Data. Businesses love it, and students want to learn all they can.
When Qin Weng taught business analytics last fall, she discovered that her classes consisted of students with a wide variety of majors who were eager to learn how to interpret data to get meaningful information. “Companies are looking for these skills to better utilize their data,” says Weng, who joined the Walton College as an information systems assistant professor last August.
And exploring data can be fun. In her classes, Weng asks her students to look at all kinds of topics that utilize data. They returned with a variety of ideas that included examining students’ drinking habits and their academic performances to predicting the winners of athletic events.
The discovery element keeps things interesting. “It’s like fishing for something you don’t know,” she says.
During her first semester at Walton, Weng taught Business Analytics and Visualization to undergraduates and Data Analytics Fundamentals to graduate students. She says her classes are tough by design, and she finds that when she challenges her students, they deliver. “It’s really mind-blowing at the end of the semester when they present their ideas,” she says.
Weng grew up in the Jiangsu Province in east China, north of Shanghai, and earned a degree in international business studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University. She became fascinated with software programs used for data analysis, such as Excel and SPSS. These programs enabled her to collect data and, more importantly, gain insightful findings.
She came to the United States to further her education and earned her master’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. Following graduation, Weng worked for an insurance company in various roles, including as a business analyst, serving as a liaison between business divisions and the technology department. She created applications that helped data flow more efficiently between the company and government agencies, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Weng also facilitated data-filled reports to help company managers in their decision-making.
In her several years working in the healthcare industry, she saw a continued divide between business and technology. She wanted to bridge those gaps. She also missed graduate school and research. Weng was accepted to the doctorate program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she had the opportunity to work on a large-scale, government-funded project to build digital infrastructure to enable transformative scientific research through the Global Environment for Networking Innovation (GENI). Through the project, she researched different topics, including the control methods in project management and the collaboration networks among project participants. Her research has been published in Information Systems Research.
Weng earned her Ph.D. and came to Walton, a place that captured her attention with the school’s scholars, whom she also found to be friendly. It’s a good fit. “This is one of the most amazing places I have ever been,” she says.
She also enjoys the Women of Walton gatherings, which made her feel proud to be among the female faculty at the college. She says she found Anne O’Leary-Kelly, organizer and Walton senior associate dean, to be caring in her mission to boost morale and build relationships among faculty and staff.
Weng is using that energy in her research as well as to inspire students.
“I hope my teaching can spark their interest in business analytics,” Weng says.
Kim Miller, facilities coordinator at the Walton Conference Hub, has been named the 2018 Employee of the Year for 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.
Nominees were Miller, Pamela Heinzel of the Department of Marketing, Sheree Smith of the Department of Information Systems and Casey Spatz of the Department of Supply Chain Management.
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, assistant deans and the Walton College Staff Council.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
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.
Kim Miller, facilities coordinator for the Walton Conference Hub, has been named employee of the third 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.
Along with Miller, this quarter’s nominees were Pamela Heinzel of the Department of Marketing, Julie Stagner of the Graduate School of Business, Jason Adams of the Honors Program, Jeff Hood of Undergraduate Programs, and Lee Ann Looney also of Undergraduate Programs.
The winner receives a certificate of appreciation and a cash prize. Winners are chosen by Walton College Dean Matt Waller, the associate deans, the assistant deans and the Walton College Staff Council.
Erin Rongers has been named associate director of development for the Sam M. Walton College of Business effective April 11, 2018.
“It is a tremendous honor to join the Sam M. Walton College of Business as the associate director of development,” Rongers said. “I am looking forward to working with our alumni, faculty and staff and securing philanthropic support for Walton programs and initiatives.”
Prior to joining the Walton team, Rongers served as the executive director for The Cancer Challenge chapter in Bentonville, Ark., where she oversaw development, board and volunteer management and general business operations. In this role, she was responsible for corporate partnerships, special events and individual giving. She also managed an annual, large-scale fundraising event, which required the coordination of 140 corporate sponsors, more than 2,000 participants and 350 volunteers.
Previously, Rongers worked as the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas, where she managed business planning, board development, fund development, programs and community relations.
“Erin’s extensive experience and connections in the northwest Arkansas development community will be a huge asset for Walton College,” said John Erck, senior director of development. “She already knows a lot of our supporters, and she has a track record of sustained success. I’m thrilled to have her on our team.”
Rongers holds a bachelor’s degree in communications studies from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in recreation with a concentration in sport management from the University of Arkansas. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
The journey may seem the same: Ph.D. student starts their first year. They grow and, hopefully, write papers that get published. Then comes graduation and, if all goes well, they get an assistant professorship at a university. Continue reading EPIC Spotlight: Varun Grover→
Noel Morris is motivated. As an instructor for the Department of Finance at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, he enjoys teaching and working directly with students. He loves his wife and two adult sons and delights in spending time with his granddaughter. Yet a service project outside of home and career has created additional purpose, joy and satisfaction and has changed his life in the process.
“I think I know why I’m here,” Morris said. “Next to raising my two boys, this is the most significant thing I’ve done.”
Working with his local Rotary Club in Springdale, Arkansas, Rotary District 6110 and American Wheelchair Mission – a nonprofit based in Henderson, Nevada – Morris has been raising funds and awareness for the purchase and delivery of wheelchairs for those in need in third world countries. Morris didn’t go looking for this project – it came to him.
In 2002, Morris was the incoming president for his Rotary Club, an international service organization dedicated to creating a better world. He attended an international Rotarian conference at which Chris Lewis, the president of the American Wheelchair Mission, introduced a wheelchair initiative. Morris’ local chapter adopted the service project, purchased wheelchairs and delivered them to disabled children and adults in Mexico.
