Category Archives: Alumni

EPIC Spotlight: Eric Ableitner

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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: 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: Brad Audrain

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“I had great experiences with Walton College, and I’m proud I was able to graduate there.”

This past New Year’s Eve, revelers in downtown Fayetteville greeted 2012 with a new taxi cab service available – one with a minimal carbon footprint. Green Cab Co. made its debut by offering safe rides for those who had a little too much fun or simply wanted a safe ride home.

Several months later, the black hybrid automobiles can be seen all over Northwest Arkansas, and the company’s co-owner, Brad Audrain, says he is already making plans to expand.

“We try to use every new innovation and less energy than any other cab companies here or anywhere else in the country,” he says.

But driving cars with a lesser carbon footprint isn’t all the company does to stay green, Audrain says. It uses iPhone card swipe devices for credit transactions and offers electronic receipts via email, though drivers will provide paper receipts when asked, he says. Passengers are also not allowed to smoke in the vehicles.

A graduate of the Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2006, Audrain says he still refers to his textbooks when it comes to managing the dozen or so dispatchers and drivers who make up the business. They also come in handy when working with independent contractors, he says.

Though he grew up in Memphis, Audrain says one of the primary reasons he chose to attend the University of Arkansas was because it was his family’s alma mater.

“With parents, grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides of my family having attended the U of A before me, it was the obvious choice,” he says. “I was a huge Razorback fan since the day I was born.”

He says he selected a business management major because it is a broad field that can be applied to any facet of his professional life. He wouldn’t know, until years later, how he would apply that knowledge, he says.

“I had great experiences with Walton College, and I’m proud I was able to graduate there,” he says.

He confesses, however, that he wishes he had paid more attention to his studies as an undergraduate and advises new and prospective businesses to not dismiss any subjects being taught in the classroom.

“The stuff you don’t think matters, it’s there for a reason,” he says. “The professors and administrators know what they are doing, and you’re there for a reason.”

Following graduation, Audrain enrolled in law school with plans to become a lawyer. He earned a law degree, and even practiced for a year. But, he says, the legal profession was never for him.

A new career opportunity came through a conversation he had with Sarah Sparks Diebold, whom he shares Green Cab Co.’s co-owner title, along with Matt Powell. He says Diebold was looking at some ideas for a niche business in Northwest Arkansas, and the two explored ways to make a difference in the community. When they discovered an environmentally friendly cab company in Madison, Wisc., Audrain researched the idea and Powell joined forces. After “five or six” months of planning, Green Cab Co. secured an office in downtown Fayetteville in November with a fleet of four Toyota Priuses in place New Year’s Eve, Audrain says.

Now, the cabs run routes all over the area, including to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill. He says his customers are of all ages, whether it be professionals doing business in the area, people stranded due to auto troubles and, of course, the late-night visitors on Dickson Street. “It’s everyone from across the board,” he says.

As for Green Cab Co.’s future, Audrain says he would like to increase his fleet and, perhaps, expand into other college towns in the mid-South. He says Green Cab will continue to use either hybrid autos, like the Prius, or electric cars once they become more mainstream. He says this fits in with Fayetteville’s personality.

“They like to keep things funky around here, and so do we,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Blake Strode

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“Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”

Hotels. Travel. Spreadsheets. Numbers. As a professional tennis player, Blake Strode often draws on knowledge gained as a student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

“It helps to make sense of everything,” Strode says of his business degree. “I definitely use things I learned all the time.”

Since graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2009, Strode, now living in Cary, N.C., has pursued his lifelong dream of playing professional tennis.

And succeeding.

In the past two years, Strode has won successive U.S. Open National Playoffs and continues to get accepted to “bigger and bigger” tournaments, he says. This can complicate things a little. During his senior year, Strode was accepted to Harvard Law School. “I’ve deferred for three years since then,” he says. “It’s a year-by-year kind of thing – an ongoing question. But I’m going to go.”

