EPIC Spotlight: Eric Ableitner

EricAbleitner2

Eric Ableitner hasn’t graduated yet, but he already has several job offers to choose from. “Right now I’m going back to several companies, to see more about what they offer,” explained Eric, who is majoring in international business. One of the jobs he’s considering would involve traveling abroad to improve the international development of a company, working in distribution, repair, transportation, and replenishment.

Overseas travel is not new to Eric, who has studied abroad in Germany and Brazil. On his first trip, he worked in a German day spa and learned the language. Eric returned to Germany a year later to work in the transportation logistics department of Norgren, a pneumatics company. Because his family is originally from Germany, Eric took advantage of this opportunity to learn more about his culture and heritage.

The following summer, Eric spend several weeks in Brazil, touring companies and learning about how Brazilian businesses are affected by the economics and infrastructure of the country.

Eric also got valuable work experience through an internship at Walmart. As a Walmart intern, Eric completed a project that established the most efficient and effective ways to distribute different products through Walmart facilities. He also worked as a replenishment manager, making sure that Walmart stores kept enough stock on the shelves to meet customer demand.

On campus, Eric is active in many extracurricular activities, including Leadership Walton, the German academic honor society, and the University of Arkansas Career Center’s Professional Development Institute. In 2009, he won the University of Arkansas’ Logistics Mock Case Competition, and went on to compete in an actual case competition at the University of North Florida. In addition to his classes and extracurricular activities, Eric also finds time for community service, volunteering for food drives and helping to organize a golf tournament to benefit the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter.

One of the things Eric appreciates most about his experience at the Walton College is the opportunity to learn from professors and classmates. “Every class I took was phenomenal,” he said. “The U of A has helped me increase my capacity to think.”

EPIC Spotlight: Elijah Garcia

SONY DSC

Each year, Elijah Garcia and his family would load up the car and travel from his hometown of Santa Fe, N.M., to visit relatives in Northwest Arkansas. It was one of the few times he would ever get to travel, but he always enjoyed his visits. “There’s a lot of stuff to do in the area and a lot of opportunities here,” he says.

Now it’s time to pursue those opportunities. Like many University of Arkansas students nearing graduation, he’s interviewing for jobs – some of his contacts were made at a career fair held on campus. While he says he’s keeping his options open, should he end up staying in Northwest Arkansas, it would be fine with him.

A senior retail and marketing major at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Elijah has spent the past year working as a management trainee intern at Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Fayetteville. He says his duties include serving as a middleman between insurance adjusters and the managers of rental vehicles in northern Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. When Enterprise sponsored a competition among the region’s interns, Elijah came in second with his presentation and won first place overall, earning a scholarship.

Elijah says his decision to attend the University of Arkansas was an easy one. With family in the area, he knew the transition to the next stage in his life would go smoothly. When he learned more about Walton College, it was practically a no-brainer. “That Walton College is highly respected and highly ranked made my choice a little bit easier,” he says.

He paid a visit to the campus before enrolling, and the first thing that impressed him was the buildings with the latest technology, especially Willard J. Walker Hall, which, on the third floor, features a stock market ticker that can be viewed from the second and fourth floors. Then, he met the professors, whom he calls “topnotch.” It all felt right.

One aspect he’s taken advantage of as a college student is traveling. Elijah, who has a Spanish and economics minor, studied abroad for five weeks in Puebla, Mexico, visited New York and, most recently, New Orleans on an AMA trip. He is also a Silas Hunt Scholar and served as a mentor his sophomore year.

Elijah is active with the American Marketing Association’s student chapter where he serves as vice president of fundraising. He says the experience has been invaluable in getting a taste of the corporate world. The group has been researching with Walton College’s supply chain department a “scan and go” app where Walmart and Sam’s Club customers can scan their purchase items with their smartphones before paying at a self-checkout station, he says.

There are also group activities in his Walton College classes, which he says has enhanced his communication skills. “A lot of the group work has really led to my maturity as a professional as well as a person,” he says.

When he’s not in the classroom, Elijah can be found on the campus’s athletic fields, participating in intramural sports. His flag football team recently won the men’s championship. Now, with his college career about to come to an end, there will be new opportunities to champion.

EPIC Spotlight: Dylan Breeding

DylanBreeding

Nobody offered him scholarships. Nobody recruited him. But Dylan Breeding knew he had to try for a spot on the Arkansas Razorback football team.

A talented punter, Dylan dreamed of playing college football. Ideally, it would have been for the University of Alabama, located near his hometown of Hoover, Ala. But when there was no opening for a punter on the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, he began looking elsewhere.

The Razorbacks needed a punter. He contacted the coaches.

“They were really excited that I was coming,” he says. “But nothing was promised.”

In June 2009, immediately after graduating from high school, he moved to Fayetteville, enrolled in summer school and, by August, began football practice, where he was designated as a preferred walk-on, which assured him a spot on the team but no scholarship money.

