Category Archives: Alumni

EPIC Spotlight: Collin Grimes

Houston is a city where oil is big and buildings fill the skyline. But securing office space in one of those buildings, or any real estate, in the nation’s fourth largest city can be daunting.

For Collin Grimes, it’s another day on the job. Grimes is a First Vice President of Global Corporate Services for the CBRE Group Inc., a Fortune 500 company that serves companies, investors and occupiers worldwide. Based in the Houston office, Grimes finds commercial real estate space that fits his client’s needs and negotiates contracts to everyone’s satisfaction. Self-motivation is required to keep his roster filled with clients. “When you’re a real estate broker, you’re an entrepreneur,” he says.

Grimes, who earned a finance degree in 2006 from the Sam M. Walton College of Business, has spent his entire post-college career with CBRE. He began as an associate and worked his way up, receiving a promotion each year for the past four years.

Real estate, in many ways, is a way of life for Grimes. His father worked in real estate for ExxonMobil, which prompted his family to move frequently. Although Grimes didn’t pursue a corporate real estate career like his father, he instead focuses on commercial real estate.
Grimes graduated from high school in The Woodlands, Texas, and attended the University of Arkansas so he could be near his grandparents, who lived in Rogers. Through them, he became an Arkansas Razorback fan. Through Walton College’s national rankings, he knew he would get a solid business education.

At first, Grimes thought he wanted to be a stockbroker. But he changed his focus after a class assignment required him to give a presentation to Electrolux managers on the pros and cons of a particular product. “It all had to do with sales,” he says.

“That’s really what commercial real estate is,” he says. “It’s creating an opportunity to help clients.”

During summers and spring breaks as a business student, Grimes interned with Staubach Co. Inc., a real estate advisory service based in Dallas that was operated by former NFL quarterback Roger Staubach before it was sold. His internship experience has since led him to encourage undergraduates to pursue summer internships because of the opportunities they provide for the future.

Grimes, now a nine-year veteran with CBRE, looks forward to a successful future. He says he enjoys leveraging his client’s position, negotiating with landlords and owners and showing his clients created value. “To see their reaction and wanting to continue work with you, I think, truly, is the value,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Rwan El-Khatib

Many told Rwan El-Khatib she would not be accepted by a United States doctoral program.

It had been difficult for business majors in her native country of Jordan to continue their education in a doctoral program in America, and she repeatedly heard about it. It was almost as if people were challenging her. Determined, she explored her options. Among them was the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, for which she applied. Competition to be awarded the scholarship is fierce, and the few Jordanians who become Fulbright scholars usually study science, engineering or medicine – not business. Which is what El-Khatib was seeking.

“That, by itself, was a big risk,” she recalls. “But that’s my passion.”

El-Khatib defied all odds and was granted the scholarship.

When she learned the Sam M. Walton College of Business is one of the top ranked colleges in the nation that also has a Ph.D. program, her husband, Abdel Fattah, quit his accounting job. They, along with their 3-month-old baby, moved to Fayetteville to attend the University of Arkansas.

El-Khatib says the University of Arkansas’ international education office was a tremendous help with transitioning her to academic life here. She says staffers offered an “amazing” orientation session and handled much of the necessary paperwork. She and her family were made welcome on campus, and especially at Walton, where she was impressed by the college’s diversity, including the finance department. “We had students and faculty of all nationalities,” she says.

She enrolled in Walton’s Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program, which is a challenging experience for anyone. But for El-Khatib, they went beyond that of a typical college student. For the first few months, her husband stayed home with the baby while El-Khatib got acclimated to her new routine as a Walton College graduate student. Abdel Fattah eventually enrolled at the University of Arkansas, earning a master’s degree in operations management.

El-Khatib says her research support was tremendous at the college, which has inspired her to offer the same kind of support to her students as assistant professor at Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

After earning her MAcc, El-Khatib received a scholarship from the University of Arkansas to pursue her finance Ph.D. She says finance Associate Professor Tomas Jandik and former accounting professor Tim West were encouraging during the doctoral program acceptance process.

“It was quite challenging and very competitive,” she says. “They kept motivating me and supporting me.”

When she graduated in 2012, she became the first female Jordanian to receive a finance Ph.D. from the United States. She says Tomas Jandik, and former Finance Professor Kathy Fogel gave her valuable guidance that was instrumental in her being hired by Zayed University, which many consider to be one of the best universities in the Persian Gulf region. Now she inspires students, especially young women who are much like her, to pursue their business education dreams. It’s working and evident in her teaching evaluations, which average 4.9 out of a scale of 5, and in the positive comments she receives from her students at the end of each semester. For example, she was consistently described as “the best teacher,” and many said, “She made us believe that a woman can do everything.”

El-Khatib’s research includes empirical corporate finance, such as social networks, governance, mergers and acquisitions. She, along with Jandik and Fogel, have a paper titled “CEO Networks and Merger Performance” to be published in The Journal of Financial Economics and was also featured by MarketWatch. The three have another paper, “Impact of Shareholder Activism on Functioning of the Market for Corporate Control,” which received the best paper award in the corporate finance field at the Southwestern Finance Association’s 2015 conference.

“My family always mentions me as a success story – to study something that you are passionate about,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Kristin Kaufman

Sometimes it takes years to attain it. But when it does, it can be one of the greatest things life can bring. Kristin Kaufman refers to it as alignment.

“It’s when you love what you do and you’re good at it, but, most importantly, it’s tied to something greater than yourself,” she says.

It took many years for Kaufman to attain alignment. Originally from Hot Springs with a marketing degree and minor in quantitative analysis from the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Kaufman wasn’t a typical hire when she began working in sales for the Dallas office of Hewlett-Packard Co. Known today for its products such as computers, laptops and printers, the technology industry was still male-dominated when Kaufman began working there in 1983, and she didn’t have a computer science degree. Yet the hiring manager saw lots of potential for her in the company’s sales division. She spent 18 years there, working her way up to Worldwide Channels General Manager, helping the once $6 billion company become worth more than $150 billion by the time she left.

