Category Archives: Graduate Student

EPIC Spotlight: Stephen O. Kayode-Owoyele

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“I would encourage people of ethnic backgrounds to seriously consider this school.”

The trip to India is still fresh on Stephen O. Kayode-Owoyele’s mind.

There were visits to businesses and people’s homes. Stephen and other University of Arkansas students roamed the markets and bazaars. They visited a wild game reserve and met children in an orphanage “who entertained us as much as we entertained them,” Stephen says.

The most surprising thing? Seeing the wealthy and impoverished live side-by-side. And getting along.

Stephen, a graduate student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, visited India over Christmas break in a business seminar as part of the university’s Study Abroad program.

“The experience was very enriching and educational,” he says. “I would say it’s the highlight of my education at this point.”

Stephen, born in Nigeria, has seen much of the world already. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in economics at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, he lived and worked in his native country for Accenture, a global management technology consulting firm, where he was an Information Security Consultant before moving to England briefly. After that, he moved to the United States and has worked at information security management jobs in New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

Then it was off to Bentonville. Since 2009, Stephen has worked with Verizon Consulting Services’ Walmart account. There, he manages the relationship, sales and delivery of all contracted professional security services to Walmart stores.

Stephen says that when he decided to further his education, he researched colleges online. Walton College was on his list. “It’s the most reputable in the area,” he says of the college. “That was a good sell to me.”

He made an appointment to visit and was pleased with what he saw. “It’s a very cool campus,” he says. “It’s very well structured. It’s bustling with activities.”

He enrolled in the Managerial Master of Business Administration program, which is designed for working professionals like Stephen. Through online learning and attending class one Saturday a month, master’s degrees are typically earned in two years.

Stephen says his classes include people from many cultures and who hold many different opinions. This only increases the value of his education, he says.

“I would encourage people of ethnic backgrounds to seriously consider this school,” he says. “It’s increasing in diversity immensely.”

Combined with his bachelor’s degree and certification as an Information Systems Security Professional, this added knowledge will benefit his workplace, he says.

“It’s going to be more valuable to my employer and our clients,” he says.

Though Stephen has lived in major metropolitan areas, he says Northwest Arkansas stands out because of one thing in particular. “It’s the best place I’ve ever lived,” he says, adding that he finds the area calm and serene.

Back home in Nigeria, he says his mother has a long history in business. She operates a shop similar to America’s convenience stores. His father is retired and worked for an aluminum company.

Stephen says his move to the United States has been closely watched by his younger brothers and sister and that it gives them something to aim for.

“It’s inspirational for them,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Marcus Monk

MarcusMonkThose who remember Marcus Monk during his undergrad years at the University of Arkansas probably think of his time as an Arkansas Razorback wide receiver.When Marcus graduated from the Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2008 with a degree in marketing, he went on to play in the NFL and then to play basketball in Germany for two years.
In January 2013, Marcus returned to the University of Arkansas to be a student again, this time in the Walton MBA program. “I remember when the recruiters came to talk to us (about the MBA program) and I knew it was something I was going to do,” he says. “When I first finished with my undergrad degree, I wasn’t finished playing ball. I knew that in grad school, you get out of it what you put into it. Once I really made up my mind to move on (from playing ball), I knew I was ready to do something else.” In May 2013, Marcus joined a team of students who participated in a study abroad program in India for three weeks. His previous international experience had already taught Marcus that to be successful in a different culture, especially in the business world, a person “can’t be stuck in your own ways. You have to be open to change.”

Marcus described his study abroad program as a “great experience” that was totally different than what he had expected. The first thing he recognized as different was the amount of people, he says. He was able to see up close how people in India conduct business in comparison to the United States.

Understanding how a different culture operates is vital to being a successful international business leader, he says.

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“If you’re a US company doing business in another country, you have to take what they do and try to adapt to it, not try to make them adapt to U.S. ways,” he says. “You can’t be stuck in your ways, you have to be open to change.”

Marcus’ international experience has proven that international work is his preferred niche, something that will be possible because of his MBA from the University of Arkansas.

“If I can get into something that helps a U.S. company do business internationally, I think that’s something I would really enjoy, Marcus says. Wherever Marcus ends up in his career, he says that his experiences in the MBA program are preparing him for what lies ahead.

