EPIC Spotlight: Diego Beekma

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In 2007, Diego Beekma was one of four students that comprised the first graduating class of Bolivia’s Highland International School. It was an all-male group. “Needless to say, prom wasn’t that interesting,” Beekma said. He decided to attend the University of Arkansas for two primary reasons. One, Bolivian students are charged in-state tuition to this institution; two, it’s home to the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Beekma said his high school principle and advisor encouraged him to study business, particularly at the Walton College. “At the time, I didn’t know much about it, but he directed me that way and I’m glad that he did. Later on, as I learned more about the University and the Walton College, I thought it would be an excellent choice.”

His transition from Bolivia to the United States was a relatively smooth one, though not at first. “I remember my freshman year, I got here and I was just completely lost. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but I think I had a bit of culture shock. I walked out to Garland and Wedington and I just kind of stood there at the corner for a while, staring at everything. Then I went into Harps and just slowly walked around and stared at everything. The supermarkets look the same as they do at home, but I think the sudden change just hit me a little bit,” he said. Since then, he has gotten his bearings. Now that he’s here and accustomed to the school, he said he knows he made the right choice. “The classes are good, but there’s a lot going on outside of class like the career fairs and networking opportunities. There are a lot of resources besides the classroom.”

Since coming to the University, Beekma said building relationships has been important to him. He was a resident assistant in Yocum Hall during his junior year and found great enjoyment there. “I love it. Yocum is awesome.” As a resident assistant, he said the goal is to help students turn school into home. “More than anything, we try to build communities in the halls. We want them to feel part of the University. We want people to get involved.” Because the Freshman Business Learning Team is based in Yoakum, he said he is able to interact with many of his Walton College classmates.

Beekma spends time getting to know potential and entering students, as well. During the summer, he assists with First Year Experience Orientation. He enjoys it so much that he applied for a Walton College ambassador position. He was accepted, and in fall 2010 he’ll be singing the praises of his school to groups of prospective business students. Beekma said he is looking forward to this. “I like interacting with different people,” he said.

Building relationships is just as important in business as it is in life, Beekma said. Networking is becoming increasingly necessary for professional success. “Often times, that’s what a lot of business is. You definitely want to be meeting those people. You want to be making those connections. I think that’s important,” he said. “It allows you to grow professionally.” He said the Walton College has given him skills that he has brought to his extracurricular activities. “Sometimes I know the president of another RSO. Right then and there, we’re just talking; all of a sudden we’re making a connection; then we start realizing, ‘You’re doing a project now, and I’m doing a project later. Maybe we can combine our efforts and help each other out.’ You see that a lot in the Walton College of Business.”

When Beekma graduates in spring 2011, he hopes to keep learning-but outside of the classroom. “I want to see what the corporate world is about here [in America]. What is the work environment here? Hopefully, after that, maybe I can go home [to Bolivia] and be able to apply what I’ve learned.

EPIC Spotlight: David Medina

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“I get to meet a lot of people I otherwise wouldn’t get to meet.”

The months following high school graduation, David I. Medina studied the dialogue from an American TV show about plane crash survivors on a deserted island.

Living in Monterrey, Mexico, he was taking an English class where viewing the TV series “Lost” was part of the curriculum. He says the show’s plot was captivating and provided a good incentive to mastering the English language. “I wanted to learn what they were saying,” he says.

David had big plans in the works.

His brother and sister had moved to the United States and told him good things about the country. David’s brother, in particular, went to college and landed a job at Walmart in Bentonville. David decided he wanted to live in Bentonville, too.

Moving to Northwest Arkansas was a bit of a culture shock, he says. His transition was eased when he discovered there was less traffic than Monterrey, and he was excited to experience his first snowfall.

“And then I started enjoying the people,” he says. “They’re very nice.”

