On Friday, April 5, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at the Sam M. Walton College of Business hosted an award ceremony and reception at the Chancellor Hotel in Fayetteville to mark its 25thanniversary at the University of Arkansas.
Jim Coleman, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas, recognized Barbara Lofton, Ed.D., for her 23 years of service as the director for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion – the oldest diversity office at a Southeastern Conference business school.
“Barbara is a beacon on the hill for us,” Coleman said. “The fact the Office of Diversity & Inclusion has been here 25 years is a testament to Walton College’s commitment.”
“I’m proud of the work Barbara and her team have done to recruit and retain such excellent students over the years,” said Matt Waller, Walton College dean. “Barbara’s leadership and her attention to students has been life changing for many young people.”
Ebony Wyatt, director of sales at General Mills, emceed the event. Wyatt, a Walton College alumna, shared her own memories of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. She first learned about Walton College through the Accounting Career Awareness Program summer camp hosted by the diversity office when Wyatt was a junior in high school. She also credits Lofton with helping her secure her first professional job with General Mills. Wyatt now teams up with Lofton and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion to host career workshops focused on helping students successfully secure a full-time job.
“She’s like a mother hen,” Wyatt said of Lofton. “She is always there to help support you, push you and encourage you to be your best!”
The Office of Diversity & Inclusion named two individuals Diversity Champions for their work to support minorities, students and entrepreneurs: Lonnie R. Williams, Ed.D., special assistant to the chancellor at Arkansas State University and former assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Arkansas, and Oliver L. Sims III,
America’s technical sales leader for CA Technologies, a division of Broadcom, the managing partner of Oliver Sims Advisors and Investors and co-founder of Henry Health, a mental health and self care support digital platform.
Walton College students were also honored for their leadership in the National Association of Black Accountants and the Students of Retailing Excellence student organizations. Recognized were Eric Mays – accounting senior, Joe Bradley Jr. – accounting senior, Victoria Fields – management senior, De’Stani Clark – marketing senior, Malik Dedner – Master of Accountancy candidate, Fredrica Harris – MBA candidate and Jada Gaspard – marketing senior.
Keynote speaker student De’Stani Clark shared how the Office of Diversity & Inclusion had personally encouraged her as a student at the university. Before starting college, Clark’s mother was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, which left Clark with serious choices. Clark was not sure she should leave her family to attend college due to her mother’s illness but chose to attend with her mother’s encouragement. At the end of her spring semester freshman year, Clark’s mother passed away. Clark struggled emotionally the following academic year and leaned on the Office of Diversity & Inclusion.
“I felt the light of love and support of Dr. Lofton, Dr. Hughes, Mrs. Anne and Ryan,” Clark said. “I challenge you to find two students in need and let them know they have the power to choose.”
The Gerald and Candace Alley Foundation, Con-Real, LP, and Ernst & Young sponsored the 25thanniversary event.
About the Office of Diversity & Inclusion
Created in 1994, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion supports, advocates and assists the Walton College in developing plans for diversity throughout the school to increase representation, integration and the fundamentals of equality among all faculty, staff and students.
The department manages four summer outreach programs to educate high school students about business careers and opportunities at Walton College. The office also oversees several scholarship programs and business competitions for Walton College students.