“The connections you make with people and that the school has are second to none,” Marcus says. His internship with a company based in Little Rock as well as his visits to some of the world’s top corporations will give him the business experience on his resume that is necessary to land a more permanent job.

“I know that I want to be in the business world and know that I need business experience before going out to get a job,” he says. “This is setting me in that path.”

Learn more about our Study Abroad Programs

Meet Dr. Vikas Anand, MBA Director

EPIC Spotlight: Kellen Utecht

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“The Walton College and Clinton School together have helped make me realize I want to work in supply chain sustainability.”

He lives in Fayetteville. He also lives in Little Rock. To further complicate things, his fianceé lives in Turkey. As in the country Turkey.

Welcome to Kellen Utecht’s world.

For three or so days a week, Kellen is in Fayetteville, pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Then, it’s off to Little Rock, where he is also a student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, working toward a master’s degree in – you guessed it – public service.
Kellen says he learned about the combined master’s program by “Googling” the words “MBA” and “public service.” On the second page of the results, he found a link to an article about Sarah Clark, the first student to complete concurrent master’s degrees in business administration and public service through a partnership between the Clinton School and the Walton College.

Kellen wanted to do that, too.

He contacted the Walton College, grabbed his father and made an 18-hour road trip from North Dakota to Fayetteville, where he toured the campus. The next day, they drove to Little Rock and met with people there.
“Then the two schools got to work, making this happen for me,” he says.

Born and raised in Underwood, N.D., (“about as far from the ocean as you can possibly be”) Kellen earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of North Dakota. After graduation, he spent two years as a business consultant.

“I loved it,” he says. “But I wanted more of a challenge and to serve.”

The Peace Corps was the obvious next step. He was assigned to Bulgaria, where he served for two years as a community and organizational development volunteer.

Then he enrolled at the University of Arkansas in January 2011. He did his summer internship with the Sustainability Consortium. In August, Kellen moved to Little Rock, where he enrolled at the Clinton School. He is currently interning at the headquarters of Heifer International, a hunger- and poverty-fighting charity that serves globally.
Kellen says the partnership between Walton College and the Clinton School has enabled him to learn from the many speakers they have brought in, including past presidents as well as leaders from the business world. He also enjoys that on one day he could be doing a SAP simulation and the next day discussing the decolonization of India.
“The Walton College and Clinton School together have helped make me realize I want to work in supply chain sustainability,” he says.

One way he might do this is through working with either a for-profit business or non-governmental organization in its sustainability efforts and communicating its progress to stakeholders.

“Most supply chains are international,” he says. “You have to be able to integrate and work with people of different cultures.”

He will continue his international studies this summer, when he travels to Turkey and does an internship with the World Wildlife Fund.

And get married.

He says he met his fianceé, Tugce, while backpacking in Turkey following his stint with the Peace Corps. She’s finishing law school while he completes his master’s degree. “Beyond that, I don’t know what will happen,” he says.
Yet, he says he knows his education here in Arkansas will help him with his pursuits.

“There’s so much good work to be done out there, and I want to be a part of it,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Jack Lim

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“I love the challenge.”

Jack Lim had never been to the United States, let alone Arkansas. But he remembers the exact time and day – 10 p.m., Dec. 31, 1998 – when he got off the plane at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and was greeted by a student organization, which drove him to Fayetteville as he began a new chapter in his life.

This was not a visit. He had never laid eyes on Old Main. He had never called the Hogs. But when he learned that his college credits from his home country of Malaysia would transfer easier than to the other universities he applied. The University of Arkansas was the obvious choice, he says. Fayetteville was now home.

He enrolled at the Sam M. Walton College of Business where he majored in business management – a field where his father excelled, Jack says. He then became acquainted with the college’s professors, who impressed him. He lived off campus, sharing space with Malaysian and non-Malaysian students as he got used to college life in Arkansas. And the language. He knew English, but Southern colloquialisms, like “y’all” for “you all,” were confusing at first, he says. “It took me three months to get familiar with the English here,” Jack says.

As he focused his studies on small business and entrepreneurship management, Jack received an internship with Chartwells, a division of Compass Group, a food service company that serves the world, including the University of Arkansas. He spent two years there as an undergraduate, where he was trained in management, cost control, scheduling and production. He says interning on campus with a globally recognized company connected him to the outside world without his ever having to step foot off university grounds.

