Category Archives: Economics

EPIC Spotlight: Cary Deck

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“Everyone’s an economist, some are just formally trained.”

In Cary Deck’s world, everything is economics, but as he points out, “Everyone’s an economist,” he says. “Some are just formally trained.”

Deck is formally trained in experimental economics. As a professor with the Department of Economics at Sam M. Walton College of Business, Deck studies how people interact by presenting students with different scenarios and seeing how economic models hold up when subjected to actual human behavior. He also directs the Walton College’s state-of-the-art Behavioral Business Research Lab, an interdisciplinary facility where researchers can study human behavior and decision-making. For example, students may be in the role of stock traders experiencing price bubbles or may play the role of firms competing in a patent race.

Deck, who recognizes the complexity of the world we live in, says the behavioral aspect of economics particularly fascinates him. “To me, it’s putting the science in economics,” he says.

“You’re creating a marketplace, so you get full information on how buyers and sellers interact and what makes those interactions change,” Deck says. In a recent study he considered how a retailer’s ability to identify what products a shopper places in her cart might impact the coupons she might receive on her phone as she goes down the next aisle.

He says he teaches his students to understand how markets work and how incentives influence people and affect outcomes. If seeing his passion for laboratory-based research gets them excited about economics, even better, Deck says. “When you see students realize how much we still have to learn about economics, and you can give them a toolbox to solve some of those problems, that’s always rewarding,” he says.

With a strength in mathematics, Deck says he knew as an undergraduate he wanted to be an economist. He says he also knew that most economic jobs require someone with a graduate degree so he went to the University of Wisconsin for a master’s degree. His interest in experimental economics research, however, was ignited when he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, where he earned his doctorate degree under Nobel prize winner Vernon Smith, who pioneered the field of experimental economics.

Deck and his family came to the University of Arkansas in 2001. Though he says they fell in love with both the geography and culture of Northwest Arkansas – they enjoy the outdoors as much as possible – it was the university’s behavioral lab and the enthusiasm surrounding it that made this the natural move for them. “We have the best behavioral lab facility in the world,” he says.

While in Wisconsin, he met another economics graduate student who is a familiar face at Walton College: Kathy Deck, the director of the Walton College’s Center for Business and Economic Research, who is also his wife. Economics drew them together and they consider talking about maximizing “gross family product” a completely normal thing to do. The couple has a son, Josh, who has had a “supply and demand” poster in his room since his infancy. “Understanding economics is important for everyone. He is just lucky enough to have two trained economists living in the same house.”

EPIC Spotlight: Caitlin Britt

It started as a high school project. The class worked toward getting clean drinking water to Ethiopia, and Caitlin Britt was in charge of fundraising. The students’ goal was met, the water was provided and the class received photographs showing the community benefiting from the clean water. “It made everything worthwhile, and it put a perspective on how we can help others,” she says.

Now a senior at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Caitlin hopes to channel her altruism by either working for a nonprofit entity or in a corporation’s community engagement program.

Caitlin, who’s from Oklahoma City, is the first in her family to attend the University of Arkansas, and, unlike her parents and sister, is not choosing a career path in the medical profession. With an interest in numbers and history – Caitlin believes the business field incorporates both – she began researching schools that could provide her with the best education.

She was impressed that the Walton College is ranked among the best colleges by U.S. News & World Report. She also wanted to attend a large university that gave a small community feel. The Walton Honors Program provided the surroundings she was looking for, she says.

Majoring in both finance and economics with a communications minor, Caitlin says she feels the concentrations will enable her to pursue many opportunities, which are being made possible with help through the Honors College, Beta Gamma Sigma and Walton Fellowship scholarships. “Being able to have those tools – hopefully to serve the community – would be the ultimate goal,” she says.

This past summer, Caitlin worked as a revenue operations intern for nine weeks at ESPN’s print and media division in New York, where she held a variety of responsibilities. One in particular involved assisting with the sport network’s ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) website, for which she entered data and coordinated polling for the ESPY Awards. Caitlin was one of 70 interns selected in a pool of over 15,000 applicants, and the only one from Arkansas, she says.

While in New York, Caitlin also learned things not normally taught in the classroom: how to maneuver her way through the Big Apple and manage a personal budget. New York also offered great networking opportunities with its abundance in media and advertising, she says.

Caitlin says every undergraduate should get an internship in an unfamiliar city. “It does prepare you for the real world,” she says.

In 2012, she interned with Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s second larger producer of natural gas.

Caitlin is active in Walton College’s many programs. She is co-leader of the Walton College Honors Student Executive Board, which is comprised of Walton Honors Program students who work toward building alumni relations and organize social and marketing activities for the college. She is also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, where she serves as the new member coordinator.

She has also had opportunities to give to others. Last year, she studied abroad in Belize with other Walton College students. While there, her team helped create several business plans for community groups, distributed a micro-loan and built a playground.

All of this makes for challenging work, but she says it’s beneficial to the real world and she will carry that knowledge and encouragement by Walton College’s faculty, staff and students for years to come. “I have enjoyed being here so much with the relationships I have made,” she says.

 

EPIC Spotlight: Bunny Xu

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“There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools.”

