The office of Dr. Tracy Foster fits the man and his position. As dean of the School of Business and professor of several accounting classes, he needs to have space to talk to his students, as well as a Keurig to supply students and himself with needed caffeine. The area also speaks to his time in the military: his desks are always tidy and clean, and several medals are displayed on a desk. Some photographs from the military hang on one wall.
Bring your empty coffee mug and join the conversation as Dr. Foster tells us a little about himself.
How did you become interested in business and accounting?
I worked in a grocery store during high school. As I worked, I thought it would be cool to be a manager. The grocery store I worked at wanted people to have a college degree to be seriously considered for a management position, and I didn’t want to go to college. So I got a job at a different grocery store that didn’t want business graduates for the store level. I thought, “Oh good, here is a company that really values experience over education.”
This is all very comical because I did get to the assistant store manager position. At that point, I began to realize how inadequately I was trained and prepared. I tried for a little bit, but I got frustrated and stepped down. For a few months, all I could think was, “Now what do I do?” So I started looking at going to college.
And that’s what I did. I went to school when I was 28 years old, attending a local school because it would have been hard to pick up and move my family somewhere. I thought I wanted to take business. So I looked a little at what accounting required and thought it might be a good fit. Sure enough, I took my first accounting class, and I knew this was it. God really directed in that regard.
What did you do before MBU?
I enlisted in the Reserves for four years. I was also in the ROTC program at my college. After I graduated with an accounting degree, I asked to be in the finance area. Lo and behold, where does the Army put me? Military intelligence. Close? Sort of, but not really.
So for the first three years of my active duty I was an intelligence officer. Even though I enjoyed my role—and looking back, I am very appreciative of the experience—I decided I really didn’t want to do this for twenty years. I put in a request to transfer, which they allowed. That was another one of those God moments: they weren’t supposed to transfer me, but it happened.
I ended up moving over to the finance area. For the next 17 years I did financial work in a variety of different roles for the Army around the country and the world. I deployed a couple times to work on financial support in deployed areas of operations because they spend a lot of money over there. Ultimately it culminated with my two years in the Pentagon with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
What brought you to MBU?
All throughout my military time, I never really envisioned myself as making the military my career and then retiring. My wife and I knew that once we got to the end of the 20 years we would retire. Our mindset was to get into full-time ministry, if nothing came up beforehand. There were a couple opportunities that came up during my military career, but God closed the doors, so we kept moving on. But we always had in mind, “Twenty and out.”
At one point during my time deployed, I shared with my chaplain about my “twenty and out” mentality. He said, “Did it ever occur to you that God might want you to stay in?” And I thought, “No.” And he said, “Well, look at all the things God has provided for you. It looks like you are being groomed for staying in.” I had honestly never thought beyond 20 years. So I thought, “Okay, Lord, if that’s what you want, I’m willing to stay in.” It was during that time, I started looking at schools for Bible training. This was because I knew eventually I would get out. I was thinking about a Master’s of Divinity, so I knew I had catch-up work to do.
Since one of my former pastors suggested that I check out Maranatha, I went on Maranatha’s website to check out what was involved in a Master’s of Divinity and to see what I needed to do. To this day I have no idea how I did it, but within a couple clicks I was at a place where there was an announcement for a job opening for an accounting faculty position. I realized, “Wait a minute, I could do that. I’m an accountant. I taught a little in the military, so I knew I enjoyed that part of it. And that’s ministry.” It was like this big lightbulb came on.
I put in my application, and honestly, I figured I would never hear from Maranatha. I figured the position had already been filled and they had just forgotten to take the announcement off of the website. Within about two weeks, I was out at the school interviewing, and by the end of that weekend I was hired. Then I had to get together all the paperwork to retire (the whole retirement process takes at least 6 to 9 months) and get ready to start teaching accounting. I started teaching in the fall of 2012. God’s leading was evident every step of the way. It wouldn’t have worked out without Him.
What is your favorite part of MBU?
One thing that drew me from the start was the emphasis on the local church. Since my wife and I have been married, we have relied on the local church for support, for growth, for ability to serve. That was something I was really looking for.
I also like being able to interact a lot with students. It’s just exciting. When I think about it, I am just humbled by the people I am rubbing shoulders with here, not only students but also faculty and staff.
And, I get to go to chapel every day! I mean, how many jobs do you find where you get paid to sing, hear great music, and listen to a good message? It’s rare.
What is your advice to prospective students?
One thing I recommend is to really focus on your studies. Especially writing, arithmetic, and reading. Those basic skills are critical for anything you do here at Maranatha, but especially in the business area. First, if you’re not doing well in those subjects, you won’t be eligible for scholarships. Additionally, if you don’t do well in math, you won’t be able to go directly into Probability and Statistics. Then you spend more time doing math classes here, which you really shouldn’t need to do. So do well in school. Take it seriously. Grow spiritually. Be growing in the Lord so you are spiritually prepared to come here as well. Just be prepared to get the most out of your time here.
If you are interested in business and accounting, I would hope that as a high schooler you would pay attention to some business news, read some business journals and articles and things like that. If you can, you should take a business or accounting class. Start asking around and asking people in church or neighbors who are in business, “What are you doing for a living? What do you think about your job?” Start at a very early time thinking and praying about where God might want you to be after you finish school.
Get as financially prepared as you can before you get here as well. Save your money. The better financially prepared you are the more opportunities you can take advantage of, like a camp ministry during the summer time or a missions trip.
In addition, take seriously your discipline. If you are a marketing major, pay attention to those marketing classes. Pour everything you can into those classes. When I was in college, if I saw a business course or an accounting course I took that class even if it was over and above what was required. I just tried to learn everything I could and get the most out of it. I would read the textbooks and ask a lot of questions.
What is a proud moment from your life?
Aside from my two daughters, I would say that one of my proudest moments would be when I graduated from college. I had just turned 32 years old, and a couple days after I graduated I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army. Both of those were big because I was the first and only one in my family that graduated from college. I wasn’t the first one in the military, but I was, as far as I know, the first commissioned officer in my family. My dad was there for the whole event, which was special.
Can you tell us about your family?
My wife and I were both 19 years old when we got married, so we are coming up on our 39th anniversary this summer. We married when we were young and immature and it’s amazing to see how God kept us together through the years. We have two daughters, one biological and one adopted. The adoption is an incredible story in itself.
As a result of those two daughters we now have 16 grandchildren, all the way from age 13 down to a few weeks old. Ten live down in Ohio, where our son-in-law pastors a church. He’s also a chaplain in the National Guard. Our other daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren live down in Florida.
Do you have any hobbies or hidden talents?
I like to do a little cooking and baking. Actually, at the beginning of our marriage, I was the cook. My wife didn’t know how to make much. The roles have now changed, though, and she does most of the cooking. I still enjoy it though.
Currently, I am the Foster home barista. I have a nice little machine and I make cappuccinos almost every night. So look out, Old Main Café. One of these days I might be down there working.
We enjoy biking. I used to like to run, but that’s mostly an activity of the past.
I’m not a huge sports fan, although I’m slowly coming around to this whole Green Bay Packer thing. The Bucks is going to take a lot longer.
I enjoy music and plays and other fine arts. Unfortunately, I don’t play any musical instruments. I struggle even to play the radio sometimes.
Are you working on any big projects right now?
We have some good processes in the School of Business which we’re refining. We continue to develop our internships. And we also want to continually improve the capstone experience. A new course is coming out next year designed to help with that. We are always tweaking our curriculum to meet our students’ needs.
For more information on the School of Business at Maranatha Baptist University email firstname.lastname@example.org.