Category Archives: Employee

EPIC Spotlight: Jennifer Duncan

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“Though I’m not doing accounting, I still get to talk about my experiences, both while at the university and the Walton College.”

Coming from the small Ozark mountain town of Jasper, Jennifer Duncan says she was quite shy when transitioning to campus life at the University of Arkansas. She had attended school with the same 30 or so students from kindergarten through high school. The University of Arkansas, however, was overwhelmingly larger. Finding her place took a little time.

Enrolled at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, she found herself envious of the student ambassadors who gave tours and promoted the university. She wanted to do it. But she just couldn’t overcome her shyness.

A lot has changed since then.

Now, as a recruiter for the university’s Office of Admissions stationed in Dallas, Duncan gives presentations in packed high school auditoriums and other large gatherings. Her travels take her all around Dallas County and four neighboring counties as well, where she visits schools, college fairs, alumni board meetings and anyplace else where she can spread the word about the University of Arkansas.

She credits the Walton College for bringing her out of her shell, even if she doesn’t use her accounting degree in the conventional sense. She says the group presentations required in her business classes had a lasting effect.

“The more we had to do group presentations, the more comfortable I was with talking and working on my presentation skills,” she says. “That has helped me tremendously throughout life.”

Duncan says it was her high school teacher, one who made it “so fun to learn,” who inspired her to major in accounting. This led Duncan to think about becoming an auditor because she says the job requires meeting people – something she enjoys. Yet while working toward her degree, she was also a work-study student in the admissions office. She liked it, and the admissions staff liked her; they found a place for her after graduation.

Following many years of working on campus, Duncan is now the office’s first, and only, regional recruiter stationed away from Fayetteville. She says she finds Dallas area students are already familiar with Walton College. She attributes it to a strong presence by the University of Arkansas Alumni Association, which features Arkansas Connections luncheons with occasional visits from Walton College faculty, she says. Dallas also features one high-profile University of Arkansas alum: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was named in 2010 to Walton College’s Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.

“Though I’m not doing accounting, I still get to talk about my experiences, both while at the university and the Walton College,” she says.

This is useful, she says, because she finds the majority of students who plan to attend the University of Arkansas sign up to be business majors. She tells them about Freshman Business Connections, which helps acclimate students during their first year of college life, the communications classes and, yes, the group presentations. Also, if they return to Dallas after graduation, they will find many alumni connections, she says.

She also has a message for those who are shy:

“There’s a place for them in the Walton College,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Jeannie Waller

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“I think students who want to succeed in business need to be really good at writing.”

For those heading toward the Business Building’s second floor break room, it’s difficult not to notice Jeannie Waller. She’s the one sitting in an office with a large glass window in the middle of a hallway. If prospective students and their families happen to walk by as they tour the campus, Waller says she’ll sometimes give them a friendly wave.

“We call it the fishbowl,” she says.

Behind the giant glass pane, the director of the Writing Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business can be seen helping students brush up on their grammar skills and other writing needs.

“I think students who want to succeed in business need to be really good at writing,” she says.

The quality of writing can affect how a business performs as well as its employees and shareholders, she says. For students, it can also affect a grade.

That’s where Waller comes in.

The Writing Center, established only last year, serves the business students, staff and faculty at the University of Arkansas by helping them with their writing needs. Students can schedule an appointment through the center’s website, http://waltoncollege.uark.edu/writingcenter/, or drop in, though those with appointments will get priority, Waller says. She says all who e-mail the center typically receive a response within a day.

The Writing Center also holds workshops for faculty members and helps them with questions about writing assignments or creating in-class presentations. “In order to help the students, we have to help everyone,” she says.

Waller says she would like to see the Writing Center eventually serve the community at large, such as those needing help with a resume or writing a complaint letter.

Born in the Arkansas town of Paris, Waller says she lived in Bakersfield, Calif., for 15 years before moving back to the state with her two children. She worked as a registered nurse, delivering babies. Then, one day, she was in a car accident involving a drunk driver. She recovered, but was no longer able to sustain the rigors of lifting and other duties that go along with nursing. In the back of her mind, she always toyed with the idea of getting a degree in English.
So she did it.

She went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith followed by a master’s degree in Comparative Literature/Cultural Studies at the University of Arkansas. She is now pursuing a doctorate while teaching composition and technical writing classes on campus – something she does beyond her Writing Center role.

Waller says she enjoys writing humorous short stories, usually about her family. “Because I write about them, they usually get mad at me,” she says.

She says she has also worked with writing programs throughout Arkansas. Waller has worked with teenagers in the Mississippi River Delta and helped with oral history projects. She has also volunteered with the Arkansas Literacy Council, a statewide nonprofit organization that helps adults read, write or speak English better.

There are also personal hobbies, such as cooking, sewing, spending time with her grandchildren and rescuing and aiding cats. Her husband, Kenneth, has been undergoing cornea implants, and the topic has become a personal issue for her as well.

Then, she’s back in her office with the large, glass window, helping all those concerned with proper comma placement and run-on sentences.

“We are like pit bulls,” she says. “We will not stop until they get it.”

