Even Down Under, Dr. Hartmut Hoehle knew the Sam M. Walton College of Business would be a great place to work. He visited in September 2011 and enjoyed his visit, so when there was an opening for an assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems, he knew he had to apply for it. Continue reading EPIC Spotlight: Hartmut Hoehle
Robin Soster is getting used to the ribbing when people step inside her office. On the wall is a Gamecocks banner from her alma mater, the University of South Carolina.
“That’s probably my favorite thing: when people come in my office and ask me where I’m from,” she says.
Newly transplanted from South Carolina, where she has spent most of her life, the Department of Marketing assistant professor says she’s already warming up to the Gamecocks’ rival, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Also on her office wall is one of many famous hog hats worn by diehard Arkansas sports fans. Because both the Gamecocks and Razorbacks are Southeast Conference teams, she says this helps her feel like she’s not so far from her hometown. In fact, until her job interview at the University of Arkansas, she had never stepped foot in the Natural State.
There have been Arkansas connections, however. Midway through graduate school at the University of South Carolina while pursuing her marketing MBA, she found herself working for Gamecocks football Coach Lou Holtz, who once coached the Razorbacks. Through her alma mater’s FABER Entrepreneurship Center, she helped design the team’s promotional hats and T-shirts.
Her ability to “practice” consumer behavior was one of the many aspects that attracted her to Northwest Arkansas. Up the road in Benton County are plenty of shopping centers and stores. She says her husband, Eric Soster, and three children love the “cool” and “funky” side of Fayetteville and get out and enjoy the Ozarks as much as possible.
Soster’s journey to academia was a winding one. Before deciding to go back to the University of South Carolina to pursue her Ph.D., she was a marketing and financial analyst for a private equity firm, worked as a computer programmer and even toyed with becoming a high school teacher until she had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. Once “bitten by the teaching bug,” she decided to go back to school, completing her degree in 2011.
As one the newest faces at Sam M. Walton College of Business, Soster says she hopes she can leave a lasting impression with her consumer behavior students. She says she challenges them to make rational decisions in the marketplace and to be the kind of managers that enable other consumers to do so as well. She says she tries to convey this message through humor (on her non-teaching days, she can be found in her office wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt) and assigning her students books business professionals are reading.
“People like seeing how irrational we humans can be,” she says. “We do not necessarily think like economists!”
Growing up in Arkansas, Dr. Gary Peters loved the outdoors. Fishing. Hunting. It was all good. As an undergraduate enrolled at a community college, he thought he could channel his passion by majoring in biology with the idea of someday working in wildlife management. When he took a job at a local sporting goods store, however, that all changed. “I really got more interested in running a business instead of just working at one,” he says.
He switched his degree to business, although he did not see himself becoming an accounting major.
“I was good at it but … let’s just say I didn’t have a good idea of what accountants really do,” he says. In fact at one point he thought, “I’ll never be an accounting major.”
Never say never.
He took his business interests to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. It was there his professors showed him the beauty of accounting: it had more to do with decision-making. “They taught me accounting information is the common denominator in every business. Everyone needs it to make good business decisions. It applies to every part of a business.”
“Well now I can use these skills to make a difference inside the company,” he told himself then.
He graduated, became a certified public accountant and went to work in Little Rock. All the while, he had a desire to learn more about the profession. He left his home state and pursued a master’s degree at the University of Missouri followed by a doctorate at the University of Oregon. He began teaching at the University of Georgia. In 2003 the University of Arkansas called.
As an associate professor in accounting at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, he serves as director for the Master of Accounting (MAcc) and the new Integrated Masters of Accountancy (IMAcc) programs. The IMAcc was launched to allow students to begin the program their senior year and complete it by the end of their fifth. Peters says his goals for these programs is more than making students ready for their first job, but also for future promotions when students are competing with co-workers who very likely have graduate degrees from other universities. “In accounting, the master’s degree is important when starting a career, but it is even more important when advancing in your career.” As Peters sends his students on their way, he also offers this advice: “Always be looking for opportunities at work, that’s when you make a difference, that’s when you will go great places that you would not have predicted.”
