Category Archives: Finance

EPIC Spotlight: Will Simpson

Will Simpson

“They give you all the opportunities you can ever want, and all you have to do is pursue them.”

Will Simpson

Economics and Finance
Sophomore


Though only in his second year in college, Will Simpson speaks about economics and governmental affairs like a veteran. Those topics often appear in the opinion column he writes for The Arkansas Traveler, the University of Arkansas student newspaper, and he has even contributed to the news website, The Huffington Post.

“I’m a news junkie,” he says. “I subscribe to The Wall Street Journal and check The Drudge Report each morning.”

Yet Will, who has a double major in economics and finance at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, says journalism is just one avenue where he would like to channel his knowledge. He says there’s always the bigger picture – one that involves influencing public policy, which he is already doing on the local level.

As the director of legislative affairs for the university’s Associated Student Government, Will’s duties include working on voter registration projects as well as involving himself with government’s role in higher education. He also serves on the Honors Student Executive Board, doing marketing and consulting on curriculum management.

These are some of the reasons that after he graduates, he plans to pursue a law degree. “I think the skill set I’ve been blessed with fits with law school,” he says.

As for his focus, he’s keeping an open mind. He says commercial law sounds intriguing. Consulting with companies is one possibility, Will says.

His current calling, though, is working with students. As a Walton College Student Ambassador, Will encourages high school students to enroll at the University of Arkansas by giving campus tours. He leads a freshmen Bible study through Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ).

Will says his journey to Walton College can be traced to his involvement with TeenPact Leadership, a Christian-based program geared toward pre-college teenagers. Participants spend a week at a state capitol, learning about the political process and how their faith can play a role in that. He says being home-schooled enabled him the freedom to visit Rhode Island, Connecticut and Indiana through the program.

Of course, there’s the main reason why Will is at the University of Arkansas: his education. He says Walton College offers the courses that enable him to explore his interests.

“I expected it to be good, but it’s been even better,” he says of his classroom experiences.

He says the campus is neither too big nor too small and allows him to see the results of his efforts.

Will also says Fayetteville offers many amenities not found in his hometown of Mountain View, located in north central Arkansas, such as a Barnes & Noble bookstore and Starbucks coffee shop (one is even located on campus). He says there are also plenty of places for him to enjoy a game of golf.

But school always comes first, and he plans to take full advantage of it. “They give you all the opportunities you can ever want, and all you have to do is pursue them,” Will says.

EPIC Spotlight: Tom Davis

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Tom Davis, a senior from Bentonville, Ark., majoring in accounting with a minor in finance, says he may never have gotten a chance to intern with Ernst and Young if he hadn’t participated in the Walton Honors Program.

As an audit and assurance services intern last summer with Ernst and Young in Rogers, Tom worked to ensure the accuracy of financial data by using various sets of controls. Tom hopes he can apply the real world experience he got at the firm to his accounting and other classes at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “That way, I’ll better understand how classroom theory works in the real world,” Tom says.

“The Honors Program and being a founding member of the Walton Honors Student Executive Board set me apart from the other applicants for the intern position,” Tom says. He also is involved in Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary organization for high-achieving students in the financial information field. He says being a member of Beta Alpha Psi also was key in getting the Ernst and Young internship.

His experience demonstrates that students should start as early as their freshman year if they hope to get a good position as an intern, Tom says. “When students apply for internships as freshmen, they make a lasting impression on employers and that impression and experience will benefit them in the future,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Dr. Tim Yeager

Dr. Tim Yeager could have stayed focused on economics. He spent years in college, earning degrees in economics and even teaching the subject at universities on both the East and West coasts.

But when he took a job in the Bank Supervision Unit of the Federal Reserve Bank, he was about to get a crash course on banking.

“I walked in knowing very little about banking,” he says. “I tell people it’s where I got my second Ph.D.”

Now, bankers (and the media) across Arkansas seek Yeager’s opinions and knowledge of the banking industry.

As an associate professor in finance at the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Arkansas Bankers Association Chair in Banking, Yeager teaches college students about the banking profession and updates and informs bankers through conferences and articles published through the Arkansas Bankers Association.

Yeager’s transition from economics professor to finance professor and banking expert may not have happened, in part, had he not been a bit homesick for his hometown of St. Louis. He taught economics at Ithaca College in New York and Humboldt State University in California – both far away from the Midwest where he and his wife were from. When the opportunity to work as a researcher for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis presented itself, he seized it.

At his Federal Reserve Bank job, where he was an economist in Supervisory Policy Analysis, Yeager researched issues affecting community banks as well as apprise bank examiners to economic and banking conditions. As he worked his way up to assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank, Yeager says he found he spent more time in meetings and less doing research. Though he taught evening classes at St. Louis University, he yearned to return to a campus full time.