Two days before the 2009 football season began, Dylan was informed he would be the starting punter. From there, it kept getting better. That season, the team went to the Liberty Bowl. The next year, it was the Sugar Bowl. Then, in January, Dylan punted in the Cotton Bowl with a win that ranked Arkansas No. 5 in the nation. (His career long, so far, happened against Louisiana State University last November with a 70-yard punt.)

As a punter, Dylan explains his role on the Razorback team succinctly.

“My goal as a punter is to give our team the best field position possible,” he says.

DylanBreeding
He’s also working for the best position possible off the field. One way he’s doing it, he says, is by attending the Sam M. Walton College of Business, where he’s majoring in marketing. Even with training, practice and football games on the road, Dylan is in the Walton College Honors Program, which motivates him to keep at his best, he says. That means studying whenever he gets a chance, especially on Sundays. “The discipline is that I don’t sleep much,” he says.

Dylan says playing professional football is his goal, though he says he feels he needs to improve. “I would like to play football in the future, but I need to be able to fall back on a career as well,” he says. Intrigued by marketing concepts, Dylan says sports marketing would “obviously be the way to go.”

He says his first visited to the University of Arkansas was a bit of a whirlwind tour. But he says he soon learned that Walton College had a great reputation. “I liked the business college – it being so prestigious,” he says.

Since coming to the university nearly three years ago, Dylan has earned a scholarship. He also was nominated for the Brandon Burlsworth Trophy the past two seasons, which goes to an outstanding football player who began his career as a walk-on, and the Rudy Award, which honors student athletes who demonstrate exemplary character, courage, contribution and commitment as members of their team on and off the field. In January, Dylan was selected to the 2011 Southeastern Conference Fall Academic Honor Roll and the All-SEC second team for football.

Off the field, and outside of the classroom, Dylan is active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has active Razorback members, and speaks to groups on behalf of the organization. He also plays golf.

One other thing has happened as well: confidence.

“I don’t feel as much pressure as I used to,” he says. “I just take it one punt at a time.”

Dylan says he expects to graduate this December, which leaves him a few months until the NFL draft. “I’m going to stay up here, train and hope for the best,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Dr. Robin L. Soster

RobinSoster

Robin Soster is getting used to the ribbing when people step inside her office. On the wall is a Gamecocks banner from her alma mater, the University of South Carolina.

“That’s probably my favorite thing: when people come in my office and ask me where I’m from,” she says.

Newly transplanted from South Carolina, where she has spent most of her life, the Department of Marketing assistant professor says she’s already warming up to the Gamecocks’ rival, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Also on her office wall is one of many famous hog hats worn by diehard Arkansas sports fans. Because both the Gamecocks and Razorbacks are Southeast Conference teams, she says this helps her feel like she’s not so far from her hometown. In fact, until her job interview at the University of Arkansas, she had never stepped foot in the Natural State.

There have been Arkansas connections, however. Midway through graduate school at the University of South Carolina while pursuing her marketing MBA, she found herself working for Gamecocks football Coach Lou Holtz, who once coached the Razorbacks. Through her alma mater’s FABER Entrepreneurship Center, she helped design the team’s promotional hats and T-shirts.

Soster, who teaches consumer behavior, says her academic journey into marketing stemmed from a question she asks herself when she goes shopping: Why am I buying this? Though she earned bachelor of science degrees in both management science and economics, she says the behavioral aspect intrigued her. “Marketing was just the natural fit for me,” she says.

Her ability to “practice” consumer behavior was one of the many aspects that attracted her to Northwest Arkansas. Up the road in Benton County are plenty of shopping centers and stores. She says her husband, Eric Soster, and three children love the “cool” and “funky” side of Fayetteville and get out and enjoy the Ozarks as much as possible.

Soster’s journey to academia was a winding one. Before deciding to go back to the University of South Carolina to pursue her Ph.D., she was a marketing and financial analyst for a private equity firm, worked as a computer programmer and even toyed with becoming a high school teacher until she had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. Once “bitten by the teaching bug,” she decided to go back to school, completing her degree in 2011.

As one the newest faces at Sam M. Walton College of Business, Soster says she hopes she can leave a lasting impression with her consumer behavior students. She says she challenges them to make rational decisions in the marketplace and to be the kind of managers that enable other consumers to do so as well. She says she tries to convey this message through humor (on her non-teaching days, she can be found in her office wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt) and assigning her students books business professionals are reading.

“People like seeing how irrational we humans can be,” she says. “We do not necessarily think like economists!”

EPIC Spotlight: Dr. Gary Peters

GaryPeters

Growing up in Arkansas, Dr. Gary Peters loved the outdoors. Fishing. Hunting. It was all good. As an undergraduate enrolled at a community college, he thought he could channel his passion by majoring in biology with the idea of someday working in wildlife management. When he took a job at a local sporting goods store, however, that all changed. “I really got more interested in running a business instead of just working at one,” he says.

