EPIC Spotlight: Dr. Karen Boston

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“I travel a lot, and I’m always happy to come back to Arkansas.”

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.

EPIC Spotlight: Justin Urso

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“I always tell students today to take advantage of the internship opportunities.”

Growing up the child of a single parent, Justin Urso saw his mother work three jobs just to put a roof over his head and food on the table. College wasn’t a family tradition, but Justin says his mother instilled in him that it needed to be. “Two key things I learned as a child were the importance of hard work and to always continue learning,” Justin says.

The journey to where he is now – a National Account Manager at Merisant, which manufactures tabletop sweeteners – was a little winding. “I never knew exactly my career path, but I give a lot of credit to the University of Arkansas for putting me on the right track,” he says.

Now, with a college degree, real-world experience and a master’s on the way, he says he wants to share with others what he has discovered: there are great opportunities for those with a background in economics and, more specifically, in Northwest Arkansas.

Following high school, Justin earned a scholarship and left his hometown of Van Buren to attend college in Conway, with plans of becoming a medical doctor. Yet, as a student, he says the business section of the daily newspaper got most of his attention.

In Justin’s sophomore year he relinquished his scholarship and moved to Fayetteville to enroll at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He said it was the first time he felt he was on the right path. “I just realized my passion – business and economics,” he says.

Justin says the highlight of his collegiate experience was a “life-changing” study abroad program in Japan led by Robert Stapp, a Walton College economics clinical professor. “Meeting business professionals outside the United States and interacting with Japanese people on a daily basis made me realize I wanted to work in global business one day,” he says.

By his senior year, Justin was applying what he was learning by interning as an international analyst for Tyson Foods, Inc. He worked for Mary Bryant, who was director of global accounts at the time. “Having this opportunity and strong mentors was instrumental in putting me on a path to success,” he says. “I always tell students today to take advantage of the internship opportunities.” After graduating, he returned to Japan through an exchange program where he taught English to students for a year in a remote village, while improving his Japanese fluency.

He returned to the United States and moved to Chicago to accept a job with Wilson Sporting Goods Co. as a retail analyst for its Walmart account. There, he figured out a way to use his economics degree to build effective plans – much of which was at the height of the global financial crisis.

“When you sit in class and study supply and demand, you never think about how it relates to a product in a retail space,” he says. “I was fascinated by all the moving parts of the business and how the study of economics touched every part of it.”

By 2009, he was working for Merisant as a demand manager, where he led the company to three consecutive years of forecast improvements using his experience and economics background as key drivers. Justin eventually relocated to Northwest Arkansas to be closer to family and to work on the Walmart/Sam’s Club account for Merisant. In 2012, he married his longtime girlfriend, Mailena, who is director of marketing and communications for Collective Bias, a social content marketing company in Bentonville, and also a University of Arkansas adjunct journalism instructor.

Now, Justin is enrolled in the Walton College Master of Business Administration program, where students can earn a master’s degree in two years by attending class one Saturday a month and doing the rest through distance learning. He admits to being an entrepreneur at heart but says he hopes to continue his track of success in his current career. He says he eventually would like to be a business professor – one who can share real world experiences. He says he feels the Executive M.B.A. program and the “great community” of Northwest Arkansas will continue to open those doors.

EPIC Spotlight: John Erck

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“It’s a professional environment, but it’s definitely a family atmosphere.”

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.”

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.”

EPIC Spotlight: Dr. Joanna T. Campbell

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“Everyone in the whole college has been really friendly and helpful.”

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.

EPIC Spotlight: Jessica Lind

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“I definitely think the Walton College career center is one of the most beneficial programs at the university.”

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.

EPIC Spotlight: Jennifer Duncan

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“Though I’m not doing accounting, I still get to talk about my experiences, both while at the university and the Walton College.”

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.

EPIC Spotlight: Jeff Honea

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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.

EPIC Spotlight: Jeannie Waller

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“I think students who want to succeed in business need to be really good at writing.”

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.”