Sheree Smith, administrative support supervisor in the Department of Information Systems, has been named employee of the second quarter by the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Anyone in the college may nominate colleagues for the award, which is given to employees who show superior customer service that enhances the image of the college, above and beyond the scope of that employee’s job description.
This quarter’s nominees were Smith, Pamela Heinzel of the Department of Marketing, Lori McLemore of the Office of External Relations and Amy Moore of the Research and Outreach Centers.
The winner of the award receives a certificate of appreciation and a cash prize. Winners are chosen by Walton College Dean Matt Waller, the associate deans, the assistant deans for undergraduate and graduate programs and the Walton College Staff Council.
In the summer of 1976, Gerald Ford was president, Apple Computer Company was just getting started, a gallon of gas cost 59 cents, and Susan Imes Yell was a rising senior at Fayetteville High School. She was also a new part time staff member at the School of Law’s Admissions Office. She worked half a day and, in the fall, went to school half a day.
Little did Yell know that this part time job would lead to a 40-year journey at the University of Arkansas. She worked for the School of Law for five years, then joined the Department of Economics and the International Business Studies program, eventually becoming the administrative support supervisor for the economics department at the College of Business Administration, as it was known at the time.
From 1976 to 2016, Yell has seen many changes at the university, especially with technology and its influence on student engagement.
“Probably the biggest change was the introduction of computers. Our department had the first one in the college,” said Yell. “It required the use of floppy disks. The program was on one disk, spell check was on another disk, etc. That first computer was stolen, along with the printer and everything that went with it, when several people propped doors open from the second floor and went through the ceiling tiles into the main office. It took a while to get a replacement, since it was not covered by insurance. And, no one ever said you need to back up your work. Everything was lost and to my knowledge, the culprits were never apprehended.”
“Always do the right thing, no matter what. And, if you see an injustice, do something about it.”
Per Yell, technology has also changed the way staff members interact with students. With more centralized registration and other electronic processes, students spend less time engaging staff and faculty.
“When I first started, we would sit in the halls and hand out printed cards for registration. When you ran out of cards, the class was full. The students would then take their packets to the Union, to stand in a huge, long line to register,” said Yell. “Later, the U of A used the Hog Call system and students would register on the phone. We had to process overrides using this system. It would literally take weeks. We were very busy with students then. Now, with centralized advising and everything online, we don’t have much student interaction, except with our graduate students.”
Yet Yell does interact with students as evidenced by the hundreds of post cards adorning her office walls. Each day she works surrounded by post cards sent to her from around the world from students and faculty who have studied and/or traveled abroad. She has collected them since the ’80s.
She values the economics faculty and is impressed with their research and how much they care about their students. While she thinks they are one of the best things about the college, she has learned to say no when it comes to dissertations.
“Right after I first started working in business administration, one of my new faculty asked me to type his dissertation. Now, if you have ever seen an economics dissertation, you might know that it is FULL of equations. He showed me the first chapter, which was mostly text, so I agreed to type it for him,” said Yell. “Over the duration of my first pregnancy, I worked on it using a manual typewriter. It required using three different elements. So, when you would type text that took one element, an equation, one or two other elements. Every time there were any changes from his advisor, the entire chapter would have to be retyped, since there were strict rules about margins, etc. We joked whether I would finish the dissertation first, or would have my daughter first. I don’t even remember who ‘won.’ I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t very funny then!”
“I also cherish my WOW friends…a group of ladies…Women of Walton…with whom I have remained friends for years and years…and we still have lunch at least once a week.”
While the faculty and students are one of the best things about work, Yell has experienced significant obstacles as well.
“My biggest challenge occurred when my department chair suffered a catastrophic accident,” said Yell. “It completely changed the face of the department and my position. For a short time, I was in charge of the department. It was a very difficult time.”
Throughout the years, Yell has served on numerous committees for the college and has raised funds for local nonprofits. She is the departmental representative for United Way and has helped raise money for the American Diabetes Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, University of Arkansas Staff Senate Scholarship fund, Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and Full Circle Campus Food Pantry among others. She was a member of the Walton College team on the Habitat for Humanity the House That Jane Built project.
Yell has represented Walton College at the university level as a staff senator, staff senate secretary, staff senate scholarship committee, by-laws committee, elections committee, internal affairs committee, Employee of the Year for the university and Employee of the Quarter for Walton College.