Shortly after moving to Bentonville, David enrolled at NorthWest Arkansas Community College where he took his core courses and had a job working on the school’s computers. Since transferring to the University of Arkansas in 2010, David has been a familiar face at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, especially to the faculty, staff and Ph.D. students. As a computer technician with the college’s Technology Center, he helps keep their computers running smoothly.

“I like it,” he says. “I get to meet a lot of people I otherwise wouldn’t get to meet.”

That will change at the end of the semester. David will graduate with a computer science degree and work at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville as a programmer analyst. There, he will help create computer applications for Walmart vendors to use.

The job came after two summer internships with the world’s largest retailer, David says, adding that working at Walton College helped him understand the retail culture better. He even utilized the college’s Career Center to help him fine-tune his resume.

David says his love for videogames played a role in his majoring in computer science. As a class project, he designed a videogame based on Super Mario Bros. called Arkansas Rumble, where a little hog maneuvers through paths as it bashes away mascots from rival universities. He has also created a website where social media users can create memes in Spanish and is working on a videogame where zombies attack the University of Arkansas.

Yet, David says he may further his education at some point by enrolling in Walton College’s Executive MBA program. There, students can earn a master’s degree in two years by attending class one Saturday a month and doing the rest through distance learning.

Now settled, David says he has adapted to Arkansas culture, including attending Razorback football games, even though his heart is with soccer.

“Half of the time, I didn’t know what’s going on, but I still like it,” he says. He says he also plays bass guitar for his church band, but, he concedes, playing the guitar isn’t his No. 1 passion. “My passion is computers,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Clair Finke

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“When you walk in the halls, there’s always a familiar face.”

That initial view of the Boston Mountains from Humphreys Hall dormitory was breathtaking. The campus was large and the opportunities were exciting. Clair Finke soon learned the rave reviews she heard from her former next-door-neighbor weren’t bogus. The University of Arkansas was where she wanted to go to school.

Living in Leawood, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, she had many possibilities of where to go to college. When Clair and her parents scheduled a trip to Fayetteville, she went on a campus tour, met with Undergraduate Programs at the Sam M. Walton College of Business and, to get a feel for the “realistic side” college life, visited her transplanted neighbor. Her father was also impressed, she says. Her decision to attend the University of Arkansas was solidified. She is an international business major with a minor in Spanish and economics.

The summer before her freshman year, Clair participated in the Business Leadership Academy, which continues to be offered each summer. Operated by Walton College’s Center for Retailing Excellence and Diversity Programs, it provides incoming freshman a taste of the college life while presenting them business concepts ranging from accounting to presentation skills.

Clair says a high point for her was when a buyer for Walmart came to speak to the academy. “That’s when it hit me I was doing the right thing by going to the Walton College,” she says.

During the program, Clair spoke with an adviser and learned she would be a first-year honors student. With smaller classes provided for honors students in a large campus setting, Clair says she has the best of both worlds.

The teamwork, friendship and little things, like ordering late-night fast-food while working with her fellow students in the college’s Underwood Family Honors Lounge, will be memories Clair will cherish. “When you walk in the halls, there’s always a familiar face,” she says.

She says she has also benefited from Walton College’s established reputation in the business world, like providing opportunities to visit local corporate offices. Clair says she has utilized the George W. Edward Jr. Career Center when needing help writing her resume and gaining information about internships.

As a member of Leadership Walton, which helps prepare students for the business world, she gained an internship in China working as a marketing planner for a travel company. Clair and two other American interns wrote blogs for the company to encourage tourism to the country. She also came up with the idea of having a photo contest on the company’s Facebook page to encourage activity on the website.

She is studying abroad this spring, traveling to Spain to attend the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Then, next summer and fall, Clair will intern for 22 weeks in the Innovations Department at Sam’s Club, where her duties will include merchandising and other assignments. She says the experience will allow her to see a project from the very beginning to its end result.

Clair is a member of the university’s chapter of the National Retail Federation Student Association, where she has served as secretary. Away from Walton College, she is active with the Kappa Delta sorority, where she has held leadership roles.

