John Erck knows about building from the ground up. For the past three years, from the time it was in the planning phase, Erck worked hard to secure funding for a state-of-the-art, $40 million football operations facility for the University of Arkansas.
As the new Senior Director of Development and External Relations for the Sam M. Walton College of Business, he can drive down Razorback Road and see his contributions through the Fred W. Smith Football Center, which was dedicated in September.
Erck comes to the Walton College from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics where, as development director, he was in charge of securing private gift support for 19 sports programs and more than 460 Razorback student-athletes. Now he’s channeling the same passion and energy into the Walton College, where he’s in charge of helping meet a $235 million campaign goal in its quest to be a Top 20 public business college by 2020. While the college has had many excellent supporters who have “carried the load” through the years, he says he’s eager to share with new people the excellent opportunities possible with their help.
He says he finds his sports development background fits in nicely with Walton College supporters – many of whom he got to know while working for the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Walton College itself has produced many successful Razorback student-athletes.) For those he meets on behalf of the Walton College, he knows of a good conversation starter. “The good news is that a lot of people want to talk about athletics, too,” Erck says.
Erck, who began his new role in August, replaces Katy Nelson-Ginder, who was recently named the university’s assistant vice chancellor for development.
“John brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to his new role in the Walton College,” says Walton College Dean Eli Jones. “His familiarity with the university and with Arkansas will mean a seamless transition as we all work to continue to build Walton into an even greater leader in international business education.”
Raised in Owatonna, Minn., Erck’s résumé includes serving three-and-a-half years as the director of major gifts and associate director of the National Commodore Club at Vanderbilt University and as assistant membership director with the Rams Club at the University of North Carolina.
While his background is strong in sports, Erck says it’s only one aspect of university life. “It’s important to remember that the academic portion of the university is the reason that we’re here,” he says.
He says he’s eager to continue the outstanding work of Nelson-Ginder, and he’s also glad to be at the Walton College. “It’s a professional environment, but it’s definitely a family atmosphere,” he says.
Erck, and his wife Erica, who is a University of Arkansas alumna, are the parents of three children: son Jack and two daughters, Ava and Liv.
When away from work, Erck says it’s no surprise he enjoys sports. He also likes to spend time with his family and travel.
And then there’s the time spent in his new job, which he says has started off well.
“The staff in this office is so good,” Erck says. “It’s great to have that support from both directions. It’s a great place to be.”
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.”
To break the ice with people she has just met, Joanna Campbell sometimes gives them one of the many stickers she keeps in her desk. Each bears the name of her hometown, Olsztyn, and features a coat of arms with an image of St. Jacob the Elder, protector of the Polish city.
Olsztyn, located about three hours north of Warsaw, is the home of Cathedral Basilica of St. Jacob, built in the 14th century. The castle located in the Old Town can claim noted astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus as one of its past residents. It’s a piece of her past she likes to share as she transitions to her new role as an assistant professor in the Department of Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “Everyone in the whole college has been really friendly and helpful,” she says.
Campbell grew up learning English, having chosen it as her second language — a requirement in Polish schools. She left her native country after high school graduation to attend college at Arizona State University.
Like many undergraduates, she dabbled with different courses before settling on two majors – finance and economics – and earned degrees in both. She says she worked in an office job for a couple of years, but it wasn’t for her. “I really missed academia,” she says.
She was accepted in the management doctoral program at the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University and graduated this past spring.
Campbell, who joined the management department in July, is spending the fall semester on campus devoted solely to her research. Her interests include corporate governance, top managers, stakeholder management and innovation. Campbell’s research has been published in Strategic Management Journal and Journal of International Business Studies. She says she is excited when her research findings can benefit the real world.
For example, in a co-authored paper forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal, she and her colleagues examined the effects a new rule introduced by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010 that would allow certain shareholders to nominate directors to a company’s board. The rule was challenged in court, and one of the arguments used was that there was insufficient evidence the rule would improve shareholder value. “Our findings consistently show that the rule benefits shareholders, especially for firms with lower board independence or greater CEO control,” she says, adding that she hopes to share her findings with the SEC.
Then, in the spring, she will bring her knowledge to the classroom when she begins teaching the Business Strategy course.
This knowledge is enhanced by her husband, Colin Campbell, who is a finance professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She says commuting to be with each other has been par for the course – ever since he graduated before her and moved away to accept a job, while she remained to finish her doctorate at Texas A&M. Still, they manage to spend weekends, summers and Christmas breaks together, which may include running and playing tennis at Wilson Park in Fayetteville.
Sometimes, they even collaborate on research. “We both agree we have the best jobs in the world,” she says.
Jessica Lind has another semester to go before graduation, yet she is already interviewing for a finance job. She says she is confident she will have something lined up by next summer.