Yell was nominated for the Arkansas State Employees Association Outstanding State Employee Award in 2005 and 2010 and was chosen as a finalist in 2010. In 2006, the Department of Economics faculty established the Susan Imes Yell Staff Senate Scholarship in her honor. This scholarship was created to help promote and encourage staff development through higher education.
After 40 years of service, Yell retired from her job in December 2016. She is married to Garlen and has two daughters, Erin, who teaches French at Springdale High School, and Sara, who is the manager of special programs in the Walton College Career Center. In retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family and her young grandchildren, Nora and Silas.
Dahlia Ashford couldn’t bring herself to ask her parents for money so she could continue her college education. Determined, Ashford got to work searching for scholarships, grants and programs. “I would apply for anything and everything,” she says.
Will Allred’s world is filled with vampires. And not the cute, “sparkly” kind adored by teenage girls that grace movie and television screens. His are grittier and for an older audience.
After work and on weekends, one might find Allred working on another installment of “Diary of Night,” a graphic novel series he authors that chronicles Catherine Morrison who, at 927 years old, copes in present-day society as a vampire.
During the day, when vampires normally sleep, Allred is the associate director of technology for Sam M. Walton College of Business’s Technology Center. He handles the college’s information systems, which includes several dozen servers as well as data storage, security and printer networking.
“Any projects that involve IT probably involve me,” he says.
At NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Allred puts IT aside and is known as “Dr. Allred,” English instructor. He recently earned his Ph.D. in English here at the University of Arkansas. Though he has a bachelor’s degree in economics, which he earned at Walton College, it was his love for literature and writing that kept him pushing on with his education, he says.
“I’ve always been a reader, and I’m probably a bit ADD in that I don’t like to be bored,” he says.
Allred, who grew up in Madison County, still lives there and commutes each day from his home in Huntsville that he shares with his wife, Stacy, and twin sons, Mike and Alex. He began working for the Technology Center at Walton College in early 2001, utilizing skills he acquired since childhood, when he first tinkered with his father’s 40-megabyte hard drive computer with large floppy disks. Years later, he created a computer network in his home, complete with a server, directory and e-mail domain, he says.
“I had this whole, mini-Walton College set up,” he says.
Now that he works at the Walton College with its much larger server, he has nothing but praise for Sandy Kizer, Technology Center director, along with other center staff, whom he says have kept “the eyes on the future” by offering a system that’s well ahead of other universities of the same caliber.
“This is a great place to work,” he says. “It really is.”
And while the Technology Center keeps forging ahead, so does Allred. This is where the vampires come into play.
Allred says he’s been a fan of comic books ever since childhood and has always loved how stories are presented. “Just for efficiency, nothing works better than words and pictures,” he says. He says an entire scene of a story can be told through a single comic panel.
He says he has always been fascinated with the immortality of vampires and, as a result, it allows him to draw upon all sorts of historical events to tell a story. It also allows him to experiment with Victorian dialogue, which he enjoys, he says. “Diary of Night,” which is published by Bloodfire Studios, is illustrated by his partner Gene Gonzales, who lives in Florida.
“And because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m three chapters into a novel,” he says. Then it’s back to work, making sure the college’s computers are online and everything is in working order.
Whitnee Boyd now has an office. It’s located in the office of Student Support Services here at the University of Arkansas. And she realizes that not long ago, she could have been a student sitting in the chair that’s in front of her desk.
Boyd works as a student development specialist and recruitment coordinator, but she says she often draws from her knowledge gained as an undergraduate at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “My students kind of serve as my customers,” she says.
Boyd assists students with matriculating through the university and keeps them moving toward graduation. She also recruits students for Student Support Services and speaks to different groups and organizations. Still, the students leave the lasting impressions. “I think that’s the most rewarding part of the job: developing relationships with the students,” she says.
In turn, she tells them to build relationships with others. “Take advantage of the things you learn inside the classroom as well as outside the classroom,” she tells them.
Boyd, formerly of Pine Bluff, is experiencing her first year in the “real world” after earning her bachelor’s degree in marketing at the Walton College and a master’s degree in higher education at Louisiana State University in 2011. As a business student, Boyd worked for Walton College’s Center for Retail Excellence and became president of its student advisory board. She also had a summer sales and management internship with Bridgestone/Firestone at a store in Baton Rouge, La., when she was an undergraduate.
