Category Archives: Economics

Yell Retires After 40 Years of Service

In the summer of 1976, Gerald Ford was president, Apple Computer Company was just getting started, a gallon of gas cost 59 cents, and Susan Imes Yell was a rising senior at Fayetteville High School. She was also a new part time staff member at the School of Law’s Admissions Office. She worked half a day and, in the fall, went to school half a day.

Little did Yell know that this part time job would lead to a 40-year journey at the University of Arkansas. She worked for the School of Law for five years, then joined the Department of Economics and the International Business Studies program, eventually becoming the administrative support supervisor for the economics department at the College of Business Administration, as it was known at the time.

From 1976 to 2016, Yell has seen many changes at the university, especially with technology and its influence on student engagement.

“Probably the biggest change was the introduction of computers. Our department had the first one in the college,” said Yell. “It required the use of floppy disks. The program was on one disk, spell check was on another disk, etc. That first computer was stolen, along with the printer and everything that went with it, when several people propped doors open from the second floor and went through the ceiling tiles into the main office. It took a while to get a replacement, since it was not covered by insurance. And, no one ever said you need to back up your work. Everything was lost and to my knowledge, the culprits were never apprehended.”

“Always do the right thing, no matter what.  And, if you see an injustice, do something about it.”

Per Yell, technology has also changed the way staff members interact with students. With more centralized registration and other electronic processes, students spend less time engaging staff and faculty.

“When I first started, we would sit in the halls and hand out printed cards for registration.  When you ran out of cards, the class was full.  The students would then take their packets to the Union, to stand in a huge, long line to register,” said Yell.  “Later, the U of A used the Hog Call system and students would register on the phone.  We had to process overrides using this system.  It would literally take weeks.  We were very busy with students then.  Now, with centralized advising and everything online, we don’t have much student interaction, except with our graduate students.”

Susan Yell
Susan’s office features hundreds of postcards from around the world sent by students and faculty.

Yet Yell does interact with students as evidenced by the hundreds of post cards adorning her office walls. Each day she works surrounded by post cards sent to her from around the world from students and faculty who have studied and/or traveled abroad. She has collected them since the ’80s.

She values the economics faculty and is impressed with their research and how much they care about their students. While she thinks they are one of the best things about the college, she has learned to say no when it comes to dissertations.

“Right after I first started working in business administration, one of my new faculty asked me to type his dissertation. Now, if you have ever seen an economics dissertation, you might know that it is FULL of equations. He showed me the first chapter, which was mostly text, so I agreed to type it for him,” said Yell. “Over the duration of my first pregnancy, I worked on it using a manual typewriter.  It required using three different elements. So, when you would type text that took one element, an equation, one or two other elements. Every time there were any changes from his advisor, the entire chapter would have to be retyped, since there were strict rules about margins, etc.  We joked whether I would finish the dissertation first, or would have my daughter first.  I don’t even remember who ‘won.’ I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t very funny then!”

“I also cherish my WOW friends…a group of ladies…Women of Walton…with whom I have remained friends for years and years…and we still have lunch at least once a week.”

While the faculty and students are one of the best things about work, Yell has experienced significant obstacles as well.

“My biggest challenge occurred when my department chair suffered a catastrophic accident,” said Yell. “It completely changed the face of the department and my position.  For a short time, I was in charge of the department.  It was a very difficult time.”

Throughout the years, Yell has served on numerous committees for the college and has raised funds for local nonprofits. She is the departmental representative for United Way and has helped raise money for the American Diabetes Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, University of Arkansas Staff Senate Scholarship fund, Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and Full Circle Campus Food Pantry among others. She was a member of the Walton College team on the Habitat for Humanity the House That Jane Built project.

Yell has represented Walton College at the university level as a staff senator, staff senate secretary, staff senate scholarship committee, by-laws committee, elections committee, internal affairs committee, Employee of the Year for the university and Employee of the Quarter for Walton College.

Yell was nominated for the Arkansas State Employees Association Outstanding State Employee Award in 2005 and 2010 and was chosen as a finalist in 2010. In 2006, the Department of Economics faculty established the Susan Imes Yell Staff Senate Scholarship in her honor. This scholarship was created to help promote and encourage staff development through higher education.