He switched his degree to business, although he did not see himself becoming an accounting major.

“I was good at it but … let’s just say I didn’t have a good idea of what accountants really do,” he says. In fact at one point he thought, “I’ll never be an accounting major.”

Never say never.

He took his business interests to Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, where he earned his bachelor’s degree. It was there his professors showed him the beauty of accounting: it had more to do with decision-making. “They taught me accounting information is the common denominator in every business. Everyone needs it to make good business decisions. It applies to every part of a business.”

“Well now I can use these skills to make a difference inside the company,” he told himself then.

He graduated, became a certified public accountant and went to work in Little Rock. All the while, he had a desire to learn more about the profession. He left his home state and pursued a master’s degree at the University of Missouri followed by a doctorate at the University of Oregon. He began teaching at the University of Georgia. In 2003 the University of Arkansas called.

As an associate professor in accounting at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, he serves as director for the Master of Accounting (MAcc) and the new Integrated Masters of Accountancy (IMAcc) programs. The IMAcc was launched to allow students to begin the program their senior year and complete it by the end of their fifth. Peters says his goals for these programs is more than making students ready for their first job, but also for future promotions when students are competing with co-workers who very likely have graduate degrees from other universities. “In accounting, the master’s degree is important when starting a career, but it is even more important when advancing in your career.” As Peters sends his students on their way, he also offers this advice: “Always be looking for opportunities at work, that’s when you make a difference, that’s when you will go great places that you would not have predicted.”

Peters’ work opportunities are his research, which focuses on audit committees and internal auditors and how they can add value to companies. He says their knowledge can aid companies and their shareholders in making sound decisions. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Contemporary Accounting Research, MIS Quarterly and The Accounting Review. In 2009, Peters was named to the Doris M. Cook Chair of Accounting.

As for the outdoors, Peters says he still has a passion for hunting and fishing. This time with the addition of his wife, Shannon, and their four children. “We love the Ozarks,” he says. “We’ve lived in some great places, but there is something special about Fayetteville.”

EPIC Spotlight: Dr. Anníbal Camara Sodero

SONY DSC

When Dr. Anníbal Camara Sodero learned the University of Arkansas had created a Department of Supply Chain Management, he was eager to get on board. He knows how exciting it is to be part of something that has just started, and he realized a dream when he joined the department at the Sam M. Walton College of Business in January 2013.

It was a no brainer: an excellent job, at a wonderful institution, in the perfect location!

It was an achievement that tops all the other major accomplishments in his career, he says.

Sodero already knows success. In his late teens, he used knowledge gained from his bachelor’s degree in computer sciences at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais to start a business in a small studio in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. If something needed to be done, he and his partner would roll up their sleeves and take care of it themselves. “At the beginning, we were washing toilets,” he says.

Eventually, Ad Hoc Informática took off and became the market leader in software and consulting services for third-party logistics providers. “The industry was underserved, so we saw this niche,” he says.

In 2005, Sodero sold the company to Brazil’s giant GlobalWeb Data Services Corp. By then, his life had changed considerably. He followed his wife, Dr. Anna Goussevskaia (who recently began teaching at the Walton College as well), to England where she was working toward a Ph.D. in management at Warwick University. While there, he earned a master’s degree in supply chain management. He says he felt a need to grasp the underlying theories he encountered during his more than 10 years at Ad Hoc.

After a brief return to Brazil, Goussevskaia persuaded Sodero, a son of educators himself, to follow his vocation. He enrolled in the Ph.D. program in supply chain management at Arizona State University. The couple moved to Tempe, and his wife became a faculty member at the university’s management department.

Before graduation, Sodero learned of an assistant professorship opening at the University of Arkansas’ supply chain management department. It became his top choice. For starters, many of the faculty’s research streams were aligned with his interests, which are centered on multichannel retailing and the use of social media in supply chains. The collegiate atmosphere of the new department at the Walton College offered unique opportunities of collaboration and cooperation with experts in the discipline. Also, Sodero says he valued that both supply chain management and RFID research centers bridge the relationship between academia and practice.

When he was invited for a campus visit, he says he immediately fell in love with the Northwest Arkansas people and the Ozarks. So, when he received a job offer, he did not hesitate to accept it. “It was a no brainer: an excellent job, at a wonderful institution, in the perfect location!” he says.

Sodero says he is glad to have an opportunity to teach and conduct research at the Walton College. “You can see the passion and vision to create and deliver programs in which you can give back to the community at large,” he says. “I love my students, I love my job, and it is great to give back to the local community.”

In his spare time, Sodero likes to cook. His specialty is chicken tikka massala, a dish he learned to prepare while living in England. He says he and Goussevskaia are eager to explore the outdoors and attend concerts at the Walton Arts Center.

And he wants to start a new hobby. “I know how big fishing is in the region,” Sodero says. “I just want to become a fisherman like many locals.”