Boyd says she wanted to pursue a career in higher education that would allow her to use her marketing skills. She became a member of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Undergraduate Fellows Program, which provides mentors for undergraduate students wishing to learn more about fields in higher education and public affairs. Her duties as a Walton College Student Ambassador, where she gave prospective students tours of the business school, also provided early experiences in recruiting. Along the way, she became interested in student retention and how she could help students stay in school.
Boyd says her support system at the University of Arkansas, which included her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, carried her to other areas. When she was elected to the University of Arkansas homecoming court in 2008, she was surprised to receive so much support. “I felt a lot of love from my Walton family,” she says.
While working toward her master’s degree in higher education, she says she found her business knowledge helpful; she was a teaching assistant in a business class offered at Louisiana State University. When she had earned her master’s degree, returning to the University of Arkansas was a natural fit for her, she says.
“I felt like I got a lot when I was here, and I felt like it was a chance to give back to the university,” she says.
Boyd does it through her marketing skills. She jokes that she promotes the program and builds customer relationships by using “The Four Ps of Marketing”: price, product, placement and promotion – something that was drilled into her as an undergraduate. She also gives “supply and demand” talks to her students. “I look at this as marketing with a purpose,” she says.
Shannon Joyce joined Energy Corps in February 2011 and is now in her second year of service as an Outreach Coordinator in the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas.
Energy Corps is a national service program in conjunction with AmeriCorps. It focuses on promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy. Currently, the program is in four states: Arkansas, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Montana.
Melissa Terry, Energy Corps Coordinator for Arkansas, says Shannon stood out from the crowd of Energy Corps applicants in several dimensions. “She was passionate about the environment, she had experience working with the public and developing creative outreach programs, and she is incredibly organized,” Terry says.
Shannon was relatively new to the idea of energy efficiency and renewable energy but quickly learned the basics. She was soon attending events and making presentations to groups about saving energy – and how that equated to saving money. One of the most valuable experiences for Shannon was getting an energy assessment performed on her own home. “We had already made many retrofits to our home over the past several years: new windows, insulation in our attic, and an air conditioner and furnace; however we were not seeing the return on our investment reflected in our utility bills. After having an energy assessment on our home in May of 2011, we learned that our ducts were leaking at 85 percent. This meant that only 15 percent of the air was actually coming into our home so I knew where the problem was,” Shannon says. That June, the Joyces had their duct work sealed and have saved more than $1,000 on their utility bills in comparison to what they spent during the same time the previous year.
Aside from her own personal energy efficiency odyssey, Shannon works with the EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) Initiative. EAST students from all across the country work on service projects in their local communities. In the 2011-2012 school year, the focus was around energy efficiency. Other programs that she has worked with are the Track & Save campaign through the Arkansas Energy Office, where she has presented at Washington County libraries about Kill-A-Watt meters and saving energy and money. Resources used regularly that are available to the public include rebate and incentive programs from local utility companies such as SWEPCO, Ozarks Electric Cooperative and SourceGas, as well as publications from EnergyStar and the Arkansas Energy Office. Currently, Shannon is planning a Sustainability Summit, set for October 2012.
“Energy Corps has opened my eyes to a whole new world,” Shannon says. “My other colleagues are all doing such amazing work in our community and state. When I look around, my fellow members are everywhere! The sustainability movement is here, and Energy Corps is helping to raise awareness and education around this precious gift of life. To sustain is to have something last forever. Just because we have done something a certain way for the past 100 years does not mean that we have to do it the same way for the next 100 years. At the current rate of consumption, we will deplete our resources and destroy what Mother Nature has given us. I am a mom of two little ones, and this mission is for them. To leave this world a better place than I found it.”
Energy Corps members are also first responders. After the tornado hit Joplin, Mo., last spring, the Arkansas Energy Corps hit the road to help in the recovery. There they set up the Red Cross shelter, canvassed the area in the debris cleanup and were sent on search crews for the missing. They were recognized at the Arkansas State Capitol for their efforts.
“It feels so good to be walking in my shoes,” Shannon says. “This experience has been like no other and I will keep marching on, making the change I wish to see, one step at a time.”
News from the College of Business at the University of Arkansas