That campus would be in Fayetteville, Ark. In 2006, Yeager was hired for the position he now holds. “The job description fit me like a glove,” he says.

Yeager says he was pleasantly surprised with Northwest Arkansas’ scenic outdoors and the collegial and friendly atmosphere at Walton College. Yeager says at many universities, faculty can be competitive and even hostile. “Here, it’s completely the opposite,” he says.

At Walton College, Yeager teaches introductory, advanced and graduate banking courses.

He says his research interests are wide and varied, but most recently he has been exploring the link between the banking sector and the macro economy. He has been published in several publications, including Journal of Banking and Finance; Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking; and Journal of Economics and Business. “I have learned a lot since I’ve gotten here,” he says. “My research has improved because I’m surrounded by bright and hard-working colleagues and students.”

In addition, each summer for the past three years, he takes students to Belize where they assist potential and existing small business owners by presenting business education seminars and offering microloans to the most promising businesses. For Yeager, the Belize program has been personally rewarding and enriching. “I feel like we make a difference, and each year, thankfully, has been better than the last,” he says.

Yeager says when he’s away from work, he likes to spend time with his wife, Dara, and their four children—two of whom are attending the University of Arkansas. He also enjoys spending time on Beaver Lake. “I ended up where I wanted to be, but the path to get here had many twists and turns,” Yeager says.

EPIC Spotlight: Stephanie Nguyen

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As a rising senior at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Stephanie Nguyen is a busy student. With a double major in accounting and finance, and a minor in economics, Stephanie has mastered time management. In addition to her extensive coursework, she is active in many organizations and activities on and off campus. Stephanie was one of 13 students selected to participate in the Center for Retailing Excellence Mentoring Programs. She has now completed half of this two year program under the mentorship of a Sam’s Club executive. Through the program, Stephanie has gained real-life exposure to the retail side of business with a focus on personal development. She also had the opportunity to fly to Cincinnati for a company visit and was selected to speak about the program at the CRE Executive Board Meeting in April 2009.

Stephanie also received a CRE scholarship to study abroad this summer. Along with eight other Walton College students, she spent the summer in Japan studying economic concepts, attending conferences with company executives, and traveling to various business plants and distribution centers.

After her study abroad experience, Stephanie began an internship with Colgate-Palmolive, a position for which she received the summer 2009 Arkansas Cooperative Education Program in Business Scholarship. As a collaborate planning forecasting and replenishment intern, Stephanie works on special projects in logistics, performs logistics analysis, and assists in analyzing business changes and cost impact.

Stephanie is also a member of Leadership Walton, volunteers at the Samaritan Community Center’s food pantry in Rogers and is fluent in Vietnamese.

EPIC Spotlight: Sarah Pittman

Sarah-Margaret-Pittman
“The camaraderie among students in the Walton College contributes to the overall college experience.”

Sarah Margaret Pittman puts a bit of a spin on her finance knowledge. Though she dabbles in the stock market, she also pays attention to up-and-coming musical acts, trying to figure out which ones will be successful. “That attraction is you want to get something before it’s big and kind of capitalize on it,” she says.

This integration between finance and music is something she hopes to explore in her honors thesis. She says her ultimate goal is working in investments in a big city either in the United States or internationally.

Sarah Margaret, a junior majoring in finance at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, says she wants to live somewhere where there is a financial hub as well as rich culture, such as London, England, where she is going this summer to study at the London School of Economics. (Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones went to school there, she points out.) She says she hopes to make contacts so she can potentially return after she graduates.

Her business sense began at a young age under the guidance of her father, Sam Pittman IV, a Walton College alumnus. When Sarah Margaret and her siblings requested a black Labrador retriever, he had them present their case boardroom style. The children used a tri-board as they pointed out the benefits of having a dog in the home. Their request was successful. The children pooled their money and got a dog.

Years later, Sarah Margaret was asked to make a similar pitch only if she planned to attend a school that wasn’t the University of Arkansas. A presentation was never given. The Texas girl had the University of Arkansas engrained in her. She spent her earliest years wearing an Arkansas Razorbacks cheerleading costume and knew how to call the Hogs. Besides her father, her older brother, Sam Pittman V, graduated from Walton College with a marketing degree. Dr. Molly Rapert, an associate marketing professor at the college and longtime family friend, also served as an inspiration. “I just adore her, and she was a fabulous ambassador and representative of the University of Arkansas,” Sarah Margaret says.

Torn between studying business and creative writing, she knew that the University of Arkansas offered excellent programs in both. During her freshman year, she took the introductory core business classes as well as some in creative writing. By the end of her first year, she declared a major in business with a minor in English. She says she focused on finance because it allows her to be in the middle of the action.

Since then, Sarah Margaret has participated in a number of activities with her fellow students. A member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, she has served on the Walton College Honors Student Executive Board where her duties have included acting as alumni chair. She has also studied abroad twice, once in England and once in Italy. She says the mentorship provided by the professors has been invaluable along with the friendships formed while here. “The camaraderie among students in the Walton College contributes to the overall college experience,” she says.