One moment, Shicong “Bunny” Xu may be in a laboratory, working toward her biochemistry degree. A couple of hours later, she could be sitting in a classroom at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, listening to a lecture about supply and demand. This is where things start hopping.

She is an economics major, too.

Bunny says pursuing bachelor’s degrees from two different University of Arkansas colleges wasn’t intentional. When she first enrolled at the university, it was at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, where she indulged herself in science. Yet, she couldn’t ignore her surroundings. “There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools,” she says.

After speaking with Jason Adams, director of the Walton College honors program, Bunny realized she wanted to explore majoring in business as well.
“I found that I liked both, so why not stick with them?”

She says she’s still defining her career path, one that could include the business side of pharmaceuticals or working as a chemist in the nuclear power field, or maybe a combination of the two.

That path included coming to the United States as a 13-year-old with her mother from their hometown of Jilin, a snowy and sometimes bitterly cold province in China. Settling in Rogers, Bunny says the heat and humidity was a dramatic change. “But we love Arkansas now,” she says. “It’s a beautiful state.”

As a newcomer to the United States, Bunny spoke only Chinese and was required to take an English as a second language class her first semester of school. She also followed her mother’s advice of reading 50 pages of English text a day. Bunny caught on fast. After only one semester, Bunny scored high enough on her English proficiency exam to attend classes with the rest of the school.

Four years after moving to Rogers, she was accepted to the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Science and the Arts in Hot Springs. She lived in a dormitory and concentrated on math and science as a discipline, which, she says, was like a smaller version of a university.

In her junior year at the University of Arkansas, she was an Honors student and lists studying abroad in Japan as one of the high points of her college career. She says she hopes to study overseas again, this time in India.

Meanwhile, Bunny is focusing energy on her two honors theses – one involving protein participation under the guidance of biochemistry associate professor Paul Adams. She’s still working out the details for her Walton College thesis.

Bunny is also active in several campus chapter organizations, including the National Retail Federation Student Association, which is sponsored by Walton College’s Center for Retailing Excellence, Circle K International, the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and the Chemistry Club.

She says she learned to manage her time effectively in high school and usually devotes three to five hours daily to her studies. She says she turns off her cellphone and all social networks on her computer when doing her schoolwork, and she is usually in bed by 11 p.m. and gets up each day at 7 a.m. “Because I get enough sleep, it helps me concentrate better,” she says.

Bunny is also a supplemental instruction leader for economics professor Charles Britton’s macroeconomics class. Each week, she and about 45 students review the previous lesson in her role as both tutor and adviser. “I’ve been in those students’ shoes before,” she says. “I can help them out.”

As for her nickname, she says she initially wanted her adopted American name to be “Bonnie.” This was before she mastered her English, and many interpreted her to say “Bunny,” instead. “I just kind of got stuck there,” she says. “I like it.”

EPIC Spotlight: Audrey Davidson

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The 10-key calculator with a small, paper roll fascinated Audrey Davidson as a child. She watched her mother, a real estate accountant, punch the buttons, causing the calculator to print out numbers as the spool turned. Sometimes, Audrey punched the buttons herself, pretending she was grown up. Add her father to the equation, the chief financial officer of his engineering firm, and it almost seemed inevitable.

Audrey was an accountant in the making.

Several years later, while a high school junior in Webb City, Mo., Audrey took an accounting class. She enjoyed it so much, a year later she became her accounting teacher’s assistant. These experiences stayed with her as she began looking for a college to attend. One university made quite an impression, especially since it is near major corporations with a global impact. “The business school is so well known,” she says. There was also the lure of the Integrated Master of Accountancy (IMAcc) program, a five-year plan that enables students to become certified public accountants.

Her choice: the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

Now a senior, Audrey has a summer accounting internship lined up at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Springdale location. The corporation, with headquarters in London, offers various accounting services globally. She says networking through the University of Arkansas chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary organization for finance honor students and professionals, led to the internship. When she graduates from the IMAcc program and gets her CPA, she says she hopes to return to PricewaterhouseCoopers as a staff accountant.

Audrey says her experiences at Walton College have convinced her she’s on the right path. “All of those classes just instilled in me that I want to do accounting more,” she says.

Her education has also involved traveling globally. During summer break in 2010, she visited Spain where she took classes and lived in a home where nobody spoke English. She says this provided an excellent opportunity to practice her Spanish-speaking skills.

Last summer, she traveled to Belize with a business team from the Walton College where she took an active role in the community by creating a brochure for the city of Dangriga, as well as a cookbook of traditional Belizean foods for a nonprofit women’s cooperative. Audrey and the team also put some muscle work into building a public park, often in very hot conditions.

“We built it mainly out of tires and material we found around town,” she says. “The kids and people of all ages loved it.”

As a Walton College student, Audrey is secretary for Beta Alpha Psi, with duties that include reporting membership information to the association’s national headquarters, and serves as a Walton College Student Ambassador, where she gives tours to prospective business students. She is also a student representative for Becker Professional Education, which conducts CPA exam reviews, and does promotional work such as hanging posters and sending out e-mails on the corporation’s behalf. In addition, Audrey is a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

Away from the university, Audrey has volunteered with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, which represents abused and neglected children in the courtroom and elsewhere.

Her college experiences will have a lasting impression when she begins her career, she says.

“The opportunities that we have here as students are endless,” she says.