Good leaders get ahead of the game as soon as an opportunity arises, or even begins to emerge. And that is exactly what the leaders-in-training at ACU’s Lytle Center for Faith and Leadership did when “coronavirus” and “COVID-19” first emerged in our vocabulary. As soon as that happened, students put on their thinking caps and came up with a program under the umbrella of “Thriving in Crisis.” 

“It emerged pretty spontaneously, “ said Dennis Marquardt, assistant professor in the Department of Management Sciences and director of the Lytle Center at ACU. 


Dennia Marquardt

That emergence began when it became apparent that spring break would be extended and then, not long after, that classes would be cancelled for the rest of the semester. The Lytle Center hosts a chapel service on Thursdays for students, faculty, and alumni. Students began asking, “What can we do with this chapel?” Marquardt said. 

They wanted to figure out not only how to finish but how to finish stronger and better. “Thriving in Crisis” was the answer. The new series provides encouragement, advice, and resources for going beyond the mindset of “just getting by” to actually thriving during the shutdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. A sentence from Marquardt’s first blog of the new series explains how that is possible.

“History demonstrates that crises are often the training ground for incredible growth opportunities,” he wrote. 

“Thriving in Crises” isn’t just for students. As Marquardt explained in his blog, the series can be helpful to parents navigating the demands of home schooling or to employees trying to learn how to work from home. In fact, the first tip offered applies to all of those–get in a healthy routine. 

The Lytle Center opened in the College of Business Administration building at ACU in 2015 and is named in honor of Dr. Rick Lytle, former COBA dean. The endowed center focuses on research in ethics and leadership. The vision is to transform the workplace by training leaders of exemplary character. 

As often happens during a crisis, COVID-19 served as a spark for the creative minds in the Lytle Center to think outside the box. The center’s website,, has links to resources and to talks by well known speakers geared to the current crisis.

“We’re actually finding a blessing in disguise,” Marquardt said. 

For example, one speaker, Emily Chang, lives in Seattle. She spoke for the center’s 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series but bringing her back to speak during the shutdown wasn’t doable. However, a YouTube presentation was. Chang, former senior vice president of Starbucks, prepared a 22-minute talk titled, “Turning Point.” Chang, who is Chinese-American, showed the two Chinese characters that together form the word “wei ji,” which translates to “crisis.” The left character means “danger” and the right character means “turning point.”

“This is a place where we have the opportunity to look at a number of different outcomes,” Chang said. 

That opportunity exists right now, and Chang offered some guideline questions for obtaining the right outcome.

  1. What is God saying? “We can only experience his goodness when we react to what he is saying.”
  2. How can I grow?
  3. Where can I contribute?

It is easy, Chang said, to focus on what we don’t have during a crisis, but it is essential to develop a God-centered mindset instead. Someday, Chang noted, children will be asking their parents what they did during the COVID-19 shutdown. With the help of the programming provided by “Thriving in Crisis,” they can have a good answer.

The end of the COVID-19 crisis won’t be the end of crises forever. Even without a global crisis, individuals experience their own personal crisis. Marquardt, the director of the Lytle Center, believes the “Thriving in Crisis” series can be helpful long after people stop saying “COVID-19.” The series may be renamed, but the purpose will remain the same.

“I think it’s going to be something that continues,” Marquardt said.


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