When he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2002, Chartwells offered him a full-time position. The employees there treated him like family, inviting him to special events, such as the American tradition known as Thanksgiving. “I’ve made a lot of long-term friends,” he says.

Jack says that after working eight years at Chartwells, he decided to take on new challenges. He quit his job and returned to Walton College, this time to pursue an MBA with a career track in supply chain management while interning at the Kellogg Co. in Rogers. Internships have worked out well for him, he says. Jack was recently hired to work full time as a senior finance analyst where he manages budgets for the Kellogg sales office in Northwest Arkansas, which does business exclusively with Walmart, the world largest retailer. The latter part of this semester for Jack has meant going to class followed by long days at work, which will continue until he graduates in May. Yet, he says he can’t think of a better place than Walton College to get his business training and networking opportunities. “It’s a life-time experience,” he says.

During all of this, Jack got married. He and his wife, Julina Yu, are expecting their first child in August. He also became a United States citizen. Though his days are spent working a full-time job while going to graduate school and preparing for a little one on the way, Jack shrugs off any notions that life may be a little crazy at the moment.

“It’s a happy price to pay,” he says. “I love the challenge.”

EPIC Spotlight: Hayley Cocker

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“The students are really bright. The research is brilliant.”

Hayley Cocker first learned about Arkansas from a jigsaw puzzle. She remembers as a child sitting in her home in Lancaster, England, putting together puzzle pieces that composed a map of the United States.

Sure, she knew about New York and California. But Arkansas? “It was one of the states I never really heard about,” she says.

That changed two years ago. A Ph.D. marketing student with Lancaster University in Lancaster, England, she presented a paper at a doctoral seminar at the University of Southern Denmark. It would be there – not the United States – when Arkansas began to have meaning to her life. Doing a presentation at the seminar was Jeff Murray, marketing department chair at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. With him was Anastasia Thyroff, a Ph.D. student from the college.

Hayley says she was impressed with their work and accepted their invitation to visit the University of Arkansas for a doctoral workshop. The experience was so rewarding, she says, she jumped at the opportunity to return this fall to teach integrated marketing communication at Walton College as she completes her doctorate.

She says her Walton College experience so far has been very rewarding. “The students are really bright,” she says. “The research is brilliant.”

It has also been a great time to share her country and background with her students. Hayley says one way she does that is by playing music from northwest England, where she’s from, such as rock band Oasis or some grime music, a genre of hip-hop that’s popular there. Her students have been known to return the favor; they have familiarized her with country musicians Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw.

Hayley says her interest in marketing began when she was an undergraduate business student at Lancaster University. She took courses that included management and economics, but her marketing classes resonated with her most, especially when it came to examining consumer behavior. “I have always been really curious and inquisitive about people,” she says.

She continued her education by earning a master’s degree in advanced marketing management at Lancaster University before working briefly in the business world for a research agency. While she says she enjoyed doing research, she found herself missing academia. Hayley wanted to teach.

Which brings her to the University of Arkansas, where she’s spending her final stretch as a doctoral student, teaching in an environment surrounded by consumer culture theory professors and students, she says.

The environment also aids in her research, which includes studying alcohol consumption practices among young adults with noticeable differences between those in the United States and the United Kingdom, she says. She also is studying how celebrities lend meaning to consumers’ lives.

While in Arkansas, she does a little local observing as well. For example, she says she finds herself photographing grocery store items on her smartphone and sending them to her friends and family back home. A jar of mayonnaise, for example, is monstrous compared to those in England, she says. Because it ties in with marketing, she pays close attention to television commercials as well.

Hayley says she is also taking time to indulge herself in the American experience. For example, she drove a Ford Mustang to Memphis and visited Graceland – Elvis Presley’s former home – as well as the National Civil Rights Museum and other tourist spots. She says traveling has been a normal part of her doctoral studies, but it’s usually for short periods of time. “I’ve never actually been away from my hometown, so Arkansas is really a huge deal for me,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Ernst Wittenschläger

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Each day, as Ernst Wittenschläger drives to his office, he passes by the local state university where his exams are proctored. He lives in Newmarket, N.H. He goes to school at the University of Arkansas.

When Ernst was offered a chance to transfer to the New Hampshire school, he did some research. Continuing his monthly 3,000 mile roundtrip commute to Fayetteville was more affordable – even when figuring in his flight, hotel and car rental, he says.

