EPIC Spotlight: Ashleigh Toatley

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Over a four-year span, senior Ashleigh Toatley has gone from being unsure of what field to get into to becoming a leader in her department.
“From a young age, I knew I wanted to major in business, but I wasn’t sure of which specific field,” Toatley said. “Entering into college my objective was to major in a field that was growing and in demand. When I met with Barbara Lofton my freshman year, she told me about this major (called) Transportation and Logistics.”

Since deciding upon her focus, Toatley has plunged headfirst into the world of Transportation and Logistics through her courses in Walton College and extracurricular activities. She is a member of Women in Logistics and has worked with the Supply Chain Management Research Center, which led to her involvement in the University of Arkansas’ Operation Stimulus team.

While working at the Supply Chain Management Research Center in 2008, Toatley organized a research project outlining how interstate commerce trucking regulations vary from state to state across the 48 lower states.

“Through working with Dr. Terry Tremwel, I learned the importance of staying current about what is going on today in the transportation industry as technology and regulations are always changing,” Toatley said. “And though this was the hardest project I’ve ever worked on in my life, it was the most rewarding.”
Toatley made a great impression on the faculty at the research center during her time there.

“We certainly believe that Ashleigh is a talented student leader, but she also excels in research and presentation skills,” said Jim Crowell, director of the Supply Chain Management Research Center. “She displays attention to details and persistence in quality research.”

Crowell and his colleagues were so enthusiastic about Toatley’s performance on the project that they invited her to present her research at a General Electric Conference in Greenville, South Carolina, in front of 200 presidents and vice presidents of major trucking companies.

“It was great to see people interested in what I found so fascinating,” Toatley said.

In addition to being invited to the conference in Greenville, Toatley was also appointed to Walton College’s Operation Stimulus team as a junior. Operation Stimulus is a five-member undergraduate debate team that competes in a national conference in Denver against representatives from 13 other schools with top Transportation and Logistics programs. In the competition, teams are presented with a problem and must use analysis, qualitative and quantitative models, and research to develop the most practical solution.

“(Operation Stimulus) is a great experience because you are among some of the greatest schools in the nation, like Ohio State and Michigan State,” Toatley said. “It’s a great feeling to know that you are representing the University of Arkansas, and you want to apply everything you’ve learned to the case you’re given. It’s also great to work as a team with other classmates because so many minds working together can create extremely creative solutions to problems.”

Toatley will lead the 2010 Operation Stimulus team in the upcoming conference on January 28-30.

Throughout her college experience, Toatley said that Walton College’s faculty has been an asset to her development.

“Having faculty who care about your college career and have great advice to give during challenging situations is the best aspect of the Walton College and the U of A,” Toatley said. “It’s true that you’re not `just a number’ at the U of A. Everything that I’ve learned in the classroom has allowed me to hold conversations with executive professionals in (Transportation and Logistics).”

Toatley has applied her knowledge of the field outside of Walton College. She worked for Tyson Foods for about a year and a half, interning in both the Transportation and Marketing departments.

“It was a great experience (interning in both departments) because I was able to see them operate on a day-to-day basis within such a large corporation,” Toatley said.

Toatley recently accepted an internship at J.B. Hunt, which she said she is looking forward to because it will allow her to continue to apply what she learned in the classroom in the workforce.

After graduation, Toatley said she hopes to join a growing and large corporation, or perhaps to apply to the University of Arkansas’ MBA program.

“So far, I’ve had the opportunity to interview with great companies in Somers, New York, and Omaha, Nebraska,” Toatley said. “Although it has become challenging to manage school, traveling, and work I have enjoyed every minute of the journey as I prepare for the big transition from school to the workforce.”