Growing up in St. Louis, Strode says he “fell in love” with the University of Arkansas campus while visiting. “Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”

Though he didn’t follow Arkansas sports, he got caught up in the school spirit in Fayetteville. “You could tell that everyone loved, breathed the Razorbacks,” he says.

When he arrived for student orientation, he planned on majoring in industrial engineering. By day’s end, however, he realized a combined major of Spanish and international economics would be more practical and would also be beneficial for studying abroad. Still, playing tennis was also his goal, he says. “I wouldn’t have done anything that didn’t make sense to me,” he says.

As a student, Strode maintained a 3.98 grade point average. While a senior with the University of Arkansas men’s tennis team, he was ranked the nation’s 13th best singles player in an Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and won the fifth most single victories in Arkansas history.

He has come a long way from being the 12-year-old who won a contest for the best essay about tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Sponsored by the National Junior Tennis and Learning network, Strode’s prize was a visit to the U.S. Open. Years later, when Strode played in a tournament sponsored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, a similar Arthur Ashe contest for students occurred. This time, Strode met the students and got to read their essays and look at their Ashe-inspired art.

When he’s not competing in tournaments, Strode says he practices tennis at least four hours a day and works out during the rest, making his athletic career a full-time job.

Whatever path his life takes, he says he knows that Walton College provided a solid educational background. “I had a lot of good professors,” he says.

Yet, his tennis career keeps building, and he says he wants to see where it will take him for now.

“I’m just playing as many tournaments as I can,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Ben Rector

“I've just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”
“I’ve just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”

A lot has happened since Ben Rector performed concerts downstairs from the cafeteria of the Pomfret Hall dormitory. As an undergraduate, Rector was juggling two worlds: that as a marketing student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and the other as an up-and-coming musician with weekend gigs.

“I tried to stack all my classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and leave Thursday night or Friday morning,” he says. “That was an interesting double life.”

In between hitting the books, Rector was always finding ways to make some pocket change through performing, and even managed to release a music album his freshman year. In 2006, he won the grand prize in the pop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song “Conversation.”

By his senior year, the singer-songwriter whose diverse music talent ranges from folk to pop had released three full-length albums, performed about 200 gigs and was engaged to be married. He also made another big decision about life after graduation: moving to “Music City U.S.A.” – also known as Nashville, Tenn.

That was in 2010. Rector and his wife, University of Arkansas graduate Hillary Swanton Rector, have since watched his career flourish. His 2011 album, “Something Like This,” peaked at No. 15 on Billboard magazine’s Top Rock Albums and fared even better at No. 11 in each category for the magazine’s Top Digital Albums and Independent Albums. His music has been featured on television shows from “ESPN SportsCenter” to ABC’s “Modern Family.”

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In high school, Rector filled much of his time writing songs, playing the guitar and singing. “It felt really natural for me, and it was something I really enjoyed,” he says. But there was the matter of college. His older sister had attended the University of Arkansas, which wasn’t far from his Tulsa, Okla., home. He says he already liked Fayetteville from visiting here. When the university offered him a scholarship, it was hard to refuse, he says.

As for a major, he decided marketing would provide a good foundation to just about any career he pursued. When it was apparent that having a music career was essentially launching a business, he began applying things he learned from his business classes. Now, Rector says he plays an active role in finding new and creative ways to market his songs and concerts. “Obviously, the huge part of making music is, hopefully, that people will know you are making music and want to buy it or want to come to shows,” he says. He says he found good mentors in Dr. Molly Rapert, marketing associate professor who already knew his sister, and Mark Risk, a real estate instructor with the finance department who encouraged Rector with his aspirations in music. Rector, in fact, did a commercial real estate internship in Dallas as a student. “I spent a lot of time at the W-C-O-B,” he says.

After a tour this spring, there’s no time for rest. Rector says he’ll release a new album followed by another tour, possibly in the fall at the earliest. And he doesn’t mind at all. “Things have grown quicker than I thought they would,” he says. “I’ve just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”

(Posted May 2013)

EPIC Spotlight: Ashley Jancuska

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One might suspect that a Walton College Honors student would aspire to be an accountant, an investment analyst or an economist — but a physician?