“You would think after 16 years I’d be a little jaded, but this last trip was the best,” Morris said.
According to the World Health Organization, 65 million people need a wheelchair. Those in need who happen to live in a developing country face severe challenges in accessing a wheelchair, attending school, securing a job and enjoying basic quality of life.
The American Wheelchair Mission estimates the need even higher at 100 million people who are in need of a wheelchair.
The need is plainly apparent for the Rotarians as they deliver wheelchairs to mobility limited adults or children carried by their parents. Mobility issues affect the entire family. A wheelchair can allow parents to move older, heavier children. Parents can attend work and children can attend school. Wheelchairs can give owners self respect and power over their own lives.
Video courtesy of American Wheelchair Mission.
“I can easily say Noel’s actions in coordinating and distributing wheelchairs has changed the lives of literally thousands of families,” said Randy Hale, a photographer who has recorded eight years of wheelchair deliveries for the American Wheelchair Mission.
Morris shared a memory of Javier, a wheelchair recipient in Mexico who became paralyzed after falling out of a coconut tree at work. The father of two girls, Javier had been restricted to a bed for nine years. He heard about the wheelchair distribution and, even though he was not on recipient list, dragged himself to a taxi and approached the wheelchair give-away. The Rotarians made sure to find an extra wheelchair for him.
Morris said that Javier’s response was “You’ve made me a man again.” Now he can hold a job and help his young daughters get to school.
When delivering the chairs in Mexico, the Springdale Rotarians partner with the American Wheelchair Mission and the Center for Rehabilitation Infantile Telethon and local Rotarians. The center and the local Rotary Club each develop a list of those in need. The center provides rehabilitation for the wheelchair recipients as well.
As children grow older, they bring back their chairs to get a larger chair. In turn, the chair is refurbished and re-distributed to others in need. The cost of one shipping container with 280 wheelchairs is $42,000, plus shipping.
The Rotarians in Springdale target those with mobility limitations outside the United States because many inside the United States can qualify for a wheelchair through insurance programs, Veteran Affairs or Medicaid. Other countries do not have similar health care initiatives.
Morris is a member of the Rotary Club in Springdale and serves as the Rotary’s district chair for the wheelchair initiative. He also serves on the board of the American Wheelchair Mission. On a regular basis, Morris speaks to other Rotary Clubs and community groups about the service project.
Freshman year is life changing. Everything – from laundry and dorm rooms to classes and free time – is new and different. Teens are expected to navigate through classes and campus, manage their time and thrive on their own.
To help students’ transition to this new lifestyle, Carole Shook, an instructor for the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, created a team project to encourage freshmen to get to know each other, discover resources on campus and strengthen personal development skills.
Within her fall 2017 Freshman Business Connections class, Shook assigned a team project to create a video overview of the McMillon Innovation Studio on campus and then present their findings in class. The studio, a gift from Walmart chief executive officer and Walton graduate Doug McMillon and his wife Shelley, tests new technologies and is designed to impact the future of retail. The project, designed by McMillon Innovation Studio director Clint Johnson and Shook, required teamwork, time management, exploration of Walton College resources and networking with classmates.
Freshman Business Connections, often referred to as FBC, is taught to first-year business students to acclimate them to campus, understand what resources are available to them, introduce them to other freshman and help them be successful at the Walton College. It introduces them to David W. Mullins Library for research, academic integrity and ethics, the Business Communications Lab for writing assistance, the Credit Counseling of Arkansas for personal finance management, Walton Career Services for job readiness and the degree opportunities at Walton. The class also helps students’ transition from high school to college by nurturing personal development skills such as time management, stress management, financial planning, health and wellness, diversity and team building.
“I would say team management was the greatest skill I improved at,” said Jay Lovaas, a freshman from Canton, Ga. “I had to effectively communicate with my team members, help with any questions they may have had, and rely on them to check my work as I checked theirs.”
After selecting teams, the freshmen interviewed staff and students at the studio and created outlines for videos and presentations. Each student was responsible for a portion of the project and collaborated with the team on deliverables.
Team members Ryan Hardwick, Alexis Humm, Cydney Feinstone, Elijah Kaplan and interviewer Noah Tidmore recorded video, captured still photography, created graphics and wrote interview questions. In their video below, freshman Noah Tidmore interviews Kayla Bruskas, a senior accounting student and student manager for the McMillon Innovation Studio.
Team members for this video include Ryan Hardwick, Alexis Humm, Cydney Feinstone, Elijah Kaplan and interviewer Noah Tidmore.
“This project was created to show that freshmen students can do amazing things,” Shook said. “These were great students who worked hard and with enthusiasm.”
Throughout the project, students learned about the opportunities at the McMillon Studio, got to know their team members and explored campus. Simply put, the project helped freshmen get connected to their new life on campus.
“It was just a fun class,” Lovaas said. “It gets you in the flow of going to class during your first semester. In my opinion, the greatest thing about FBC is meeting people.”
The University of Arkansas Enactus team won the regional championship at the Enactus Southeastern Regional Competition and advances to the national competition in May.
The team took the title at the regional competition in Dallas on Monday, April 16. At that competition, the team presented three projects they designed and implemented this academic year. These projects create an impact for residents in Northwest Arkansas fighting issues with homelessness, recidivism among youth and unemployment of disabled adults.
This is the first time in eight years that the University of Arkansas Enactus team will advance to the Enactus National Competition, which will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, May 20-22.
About Enactus: Enactus, an international nonprofit organization, seeks to empower students to make a difference through sustainable, entrepreneurial action. Enactus is a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to enable human progress. Through student programs on campuses across the nation, Enactus applies business concepts to develop entrepreneurial projects that transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.