“I loved what I did,” she says. “I was great at it when I was at HP and in my other corporate positions, but over time, it was no longer fulfilling to me. I realized my job was no longer tied to something greater than myself.”

In her personal journey, she held other executive positions, but her sense of purpose was still missing. That’s when she received a phone call from friend and mentor Dr. Noel Tichy at the NYC Leadership Academy – they wanted her to help with New York City’s Children First reform agenda sponsored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein. The reform involved creating a system of schools where educators and children have access to effective teaching and learning. She was one of two private sector business executives selected to teach, train and coach about 1,200 principals.

Alignment had occurred.

In finally finding her calling, she founded and named her consulting company Alignment Inc. Since 2007, she has helped individuals, corporations, board of directors and others find alignment with themselves and their organizations. Based in Dallas, she travels the globe, assisting clients ranging from Frito-Lay Inc. to the Boys and Girls Club of America.

During her travels, she has encountered all kinds of people – some who have made lasting impressions. The culmination of these meetings resulted in her 2011 book, Is This Seat Taken? Random Encounters That Change Your Life. Each chapter describes chance meetings with insightfulness that ends with questions readers can ask themselves in their journeys of self-discoveries.

“The message is to be present in the moment,” she says. “I believe in life we are here to teach, to learn and to serve one another – with love as the glue that binds us. Yet, we must be present to those incidental encounters, which are not incidental at all, from my perspective.”

“The message is to be present in the moment.”

Kaufman has written a second book in the Is This Seat Taken? book series: Is This Seat Taken? It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat. The book is geared toward people who find themselves in a place they don’t quite recognize, and wonder if their lives have “passed them by.” This book highlights individuals whose life’s contributions occur very late in life. Kaufman’s intention is to inspire those who may have not have yet achieved their dreams, and to assure them, “that it is never too late as long as you have breath.”

The Is This Seat Taken? book series have received praise from many, including Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Marshall Goldsmith, renowned leadership consultant and best-selling author; and Doug Parker, chief executive officer of American Airlines.

As she looks back at her college career, Kaufman says she was inspired by many, including marketing associate professor Dub Ashton and Franklin Williams, a management professor when she was a Walton College student who also wrote a motivational book, Survivors, Heroes. “They gave me permission and inspired me to be open to diverse opportunities,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Anne Velliquette

Anne Velliquette has experienced the many faces of marketing.

She realized the art of a beautiful floor display and the role of purchasing when she interned as a buyer at a department store. When she sold and marketed turkey products, she was required to learn every aspect of what it takes to prepare the bird for commercial sale. As a graduate student, she prescreened inventors and new businesses trying to get their products on the shelves at Walmart.

Now Velliquette is a member of the marketing faculty at Walton College. She’s no stranger to Walton, however. She earned her marketing Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas before working as an assistant professor at the University of Utah. She returned as an adjunct instructor before joining the department as clinical assistant professor in 2014 where she teaches Introduction to Marketing and Integrated Marketing Communications.

“I love being back here,” Velliquette says. “I was trained by many of the individuals in the marketing department.”

Originally from Fordland, Missouri, which is about 30 miles east of Springfield, she earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in Springfield. Following graduation, Velliquette worked for Cargill Inc. in Buena Vista, Georgia, where she sold raw commodities, such as “massive” turkeys as well as turkey parts, to poultry production processing facilities and even worked on the production line deboning poultry so she could understand her job better. From there, Velliquette returned to Springfield to work in marketing and sales for a food brokerage firm whose clients included Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc.

“I like being in the classroom. I like the interaction with students.”

With a desire to further her career, she felt an M.B.A. would be helpful and enrolled full time at Southwest Missouri, where she had a graduate assistantship with the Wal-Mart Innovation Network, which pre-screened products from new inventors and businesses. “It was a really fun program, and we had some really interesting and successful products come through,” Velliquette says.

While at Southwest Missouri, she taught small business development workshops. That’s when she discovered something: she enjoyed teaching.

“I like being in the classroom,” Velliquette says. “I like the interaction with students.”

While there, her mentor encouraged her to get a doctorate in marketing. The University of Arkansas, only two hours from Springfield, seemed like the perfect choice. At Walton, she studied under many of the faculty, including Dub Ashton, Scot Burton and Jeff Murray, and gained more teaching experience as well.

Velliquette also founded Support Arkansas Made, a program modeled from her position with the Wal-Mart Innovation Network, which assisted Arkansas manufacturers in the evaluation of new products and product ideas based on marketable criteria.

After earning her doctorate, Velliquette’s first teaching job as a professor was at the University of Utah, where she received the College of Business Teaching Excellence Award.

She returned to Northwest Arkansas when her husband, Craig, was transferred by his employer, IBM. Velliquette and her husband have a son and a daughter.

In her classes, Velliquette partners with companies to give students real-world experiences. Their projects include writing creative briefs and creating ad campaigns, and the students tend to shine in their presentations, she says. “If you give them a chance to work with a real client or business, they step up and do a really great job,” Velliquette says.

Entrepreneur Theresa Fette to Speak on Succeeding Without Selling Your Soul

Theresa Fette Photo 10.14Theresa Fette, an entrepreneur who founded the Provident Trust Group, will speak to students and faculty on Friday, Oct. 31, about “How to Succeed in Business Without Selling your Soul.”

Fette’s talk is presented by the Office of Entrepreneurship and the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. It will be from 10-11:30 a.m. in the auditorium of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development on the campus in Fayetteville. The talk is free and open to the public.

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