teach life skills classes at the elementary school level," she said.
The Dixie and Paul Kellerhals Scholarship annually supports four students enrolled in the James I. Perkins College of Education. All recipients must have a high school GPA of at least 3.0 and have participated in extracurricular activities and worked or volunteered during high school.