Peters’ work opportunities are his research, which focuses on audit committees and internal auditors and how they can add value to companies. He says their knowledge can aid companies and their shareholders in making sound decisions. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Contemporary Accounting Research, MIS Quarterly and The Accounting Review. In 2009, Peters was named to the Doris M. Cook Chair of Accounting.
As for the outdoors, Peters says he still has a passion for hunting and fishing. This time with the addition of his wife, Shannon, and their four children. “We love the Ozarks,” he says. “We’ve lived in some great places, but there is something special about Fayetteville.”
When Dr. Anníbal Camara Sodero learned the University of Arkansas had created a Department of Supply Chain Management, he was eager to get on board. He knows how exciting it is to be part of something that has just started, and he realized a dream when he joined the department at the Sam M. Walton College of Business in January 2013.
It was a no brainer: an excellent job, at a wonderful institution, in the perfect location!
It was an achievement that tops all the other major accomplishments in his career, he says.
Sodero already knows success. In his late teens, he used knowledge gained from his bachelor’s degree in computer sciences at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais to start a business in a small studio in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. If something needed to be done, he and his partner would roll up their sleeves and take care of it themselves. “At the beginning, we were washing toilets,” he says.
Eventually, Ad Hoc Informática took off and became the market leader in software and consulting services for third-party logistics providers. “The industry was underserved, so we saw this niche,” he says.
In 2005, Sodero sold the company to Brazil’s giant GlobalWeb Data Services Corp. By then, his life had changed considerably. He followed his wife, Dr. Anna Goussevskaia (who recently began teaching at the Walton College as well), to England where she was working toward a Ph.D. in management at Warwick University. While there, he earned a master’s degree in supply chain management. He says he felt a need to grasp the underlying theories he encountered during his more than 10 years at Ad Hoc.
After a brief return to Brazil, Goussevskaia persuaded Sodero, a son of educators himself, to follow his vocation. He enrolled in the Ph.D. program in supply chain management at Arizona State University. The couple moved to Tempe, and his wife became a faculty member at the university’s management department.
Before graduation, Sodero learned of an assistant professorship opening at the University of Arkansas’ supply chain management department. It became his top choice. For starters, many of the faculty’s research streams were aligned with his interests, which are centered on multichannel retailing and the use of social media in supply chains. The collegiate atmosphere of the new department at the Walton College offered unique opportunities of collaboration and cooperation with experts in the discipline. Also, Sodero says he valued that both supply chain management and RFID research centers bridge the relationship between academia and practice.
When he was invited for a campus visit, he says he immediately fell in love with the Northwest Arkansas people and the Ozarks. So, when he received a job offer, he did not hesitate to accept it. “It was a no brainer: an excellent job, at a wonderful institution, in the perfect location!” he says.
Sodero says he is glad to have an opportunity to teach and conduct research at the Walton College. “You can see the passion and vision to create and deliver programs in which you can give back to the community at large,” he says. “I love my students, I love my job, and it is great to give back to the local community.”
In his spare time, Sodero likes to cook. His specialty is chicken tikka massala, a dish he learned to prepare while living in England. He says he and Goussevskaia are eager to explore the outdoors and attend concerts at the Walton Arts Center.
And he wants to start a new hobby. “I know how big fishing is in the region,” Sodero says. “I just want to become a fisherman like many locals.”
That little container of yogurt on the supermarkets’ refrigerated shelves has more of a story than one would think. In fact, it’s a story that Christian Hofer, associate professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, likes to share for those needing a little initiation to how the supply chain works – and one many take for granted when they’re shopping for groceries.