EPIC Spotlight: David Medina

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“I get to meet a lot of people I otherwise wouldn’t get to meet.”

The months following high school graduation, David I. Medina studied the dialogue from an American TV show about plane crash survivors on a deserted island.

Living in Monterrey, Mexico, he was taking an English class where viewing the TV series “Lost” was part of the curriculum. He says the show’s plot was captivating and provided a good incentive to mastering the English language. “I wanted to learn what they were saying,” he says.

David had big plans in the works.

His brother and sister had moved to the United States and told him good things about the country. David’s brother, in particular, went to college and landed a job at Walmart in Bentonville. David decided he wanted to live in Bentonville, too.

Moving to Northwest Arkansas was a bit of a culture shock, he says. His transition was eased when he discovered there was less traffic than Monterrey, and he was excited to experience his first snowfall.

“And then I started enjoying the people,” he says. “They’re very nice.”

Shortly after moving to Bentonville, David enrolled at NorthWest Arkansas Community College where he took his core courses and had a job working on the school’s computers. Since transferring to the University of Arkansas in 2010, David has been a familiar face at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, especially to the faculty, staff and Ph.D. students. As a computer technician with the college’s Technology Center, he helps keep their computers running smoothly.

“I like it,” he says. “I get to meet a lot of people I otherwise wouldn’t get to meet.”

That will change at the end of the semester. David will graduate with a computer science degree and work at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville as a programmer analyst. There, he will help create computer applications for Walmart vendors to use.

The job came after two summer internships with the world’s largest retailer, David says, adding that working at Walton College helped him understand the retail culture better. He even utilized the college’s Career Center to help him fine-tune his resume.

David says his love for videogames played a role in his majoring in computer science. As a class project, he designed a videogame based on Super Mario Bros. called Arkansas Rumble, where a little hog maneuvers through paths as it bashes away mascots from rival universities. He has also created a website where social media users can create memes in Spanish and is working on a videogame where zombies attack the University of Arkansas.

Yet, David says he may further his education at some point by enrolling in Walton College’s Executive MBA program. There, students can earn a master’s degree in two years by attending class one Saturday a month and doing the rest through distance learning.

Now settled, David says he has adapted to Arkansas culture, including attending Razorback football games, even though his heart is with soccer.

“Half of the time, I didn’t know what’s going on, but I still like it,” he says. He says he also plays bass guitar for his church band, but, he concedes, playing the guitar isn’t his No. 1 passion. “My passion is computers,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Amy Farmer

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Dr. Amy Farmer has seen the struggles of undeveloped countries. She thinks students should see them, too. And then do something about it.

Farmer, director for the Office of Global Engagement at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, says she was motivated to get students involved in bettering impoverished communities after seeing conditions firsthand following visits to Peru and the African countries of Botswana and Zimbabwe. “As an economist, I would look at the conditions as the lack of opportunities,” she says.

Now, each summer, through the U of A Walton College Study Abroad program, Farmer takes Walton College students to Dangriga, Belize, for three weeks. Then, she takes another group to Nampula, Mozambique, for four weeks. “I felt compelled more from a personal level that students need to experience the world – and not necessarily their own,” Farmer says.

Partnering with other University of Arkansas colleges, the students combine their knowledge and skills to make lasting improvements.

Farmer says some in Dangriga, with about 9,000 residents, were leery of the group at first. They had seen many organizations come to help their communities, only for them to never return. Yet, each year, students come back, effecting change, whether it be resurrecting a business destroyed by fire, helping an entrepreneur with a business plan or getting someone a small business loan. The engineering students help with water purification and with building gazebos and wheelchair ramps. Health students may assist with diabetes testing and hospice care, Farmer says.

“We have friends there,” Farmer says. “They look at us as a friend.”

In Nampula, Mozambique, which has a very high unemployment rate, students help with a poultry farming business called Novos Horizontes. Investors created the business to help local people set up their own farms as a means to alleviate poverty and provide a nutritional food source. The students help farmers design water purification systems to keep chickens healthy and address any other of the farmers’ needs. The farmers often have chicken houses made from bamboo and thatch and without electricity. With no plumbing, many must haul water from the river. Yet, they’re working hard and succeeding, Farmer says.

Farmer says she would like expand the study abroad projects to Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam. “I think it’s just another part of the world where significant development is happening,” she says.

These experiences have given her students an edge in a global business world, Farmer says. Others, following graduation, have continued with humanitarian efforts. “I have had a lot of student who have gone into the Peace Corps,” she says.

Farmer has been an economics professor at Walton College since 1999 before assuming her current role with the Office of Global Engagement. She has taught both graduate level and honors undergraduate level courses.

Her research often focuses on the bargaining system. She says, for example, she has found that if people are willing to settle a conflict, such as with a court case, they usually follow through with what they agreed upon better than a judge’s ruling.

“Economics is, really, about how people respond to incentives,” she says. “It’s not just about the economy.”

Farmer’s work has been featured in publications such as Journal of Legal Studies, American Law and Economics Review and the Journal of Business.

She says the University of Arkansas fosters a great environment for both teaching and research. “The Walton College is a very collegial, productive place to be,” she says.