She has the George W. Edwards Jr. Career Center to thank. Located in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, the center provides a variety of services from advising students to preparing them for job interviews. Jessica says she has made good use of it.
“I definitely think the Walton College career center is one of the most beneficial programs at the university,” Jessica says.
Jessica, who grew up about an hour south of Fayetteville in Alma and nearby Fort Smith, says she initially took science classes with thoughts of becoming an optometrist. She says she recognized, however, that she might be able to put her math and analytical skills to better use.
It was the business world calling.
She changed her major to finance with a minor in accounting, and she says it’s paying off. When she meets with job recruiters, they’re always pleased when they learn about her accounting background, she says.
They also look at her involvement in a portfolio management class, Jessica says. She is among the 18 students selected to take the class where the students manage The Rebsamen Trust. The student-management investment fund was established in 1971 by the late Raymond Rebsamen of Little Rock.
The class enables her to get hands-on experience with managing a portfolio of equity and fixed-income securities with the added bonus of a special trip to the New York Stock Exchange. The students work on the fund from the Walton College’s Global Markets Financial Center located in Willard J. Walker Hall. “We pretty much live in the trading center,” Jessica says.
Jessica first tried out her business school knowledge when she interned in the summer of 2011 at Arkansas Best Corp., a Fort Smith transportation company. Using a complex mainframe computer system, she researched and compared costs for pricing household moves.
Jessica is a member of the Walton College’s Finance Club and a member of the Senate in the University of Arkansas’ Associated Student Government. She also is vice president of standards for the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, an elected position where she keeps track of volunteers’ attendance and hours. “I had volunteered there a couple of times, and I really liked the people,” she says.
She also plays many roles in the university’s Greek system. She is Pi Beta Phi sorority’s social chair officer, which involves coordinating events with fraternities and other sororities, and is a delegate for Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol. She also serves as an administration committee delegate for the University of Arkansas chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, comprised of eight sororities on campus that administers Pan-Hellenic rules and regulations. Jessica also volunteers with children’s literacy programs and picks up trash on Fayetteville’s walking trails and parks on behalf of Pi Beta Phi’s philanthropy program.
Jessica also knows what she’ll do once she settles into a job: work toward becoming a chartered financial analyst.
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.
Any visitor to New York City would be remiss in not taking advantage of all of the public transportation opportunities available in the Big Apple. After all, some of the most iconic images of the city involve subways, buses, trains, and the magnificence of Grand Central Terminal.
Jeff Honea helps promote these iconic images for the MTA. A native of Little Rock, Ark., he initially chose the University of Arkansas so he could join friends and move farther away from home. He started in engineering because of his interest in technology and science, but was eventually drawn to the social aspect of business. After reading an ad and discovering he was interested in copywriting, he decided to major in marketing. In addition to his academic work, Honea was involved with the Sigma Chi fraternity, attended many football games, played tennis, and met a lot of friends in the dorms. He also developed a unique business plan during his senior capstone class that involved him becoming a writer for a sitcom.
This passion for writing inspired Honea to move to Dallas after graduation, where he worked for the Dallas Times Herald. When the newspaper ceased, he worked for J.C. Penney in their New York office as a copywriter for the catalog. Here he developed a love the city. Honea bought a listing all of the major advertising executives and sent out 90 resumes in the hopes of getting a meeting and eventually a job. At least three replied, including The New York Times and Bantam Books. Honea worked for Bantam for a short time, creating text for book flaps. Eventually, the Times hired him, and he became the executive creative director in Marketing Services. One of the exciting parts the job was participating in the “Page One” meetings held every day with some of the world’s top journalists. Honea said, “The front page is considered a snapshot in history, so it was always an interesting meeting.” He also worked on a major Times TV campaign that required casting actors who also happened to be readers.
When asked to give today’s students advice, Honea said, “The students should be giving me advice because things are moving so quickly.” He added, “Meeting people and networking is the way to get jobs.”
Honea began working for the MTA in 2008. He is excited about this transition because he considers himself a person who knows a little about a lot of subjects. The role is a great fit considering his interest in science and technology and his love for marketing and advertising.
He remarks, “It feels good to promote public transportation when going green is so important.” In his spare time, Honea enjoys writing books and songs, which are sung by his wife, and can be found on his website, www.theriversidedrives.com.
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.”
The floodwaters took over much of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. This could have spelled the end for Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza, which had opened only eight months earlier on the edge of the city’s Garden District.
The home of James “Jammer” Orintas sustained serious roof damage that displaced him for a few months. Yet his pizzeria was spared. He consulted with his partners and they agreed: Theo’s needed to re-open as soon as possible.
