Category Archives: Graduate Student

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.”

Small Business and Technology Development Center Helps Alumna Start Student-Athletes Unite, LLC

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the Sam M. Walton College of business has assisted a University of Arkansas graduate student in starting a business to help prepare student athletes for the rigors and expectations of college academics, athletics and student life.

Krystal Beachum, who worked as an academic counselor for Razorback women’s basketball, tennis and volleyball programs, started Student-Athletes Unite, LLC, to offer consulting services for future collegiate athletes and their families.

“I realized early on in my career how necessary it is to provide more resources and information to the student-athletes and their families today because I have experienced first-hand, hard lessons when student-athletes were misinformed on recruiting, marketing themselves and athletic scholarships,” Beachum said. “I want to educate, inspire and connect these students and their families with the resources they need for success.”

Beachum, from Mexia, Texas, is a first-generation college student, having received full athletic scholarships to play basketball for McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, and Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She earned her master’s degree in sports management from the University of Arkansas in May 2016 while serving as a graduate assistant with the athletic department.

Beachum maintained her college scholarships and a high grade point average while being a member in multiple honor societies and playing women’s basketball. While working as academic counselor for the University of Arkansas, she assisted in prospective-athlete recruiting tours, monitored the collegiate progress and performance indicators for 40 Division I Razorback student-athletes and assisted them in course enrollment guidance and academic college major selection.

Her two brothers and her sister were also collegiate scholarship athletes and college graduates. Her brother Kevin Beachum is in his fourth season with the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Her brothers and sister are also a part of the Student-Athletes Unite team.

Beachum Miller Photo
Krystal Beachum talks with attorney Alex Miller about choosing the correct legal entity for her business.

Before starting her business, Beachum attended a public seminar with the Walton College small business center entitled “Choosing the Proper Legal Entity.” The seminar was presented by a volunteer speaker, attorney Alex Miller of the law firm Reece, Moore and Pendergraft, LLP, of Fayetteville, Arkansas. After the seminar, Beachum sought the free services of Martha Londagin, business consultant at the center. Reece, Moore and Pendergraft, LLP, assisted Beachum at no charge in setting up her LLC and guiding her on how to operate this new legal entity.

“Krystal has one of the best backgrounds for starting a small business of any client I have seen,” Londagin said. “She has the personal life experiences, the collegiate experiences and the personality and drive to help her target consumers to prepare early on for their collegiate academic and sports careers. I am confident in her future success. Our center is also very appreciative of the community service Reece, Moore and Pendergraft, LLP, provides to our center each year.”

Learn more about Beachum and Student-Athletes Unite, LLC at studentathletesunite.com.

About the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center:  The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas has been serving the Northwest Arkansas community for more than 30 years. The center is part of a national network of more than 1,000 small business development center offices that provide training, research and consulting services to existing and potential business owners. The center network is the largest small business assistance program in the United States. The Walton College center operates as a regional office of the ASBTDC and is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration through a partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Walton College. Any for-profit small business located or intending to locate in Northwest Arkansas may receive assistance from the center which provides services to businesses in the following counties: Benton, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Newton, Searcy, and Washington. The ASBTDC serves all of Arkansas through UALR’s Little Rock-based lead center and six regional offices. Visit the Walton College ASBTDC website at sbtdc.uark.edu for more information on the center or the state network.

 

U of A Sweeps Graduate Places at Governor’s Cup Competition

April 20, 2016 – FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas teams swept all three places Tuesday in the graduate division at the 2016 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup 2016 winners.
Photo by Beth Hall
From left: Cynthia Sides, David Zaharoff, Sean Smith, Drew McKinnon, Amy Hardwick, MJ Orellano, Carol Reeves, Corey Coston, Alan Ellstrand, Senior Associate Dean Anne O¹Leary-Kelly, and interim Dean Matt Waller.

VivImmune, a start-up biotechnology company that specializes in immunotherapy for bladder cancer, finished in first place and won $25,000. The company also won the AT&T Elevator Pitch Contest for $2,000 and the Delta Plastics Innovation Award for $5,000.

Actio Systems, which developed a patient reminder and intelligent rescheduling smartphone app for medical clinics and their patients, placed second and took home $15,000.

Third place and $10,000 went to deciLvl, a company using metamaterial research out of MIT to filter out harmful audio signals in noisy environments.

Read the full article in Newswire.

