Category Archives: Featured

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Course Override Requests: Summer 2017

The Override Request System for full Summer 2017 business classes is now available. You may submit override requests for summer session I from May 15th at 8am through May 26th at 5pm and for summer session II from May 15th @ 8am through June 30th at 5pm. Questions? Please contact the Undergraduate Programs Office at 479-575-4622 or stop by Business Building, room 328.

Walton Diversity Director Receives Honorary Alumna Award

Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Sam M. Walton College of Business, was named an Honorary Alumna during the Black Alumni Society Awards Gala on April 29 in recognition of her contributions to the University of Arkansas.

“To be recognized as a lifetime alumna made me proud as if I graduated from the university,” said Lofton. “I was humbled that persons felt my work and commitment are worthy of such an honor.

Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Barbara Lofton, director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion

Lofton manages Walton’s diversity programs, oversees several scholarships, sponsors registered student organizations and teaches diversity classes. She supports student recruitment, retention and increasing graduation rates. Lofton also serves as a mentor, advisor and business competition coach for students.

“Dr. Lofton works tirelessly to recruit and retain minorities through several outreach programs, business competitions and student organizations,” said Anne O’Leary-Kelly, senior associate dean for Walton. “I am proud of her work to advance the university and our college. Barbara is deserving of this prestigious award.”

“In the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we work on behalf of many students, faculty, staff and sometime communities,” said Lofton.  “For me, when I see a person realize the impossible is possible with persistence, it is like magic.”

Dean Doyle Z. Williams hired Lofton in 1994 to establish Walton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, creating the oldest diversity office at a Southeastern Conference business school and one of the oldest in the nation.

Lofton holds a doctorate from Grambling State University, a master’s degree from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University.

EPIC Spotlight: Daymara Baker

It’s bread with benefits.

That’s the catch phrase Daymara Baker uses when describing her business, Rockin’ Baker, a bakery tucked inside a small Fayetteville plaza among a bicycle shop and microbrewery. Loaves sport catchy names like The Grateful Bread Sourdough and Butterfield Trail Mix Sourdough (Baker’s culinary training took place in San Francisco, the unofficial sour dough capital of the world and, thus, there’s a wide selection). Lunch offerings include salads and a variety of sandwiches from vegetarian to beefsteak.

But behind it all is Baker’s drive to help people become self-sufficient through the Rockin’ Baker Academy. They could include victims of domestic violence, those who have been in jail or have special needs – anyone who face challenges integrating into mainstream society, she says.

The idea of combining a bakery with the academy came to her while on a plane, reading a book, as she traveled to see her parents during the spring of 2015.

“The concept was vivid,” she recalls. “It was like a movie.”

She worked out the details, thousands of feet in the air.

“When I landed, it was a little scary – the feeling,” she says.

But she wasn’t afraid to take risks. She already knew the realities of financial loss from her home country of Venezuela, when an economic collapse during the 1990s caused her to lose 64 percent of her savings. She survived and knew if this didn’t work, she would survive again.

Baker consulted an executive coach to brainstorm on potential professional routes to take after working in the corporate world for decades. After sharing her vision for Rockin’ Baker and being asked, “What’s holding you back?,” Baker decided to take the risk and started setting up her business, which included enrolling in the San Francisco Baking Institute in California. When she completed the program, she went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to apprentice at an artisan bakeshop. One of the institute’s founders, Michel Suas, helped her with her shop’s layout and Baker researched equipment. Bill Fox, director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center, assisted with the marketing research and business pro forma to secure a small business loan.

When it all fell into place, she rented space in the Creekside Plaza on Mall Avenue in Fayetteville, hired employees – she currently oversees four – and on Veteran’s Day, 2016, she opened Rockin’ Baker, a play on words that gives her name new meaning.

Baker’s winding journey to Northwest Arkansas from her native La Guaira, Venezuela, began in southern Arkansas when she attended college at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. She completed her bachelor’s degree in only two years and then enrolled at the Walton College, where she worked as a graduate assistant for Rita Littrell, director of the Bessie B. Moore Center for Economic Education.

After earning her MBA in 1999, Baker served as an account executive with Thompson Murray, which eventually was sold to Saatchi & Saatchi, a global communications and advertising agency with an office in Springdale.

She made a discovery at the job. “That’s when I realized I was more of a people person,” she says.

A successful career with various companies and positions enabled her to interact with others as she worked on promotional strategies for The Integer Group’s Northwest Arkansas office before joining Chiquita Brands International, a stint that lasted almost a decade and led her to be named Chiquita’s Sales Director of the Year.

Throughout Baker’s busy schedule, she has made time for community service, including co-founding the Community Creative Center, a nonprofit art studio and visual arts organization located in the Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios in Fayetteville.

And her schedule continues to be a busy one. A typical day at the shop begins at 4 a.m. and ends often when the sun sets. She bakes and makes goods that are similar to the kinds originally found in Venezuelan bakeries. She incorporates sandwiches, salads, beverages and sweets among her offerings. “People are very appreciative of the lunch that we serve because everything is made from scratch,” she says.