She says she plans to graduate in May 2014 and is keeping her options open. “Graduate school is definitely on my radar,” she says.

But one thing she says she knows for sure, attending Walton College was a smart decision.

“I love to travel, and I think international business is the right direction for me,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Chris Moon

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Chris Moon chose the Walton College of Business because of its excellent reputation and the opportunities it offered. Now a senior majoring in information systems and German, Chris has taken challenging classes, studied abroad twice, and met with representatives from some of the biggest technology companies in the nation.

“If you’re going to go to the University of Arkansas, you should consider the business college,” says Chris, pointing to the abundant resources and high rankings of the Walton College. He emphasizes that the student body at Walton is very diverse, and not all students are headed for traditional business careers. His major, for example, could lead to a job as a video game developer, and he knows of several students who are planning to attend medical school after graduating.

As an honors student, Chris has taken advantage of study abroad scholarships to travel to Germany and China. In Germany, he stayed with a host family and took literature, grammar, and German culture classes. In China, he attended the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, where he studied Mandarin and Chinese business management. Chris said that studying in China was a valuable learning experience, because the pace is so different there. “Life is 100 miles per hour all the time,” he said, explaining that this taught him how to deal with chaos and accept that he can’t always be in control. “That experience was the highlight of my college career.”

Chris also values the networking opportunities he has found in the Walton College. Recently, he attended Unite, the Unity 3D development conference, and was able to discuss his honors thesis project with the head of Unity’s Android operations. Chris is designing a mobile application that combines augmented reality and RFID technology, which could make RFID data more tangible while allowing for increased productivity and reduced inventory loss. For example, a cell phone with this app would show a video image of its environment, adding information about any RFID-tagged objects within its range.

Chris recently accepted a position at Hewlett-Packard, and he explained that was drawn to HP as they are one of the largest, most profitable, and most environmentally friendly companies in the world. Chris would not be the first Arkansas graduate to work for Hewlett-Packard; their Chief Information Officer is a University of Arkansas alumnus.

EPIC Spotlight: Chris Krittenbrink

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“I just think there are so many opportunities at the Walton College, and you don’t realize it until you get deep into it.”

For Chris Krittenbrink, the global experience is already happening. Last summer, he visited South Africa as part of the University of Arkansas’ Study Abroad program.
As a student at the University of the Western Cape, he took economic developmental classes where his studies included the World Bank. He even had an opportunity to hear former Capetown Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak. Through other people’s eyes, he began to see how foreigners view the United States.

There were also projects. “I was in a class where we picked a developing nation and talked about it,” he says.

It was not the first time for Chris, who’s from Norman, Okla., to travel abroad. He says his first overseas experience happened when he was 16 and lived in San Sebastian, Spain, with a host family through a Spanish immersion program. He says the experience led him to consider a career that would allow him to combine his interests for business analytics with opportunities to travel around the world. Majoring in international business management with a minor in Spanish seemed like a good start.

Chris says his parents and sisters all attended the University of Oklahoma, which is located in his hometown. “I was looking for something that was a different atmosphere than Norman,” he says. When he paid a visit to the University of Arkansas, the Sam M. Walton College of Business looked like a good fit for him, he says. The university, located about 250 miles east, provides some independence while being close enough for the “safety net” of his parents should he ever need them, he says. When he began his business classes that fall, his decision was reaffirmed. “On day one, I felt I had someone I could call and communicate with,” Chris says.

Now a senior, Chris says he hopes to work internationally in a profession that deals with identifying and acting on global trends in the corporate structure. He says he would be happy to working in the United States with clients abroad or living outside of the country, if need be. “I’d like my focus to be on global interactions and how to cope with them in daily operations,” he says.