Ashley Jancuska knew in high school that she was passionate about both business and medicine. The Walton Honors Program did not force her to choose between them – it equipped her for both.

“One day, I hope to use the knowledge that I have acquired in my Walton College classes to open and successfully manage a private medical practice,” she said.

“The Walton Honors Program fosters a feeling of camaraderie and community,” Ashley said. “Beginning with the freshmen core and continuing through my four years here, the small honors sections have provided me the opportunity to truly get to know my classmates on a personal level. Additionally, these sections allowed me to also get to know my professors.

“I enjoyed the challenge that honors classes provided as we explored topics in more detail. For example, the honors colloquium classes offered in my junior and senior year gave me an opportunity to study topics which are not traditionally covered in the normal business curriculum, like technical analysis and data mining. With the guidance of our professors, we are able to apply our knowledge to solve current business problems.”

Here at the university she is involved in Walton College’s alumni network and her sorority, Kappa Delta. She also volunteers in the Fayetteville community through Habitat for Humanity and the Northwest Arkansas Free Health Center. She served as a co-project leader in Students In Free Enterprise, where she was responsible for identifying the needs of students at the Fayetteville Adult Education Center and developing a program to address those needs.

Ashley also has studied abroad twice while at the University of Arkansas. She studied international business and e-commerce in Greece and global consumerism in Italy. As a member of the Walton Honors Program, she had access to “a number of grant and scholarship opportunities available to help defray the costs of studying abroad,” she said. Ashley said these grants and scholarships allowed her to “engage in international learning experiences and gain insight into other cultures.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Ashley plans to attend medical school where she is interested in pursuing either primary care or sports medicine. She is excited to combine her business and science knowledge to effectively communicate and manage both administrative and clinical staff. Ashley is grateful to the “top-notch faculty, supportive advisors and abundant resources” that the Walton Honors Program provides to assist her in continuing her success.

EPIC Spotlight: Alexandra Kosmitis

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For recent Sam M. Walton College of Business graduate Alexandra Kosmitis, college was about balancing education and extracurricular activities. When Kosmitis wasn’t in class pursuing her accounting degree, she was active in her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, serving as chapter president and, later, Panhellenic president for University of Arkansas Greek Life.

When Kosmitis moved from her Pine Bluff home to the University of Arkansas, she knew what she wanted to study. “I knew I wanted to do business before I came to school, and I knew the Walton College had a good program.” She said the Walton College core curriculum gave her a taste of each major branch of study, which helped her find out what fit her best. “When I got through the big four subject areas, I decided I didn’t really like marketing, information systems, or economics, but I liked accounting,” she said.

Kosmitis said she also knew she wanted to be a part of the Greek system. She rushed Zeta Tau Alpha her freshman year and later served as chapter president. She also served as step team co-captain with her fellow senior Zetas at the 2010 Sprite Step Show. Her team won the grand prize: $100 thousand for scholarships and education. “It was a really great experience.” There was, however, a bit of controversy over their win. Two days after the competition, another team, Alpha Kappa Alpha from Indiana, was named co-champion. Kosmitis said that didn’t cheapen the victory, though, and the Zetas got to keep all of their prize money.

Kosmitis said she has really enjoyed her time in Fayetteville. “I really like the University. It’s been a good experience.” Her favorite part: “The people I’ve met, especially in the Walton College. You get so close to them because you have those four core classes together and, in your major, you have classes with the same people, so you really get to know other people really well.”

Kosmitis has graduated from the Walton College, but she will return to campus in fall 2010 to attend the University of Arkansas School of Law. “I’ve always wanted to go to law school. My aunt is a lawyer, so I’ve shadowed her before. Also, the summer after my freshman year, I interned with Judge Jody Dennis in Pine Bluff and I liked it a lot,” she said.