Take the plastic used to make the yogurt container, for example. Or the aluminum that was mined and processed to make its seal. And the sugar and fruit needed for flavoring. Somewhere, on a dairy farm, cows are providing the milk to make the yogurt. All can come from different parts of the globe before they converge at a factory, where the elements are combined, packaged and then shipped to distribution centers and, ultimately, grocery stores. “So, collectively, all these ingredients may travel thousands of miles,” Hofer says.
“And amazingly, when you want to buy the yogurt, it’s actually there, waiting for you on the shelf,” he says.
But if there is just one mishap in the entire supply chain, chances are the item will never make it to the kitchen table. “And if the supply chain didn’t function so smoothly and efficiently, the yogurt cup wouldn’t cost 40 cents, it might cost four dollars,” he says.
When Hofer sees electronic or textile products while shopping, he says he cannot help but think about how the costs of getting them there may well be higher than the products’ material value.
Hence, supply chain management is not only a critical business activity, but something that also affects consumers in their everyday lives. It’s a world that continues to fascinate Hofer. His research interests include topics such as lean inventory management. He says while many may think that holding inventory is something bad, having too little inventory can be equally as bad. Hofer and his co-author Cuneyt Eroglu, a former University of Arkansas professor, developed the Empirical Leanness Indicator, which enables firms to assess how lean they are compared to their competitors of comparable size within a given industry. Their paper, “Lean, Leaner, Too Lean? The Inventory-Performance Link Revisited,” was a finalist for the 2011 Journal of Operations Management Best Paper award.
Hofer brings this and other related concepts into the Executive MBA classes he teaches. The students in these classes are working professionals. Many of those students have successfully implemented for their companies what they learned in class. “This not only creates immediate value for our students and their employers,” Hofer says, “but it also enhances the reputation of the Walton College and the University of Arkansas.”
Hofer, a native of Germany, says he is also fascinated by the “behind the scenes” competition that takes place in the corporate world, something consumers seldom see.
“We typically think of firms competing in terms of product features and prices,” Hofer says. “But firms also compete by innovating and imitating other firms’ supply chain practices in areas such as sourcing and manufacturing.”
Hofer has studied these competitive dynamics and co-authored a paper on the subject, “The Competitive Determinants of a Firm’s Environmental Management Activities: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing Industries,” which was published in the Journal of Operations Management.
When he gets a new research idea, he has a team of colleagues to brainstorm and collaborate with at the Walton College. “I think of it as our happy little bubble,” he says.
One of those people in his bubble is his wife, Adriana Rossiter Hofer, an assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management.
“We’re so lucky to work here,” Hofer says. “It sounds cheesy, but I really enjoy working and spending time with every one of my colleagues.”
“Everyone’s an economist, some are just formally trained.”
In Cary Deck’s world, everything is economics, but as he points out, “Everyone’s an economist,” he says. “Some are just formally trained.”
Deck is formally trained in experimental economics. As a professor with the Department of Economics at Sam M. Walton College of Business, Deck studies how people interact by presenting students with different scenarios and seeing how economic models hold up when subjected to actual human behavior. He also directs the Walton College’s state-of-the-art Behavioral Business Research Lab, an interdisciplinary facility where researchers can study human behavior and decision-making. For example, students may be in the role of stock traders experiencing price bubbles or may play the role of firms competing in a patent race.
Deck, who recognizes the complexity of the world we live in, says the behavioral aspect of economics particularly fascinates him. “To me, it’s putting the science in economics,” he says.
“You’re creating a marketplace, so you get full information on how buyers and sellers interact and what makes those interactions change,” Deck says. In a recent study he considered how a retailer’s ability to identify what products a shopper places in her cart might impact the coupons she might receive on her phone as she goes down the next aisle.
He says he teaches his students to understand how markets work and how incentives influence people and affect outcomes. If seeing his passion for laboratory-based research gets them excited about economics, even better, Deck says. “When you see students realize how much we still have to learn about economics, and you can give them a toolbox to solve some of those problems, that’s always rewarding,” he says.