And it did in early October of that year. Theo’s provided relief for those with flooded homes and others suffering from power outages. For many, cooking at home wasn’t an option, Orintas says.
A citywide curfew limited Theo’s operating hours, while Katrina itself limited the availability of menu items. For the following six weeks, diners had a choice of either pepperoni or sausage pizza with Budweiser, Bud Light, Coke or Diet Coke.
The place was packed. “We ran out of food every single day,” Orintas says.
Theo’s also looked out for the public workers trying to restore the Crescent City.
“The police were working out of a city bus across the street from us,” Orintas recalls. “We took pizzas over.”
Now, eight years later, Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza survived Katrina and has even expanded, with two other locations in the New Orleans area and thousands of “likes” on Facebook.
Orintas – who was given the nickname “Jammer” by his father when he was one of five other students named James in his kindergarten class – didn’t immediately go into the restaurant business after earning his bachelor’s degree in finance in 1999 at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Instead, Orintas worked as a budget analyst for the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. He then spent four years as a financial analyst for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Yet, he kept looking back fondly to his younger days when he worked at U.S. Pizza in his hometown of Little Rock and, later, in Fayetteville as a university student. “I thought it was a great experience,” he says. “It was really fun.”
The idea of opening a pizzeria was sparked when Orintas’ buddy and fellow Arkansas alumnus, Greg Dietz, complained to him there wasn’t any good pizza in New Orleans, where he lived. The city known more for its gumbo and jambalaya was in dire need of a quality pizzeria.
Orintas, Dietz and their friend, Ted Neikirk, also a University of Arkansas alumnus, took the plunge. They opened Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza, a friendly place with brick walls and concrete floor and exposed ceilings and an extensive pizza menu with items named “Hawaii 5-0” and “Vegan-ator”. Sandwiches and salads are also available. “To me, it has the feel of a pizza joint,” Orintas says.
He says his management and marketing classes at Walton College have been especially helpful in operating a business. “When you have 85 staff members, the day-to-day management of that alone is difficult,” he says.
The business is growing. He and his partners are looking for a fourth pizza location. They have been approached with franchising opportunities, but Orintas says they prefer to wait.
Orintas advises anyone starting a restaurant business to do their homework. That would include negotiating the best, affordable lease as well as structuring management and employees – all while keeping a good, consistent product. “Planning is the key to success,” Orintas says.
Jackie Sandoval had to go to a meeting. She found the room, saw some familiar faces and a place to sit. But once the session began, Jackie quickly realized something was amiss. She was in the wrong meeting.
Instead of getting up to leave and drawing attention to herself, she decided to stay. The guest speaker at the meeting was Lisa Sarmiento, Walmart’s senior director of finance and strategy. Jackie was captivated by this successful businesswoman.
By the end of the meeting, Jackie was eager to become a member of the organization hosting the speaker, the University of Arkansas chapter of ALPFA, the largest Latino association for business professionals and students with chapters nationwide and over 20,000 members. The student chapter, which works with ALPFA’s Northwest Arkansas Chapter, serves as a mentoring program supported by the George W. Edwards, Jr. Career Development Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Jackie, a junior at the Walton College from Springdale, joined ALPFA and became vice president of community service, where she got fellow students active in charitable work, which included participating in Make a Difference Day. Now, she works 30 hours a week as a finance manager for the ALPFA Institute, which promotes advancement and leadership for Latino leaders globally. In addition, she is doing what many students would find unthinkable: She is a full-time student with an economics and finance double major and a double minor in accounting and information systems. While it may take five years instead of the traditional four to graduate, she says the additional concentrations will provide her with the needed skills that could open many doors for her professionally. “I’m not in any hurry,” she says. “I feel like the experience I’m getting here is invaluable.”
That experience includes ALPFA. Jackie attended its 2012 national conference in Las Vegas, Nev., which enabled her to make contacts and secure an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington, D.C. Jackie says she envisions herself working in the risk management field after graduation.
Jackie’s interest in business began when she participated in several mock trail competitions in high school. She became fascinated with corporate law and had the idea of becoming a lawyer. She made multiple visits to Walton College, looked at how many students got jobs after graduation and several other aspects. It was an easy decision.
“Walton College is one of the best business schools, so where else would I go?” she says.
Since enrolling at Walton College, Jackie says her interest in business grew to the point that law school is no longer on her radar. She says she is grateful for the opportunities the college has provided her.
She also is grateful for the mentorship offered by ALPFA. Jackie says she aspires to pass it on to her fellow students. Currently, she helps students in many ways, such as making professional connections. She plans to continue mentoring students when she’s a professional, especially through ALPFA. “Without the help of ALPFA, I wouldn’t be as far as I am now in my career path,” she says.