Category Archives: Students

Walton Gallery: Alley Scholars Summit 2015

Photos by Ryan Versey

Teams from Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas made up of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups competed Feb. 28 in the Alley Scholars Shark Tank Business Plan Challenge. The competition was part of the fourth annual Alley Scholars Summit hosted at the university by the Walton College, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering.

Alley Scholars Summit This Saturday

Teams from Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas made up of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups will compete Saturday, Feb. 28, in the Alley Scholars Shark Tank Business Plan Challenge at the University of Arkansas.

The competition is part of the fourth annual Alley Scholars Summit hosted at the university by the Sam M. Walton College of Business, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering.

The summit gives minority students and those from other underrepresented groups the opportunity to meet and hear the success stories of a diverse group of working professionals.

The summit is sponsored by Alley Scholars, a non-profit initiative for underrepresented students established by Troy and Unnice Alley with support from the Gerald and Candace Alley Foundation.

“The Alleys support many deserving students through the Alley Scholars program, helping young people attain educational and professional goals,” said Eli Jones, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “The University of Arkansas is proud to call Troy and Gerald alumni and proud to host the summit in their home state.”

The highlight of the summit is the Alley Scholars Shark Tank Business Plan Challenge in which teams develop and pitch a new business venture. Teams with the best proposals and presentations receive a total of $10,000. John English, dean of the College of Engineering, will serve as moderator of the business plan competition.

“I’m excited to take part in this event and honored to moderate the Business Plan Competition,” English said. “The College of Engineering applauds everything the Alleys do to support these students and help them build entrepreneurial skills.”

“Studies demonstrate the importance of diverse perspectives when solving problems or creating something new,” said Todd Shields, dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “Events like the Alley Scholars Summit help prepare young professionals to value the voices of others as well as to make their own voices heard through professional networking opportunities and learning directly from industry leaders.”

Held in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development conference center, the event will feature guest speakers Jamail Larkins, founder and president of Ascension Air Management and Larkins Enterprises, and Charles Robinson, vice chancellor for diversity and community affairs at the University of Arkansas.

“It is an honor to host the summit and to recognize students for their business acumen and creative problem solving,” said Barbara Lofton, director of diversity and inclusion, at the Walton College and chair of the Alley Scholars Summit committee. “These bright students are a fitting tribute to Troy and Gerald Alley, both of whom are successful entrepreneurs.”

Panel and roundtable discussions will address professional growth and opportunities. One panel will discuss influential women of color. Panelists include Racquel Harris, senior vice president, Member Strategy and Marketing, Sam’s Club; Michele Lezama, executive director, The National GEM Consortium; Betty Manetta, chief executive officer, Argent Associates; Laleh Amirmoez, president, AFHJ Architects; and Sylvia Hernandez, regional administrator, Greater Southwest Region, U.S. General Services Administration. Stacy Leeds, dean of the School of Law, will serve as moderator.

A second panel will discuss “Gaining A Seat at the Table – Real Talk about Professional Success.” The panel includes Paul Davis, vice president, Tyson Foods; Ronetta Francis, vice president, Employment Compliance, Walmart Stores; Anissa Buckner, chair, Department of Biology, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff; Willie Montgomery, director, Strategy and Analytics, Walmart; and Vincent Lyons, vice president, Engineering and Technology, Leggett & Platt. Dean Shields will moderate the discussion.

Deborah Shankle, vice president, Central Region, Manufacturing, Coca-Cola Refreshments, and Roland Parrish, president and chief executive officer, National Black McDonald’s Owners Association, and owner of Parrish McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd., will participate in a roundtable discussion moderated by Dean Jones.

Troy Alley, Robinson and Rosalind Brewer, president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club, will welcome guests to the summit. Troy and Unnice Alley will announce the business competition winners at the conclusion of the summit.

EPIC Spotlight: Rachel Dukes

Rachel Dukes had always heard that accounting is the language of business.

Living in the Dallas bedroom community of Grand Prairie, Rachel felt it was time to pursue the discipline at a university beyond the Texas border.

Arkansas immediately got her attention. Though she was not yet an Arkansas Razorbacks fan, the University of Arkansas’ school spirit was infectious. Her love for math veered her toward the accounting program at the Walton College.

As Rachel spent time on campus, everything felt right. “It just seemed like a good school with a very comforting environment,” she says.

The summer before her freshman school year, Rachel participated in the Business Leadership Academy, a residential program through the Walton College that creates an awareness of retail career choices and opportunities available to business majors. “BLA definitely set the foundation for my Walton College experience,” she says.

Rachel is making the most of the experience, too. She is the recipient the African-American Studies Scholarship, the Bridgestone-Firestone Scholarship, the Fred S. and Doreen D. Vorsanger Scholarship and the Pat and Gus Blass Endowed Scholarship.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of opportunities to network and make connections throughout the course of my college career.”

She serves as president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), where her duties include overseeing and organizing different events for the organization. She is also a member of Students of Retailing Excellence (STORE), which offers educational and networking programs for students interested in a retailing or marketing career. In addition, Rachel is involved with Leadership Walton, a program that combines leadership experience, academic learning and training in both professional and career development. She was a mentor to Freshman Business Connections students as well with the Connections program through the university’s Multicultural Center. Rachel has also been positively influenced by Barbara Lofton and her team through Walton College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, where Lofton serves as director. “I feel like I’ve had a lot of opportunities to network and make connections throughout the course of my college career,” she says.

One of those opportunities came in the form of the “Shark Tank” Challenge in Arlington, Texas, which was part of the 2014 Alley Scholars Summit. Rachel was a member of a Walton College team that took third place for its online grocery service business model. Rachel served as the team’s accountant, where her challenge was finding ways to stick to the budget provided to her. Team members also created a 30-page business report and presented its plan to judges, which included Shawn Taylor, CEO of Zaxby’s restaurant, and Shama Kabani, CEO of Marketing Zen.

The summit also included panels composed of educators and entrepreneurs who shared their experiences and advice.

Away from class and competitions, Rachel works as an accounting intern for Tyson Foods Inc., where she runs reports, audits and works on different accounting projects for her team.

Rachel also has a double minor in Spanish and African and African-American Studies, both disciplines she hopes will help her business career.

As for where she sees herself after graduation, there’s still time to explore. “Right now, I’m trying to soak in everything about accounting so I can find my niche,” she says.