Her routine could soon include cadet bakers – participants in the Rockin’ Baker Academy who learn life skills while gaining on-the-job experience by producing a variety of sourdough breads and other delicacies. The Academy has partnered with Brightwater, A Center for the Study of Food, at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. She also serves and sells products from Arkansas businesses such as Onyx Coffee Lab, Kyya Chocolate, Savoy Tea Company, Patagonia Bee Products and extra virgin olive oils and vinegars from the Raimondo Family Winery.

Through these associations and skills taught, Baker hopes the cadets will be empowered to find a job in the culinary industry or even explore entrepreneurship.

“This is a bakery with a mission,” she says.

Walton Ph.D. Student Wins Fellowship to Study Rice, Information, Markets

Information moves markets. That’s something every business student understands – or should.

Jessica Darby wrote her honors thesis on the relationship of rice markets and information while she was a University of Arkansas undergraduate. Now, as a doctoral candidate in the university’s Sam M. Walton College of Business, she’s studying ways that timely and accurate information flowing out of the supply chain can help rice farmers in Arkansas and around the world.

Darby researches how rice farmers get their information about markets and how they make decisions based on that information. She’s asking farmers if better sources of information, additional resources and more analytical tools can be developed to help with market decisions.

In spring 2017, Darby gained support for this research by winning a prestigious and highly competitive Adam Smith Fellowship from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The one-year fellowship for graduate students – which includes a quarterly stipend – can total up to $10,000. Fellows also are eligible to apply for conference and research support.

“I believe that working with the Mercatus Center will help me develop market-based tools and address relevant policy levers to reduce the information burden for farmers,” Darby said. “I want to articulate the power of markets in agricultural supply chains.”

Her research can also be a powerful tool in helping the farmers and the economy of Arkansas. Arkansas is the largest rice-growing state in the nation, with the crop grown on 1.3 million acres each year, mainly in eastern Arkansas counties stretching from Louisiana to Missouri.

Darby’s interest in commodities such as rice and the behavior of commodity markets was sparked by an internship as a commodity analyst with an Arkansas-based global trading and sourcing company, and a second internship with one of the largest shippers of grain on the inland river system. The latter gave her insight into the role that public information – especially United States Department of Agriculture reports – plays in decisions.

“In both roles, I was responsible for producing regional analysis to determine potential growth and necessary defense strategies to adapt to changing market and political environments,” Darby said.

Darby was introduced to free-market concepts and information’s impact on commodity trading and pricing through a Walton College supply chain class on capitalism and a class on futures and options in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. The latter class sparked an interest in working with Andrew McKenzie, a professor of agricultural economics and agri-business.

“He introduced me to Milo Hamilton’s book, When Rice Shakes the World,” Darby said. “Hamilton discusses the implications of policies on the functioning of global rice markets and argues for a ‘freer, market-oriented way for rice.’”

McKenzie directed Darby’s honors thesis on rice futures markets. The two published that research in the U of A undergraduate research journal Inquiry and then extended the research. Darby presented this extended research as a paper at the NCCC-134 Applied Commodity Price Analysis, Forecasting and Risk Management Conference. The two then co-authored an article on the topic – “Information Content of USDA Rice Reports and Price Reactions of Rice Futures” – that was published in Agribusiness: An International Journal.

“Our research shows that the USDA provides the rice futures market with important information needed by Arkansas rice mills and farmers to market their crops,” McKenzie said. “The Arkansas Farm Bureau notes that Arkansas farmers produce more than 9 billion pounds of rice each year, which generates billions of dollars to the state’s economy and accounts for approximately 25,000 jobs, crucial to rural communities.”

The impact of such research on Arkansas and its economy inspires Darby to continue to dig into the topic. “It’s important to me that my research connect to industry,” Darby said. “I have to see the practical application for both farmers and agri-businesses – especially those involved in the food supply chains here in Arkansas.”

McKenzie added that, in an era of declining federal budgets, the kind of research he and Darby have produced provides economic justification for the continued publication of USDA reports. Darby said that it also illustrates an opportunity for the private sector to provide additional valuable information.

“Our results undoubtedly show that USDA reports play a vital role in helping futures markets to discover price and that this is particularly important for the U.S. rice market, where there is a paucity of private data and forecasts to supplement government numbers,” McKenzie said. “However, our research also highlights the fact that rice futures are a thinly traded market with low liquidity and volume.”

McKenzie and Darby are currently engaged in potential research to explore factors that may be driving low trading levels, which increases uncertainty for farmers. Darby said the aim is to determine potential solutions to increase volume and open interest through both regulatory changes and private information provided by partners in the supply chain.

Darby earned a B.S.B.A. in economics from the Walton College in 2015 and a Walton M.B.A. in 2016. She says her passion for reading, research and free-market capitalism left no doubt she would enter Walton’s doctoral program right away. Winning the Adam Smith Fellowship is pushing that passion into a whole different realm, though.

“I believe that it will enable me to examine and better articulate the power of markets in global agricultural supply chains,” Darby said, “as well as the power of global agricultural supply chains in the structuring of global markets.”