His current daily interactions and operations, however, include student activities such as serving as a Walton College Student Ambassador where, among other duties, he gives prospective students campus tours. It also allows Chris to learn even more about the college. “You get to know everyone who works at Walton College a little better,” he says. His sophomore year, he was also a mentor for Freshman Business Connections, a first-year program at Walton College.

His other activities include membership with the university chapter of the Human Resources Management Association, which brings in local and national business leaders for presentations. He is also a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

As Chris winds down his final year at school, he says he has had little free time, aside from the occasional tailgating at sporting events or hanging out with friends at local lakes. Instead, he says he takes every opportunity to do homework and tries to minimize his television viewing.

Yet, he says he’ll always value his college education, which he says offers diverse instructors from so many walks of life. “I just think there are so many opportunities at Walton College, and you don’t realize it until you get deep into it,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Chris Hofer

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“I really enjoy working and spending time with every one of my colleagues.”

That little container of yogurt on the supermarkets’ refrigerated shelves has more of a story than one would think. In fact, it’s a story that Christian Hofer, associate professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, likes to share for those needing a little initiation to how the supply chain works – and one many take for granted when they’re shopping for groceries.

Take the plastic used to make the yogurt container, for example. Or the aluminum that was mined and processed to make its seal. And the sugar and fruit needed for flavoring. Somewhere, on a dairy farm, cows are providing the milk to make the yogurt. All can come from different parts of the globe before they converge at a factory, where the elements are combined, packaged and then shipped to distribution centers and, ultimately, grocery stores. “So, collectively, all these ingredients may travel thousands of miles,” Hofer says.

“And amazingly, when you want to buy the yogurt, it’s actually there, waiting for you on the shelf,” he says.

But if there is just one mishap in the entire supply chain, chances are the item will never make it to the kitchen table. “And if the supply chain didn’t function so smoothly and efficiently, the yogurt cup wouldn’t cost 40 cents, it might cost four dollars,” he says.

When Hofer sees electronic or textile products while shopping, he says he cannot help but think about how the costs of getting them there may well be higher than the products’ material value.

Hence, supply chain management is not only a critical business activity, but something that also affects consumers in their everyday lives. It’s a world that continues to fascinate Hofer. His research interests include topics such as lean inventory management. He says while many may think that holding inventory is something bad, having too little inventory can be equally as bad. Hofer and his co-author Cuneyt Eroglu, a former University of Arkansas professor, developed the Empirical Leanness Indicator, which enables firms to assess how lean they are compared to their competitors of comparable size within a given industry. Their paper, “Lean, Leaner, Too Lean? The Inventory-Performance Link Revisited,” was a finalist for the 2011 Journal of Operations Management Best Paper award.

Hofer brings this and other related concepts into the Executive MBA classes he teaches. The students in these classes are working professionals. Many of those students have successfully implemented for their companies what they learned in class. “This not only creates immediate value for our students and their employers,” Hofer says, “but it also enhances the reputation of the Walton College and the University of Arkansas.”

Hofer, a native of Germany, says he is also fascinated by the “behind the scenes” competition that takes place in the corporate world, something consumers seldom see.

“We typically think of firms competing in terms of product features and prices,” Hofer says. “But firms also compete by innovating and imitating other firms’ supply chain practices in areas such as sourcing and manufacturing.”

Hofer has studied these competitive dynamics and co-authored a paper on the subject, “The Competitive Determinants of a Firm’s Environmental Management Activities: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing Industries,” which was published in the Journal of Operations Management.

When he gets a new research idea, he has a team of colleagues to brainstorm and collaborate with at the Walton College. “I think of it as our happy little bubble,” he says.

One of those people in his bubble is his wife, Adriana Rossiter Hofer, an assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management.

“We’re so lucky to work here,” Hofer says. “It sounds cheesy, but I really enjoy working and spending time with every one of my colleagues.”

EPIC Spotlight: Cary Deck

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“Everyone’s an economist, some are just formally trained.”

In Cary Deck’s world, everything is economics, but as he points out, “Everyone’s an economist,” he says. “Some are just formally trained.”