With a strength in mathematics, Deck says he knew as an undergraduate he wanted to be an economist. He says he also knew that most economic jobs require someone with a graduate degree so he went to the University of Wisconsin for a master’s degree. His interest in experimental economics research, however, was ignited when he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, where he earned his doctorate degree under Nobel prize winner Vernon Smith, who pioneered the field of experimental economics.
Deck and his family came to the University of Arkansas in 2001. Though he says they fell in love with both the geography and culture of Northwest Arkansas – they enjoy the outdoors as much as possible – it was the university’s behavioral lab and the enthusiasm surrounding it that made this the natural move for them. “We have the best behavioral lab facility in the world,” he says.
While in Wisconsin, he met another economics graduate student who is a familiar face at Walton College: Kathy Deck, the director of the Walton College’s Center for Business and Economic Research, who is also his wife. Economics drew them together and they consider talking about maximizing “gross family product” a completely normal thing to do. The couple has a son, Josh, who has had a “supply and demand” poster in his room since his infancy. “Understanding economics is important for everyone. He is just lucky enough to have two trained economists living in the same house.”
Dr. Arya Gaduh knew there had to be more to life than computer coding. With a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Gaduh wanted to find ways where he could use this knowledge to contribute more to the world. That’s when his brother suggested he explore policy research. Continue reading EPIC Spotlight: Arya Gaduh
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.
As a child, Adriana Rossiter-Hofer often lectured her siblings and friends when they needed help with their schoolwork. “My younger cousins still blame me for playing the teacher and lecturing them during our family vacations with our grandparents,” she says.
“At school, lots of people had a hard time making good grades in math and physics,” she says. “And, for some reason, those were my favorite subjects.” Though Rossiter-Hofer didn’t realize it at the time, she now says that this set her up for a career in teaching.
That she would teach at the University of Arkansas after growing up in the city of Recife in Brazil was not even a thought, she says. Instead, she spent her formative years in the country’s fifth largest metropolitan area, located in northeast Brazil along the Atlantic coast. With its tourists and growing industry, it continues to be a major port and commercial center. Now, as an assistant professor with the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Rossiter-Hofer takes her students to her home country through the Study Abroad program. During the rest of the year, she teaches international logistics and global supply chain management classes, which cover facets of the supply chain such as transportation, international channels and the commercial aspects of import-export procedures.
With a love for solving problems, Rossiter-Hofer majored in civil engineering at Brazil’s Federal University of Pernambuco in her hometown of Recife. From there, she earned her master’s degree in transportation engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro with emphasis on public transportation and, upon graduation, worked at a consulting firm where she designed highways, toll roads and government logistics plans. This allowed her to collaborate with retailers, manufacturers and third-party logistics providers. “It started to open my eyes to something bigger than transportation,” she says.
Soon, Rossiter-Hofer yearned to work internationally. She was accepted in an exchange program for young professionals through Rotary International. She spent time in Seattle where she visited construction companies, engineering firms and others in her field. The experience moved her so much that she decided that living in the United States was the right thing to do. “It was such a dream come true,” she says.
Rossiter-Hofer became a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland. While there, she met a student from Germany, Christian Hofer, who is now also a supply chain management professor at the Walton College. Wooed by Hofer’s “beautifully and meticulously crafted” PowerPoint presentation, the two fell in love and got married. Now, she has a message to her students: “Work on your presentation skills because you never know. Your future spouse might be in the audience!”
Rossiter-Hofer and her husband have a 4-year-old son, Daniel. Family time is spent traveling globally and doing activities like bicycle riding and enjoying the area’s parks. She says she also loves to work out in the gym doing Pilates, yoga and cycling.
Rossiter-Hofer says when she and her husband earned their doctorates, they had opportunities to work at other universities. Yet, she says they were impressed by Walton College’s supply chain management program and made the move to Northwest Arkansas.
“The university is perfect,” she says. “This is my dream job.”