Category Archives: Information Systems

EPIC Spotlight: Kathryn Carlisle

Banks are a big part of many people’s lives. They use them to receive and store their paychecks, pay their bills, take out loans and save. For most working Americans, having enough money to open and retain a checking account can be fairly easy.

But for families, farmers or entrepreneurs in developing countries, that’s a different story, says Kathryn Carlisle, senior managing director for the Blockchain Center of Excellence at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

“Banks usually require an initial balance, let’s say $50, to even open an account, and many individuals in these emerging economies don’t have the disposable income necessary,” Carlisle says. “They may be excluded from the financial system because they’re a woman or because they’re a certain ethnicity or a persecuted minority group within the system.”

Or they simply may not live near a bank.

Carlisle was working as a financial analyst at Little Rock-based Heifer International when she made the observation. Heifer International works to eradicate hunger and poverty worldwide through community development programs that give gifts of livestock and training to provide families with food and reliable income.

Finding ways for families to keep their income secure weighed heavy on Carlisle’s mind. She saw cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, as a solution. This virtual currency is based on blockchain technology, a process that uses a network of independent computers to secure a permanent record of transactions, allowing participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively, eliminating the need for an intermediary. This method offers increased security and privacy, Carlisle says.

“I like to think of it as the democratization of money, similar to how the internet democratized information,” she says. “It’s more accessible to people all over the world.”

With the revelation, Carlisle enrolled in the online master’s digital currency program with the University of Nicosia at Cyprus, which was the first institution to offer this degree. She took courses remotely while continuing her role with Heifer by implementing blockchain initiatives and serving as blockchain and cryptocurrency content creator and strategist. The organization now embraces blockchain-enabled projects, including those benefiting Honduran coffee farmers.

Carlisle left Heifer International and started her own blockchain and cryptocurrency consulting business, Distributed Tech Partners. She then worked for a Walmart broker in Bentonville before coming to the Blockchain Center of Excellence in August 2019. The center was established in May 2018 within the Department of Information Systems at Walton with the vision of being a premiere academic leader for blockchain application research and education.

This marks Carlisle’s return to Walton. Originally from Little Rock, she graduated from the college with degrees in international business, with an accounting concentration, and Spanish. As a student, she studied abroad in Spain and Mozambique.

Last spring, Carlisle taught the special topics class Introduction to Cryptocurrency and contributes in other blockchain fundamental courses as well. She says companies already see the value of blockchain technology. It will be the future, she says, and the student demand is there. They represent all majors at Walton with some taking advantage of the Blockchain Enterprise Systems minor that is offered.

She says students have been quick to catch on to the concepts behind blockchain technology. “It was exciting to see the business ideas these students had, and they wanted to continue with after the class,” Carlisle says.

As the Blockchain Center of Excellence continues to grow, Carlisle would like to expand its resources by providing a larger professional network for its partners as well as help them solve problems through focused research. The end result is a collaboration between both Walton students and industry.

In the meantime, Carlisle is preparing for the 2020 Blockchain for Business Conference, a free event hosted by both the Blockchain Center of Excellence and Walton that takes place virtually October 1-2. It will feature industry, technology and academic experts who will share both their knowledge and experiences and interact with participants individually through video calls and chats. There will be panel discussions, industry breakout sessions and more.

Carlisle says it has been exciting to see how both Arkansas and the region is embracing blockchain. “That’s what’s been so fun: to have so many opportunities to see different forms of this technology taking off,” she says.

Three New Business Graduate Degrees Created to Meet Industry Demand

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas now offers three new graduate degrees including a Master of Professional Accounting, Master of Applied Business Analytics and Master of Science in Supply Chain Management. Classes will begin in fall 2020. Continue reading Three New Business Graduate Degrees Created to Meet Industry Demand

Blockchain in Business: What Do Companies’ 10-K Reports Say About DLT?

Three researchers from the Walton College at the University of Arkansas – Mary Lacity, Kris Allee and Yaping Zhu – looked at SEC-required reports to “examine companies’ propensity to discuss blockchains in their 10-Ks in order to measure the degree of their investment in this technology.” Continue reading Blockchain in Business: What Do Companies’ 10-K Reports Say About DLT?

Frizzell Selected as Walton College Employee of the Quarter

Alice Frizzell, assistant director of the Department of Information Systems Graduate Programs, has been named employee of the fourth 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 Frizzell, Karen McDowell, administrative support supervisor for the Department of Finance, and Sandra Cox Birchfield, administrative specialist for the Department of Marketing, were also nominated for their contributions to Walton College.

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.

EPIC Spotlight: Qin Weng

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.