After 40 years of service, Yell retired from her job in December 2016. She is married to Garlen and has two daughters, Erin, who teaches French at Springdale High School, and Sara, who is the manager of special programs in the Walton College Career Center. In retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family and her young grandchildren, Nora and Silas.

Middlespeak: Building Bridges to Immigrant Integration

By Anthony Blake via U of A Honors College Blog

We’ve all seen the photo of Omran Daqneesh, the little boy in an ambulance in Aleppo, covered in dust and blood from an airstrike that destroyed his home. International news has been awash in stories of immigrants crossing borders from Syria and other war-torn nations, and these people and the policies governing them have been demonized or lionized by rival camps.

Nathanael Mickelson’s honors thesis isn’t interested in these binaries: “The truth is always somewhere in the middle.” This history and business economics major is more attentive to the middle spaces, on understanding the historical and cultural reasons for the current migrant crisis. Sure, Mickelson says, if immigrants cannot assimilate into a culture, they can become a burden on an economy, but they can also be integral to countries like Sweden with low birth rates and labor shortages.

As he puts it, there’s a moral and then a feasibility challenge to immigration policies. Mickelson considered the latter, focusing on ways to get immigrants assimilated into an economy. For this he looked at one of the most daunting barriers—the pay gap between workers who speak the native language and those who don’t. Mickelson considered many factors that might affect this—distance from the immigrant’s home country, for example—before striking gold with his research question.

Immigrants who don’t speak the dominant language are at an economic disadvantage, but what effect does the presence of a third language, a lingua franca such as English, have on their chances to assimilate? This is the question Mickelson took up for his honors thesis, and it’s one that hasn’t been looked at before. He chose to focus on Sweden, a country sometimes called the “most open” in terms of its immigration policy, where English is so prominent an American like himself could spend a semester there without learning more than a few words of Swedish. Mickelson comes from Scandinavian stock, his last name is Swedish, and he studied economics at Jönköping International Business School during his junior year. Mickelson said, “Based on my daily life, being able to do well for five months at a Swedish university using English, it made me wonder if, especially with how accessible English is today, that provides an opportunity for a transition market.”

After crunching the numbers with data he collected from the European Social Survey, he found that knowledge of English all but eliminated the language gap. Immigrants could use English, a language much easier for them to learn, as a bridge to Swedish. Through rigorous statistical analysis he found that this greatly improved their chances of economic success.

Raja Kali, Mickelson’s thesis advisor, wasn’t surprised to hear that this research won Outstanding Honors Thesis for the Sam W. Walton College of Business last spring. “It’s really an outstanding piece of scholarship. He was able to gather data and provide a statistical analysis to shed light on this question, and that’s not easy, even for someone who’s a well-established and experienced researcher.” He says it’s a great sign for future potential.

Mickelson, whose research was funded by a SURF grant, realizes this work is a small but valuable piece of a bigger puzzle. “There are a ton of variables to a complicated problem like immigration. The more and more puzzle pieces we find out, the more complete our puzzle is. I think that’s really the key to research and the driving force of this. The future of this research is finding more specific data for this question and finding what the practical applications are. Would it be feasible in practice to have this English transition labor market?”

Mickelson is currently finishing up his math minor and has been encouraged by Kali to apply to top graduate schools across the country for economics. But he wants to come back: “I think Fayetteville is one of the few places where whatever you believe or your background is, it’s open arms. Ideally the Arkansas kid in me wants to wind up in a couple of random places, make some new memories but come back to teach in Fayetteville when I get my PhD.”

Faculty: Best of the Best

Congratulations to the following faculty selected by the Sam M. Walton College of Business Awards and Elections Committee for the following college awards:

Award Winning Faculty

Gary Peters

Gary Peters
Outstanding All-Around Faculty Award

Soster-Robin

Robin Soster
Excellence in Teaching Award

Jandik_Tomas

Tomas Jandik
MBA Teacher of the Year

Peinkofer_Simone

Simone Peinkofer
Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award

Mullins-Jeff

Jeff Mullins
Outstanding Adjunct Teacher Award

Venkatesh_Viswanath

Viswanath Venkatesh
Excellence in Research Award

Douglas_David

David Douglas
Excellence in Service Award

Farmer_Amy

Amy Farmer
Excellence in Diversity Award