Category Archives: Giving

EPIC Spotlight: Rachel Dukes

Rachel Dukes had always heard that accounting is the language of business.

Living in the Dallas bedroom community of Grand Prairie, Rachel felt it was time to pursue the discipline at a university beyond the Texas border.

Arkansas immediately got her attention. Though she was not yet an Arkansas Razorbacks fan, the University of Arkansas’ school spirit was infectious. Her love for math veered her toward the accounting program at the Walton College.

As Rachel spent time on campus, everything felt right. “It just seemed like a good school with a very comforting environment,” she says.

The summer before her freshman school year, Rachel participated in the Business Leadership Academy, a residential program through the Walton College that creates an awareness of retail career choices and opportunities available to business majors. “BLA definitely set the foundation for my Walton College experience,” she says.

Rachel is making the most of the experience, too. She is the recipient the African-American Studies Scholarship, the Bridgestone-Firestone Scholarship, the Fred S. and Doreen D. Vorsanger Scholarship and the Pat and Gus Blass Endowed Scholarship.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of opportunities to network and make connections throughout the course of my college career.”

She serves as president of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), where her duties include overseeing and organizing different events for the organization. She is also a member of Students of Retailing Excellence (STORE), which offers educational and networking programs for students interested in a retailing or marketing career. In addition, Rachel is involved with Leadership Walton, a program that combines leadership experience, academic learning and training in both professional and career development. She was a mentor to Freshman Business Connections students as well with the Connections program through the university’s Multicultural Center. Rachel has also been positively influenced by Barbara Lofton and her team through Walton College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, where Lofton serves as director. “I feel like I’ve had a lot of opportunities to network and make connections throughout the course of my college career,” she says.

One of those opportunities came in the form of the “Shark Tank” Challenge in Arlington, Texas, which was part of the 2014 Alley Scholars Summit. Rachel was a member of a Walton College team that took third place for its online grocery service business model. Rachel served as the team’s accountant, where her challenge was finding ways to stick to the budget provided to her. Team members also created a 30-page business report and presented its plan to judges, which included Shawn Taylor, CEO of Zaxby’s restaurant, and Shama Kabani, CEO of Marketing Zen.

The summit also included panels composed of educators and entrepreneurs who shared their experiences and advice.

Away from class and competitions, Rachel works as an accounting intern for Tyson Foods Inc., where she runs reports, audits and works on different accounting projects for her team.

Rachel also has a double minor in Spanish and African and African-American Studies, both disciplines she hopes will help her business career.

As for where she sees herself after graduation, there’s still time to explore. “Right now, I’m trying to soak in everything about accounting so I can find my niche,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: John Erck

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“It’s a professional environment, but it’s definitely a family atmosphere.”

John Erck knows about building from the ground up. For the past three years, from the time it was in the planning phase, Erck worked hard to secure funding for a state-of-the-art, $40 million football operations facility for the University of Arkansas.

As the new Senior Director of Development and External Relations for the Sam M. Walton College of Business, he can drive down Razorback Road and see his contributions through the Fred W. Smith Football Center, which was dedicated in September.

Erck comes to the Walton College from the University of Arkansas’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics where, as development director, he was in charge of securing private gift support for 19 sports programs and more than 460 Razorback student-athletes. Now he’s channeling the same passion and energy into the Walton College, where he’s in charge of helping meet a $235 million campaign goal in its quest to be a Top 20 public business college by 2020. While the college has had many excellent supporters who have “carried the load” through the years, he says he’s eager to share with new people the excellent opportunities possible with their help.

He says he finds his sports development background fits in nicely with Walton College supporters – many of whom he got to know while working for the Arkansas Razorbacks. (Walton College itself has produced many successful Razorback student-athletes.) For those he meets on behalf of the Walton College, he knows of a good conversation starter. “The good news is that a lot of people want to talk about athletics, too,” Erck says.

Erck, who began his new role in August, replaces Katy Nelson-Ginder, who was recently named the university’s assistant vice chancellor for development.

“John brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to his new role in the Walton College,” says Walton College Dean Eli Jones. “His familiarity with the university and with Arkansas will mean a seamless transition as we all work to continue to build Walton into an even greater leader in international business education.”

Raised in Owatonna, Minn., Erck’s résumé includes serving three-and-a-half years as the director of major gifts and associate director of the National Commodore Club at Vanderbilt University and as assistant membership director with the Rams Club at the University of North Carolina.

While his background is strong in sports, Erck says it’s only one aspect of university life. “It’s important to remember that the academic portion of the university is the reason that we’re here,” he says.

He says he’s eager to continue the outstanding work of Nelson-Ginder, and he’s also glad to be at the Walton College. “It’s a professional environment, but it’s definitely a family atmosphere,” he says.

Erck, and his wife Erica, who is a University of Arkansas alumna, are the parents of three children: son Jack and two daughters, Ava and Liv.

When away from work, Erck says it’s no surprise he enjoys sports. He also likes to spend time with his family and travel.

And then there’s the time spent in his new job, which he says has started off well.

“The staff in this office is so good,” Erck says. “It’s great to have that support from both directions. It’s a great place to be.”