Category Archives: Diversity

Think. Plan. Do.

Thea Winston, a senior accounting major from Forrest City, Arkansas, is a thinker and a planner. She gathers pertinent information, dwells on it, creates a plan and then executes it. Information gathering is what led her to the Sam M. Walton College of Business and has kept her on track ever since.

When Winston was in high school in eastern Arkansas, she began to critique her likes and dislikes to plan for her future. She hated blood and gore, so medicine was a definite no. She liked numbers and logic, which led her to work after school at certified public accountant Sharon Wilson’s office in Forrest City.

While there, Winston performed administrative duties – answered the phone, made copies, filed materials – and was able to tackle the occasional accounting task and observe her boss at work. She learned what an accountant does and saw first hand that the work suited her. She realized she could become a CPA.

Her task became: Find a college that fit.

Over two summers, Winston attended two week-long residential programs at Walton College – Technology Awareness Program and Business Leadership Academy – where she met faculty and staff, lived on campus, befriended other campers and applied for scholarships.

After that, her mind was made up. Walton College was her choice and accounting was her major.

Helping Out

Winston’s summer camp programs eased her transition into college. She had made friends at both programs and reconnected with them in her freshmen year. She also met Barbara Lofton, the director of Walton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“Dr. Lofton is always willing to help,” Winston said. “She always checked up on me. She gives you tough love and is always there.”

Thea Winston [photo credit: Ryan C. Versey]
Thea Winston
[photo credit: Ryan C. Versey]
Winston’s Honors adviser for the past four years is Jason Adams, the associate director of Walton’s Honors Program, who was always there for Winston as well. She cites Susan Anders, the assistant director of Global Engagement, as another Walton staff member who was equally friendly and supportive.

“She always made time to answer my questions,” Winston said.

With the support of these Walton College staff, it is no surprise that Winston was an active participant in the Honors Program and Study Abroad and scholarship opportunities.

During her high school summer camp programs, Winston applied for and became a Boyer Fellow. The fellowship is earmarked for business students from Arkansas who have earned a 32 ACT or 1450 SAT college admission exams, along with a 3.75 grade point average and pays for her tuition, fees, books, room and board and other academic expenses.

Winston has also received the Arkansas Academic Challenge and Arkansas Governor’s Distinguished Scholarships, as well as scholarships from Tyson and Conoco Phillips. Talking to Walton faculty and staff helped her find scholarships.

“They’ve helped out so much,” Winston said. “I see a lot of students struggle and I know that worrying impacts their studies. It (scholarships) allowed me to focus on what I was doing academically.”

The scholarships also had an impact on her parents who have two kids in college. Winston’s brother, Avery, is an engineering student at the University of Arkansas.

Walton World View

In addition to studying accounting and general business, Winston expanded her working business knowledge through an internship for two summers at Ernst & Young in Atlanta. She also participated in Walton’s study abroad program to learn about Vietnamese culture and business practices.

Thea Winston
During a service project in Vietnam, Winston works with team members to power and heat resident housing.

In 2015, the summer before sophomore year, Winston traveled to Vietnam for a month with five other Walton students. For two weeks, she worked on a community development project building individual greenhouse systems to power and heat resident housing. Working with other business and agriculture students from the University of Arkansas, Thea learned from Vietnamese students who served as mentors and translators.

The travelers stayed on a Vietnamese university campus for two weeks. They slept on mats lying directly on a twin-size bed frame – Winston bought a second mat to create a softer bed. The food also was a change for the Arkansas native. Breakfast was often meat with rice, along with coffee with sweetened condensed milk ladled on top. One of her favorite meals was a beef dish with a sauce. She avoided the fish dishes if the eyes and head were intact.

Thea Winston
Thea Winston

“The first year we went, none of us had much of an idea of what we would be doing or how successful the program would ultimately be,” said Stephen Kopp, associate professor for the Department of Marketing. “Whether she realizes it, Thea was instrumental in the initial and continuing impact of this program. This was a brand-new program, and I was still working on the details. Her consistent question was, ‘My mom wants to know how is this relevant to my major?’ This compelled me, and still does, to make sure that the students understand the relevance of our work in Vietnam. I think she did not and does not realize the impact of her mom’s question has had on every aspect of the Vietnam program.”

In spring 2017, Winston attended the University of Sussex in South England in the University of Arkansas’ exchange program. She took four classes there – international business, ethics, race and ethnicity, and leadership – with students from Russia, Switzerland, the Middle East and England. The experience taught her about multi-national enterprises, racial issues in other countries and group dynamics with diverse members.

During her time in England, she learned many people there knew American politics, but most Americans were not in tune with world politics. She now sees the importance of being aware of global issues including political ones. She keeps up with her fellow students from her travels via social media.

Stateside

At the University of Arkansas, several classes and professors were especially thought provoking for Thea. Katie Terrell, an instructor for the Department of Accounting, taught Accounting Technology, where Winston learned about data analysis and the coding needed for accounting systems. It gave her insight into a different aspect of her major.

Thea Winston [photo credit: Ryan C. Versey]
Thea Winston [photo credit: Ryan C. Versey]
“She (Katie Terrell) enjoyed her job; it made me enjoy her class,” Winston said.

The Honors Economics Colloquium class taught by Amy Farmer, a professor in the Department of Economics, tackled life decisions, which involved economic thinking and decision making.