After graduation, she’ll draw from her classes, professors’ advice and other Walton College experiences as she finds her place in the finance industry. “It’s not like you read a book and just figure out what to do,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Rohit Mittal

 

RohitMittal
“The professors are top-notch.”

The summer before he enrolled at the University of Arkansas, Rohit Mittal helped manage a Subway Restaurant franchised by his mother. Dealing with day-to-day operations gave him a new respect for the work done behind-the-scenes while teaching him another vital skill: survival.

“If you can’t do it, somebody else can and will,“ he says. “You have to constantly push yourself as hard as you can in order to not be surpassed.”

With some real-world experience under his belt, he decided to do the next natural thing: pursue a business degree with a combined major in accounting and finance at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He is also minoring in Spanish because he appreciates the Hispanic culture and wants to make himself more marketable, he says.

Now in his second year, he continues to push himself. He maintains a 4.0 grade-point average, and attributes his discipline to his parents, who have always encouraged him to excel. As for career choices, he says investment banking looks interesting, especially since he’s young and can afford to take risks, but he’s also open to consulting and auditing.

Rohit was born in Jackson, Mississippi, and spent later childhood in Little Rock. His older brother, a former auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been an inspiration to him. He says they talk almost daily about various business concepts, but whenever there is a conflict relating to the business world, he’s the first Rohit turns to.

As a college freshman, Rohit became active in SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), a global, nonprofit program that brings together a diverse network of university students, academic professionals and industry leaders with the shared mission of creating a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business. Rohit says he enjoyed the bonding experience with his teammates as they went to a regional competition in Dallas, Texas, where they presented their yearly accomplishments to a panel of distinguished experts.

Last semester, he participated in Honors Freshman Business Connections. Through the program, Jason Adams, the assistant director of the college’s Honor Programs, was the primary leader of the class, while Rohit acted as a mentor to the combined 50 or so incoming honors business students in his two classes. He says that through the program he, too, found a mentor in Jason Adams. At the end of the school year, his FBC classes had a friendly football game against other classes in a similar program.

Rohit says he now serves as a Student Ambassador, a voluntary program with activities that include giving prospective students tours on campus in addition to being involved in the admissions process.

On campus, Rohit also tutors Financial Resources students through the business college – another rewarding experience, he adds. Off campus, he is active with the Northwest Arkansas Entrepreneurship Alliance, an organization that connects established businessmen and women to those who aspire to be young entrepreneurs.

Also rewarding: the caliber of teaching at the business college, including Dr. John Norwood, who taught his Financial Resources and Legal Environment of Business class, and Dr. Charles Leflar, who teaches Honors Business Strategies.

“The professors are top-notch,” he says.

Rohit says he looks forward to spending the Spring 2012 semester in Spain through the college’s Study Abroad program.

Meanwhile, this summer his education will also take place off campus in Lowell, Arkansas. There, he will intern at SC Johnson as part of the Wal-Mart sales team.

“I’m really looking forward to getting some corporate experience,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Keri Stubbs

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“The projects that they have in classes are applicable to the real world.”

Working with older people or operating a payment-friendly restaurant affordable to all. These are two ideas Keri Stubbs is kicking around as she majors in both management and finance at Sam M. Walton College of Business.
The thought of working with those much older came to Keri while she was in high school in Cassville, Mo., when she was in Future Business Leaders of America. One project involved making Valentine’s Day cards to give to members of the local senior center.

“They were so nice and so grateful,” she says. “I thought it would be really cool to work with the elderly.”
Fast forward to an entrepreneurship class Keri took at the University of Arkansas. There, she wrote a paper on “pay-what-you-can” restaurants where patrons decide how much their meals are worth. The idea is that those who are financially secure will more than pay the suggested price, compensating for those who can’t, Keri says. Many restaurants have tried this, including Panera Bread. This experimental model, with its obvious challenges, fascinate her. “It’s a risky business,” she says.

As a junior, Keri still has time to figure out her career path. With a minor in marketing, her concentration in three fields can open doors to many opportunities, she says.

Keri could have attended college in her home state. But the University of Arkansas roots run deep in her household. Her parents, who are both from Arkansas, met at a Razorback ballgame. In fact, several of her family members have names engraved on the campus’ Senior Walk, which lists every graduate from the institution.

“I grew up always having been a Razorback fan,” she says.

Keri admits that she briefly flirted with the idea of going to school elsewhere. In hindsight, she says, it was rebellion. When that passed, she applied to the University of Arkansas. It was her only college application. “I haven’t regretted it since,” she says.

Growing up in Cassville, located about 60 miles northeast of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas is a completely different world from her hometown of about 3,000, she says.

