Doug and Shelley McMillon have committed an additional $1 million gift to the McMillon Innovation Studio on the campus of the University of Arkansas to further student work in product management.
Their gift counts in Campaign Arkansas, the university’s capital campaign to advance academic opportunity at the U of A.
The additional gift brings the McMillons’ total support of the studio to $2 million. The McMillons gave an initial $1 million in 2014 that led to the creation of the McMillon Innovation Studio through the McMillon Family Retail Innovation Fund.
“We’re excited to continue to invest in the University of Arkansas and its students,” said Doug McMillon. “Learning how to solve customer problems fast is key to staying ahead of change. We hope to help prepare and inspire a new generation of students to take on these challenges in the retail industry and others.”
McMillon, the president and chief executive officer of Walmart Inc., is a 1989 accounting graduate of the Walton College.
“The McMillon Innovation Studio has been successful in nurturing and inspiring students to adopt a mindset that focuses on innovatively solving problems for customers,” said Matt Waller, Walton College dean and the Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair. “This additional gift will allow us to scale up that work to support more students.”
The students at the studio, who come from a variety of majors and colleges across campus, work with industry partners on challenges and opportunities that require innovative approaches.
“The McMillon Innovation Studio is a first stop for any U of A student with an interest in solving real-world problems,” Waller said. “It is a key culture builder for a growing student community of innovators.”
A focus of the studio is helping students become “product management ready” by the time they graduate and begin careers. “This gift will allow more University of Arkansas students to experience working with a product mindset,” said Brent Williams, associate dean for Executive Education and Outreach. “That is a mindset where teams solve customer and user problems, get quantitative and qualitative feedback rapidly and iterate toward scalable solutions.”
“The studio will instill in many different students the concept of being relentless about solving customers’ problems,” Waller said.
Other gifts also support student work at the studio. A $500,000 gift created the Kelly and Steve Barnes Health and Well-being Innovation Fund, which promotes collaborations between health care and business.
The studio has transformed a former retail space in the Harmon Parking Facility on campus into a flexible and comfortable environment for students, faculty, staff and industry interactions. It provides students with workshops, mentors, seed funding and resources to collaborate, create and innovate. Those who participate in these unique learning opportunities develop skills and experience to work in established industries or to start and build a business of their own.
McMillon began working for Walmart in 1984 as a summer associate in one of the company’s distribution centers. He graduated from the Walton College with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in accounting and also holds an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Tulsa. He serves on the Walton College’s Dean’s Executive Advisory Board. Shelley McMillon graduated from Missouri State University with a bachelor of science in education and serves on the boards of directors of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County and the Bentonville Library Foundation.
The McMillons are past co-chairs of Campaign Arkansas and serve on the Executive Committee for the Campaign Arkansas Steering Committee. They are life members of the Arkansas Alumni Association and included in the Chancellor’s Society and Towers of Old Main. They are also counted as Thoroughreds for their 11 years of consecutive giving to the university.