EPIC Spotlight: Samantha Francis

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When Sam M. Walton College of Business student Samantha Francis graduated from her Liberty, Missouri high school in 2007, she knew she wanted to study business. She ended up in one of its least-understood areas: transportation and logistics. “Unlike some people think, it’s not about driving a truck,” she joked. “To try and explain transportation and logistics, I would say it’s more than what you think. It’s a company’s entire supply chain, all the way from procurement and purchasing the actual supplies to manufacturing what you need and distributing it out to the customer. It’s the beginning to the end,” Francis said.

“A family friend is a vice president at J.B. Hunt and he told me that it’s lucrative for women to be in the transportation/logistics field, so I decided to look into it. I also really like problem solving and math, and I discovered that TLOG ended up being a better fit than I expected. There is a lot of ‘how do we do this,’ ‘how do we do it the best way,’ and ‘how do we do it efficiently,’ so it worked out really well for me,” Francis said.

“It’s definitely male-dominated. I would say out of all my TLOG classes, it’s maybe 20 percent girls. Maybe,” Francis said. Women in Logistics is a group that supports the field’s under-represented demographic. “It’s an organization that networks undergraduate and graduate students with our executive members that are out in the community and have careers that pertain to the logistics industry. We’re lucky enough to have Wal-Mart here, and we have a lot of suppliers for Wal-Mart on our Executive Board. We have an event at Powerhouse every semester that allows us to network with these executives and allows them to tell us what’s going on in the field—if they’re looking for people or if it’s slow. They take our resumes and try to place us in the community so that our degree is useful for what our jobs will be.” Francis joined the group her sophomore year and advanced to vice president as a junior. In fall 2010, she’ll begin her term as president. “I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will give me a lot of good experience communicating with others and organizing events.”

Francis said she is also vice president of the Transportation and Logistics Association, an organization open to both male and female students. She said the two groups often coordinate their projects and programs. “We try to get out and show people what there is to do within the logistics community so they are just more educated about it,” she said. Some of the groups’ excursions include trips to the FedEx Freight facilities in Harrison and to one of the Wal-Mart Distribution Centers in Bentonville.

Francis said a benefit of her involvement in these clubs is learning how to make connections and communicate effectively, which will help her as she enters the business world. “I definitely think networking is huge in the business world. Right now, with the economy the way it is, the more people you know, the better chance you have of getting a job,” she said.

Communicating with professors is beneficial, as well, Francis said. “The Walton College will set you up for success if you take advantage of what they have to offer,” she said. One thing the faculty has to offer is insight and advice. “I was in a situation last fall in which I was offered an internship but I had just started working at J.B. Hunt. I wasn’t sure which way to go, so I talked to some of the faculty.” She presented them with the two job offers and asked what they thought she should do. “They were more than willing to help,” she said.

Francis said she is appreciative, too, of the proximity of her school to Wal-Mart and its many suppliers. “The Walton College is great about connecting you to the suppliers, which leads to networking, internships and jobs” she said. “You just have to take advantage of the opportunities that are offered. There is nowhere else that I’ve found where you are going to be able to have contact with so many people in such a small area. Often, it’s a very casual interaction. It’s not stressful—it’s what you want to make out of it.