Category Archives: Business

EPIC Spotlight: Blake Strode

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“Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”

Hotels. Travel. Spreadsheets. Numbers. As a professional tennis player, Blake Strode often draws on knowledge gained as a student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

“It helps to make sense of everything,” Strode says of his business degree. “I definitely use things I learned all the time.”

Since graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2009, Strode, now living in Cary, N.C., has pursued his lifelong dream of playing professional tennis.

And succeeding.

In the past two years, Strode has won successive U.S. Open National Playoffs and continues to get accepted to “bigger and bigger” tournaments, he says. This can complicate things a little. During his senior year, Strode was accepted to Harvard Law School. “I’ve deferred for three years since then,” he says. “It’s a year-by-year kind of thing – an ongoing question. But I’m going to go.”

Growing up in St. Louis, Strode says he “fell in love” with the University of Arkansas campus while visiting. “Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”

Though he didn’t follow Arkansas sports, he got caught up in the school spirit in Fayetteville. “You could tell that everyone loved, breathed the Razorbacks,” he says.

When he arrived for student orientation, he planned on majoring in industrial engineering. By day’s end, however, he realized a combined major of Spanish and international economics would be more practical and would also be beneficial for studying abroad. Still, playing tennis was also his goal, he says. “I wouldn’t have done anything that didn’t make sense to me,” he says.

As a student, Strode maintained a 3.98 grade point average. While a senior with the University of Arkansas men’s tennis team, he was ranked the nation’s 13th best singles player in an Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and won the fifth most single victories in Arkansas history.

He has come a long way from being the 12-year-old who won a contest for the best essay about tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Sponsored by the National Junior Tennis and Learning network, Strode’s prize was a visit to the U.S. Open. Years later, when Strode played in a tournament sponsored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, a similar Arthur Ashe contest for students occurred. This time, Strode met the students and got to read their essays and look at their Ashe-inspired art.

When he’s not competing in tournaments, Strode says he practices tennis at least four hours a day and works out during the rest, making his athletic career a full-time job.

Whatever path his life takes, he says he knows that Walton College provided a solid educational background. “I had a lot of good professors,” he says.

Yet, his tennis career keeps building, and he says he wants to see where it will take him for now.

“I’m just playing as many tournaments as I can,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Ben Rector

“I've just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”
“I’ve just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”

A lot has happened since Ben Rector performed concerts downstairs from the cafeteria of the Pomfret Hall dormitory. As an undergraduate, Rector was juggling two worlds: that as a marketing student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and the other as an up-and-coming musician with weekend gigs.

“I tried to stack all my classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and leave Thursday night or Friday morning,” he says. “That was an interesting double life.”

In between hitting the books, Rector was always finding ways to make some pocket change through performing, and even managed to release a music album his freshman year. In 2006, he won the grand prize in the pop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song “Conversation.”

By his senior year, the singer-songwriter whose diverse music talent ranges from folk to pop had released three full-length albums, performed about 200 gigs and was engaged to be married. He also made another big decision about life after graduation: moving to “Music City U.S.A.” – also known as Nashville, Tenn.

That was in 2010. Rector and his wife, University of Arkansas graduate Hillary Swanton Rector, have since watched his career flourish. His 2011 album, “Something Like This,” peaked at No. 15 on Billboard magazine’s Top Rock Albums and fared even better at No. 11 in each category for the magazine’s Top Digital Albums and Independent Albums. His music has been featured on television shows from “ESPN SportsCenter” to ABC’s “Modern Family.”

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In high school, Rector filled much of his time writing songs, playing the guitar and singing. “It felt really natural for me, and it was something I really enjoyed,” he says. But there was the matter of college. His older sister had attended the University of Arkansas, which wasn’t far from his Tulsa, Okla., home. He says he already liked Fayetteville from visiting here. When the university offered him a scholarship, it was hard to refuse, he says.

As for a major, he decided marketing would provide a good foundation to just about any career he pursued. When it was apparent that having a music career was essentially launching a business, he began applying things he learned from his business classes. Now, Rector says he plays an active role in finding new and creative ways to market his songs and concerts. “Obviously, the huge part of making music is, hopefully, that people will know you are making music and want to buy it or want to come to shows,” he says. He says he found good mentors in Dr. Molly Rapert, marketing associate professor who already knew his sister, and Mark Risk, a real estate instructor with the finance department who encouraged Rector with his aspirations in music. Rector, in fact, did a commercial real estate internship in Dallas as a student. “I spent a lot of time at the W-C-O-B,” he says.

After a tour this spring, there’s no time for rest. Rector says he’ll release a new album followed by another tour, possibly in the fall at the earliest. And he doesn’t mind at all. “Things have grown quicker than I thought they would,” he says. “I’ve just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”

(Posted May 2013)

EPIC Spotlight: Addison Scott

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“All of the opportunities that have been afforded to me here are amazing.”

Addison Scott resisted the calling to be an accountant. It was the profession of her parents, and she wanted to blaze a different trail. That is, until she took an accounting class.

And liked it.

“I got into business school and discovered it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” she says.

Now in her junior year at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Addison is keeping a busy schedule with three – yes, three – majors. She is working on an international business degree with an economics concentration and a minor in French and has a double major in finance and accounting.

Taking on heavy loads is nothing new to Addison. As a student at Little Rock Central High School, she was enrolled in several advance placement courses, for which she was able to earn college credit, placing her as a sophomore at the University of Arkansas immediately after high school graduation.

Addison says that she first considered pursuing a business career in high school when she found her economics class resonated with her. “The cause and effect nature of the field appealed to me,” she says.

Then, there was finance, which appeals to her banking interest while economics enhances it.

She says she didn’t seriously consider attending the University of Arkansas until she toured the campus. When she did, she says she “fell in love” and was met by a welcoming staff and faculty. “That’s something you don’t really get at other schools,” she says.

During her first year at Walton College, Addison joined the university chapter of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), which has since changed its name to Enactus, a global, nonprofit organization that does community service by teaching the principles of free enterprise. She says she was project leader for the GreeNWAy Initiative, which assists Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce member organizations with implementing ways to make their businesses green and sustainable.

Addison says she stepped down from her SIFE leadership to study abroad in Toulouse, France, in Spring 2012. While at the Toulouse Business School, she studied master’s level programs with a focus on international management. She says her class was composed of both French and international students, with each course a week long. She says she found working with diverse groups to be very rewarding. “I think that’s the most beneficial thing I reaped from traveling abroad,” she says.

Her student activities include serving as a founding member and various committee chair positions of the Walton College Honors Student Executive Board with her role transitioning to a leadership position this spring. Addison is also the event coordinator for the newly formed International Business Club, which serves as a welcoming team to international students new to Walton College and helps Walton College students explore international opportunities, such as studying abroad. In addition, she is a University of Arkansas Student Ambassador, a volunteer program with activities that include giving prospective students tours on campus and aiding in the admissions process.

During the winter break of the 2011-2012 school year, Addison received real-world experience when she interned in the accounting office of Windstream Communications, a voice and data network provider in Little Rock. Addison says after her spring 2013 semester, she will intern in the internal audit department at Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters.

There’s still school as well. Addison says she plans to apply for Walton College’s Integrated Master of Accountancy (IMAcc) program, a five-year plan that enables students to become certified public accountants. Upon completion, she says she hopes to work in the private sector but would like to eventually play a role in public policy and economic development.

She says Walton College is helping make her dreams possible. “All of the opportunities that have been afforded to me here are amazing,” she says.