Plus, the Sam M. Walton College of Business is ranked higher. This is what lured him to the school in the first place, he says.

“When I considered the entire package, Walton College was the best deal going, hands down,” he says.

As a student of Walton College’s Managerial Master’s of Business Administration program, which meets one Saturday a month, Ernst will complete the program at the end of the summer following nearly two years of hopping on a plane and trekking across country.

He says it all began two years ago when he lived in Joplin, Mo., and was working for TAMKO Building Products Inc. He and his colleagues were looking for a college in the region where they could further their business education. They soon realized Walton College had the most to offer.

Just a few weeks into his first year at the college, Ernst moved to New England to pursue a better opportunity. “I’ve been commuting for nearly the entire program. I’ve even flown in for class from Europe a few times,” he says.

He says he appreciates the flexible curriculum, which allows for substituting certain electives in place of other classes. In particular, it enabled him to take Advanced Corporate Finance, taught by Tomas Jandik, a challenge he says he enjoyed. “It was very, very hard,” he says. “It was the best.”

Ernst grew up in both Germany and Richmond, Va., with a German father and an American mother. His bachelor’s degree, which he earned at the United States Naval Academy, was in political science with a minor in systems engineering, he says. Upon graduation, he served in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. During the Iraq War, he and his boarding team inspected merchant ships for weapons, drugs and any other items that could be a threat.

When he left active duty, he discovered that his management and leadership skills acquired in the Navy were attractive to employers but he wasn’t sure he was fully prepared.

“I was simply clueless to the business world outside of the military,” he says. “I would hear the words ‘sales and marketing,’ ‘supply chain,’ ‘finance,’ but I had no idea what they really meant.” He would soon find out.

Ernst was hired to work as a territory manager in supply chain operations for Wolsely PLC, which manufactures plumbing and building products, in Newport News, Va. His supply chain experience coupled with his knowledge of German led to his promotion to manager of corporate supply chain. He was relocated to Zurich, Switzerland, where he managed the European supply chain operations. When the company closed the Zurich office, Ernst took a position with TAMKO and moved back to the United States.

“I had spent so much time in supply chain, I really didn’t know much about the other parts of a business enterprise outside of the supply chain,” he says. “I had a strong desire to have a more holistic understanding of the entire end-to-end business, especially the finance end of the business.”

He says Walton College has helped him meet those goals, even if he had to travel 3,000 miles each month to do it.

EPIC Spotlight: Bethany Haefner

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“I have been learning so much, and I wouldn’t trade the amazing experiences that I have had throughout the MBA program for anything.”

For Bethany Haefner, life really is like a box of chocolates – especially around Valentines Day when she, along with her coworkers at The Hershey Co., explore which ones will be in the highest demand for the romantic holiday.

Sometimes her job confuses people, she says.

“I’ve actually gotten some funny comments about it,” she says. “People often ask me if I actually help make the chocolate!”

Not quite. Bethany is a category consultant at Hershey’s Bentonville office, where she works on the Walmart account, selling chocolate chips, Hershey’s syrup, baking cocoa and other products, including Hershey’s Valentine’s Day candies. She
monitors real-time business activities, interprets data and creates immediate action plans to address issues as well as take advantage of opportunities. Since January, she has worked there full time while pursuing an MBA with emphases in entrepreneurship and supply chain, which she’ll earn in May at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Twice a week, Bethany takes a break from her job and drives more than 20 miles each way to the University of Arkansas to attend class.

Bethany is a familiar face at Walton College. It’s where she earned her bachelor’s degree with a major in marketing and a minor in accounting. She’s also no stranger to the Walton name. Having grown up in Bentonville, where Sam Walton called home, she already knew the Walmart founder’s significance, she says. Many of her classmates were children of Walmart employees who worked at the world’s largest retailer’s home office. Walmart is referenced in many of her college business classes, she says.

But proximity wasn’t the main reason why she chose to attend Walton College.

“I ended up going to the University of Arkansas because of the great business school and everything associated it with,” she says. “I also felt like it was beneficial to stay with University of Arkansas’ MBA program because I knew that I wanted to stay in retailing.”

As for Hershey’s, Bethany interned there as an undergraduate, which led to a graduate assistantship while she worked toward a master’s degree.