Deck is formally trained in experimental economics. As a professor with the Department of Economics at Sam M. Walton College of Business, Deck studies how people interact by presenting students with different scenarios and seeing how economic models hold up when subjected to actual human behavior. He also directs the Walton College’s state-of-the-art Behavioral Business Research Lab, an interdisciplinary facility where researchers can study human behavior and decision-making. For example, students may be in the role of stock traders experiencing price bubbles or may play the role of firms competing in a patent race.

Deck, who recognizes the complexity of the world we live in, says the behavioral aspect of economics particularly fascinates him. “To me, it’s putting the science in economics,” he says.

“You’re creating a marketplace, so you get full information on how buyers and sellers interact and what makes those interactions change,” Deck says. In a recent study he considered how a retailer’s ability to identify what products a shopper places in her cart might impact the coupons she might receive on her phone as she goes down the next aisle.

He says he teaches his students to understand how markets work and how incentives influence people and affect outcomes. If seeing his passion for laboratory-based research gets them excited about economics, even better, Deck says. “When you see students realize how much we still have to learn about economics, and you can give them a toolbox to solve some of those problems, that’s always rewarding,” he says.

With a strength in mathematics, Deck says he knew as an undergraduate he wanted to be an economist. He says he also knew that most economic jobs require someone with a graduate degree so he went to the University of Wisconsin for a master’s degree. His interest in experimental economics research, however, was ignited when he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, where he earned his doctorate degree under Nobel prize winner Vernon Smith, who pioneered the field of experimental economics.

Deck and his family came to the University of Arkansas in 2001. Though he says they fell in love with both the geography and culture of Northwest Arkansas – they enjoy the outdoors as much as possible – it was the university’s behavioral lab and the enthusiasm surrounding it that made this the natural move for them. “We have the best behavioral lab facility in the world,” he says.

While in Wisconsin, he met another economics graduate student who is a familiar face at Walton College: Kathy Deck, the director of the Walton College’s Center for Business and Economic Research, who is also his wife. Economics drew them together and they consider talking about maximizing “gross family product” a completely normal thing to do. The couple has a son, Josh, who has had a “supply and demand” poster in his room since his infancy. “Understanding economics is important for everyone. He is just lucky enough to have two trained economists living in the same house.”

EPIC Spotlight: Caitlin Britt

It started as a high school project. The class worked toward getting clean drinking water to Ethiopia, and Caitlin Britt was in charge of fundraising. The students’ goal was met, the water was provided and the class received photographs showing the community benefiting from the clean water. “It made everything worthwhile, and it put a perspective on how we can help others,” she says.

Now a senior at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Caitlin hopes to channel her altruism by either working for a nonprofit entity or in a corporation’s community engagement program.

Caitlin, who’s from Oklahoma City, is the first in her family to attend the University of Arkansas, and, unlike her parents and sister, is not choosing a career path in the medical profession. With an interest in numbers and history – Caitlin believes the business field incorporates both – she began researching schools that could provide her with the best education.

She was impressed that the Walton College is ranked among the best colleges by U.S. News & World Report. She also wanted to attend a large university that gave a small community feel. The Walton Honors Program provided the surroundings she was looking for, she says.

Majoring in both finance and economics with a communications minor, Caitlin says she feels the concentrations will enable her to pursue many opportunities, which are being made possible with help through the Honors College, Beta Gamma Sigma and Walton Fellowship scholarships. “Being able to have those tools – hopefully to serve the community – would be the ultimate goal,” she says.

This past summer, Caitlin worked as a revenue operations intern for nine weeks at ESPN’s print and media division in New York, where she held a variety of responsibilities. One in particular involved assisting with the sport network’s ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) website, for which she entered data and coordinated polling for the ESPY Awards. Caitlin was one of 70 interns selected in a pool of over 15,000 applicants, and the only one from Arkansas, she says.