“It feels like it’s a lot farther away from here,” she says. “I like it.”

Once at the university, she says it took her some time to find her place. Freshman Business Connections, a first-year program for business majors, helped, she says. Her participation in the program inspired her to become a Freshman Business Connections mentor, advising new students who were once in her shoes. While she says serving as a mentor to first-year students is rewarding, being a Walton College Student Ambassador, where she gives campus tours to potential students, adds a new dimension to her college volunteerism.

“Getting them before they’re freshmen is always exciting,” she says.

Her involvement with Students in Free Enterprise (S.I.F.E.), now Enactus, where she served on the leadership team, enlightened her to other possibilities a business degree can do. One of the S.I.F.E. projects entailed helping Mama Dean’s Soul Food Kitchen restaurant with its bookkeeping along with assisting a charitable meal program.

She also participates in Leadership Walton, a program offered to business students that provides training applicable to the real world, such as business etiquette, networking and community service.

But it goes back to her professors, who provide the core knowledge she needs to be successful.

“The projects that they have in classes are applicable to the real world,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Katherine Cloud

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“The Portfolio Management class was especially helpful in gaining access to the extensive alumni network.”

Katherine Cloud graduated from the Walton Honors Program in 2011 with a double major in accounting and finance. While a student in the Walton College, she studied alternative investments and management entrepreneurship at the London School of Economics. During the week, Katherine would attend classes and socialize with students from all over the world. On the weekends, she would travel around Europe, visiting the Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium and Scotland.

She was very involved on the Arkansas campus, serving as the treasurer of Pi Beta Phi sorority and being a member of multiple clubs and associations.

“I believe internships and extracurricular activities are attractive to employers,” Katherine said. She took this into consideration when she worked as an intern at Stephens Inc. in the Fayetteville office as well as at TME Inc., an Arkansas based engineering firm, throughout college.

Being a member of the Walton Honors Program helped her networking for her career, Katherine said. “The Portfolio Management class was especially helpful in gaining access to the extensive alumni network throughout the country,” she said. She garnered real world experience in class that transferred to her professional success and job placement.

Katherine currently works with Stephens Inc. in Dallas, Texas, as an investment banking analyst. “The experience has been a challenging but rewarding endeavor, and it is great to be able to apply what I learned at the Walton College to my everyday work,” she said.

EPIC Spotlight: Jody Bland

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“You won‘t regret the time you spend in the program.”

Jody Bland has advice for those considering graduate school.

“Prepare early and prepare often,” he says.

Jody speaks from experience. He earned his bachelors’ degrees in economics and finance in 2011 from the Sam M. Walton College of Business and is now a graduate student pursuing a master of science degree in economics and philosophy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He says his experiences in the Walton Honors Program allowed him to compete at the state and local level and on the international stage as well.

“As the only American in my graduate program, I’m constantly reminded of my roots,” he says. “Such a fact provides strong motivation to represent the Walton College and my state as best as my abilities allow.”

He says students wishing to pursue a highly technical graduate degree, such as economics or finance, should take as many math and statistics courses as are offered. Students should also begin preparing personal statements before their senior year to better compete with other applicants.

“The student-focused nature of the Walton Honors Program allowed me to receive individual-specific advice, guidance and recommendations that is unheard of at larger, more ‘prestigious’ universities,” he says.

Growing up about 40 miles south of Fayetteville in Alma, Jody says he became interested in public policy and had initially planned to go to law school following graduation. After his freshman year, however, he attended a summer program at the London School of Economics and fell in love with both the city and the school. He says by his senior year, he decided to forego law school when he realized graduate school would provide all of the education and opportunities necessary to achieve his goals.

As a Walton College undergraduate, Jody says he was active in politics both on campus and off. He served for two years as chapter president of the University of Arkansas’ Young Democrats and two years as chief justice of the Associated Student Government’s Judiciary. Off campus, he was involved in local- and state-level politics by working on campaigns, organizing fundraisers and serving as a Washington County representative on the Democratic Party of Arkansas State Committee. Outside of politics, he served a year as vice president for the Sigma Nu fraternity on campus.

After graduation, Jody interned with Amazon.com as a summer financial analyst. His duties involved developing an analysis of the facility-wide cost implications resulting from a recent corporate acquisition and developing a recommendation to alleviate any potential productivity losses associated with it.

After he graduates from the London School, Jody says he will begin work with Ernst and Young’s consulting practice in Dallas. He says he hopes to eventually follow his passion back into public service. Private sector experience with a top consultancy will provide him business insight that is essential to serve at the public level, he says.

Which brings another piece of advice, this time directed at undergraduate students considering enrolling in the Walton Honors Program.

“Do it,” he says. “You won’t regret the time you spend in the program. You’ll make great friends for life, be provided with ample networking opportunities and graduate into a situation that could literally put the world within your grasp.”