Stephanie Schuljak knew she wanted to help others. She tried majoring in kinesiology with the idea of going to medical school. Science, however, was not her thing.
A service-learning class in Dangriga, Belize, provided the clarity she needed. It came at the invitation of Marketing Clinical Associate Professor Molly Jensen, who encouraged Stephanie, a marketing minor at the time, to take her study abroad course where students typically spend three weeks – following a week of classes at the Sam M. Walton College of Business – performing community service in Belize.
Stephanie, along with other Walton students, taught the young and old how to acquire economic growth when starting a business. Seeing the results of their hard-earned work made an impression. “I kind of fell in love with it,” Stephanie says.
The experience led her to change her major to marketing and enroll in Jensen’s nonprofit marketing class. During her senior year, she traveled with Jensen to Marvell, an east Arkansas town near the Mississippi Delta with a population of about 1,100. While there, they met with community leaders including Marvell school district officials and Sherman Tate, chairman of the Urban League of Arkansas, which is a partner with the Walton College. They were brainstorming how to market the community. “I was supposed to listen and take notes, but I started interjecting,” she says.
She suggested that, perhaps, the students should promote the community.
From there, a Walton College independent study class was born.
Stephanie helped create a curriculum with Marvell schools to help students identify community needs – such as a coffee shop where residents could mingle and ways to attract businesses. She taught the students how to use social media for marketing and analyze and produce content for what they’re promoting. Because Marvell has a strong, popular basketball team, she helped the students recognize an opportunity by setting up concession sales during games that could earn profits for the Marvell community.
“It’s very ‘loosey goosey,’” Stephanie says. “I’ve learned that there’s no syllabus to this class.”
She also worked with Marvell’s high school counselor, who selected students who have shown interest in attending college. Stephanie helped them apply for summer camps at the University of Arkansas so that they can get a taste of college life.
“I hope that someone realizes they can go to college,” she says. “Even if they don’t have a support system in Marvell, they have a support system in me.”
Stephanie, who grew up in Mansfield, Texas, came to the University of Arkansas at the urging of her mom. She confesses she didn’t take to the idea of leaving her beloved Texas. That was, of course, before she visited the campus. “I wanted to hate it but absolutely loved it,” she says.
She says she was impressed with sense of community – especially the way the entire state supports the university. She is a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
Stephanie, who graduates in May 2017, says her long-term goal is to someday run her own nonprofit, possibly involving education. In the meantime, she accepted a marketing and communications position with Textron Aviation in Wichita, Kansas.
Walton, Stephanie says, has opened up her world. As a student, she was surprised to learn that if there’s a subject that she wanted to learn about, but didn’t see it offered in the curriculum, all she had to do was ask. Walton’s faculty and staff will “bend over backwards” to help make ideas and dreams come true, she says. The faculty included marketing professors Dub Ashton and Molly Rapert, who have been good sounding boards and offered advice and encouragement during her college career.
“The best thing is that I don’t have teachers,” she says. “I have mentors.”