While in New York, Caitlin also learned things not normally taught in the classroom: how to maneuver her way through the Big Apple and manage a personal budget. New York also offered great networking opportunities with its abundance in media and advertising, she says.

Caitlin says every undergraduate should get an internship in an unfamiliar city. “It does prepare you for the real world,” she says.

In 2012, she interned with Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s second larger producer of natural gas.

Caitlin is active in Walton College’s many programs. She is co-leader of the Walton College Honors Student Executive Board, which is comprised of Walton Honors Program students who work toward building alumni relations and organize social and marketing activities for the college. She is also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, where she serves as the new member coordinator.

She has also had opportunities to give to others. Last year, she studied abroad in Belize with other Walton College students. While there, her team helped create several business plans for community groups, distributed a micro-loan and built a playground.

All of this makes for challenging work, but she says it’s beneficial to the real world and she will carry that knowledge and encouragement by Walton College’s faculty, staff and students for years to come. “I have enjoyed being here so much with the relationships I have made,” she says.

 

EPIC Spotlight: Bunny Xu

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“There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools.”

One moment, Shicong “Bunny” Xu may be in a laboratory, working toward her biochemistry degree. A couple of hours later, she could be sitting in a classroom at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, listening to a lecture about supply and demand. This is where things start hopping.

She is an economics major, too.

Bunny says pursuing bachelor’s degrees from two different University of Arkansas colleges wasn’t intentional. When she first enrolled at the university, it was at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, where she indulged herself in science. Yet, she couldn’t ignore her surroundings. “There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools,” she says.

After speaking with Jason Adams, director of the Walton College honors program, Bunny realized she wanted to explore majoring in business as well.
“I found that I liked both, so why not stick with them?”

She says she’s still defining her career path, one that could include the business side of pharmaceuticals or working as a chemist in the nuclear power field, or maybe a combination of the two.

That path included coming to the United States as a 13-year-old with her mother from their hometown of Jilin, a snowy and sometimes bitterly cold province in China. Settling in Rogers, Bunny says the heat and humidity was a dramatic change. “But we love Arkansas now,” she says. “It’s a beautiful state.”

As a newcomer to the United States, Bunny spoke only Chinese and was required to take an English as a second language class her first semester of school. She also followed her mother’s advice of reading 50 pages of English text a day. Bunny caught on fast. After only one semester, Bunny scored high enough on her English proficiency exam to attend classes with the rest of the school.

Four years after moving to Rogers, she was accepted to the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Science and the Arts in Hot Springs. She lived in a dormitory and concentrated on math and science as a discipline, which, she says, was like a smaller version of a university.

In her junior year at the University of Arkansas, she was an Honors student and lists studying abroad in Japan as one of the high points of her college career. She says she hopes to study overseas again, this time in India.

Meanwhile, Bunny is focusing energy on her two honors theses – one involving protein participation under the guidance of biochemistry associate professor Paul Adams. She’s still working out the details for her Walton College thesis.

Bunny is also active in several campus chapter organizations, including the National Retail Federation Student Association, which is sponsored by Walton College’s Center for Retailing Excellence, Circle K International, the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and the Chemistry Club.

She says she learned to manage her time effectively in high school and usually devotes three to five hours daily to her studies. She says she turns off her cellphone and all social networks on her computer when doing her schoolwork, and she is usually in bed by 11 p.m. and gets up each day at 7 a.m. “Because I get enough sleep, it helps me concentrate better,” she says.

Bunny is also a supplemental instruction leader for economics professor Charles Britton’s macroeconomics class. Each week, she and about 45 students review the previous lesson in her role as both tutor and adviser. “I’ve been in those students’ shoes before,” she says. “I can help them out.”

As for her nickname, she says she initially wanted her adopted American name to be “Bonnie.” This was before she mastered her English, and many interpreted her to say “Bunny,” instead. “I just kind of got stuck there,” she says. “I like it.”