At the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Karen Boston oversees the undergraduate programs office so students get the most out of their college experience.
She’s also an advocate to the community at large.
Boston, assistant dean for Undergraduate Programs, is chairwoman of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Not only that, of the 101 who have chaired the board since 1889, she is only the fourth woman to serve the position. And the youngest.
She’s busy tending to many things, whether it’s attending ribbon cuttings for new member investors, meeting with city and community leaders or discussing the ever-growing trail system that will someday connect several cities in Northwest Arkansas. Fayetteville, with its low crime rate, has plenty that’s worth promoting, she says.
“I think we have all the basic needs and quality of life you can want,” she says.
Boston says she envisions the creation of leadership programs that involve other chambers of commerce throughout the region, including Benton County and Fort Smith. She’s also helping implement a similar program in elementary schools called The Leader in Me, where students learn concepts created by Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
As a representative of Walton College, she says she hopes to help the university bridge partnerships with businesses as well as enhance economic development.
She has help from others. Mark Zweig, an executive in residence for the Department of Management at the Walton College and Terry Martin, Associate Dean in the College of Engineering serve on the board, and Jayshica Amargos, an affiliate with the ALPFA Institute, is an ex-officio, sharing that title with University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart.
Being assistant dean and the parent of a 9-year-old son, in addition to her Chamber of Commerce duties, does present its challenges, she says.
“I have a busy job as it is, and I want to do a good job,” Boston says. “I want to represent the chamber well.”
As for her love for Fayetteville, call her a convert. Boston grew up in Spring, Texas, located about 20 miles north of downtown Houston. When it came time for college, however, she enrolled at the University of Arkansas, where she earned both her bachelor and master degrees and a doctorate.
She says the plan was always to return back to the Houston area following graduation, but when her family left the state, Texas didn’t seem like home anymore.
“I certainly had intentions of going back to Texas,” she says. “But I really enjoyed Fayetteville, the size of Fayetteville, the demographics. … I love the University of Arkansas.”
Boston stayed with the university. She began working on campus in 1993, the year she earned her bachelor’s degree, she says. Three years later, she came to Walton College as an academic advisor and was named assistant dean in 2006. By then, she was a long-term resident of Fayetteville. It became home.
In 2006, she was accepted in the chamber’s Leadership Fayetteville program, which trains people to become strong leaders and volunteers in the community. From there, her involvement kept building, including serving as chair of the Leadership Fayetteville committee in 2009, graduating from Class II of Leadership Arkansas in 2008, and serving as the Volunteer Coordinator for Bikes, Blues and BBQ in 2008 and 2009. These leadership roles culminated with her serving this year’s chair position – one that continuously reminds her of all the advantages of living in the area.
“I travel a lot, and I’m always happy to come back to Arkansas,” Boston says.