Category Archives: Business

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 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: Brian McCaster

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“You have to ask yourself, ‘What do I want to learn from this?’”

When Brian McCaster was in high school, he spent 11 months in Paraguay as an exchange student. The experience opened his eyes to issues beyond his central Arkansas home near Conway, especially when Paraguayans would ask him questions about the United States’ government and economics.

This past summer, Brian returned to South America, this time to Brazil in the Study Abroad program sponsored by the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He and other students, through the guidance of Walton College economics professor Andrew Horowitz, met with business experts, including those with supply chain management and logistics backgrounds.

Brian plans to graduate in May 2012 with a degree in international business management and a minor in Spanish. He says his classes have been challenging but in a good way.

“Whenever you take those classes, you have to be focused,” Brian says. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What do I want to learn from this?’”

Though this background would make him suited for a career in international business, Brian says it has prepared him for something else: working with high school students and college freshmen. He already has experience in the area. For the past three years, Brian has served as a resident assistant at Maple Hill South dormitory, lending an ear to new students as they adjust to their independence.

Brian says he had planned to enroll in graduate school immediately after earning his bachelor’s degree. A phone call changed everything. A recruiter with Teach for America, a program where leaders commit two years to teaching children in low-income communities across the country, asked Brian to join the organization.

Brian was reluctant at first. “But I got on the phone with this guy, and everything made sense,” he says.

Brian says the program will help him test his strengths before he moves on to graduate school later.

Reaching out to the community’s needs is also Brian’s passion. He has participated with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), an international nonprofit organization that has a Walton College chapter. His involvement has included replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in low-income housing and working with older people in various capacities from teaching them how to use the Internet to helping build a community garden at the Fayetteville Senior Activity and Wellness Center.

Raised by his grandparents, Brian says his business classes have made him think about his grandfather, who owned a concrete business before retiring. Growing up, he says, he never thought about all of the business decisions his grandfather surely made. Brian says his experience at Walton College gives him a newfound respect for the business and the man, and he now looks to him as a crucial source of guidance.

Brian also seeks guidance at Walton College. Naturally curious, he sometimes visits different professors during their office hours to find out their passions and motivations.

“You can learn something from anybody,” Brian says. “No matter who it is, you can learn something.”

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: Addison Scott

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“All of the opportunities that have been afforded to me here are amazing.”

Addison Scott resisted the calling to be an accountant. It was the profession of her parents, and she wanted to blaze a different trail. That is, until she took an accounting class.

And liked it.

“I got into business school and discovered it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” she says.

Now in her junior year at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Addison is keeping a busy schedule with three – yes, three – majors. She is working on an international business degree with an economics concentration and a minor in French and has a double major in finance and accounting.

Taking on heavy loads is nothing new to Addison. As a student at Little Rock Central High School, she was enrolled in several advance placement courses, for which she was able to earn college credit, placing her as a sophomore at the University of Arkansas immediately after high school graduation.

Addison says that she first considered pursuing a business career in high school when she found her economics class resonated with her. “The cause and effect nature of the field appealed to me,” she says.

Then, there was finance, which appeals to her banking interest while economics enhances it.

She says she didn’t seriously consider attending the University of Arkansas until she toured the campus. When she did, she says she “fell in love” and was met by a welcoming staff and faculty. “That’s something you don’t really get at other schools,” she says.

During her first year at Walton College, Addison joined the university chapter of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), which has since changed its name to Enactus, a global, nonprofit organization that does community service by teaching the principles of free enterprise. She says she was project leader for the GreeNWAy Initiative, which assists Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce member organizations with implementing ways to make their businesses green and sustainable.

Addison says she stepped down from her SIFE leadership to study abroad in Toulouse, France, in Spring 2012. While at the Toulouse Business School, she studied master’s level programs with a focus on international management. She says her class was composed of both French and international students, with each course a week long. She says she found working with diverse groups to be very rewarding. “I think that’s the most beneficial thing I reaped from traveling abroad,” she says.

Her student activities include serving as a founding member and various committee chair positions of the Walton College Honors Student Executive Board with her role transitioning to a leadership position this spring. Addison is also the event coordinator for the newly formed International Business Club, which serves as a welcoming team to international students new to Walton College and helps Walton College students explore international opportunities, such as studying abroad. In addition, she is a University of Arkansas Student Ambassador, a volunteer program with activities that include giving prospective students tours on campus and aiding in the admissions process.

During the winter break of the 2011-2012 school year, Addison received real-world experience when she interned in the accounting office of Windstream Communications, a voice and data network provider in Little Rock. Addison says after her spring 2013 semester, she will intern in the internal audit department at Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters.

There’s still school as well. Addison says she plans to apply for Walton College’s Integrated Master of Accountancy (IMAcc) program, a five-year plan that enables students to become certified public accountants. Upon completion, she says she hopes to work in the private sector but would like to eventually play a role in public policy and economic development.

She says Walton College is helping make her dreams possible. “All of the opportunities that have been afforded to me here are amazing,” she says.