Dena Counts is no stranger to ACU. After receiving multiple degrees both on campus and online, she furthered her Wildcat career as the assistant dean and program director of ACU Online’s Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Bachelor of Science in Applied Communication. After 12 years, she reflects on the ways God has provided opportunities to connect with students while bringing the ACU difference to a virtual platform.
The ACU Difference
Early on, ACU was home to Dr. Counts. During her undergrad on campus, Dena met her husband who also went through ACU’s communication program. They have been married for twenty-eight years and have two daughters, Emily (ACU ‘18) and Natalie. While teaching online provided Dr. Counts the opportunity to work remotely, Dena and her husband decided to stay in Abilene, where they currently reside and have remained involved in the ACU community.
After working in the fields of fundraising, consulting, training, and human resources, Dena found her passion for teaching in higher education. Quickly, she realized the Lord had blessed her with the ability to take leadership and communication concepts and present them in ways that resonate with students.
As she put it, “I didn’t know I needed to be an educator, but the Lord did.” After serving as the speech and debate coach for eight years and director of the university’s Speaking Center for three years, Dena transitioned to ACU Online where she found her niche. “I enjoy bringing the wonderful things about ACU to a remote format while overcoming the challenges that come with navigating the technology,” she said.
In May of 2020, Dr. Counts completed her own online journey by receiving her doctorate in Organizational Leadership with ACU. Years after getting her undergraduate degree on campus, she was thrilled to see how student-faculty relationships and biblical foundations of the university transitioned to the online community.
“The ACU difference is the investment we make in students,” Dena remarked. “My goal as an educator is to bring those foundations to students who may have never experienced anything like it before and leave them with the self-confidence of knowing the Lord has equipped them with everything they need to be successful professionals.”
Curriculum Rooted in Intentionality
The skills taught in the Organizational Leadership and Applied Communication degrees personify many of the core values of Christianity. Aligning the courses’ curriculum to biblical teachings has allowed Dr. Counts to foster deep relationships with her students. From public speaking fears, to personal struggles, Dena recounts multiple times she’s had intentional conversations with students and opportunities to pray with them.
“It’s no accident that my students are in my class, at this very point in their lives,” she commented. Dr. Counts believes her job as an educator is to figure out what that purpose is and provide the best instruction possible to make a difference educationally and spiritually.
In order to be a leader of an organization, communication, collaboration and ethical decision-making skills are a must. Through Dr. Count’s online Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership program, students are taught the importance of personal development, leadership, collaboration, communication, and more. Her goal is to equip her students to lead with purpose and make a difference no matter the industry they pursue.
Through the Bachelor of Science in Applied Communication program, Dena has been able to serve students with the tactical skills needed to advance in the modern workforce. The program is funneled into two degree tracks: Organizational Change and Healthcare Communication.
The Organizational Change concentration provides students cutting-edge understanding and experience in change management. Students explore in-depth skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and teamwork in order to be an asset to their workplace.
The Healthcare Communication track focuses on tools in leadership, crisis management, and organizational analysis to serve the healthcare industry effectively. Ultimately, these professionals ensure everything goes smoothly beyond the four walls of patient care.
While Dr. Counts was in the process of earning her doctorate, she learned the importance of using others as resources to strengthen her skill set. Outside of the classroom, Dena constantly reads articles and attends conferences to stay relevant in the field of communications. “Learning from others is the best way to make myself a stronger educator,” she said. In addition to the practical skills she gains through professional development opportunities, she’s also involved in a Facebook group on communication studies where professors around the nation discuss how they are adapting to industry changes and share ideas on how to overcome difficulties in the industry.
Want to learn more about how Dr. Counts is bringing the ACU difference to her online degree programs in Organizational Leadership and Applied Communication? Visit acu.edu/online or contact us at 855-219-7300.