Walton MBA Team Competes in SEC MBA Case Competition

A team of four M.B.A. students from the Sam M. Walton College Business competed in the 4th Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition held April 7-9, 2016, on the University of Arkansas campus.

Walton SEC MBA 2016
MBA students (l-r) Haley Cleous, Phil Keil, Ash Ganapathiraju and Clinton Rhodes represented the Sam M. Walton College of Business during the 4th Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition held April 7-9, 2016, at the University of Arkansas. [photo credit: Jim Bailey]
The Walton team of Haley Cleous, Phil Keil, Ash Ganapathiraju and Clinton Rhodes had 24 hours to create a business plan to a case presented by Henkel Corp., a multinational company that produces consumer and industrial products and whose executives served as judges of the competition.

All 14 SEC universities participated in the event with the University of Alabama bringing home the top prize. The University of Florida placed second, Texas A&M University third and Mississippi State University fourth.

“I was impressed by the caliber of the students who represented the University of Arkansas and the SEC,” said Matthew A. Waller, interim dean of the Walton College. “All of the M.B.A. teams presented quality solutions to a leading international company’s business challenge. Each member of the 14 teams reflects the outstanding business sophistication and talent we have in the SEC.”

Other awards given during the divisional rounds included Best Presenter and Best Q&A.

SEC MBA 2016
MBA teams representing 14 SEC universities were on hand April 7-9, 2016, to compete in the 4th SEC MBA Case Competition. The Walton College at the University of Arkansas served as host for the event. [photo credit: Stacy Allred]
Sarah Gardener from Louisiana State University, Katie Lamberth from the University of Alabama, Lillian Niakan from Texas A&M University and Kate O’Hara from the University of Florida were named Best Presenters for their divisions.

The Best Q&A Awards were earned by Abhinav Bhattacharya from the University of Alabama, Sarah Crook from the University of Tennessee, Kendall Daniel from Texas A&M University and Carew Ferguson from Mississippi State University.

This marks the fourth year for the SEC MBA Case Competition, which provides an opportunity for SEC business schools to showcase their students’ skills at solving simulated, real-world problems that cover the spectrum of business disciplines. The 2017 SEC MBA Case Competition will be held at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

A complete list of winners from the 2016 competition is available at www.thesecu.com.

About SECU
The Southeastern Conference sponsors, supports and promotes collaborative higher education programs and activities involving administrators, faculty and students at its fourteen member universities. The goals of the SECU academic initiative include highlighting the endeavors and achievements of SEC faculty and universities; advancing the merit and reputation of SEC universities outside of the traditional SEC region; identifying and preparing future leaders for high-level service in academia; increasing the amount and type of education abroad opportunities available to SEC students; and providing opportunities for collaboration among SEC university personnel. To connect with SECU online – www.TheSECU.com; on Facebook – TheSECU; on Twitter – @TheSECU; on Instagram – @TheSECUniversity; and on YouTube – SECUniversity.

Walton College to Host 4th SEC MBA Case Competition

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas will host the 4th Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition April 7-9, 2016, with 14 SEC universities participating.

Teams of four graduate students will present a business plan regarding a real problem faced by Henkel Corporation, which will also provide executives to serve as judges. Within a specific time restriction, the teams will analyze the problem, develop a solution and present their findings.

SEC University

“Walton College is proud to host this premier competition,” said Marion Dunagan, Walton College assistant dean, Graduate Programs. “The business plan competition highlights the outstanding talent we have in the Southeastern Conference and our significant contributions to the business world locally, nationally and globally.”

Competing teams will represent graduate business colleges from the University of Alabama, University of Arkansas, Auburn University, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University, University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, University of Missouri, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee, Texas A&M University and Vanderbilt University.

The University of Florida took first place in the 2015 SEC MBA Case Competition held at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Henkel, headquartered in Düsseldorf, Germany, is known for brands such as Persil, Schwarzkopf and Loctite. Henkel North America produces brands such as Dial soaps, Purex laundry detergents, Right Guard deodorants, göt2b hair styling products and Loctite adhesives.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Walton MBA Program Offers New Certification with Nielsen

By Becca Trippe

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas is working with Nielsen, a global performance management company that provides a comprehensive understanding of what consumers watch and buy, to expand its professional development offerings to include a Nielsen Academy Certificate Program for Walton MBA students. Continue reading Walton MBA Program Offers New Certification with Nielsen