“Thea took my Honors colloquium course, which is a discussion-based economics class requiring a lot of critical thinking about any number of issues, some of which are controversial,” Farmer said. “Thea was an active participant in that class, adding a lot of insight and perspectives that added to the class.  She showed a great deal of maturity and ability to think critically, which impressed me quite a bit. I look forward to seeing what happens in Thea’s future.”

Next Steps

After Winston graduates in May with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, she will attend Vanderbilt University to earn a master’s degree in accounting. Once she graduates from Vanderbilt, she hopes to work at a public accounting firm in consulting, auditing or tax accounting for several years and then reevaluate her professional goals and direction.

No doubt, her skills at researching an issue, creating a plan and executing the plan will aid her on her journey to Nashville and beyond.

Office of Diversity and Inclusion Collects Supplies for Dominicans Affected by Hurricane Maria

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the Sam M. Walton College of Business and University of Arkansas students from the Commonwealth of Dominica collected non-perishable items for Dominicans affected by Hurricane Maria that directly hit the island Sept. 18. Continue reading Office of Diversity and Inclusion Collects Supplies for Dominicans Affected by Hurricane Maria

Walton College Seeking Aspirations in Computing Award Applications

The Information Technology Research Institute at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas is accepting applications from female high school students in Arkansas for the 2017-2018 National Center for Women & Information Technology Aspirations in Computing Award. Continue reading Walton College Seeking Aspirations in Computing Award Applications

Walton Diversity Director Receives Honorary Alumna Award

Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Sam M. Walton College of Business, was named an Honorary Alumna during the Black Alumni Society Awards Gala on April 29 in recognition of her contributions to the University of Arkansas.

“To be recognized as a lifetime alumna made me proud as if I graduated from the university,” said Lofton. “I was humbled that persons felt my work and commitment are worthy of such an honor.

Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Lofton manages Walton’s diversity programs, oversees several scholarships, sponsors registered student organizations and teaches diversity classes. She supports student recruitment, retention and increasing graduation rates. Lofton also serves as a mentor, advisor and business competition coach for students.

“Dr. Lofton works tirelessly to recruit and retain minorities through several outreach programs, business competitions and student organizations,” said Anne O’Leary-Kelly, senior associate dean for Walton. “I am proud of her work to advance the university and our college. Barbara is deserving of this prestigious award.”

“In the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we work on behalf of many students, faculty, staff and sometime communities,” said Lofton.  “For me, when I see a person realize the impossible is possible with persistence, it is like magic.”

Dean Doyle Z. Williams hired Lofton in 1994 to establish Walton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, creating the oldest diversity office at a Southeastern Conference business school and one of the oldest in the nation.

Lofton holds a doctorate from Grambling State University, a master’s degree from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University.

Walton College Hosts SEC Diversity Conference

Diversity officers from Southeastern Conference business schools converged on the Fayetteville campus to discuss best practices, new initiatives and professional development, March 8-10, for the 2nd Annual Southeastern Conference Business School Diversity Officers Conference.

“Walton College is proud to host our fellow SEC diversity officers and support recruitment and retainage efforts with academic institutions, faculty, staff and students,” said Barbara Lofton, director of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion for the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “Through this conference, we explored many avenues to promote diversity in business.”

Diversity officers from Southeastern Conference business schools met to discuss best practices, new initiatives and professional development, March 8-10. [Photo by Ryan C. Versey]
The conference included speakers addressing diversity assessment and evaluation, demographics, funding and investment, and traditional and non-traditional recruitment strategies for faculty, staff and students. Keynote speakers included Dereck Rovaris, vice provost for diversity and chief diversity officer, Louisiana State University; Florence Holland, lead manager of pipeline initiatives for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; Sonel Shropshire, president of The Academic Network; Bernard Milano, president of KPMG Foundation/The Ph.D. Project; and Rodney Parks, senior director, major and planned gifts, University of Arkansas Fort Smith Foundation. Foundation directors from Tyson Foods, Walmart, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., and the Rockefeller Foundation also spoke to attendees about strengthening relationships with funders.

Several of the attendees serve as both administrative staff and associate professors at their respective schools. These conference participants joined forces to create a research team, which will focus on research regarding retaining minority faculty, staff and students.

Walton College boasts the oldest diversity office at an SEC business school and one of the oldest in the nation. Walton’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion was established in 1994 by Dean Doyle Z. Williams.

Bear State Bank Supports Fleischer Spirit Scholars Program

Bear State Bank of Little Rock is making a gift of $50,000 to the Fleischer Spirit Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas. The program fosters commitment and entrepreneurial growth for Arkansas communities. It was established by Morton H. Fleischer, co-founder and chair of STORE Capital Corp., to reach low-income, first-generation college students living in Arkansas who are interested in pursuing degrees in business.

“We are thrilled that Bear State Bank is sponsoring an academic program that gives back to the community, creates local pride and supports individual growth for bright, promising students,” said Barbara Lofton, director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “By investing in our students, Bear State is investing in Arkansas.”

The Fleischer Spirit Scholars Program enables high school juniors and seniors in Arkansas to attend a week-long summer bridge program while living in residence halls on campus. Those who enroll in Walton College also receive tuition support and mentorship for four years. Walton College hosts this program and provides programmatic support during the students’ summer stay and one-on-one partnership with student and faculty mentors during their undergraduate studies.

Read the entire story at Arkansas Newswire.