“I have always wanted to get my MBA,” she says. “Not only that, but I think that it is an important degree to have, especially to be competitive in today’s industry. That’s what encouraged me to move forward.”

Before Hershey’s, she interned as an undergraduate at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., which enhanced her experiences going into Walton College’s master’s program, she says. In turn, she says her yearlong entrepreneurship class under the direction of Carol Reeves has been extremely beneficial to her career at Hershey. “She helps train us how to look at the world in a different way – from the viewpoint of an entrepreneur,” Bethany says.

In Reeves’ class, Bethany is part of a five-member team that has created a business plan, in partnership with Unilever, that involves a shelf-planning, cloud-based software. The team, SpatiaLink Solutions, has taken the plan to collegiate entrepreneurship competitions, finishing second overall in the graduate team competition and winning the elevator pitch competition at the 2012 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup for Arkansas in April. They also won the “Gone in 60 Seconds” competition in Fort Smith and the top prize at the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge at the University of Louisville.

As a graduate student, she went to India over the Christmas break through the University of Arkansas’ Study Abroad program, where she learned about aspects of the country from its culture to how business works there.

She’s also planning for her wedding in May, to Zac Freeman, who is in the MBA program at John Brown University in Siloam Springs.

While her schedule is a busy one, Bethany says she doesn’t mind. “This has been a very busy semester, but I have been busy with things that I am passionate about,” she says. “I have been learning so much, and I wouldn’t trade the amazing experiences that I have had throughout the MBA program for anything.”

EPIC Spotlight: Andrew Caldwell

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When Andrew Caldwell first arrived in Korea, he was the only English-speaking person in his community.

“For the first month, I couldn’t talk to anybody,” he says.

Weeks earlier, he had graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies at Harding University in Searcy, but his career focus was a bit hazy, he says. The idea of going into the medical profession, which once appealed to him, had waned. A fan of “Saturday Night Live,” Andrew and a buddy considered writing comedy routines, moving to Los Angeles and trying to break into show business. Andrew’s father quickly discouraged him of the notion.

And now he was teaching English as a second language in Andong, Gyeongasangbuk-Do, South Korea, located three hours by bus east of Seoul.

The area was unlike anything he had experienced. Residents adhered to the principles of Confucianism, which originated from ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. Andrew learned that elders were to be treated with great respect and knew to bow deeper for older people who held authority.

“There’s a sense of honor that we don’t have here,” he says.

Through a different culture, Andrew began to fully appreciate the value of an education. Though he had been overseas before when he studied in Italy for two semesters as an undergraduate, his Korean experiences were different, he says.

“I learned so much about myself – about how I truly want to be,” he says.

During his two years in Korea, Andrew took a computer programming course. He liked it. When he moved back to his hometown of Little Rock, he worked at a couple of local restaurants and prepared for his Graduate Management Admissions Test

He was going to graduate school. As he applied to several universities, he says he discovered something. “The more I learned about the University of Arkansas, the more I liked it,” he says. Andrew met with the Walton College’s Graduate School of Business staff, and those meetings went well, he says. Affordability also played a role. “The University of Arkansas is such a better deal for what you’re getting,” he says.

Shortly after enrolling and attending his classes, he says he knew he made the right decision. “I loved the smaller class sizes,” he says, adding that he has found his professors to be accessible and attentive. Andrew says he is focusing on finance and business management and hopes to work in either field after graduation.

While Andrew pursues his master’s degree, he is interning at TracFone Wireless, a prepaid mobile phone provider, as a member of the company’s replenishment team in its Bentonville office. He says he analyzes data from Walmart’s retail link database and tracks inventory supply.

Andrew says he’s happy with his choice. He has already developed a camaraderie with his fellow students.

“Everyone wants to see each other succeed,” he says. “That’s been really fun.”

EPIC Spotlight: Anastasia Thyroff

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As students find their seats, Anastasia Thyroff’s classroom is often filled with music. The songs, which she broadcasts through the classroom computer, can be something she’s heard while on her travels or something that reflects a personal aspect about her.

During the week of the Super Bowl, she played songs that were featured in commercials for the televised event. It got conversations going.

“There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than a class where the students look zoned out or bored out of their minds,” Anastasia says.

Her teaching and enthusiasm are two of many reasons the Sam M. Walton College of Business bestowed her with the 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about how grateful I am for this award,” she says. “It makes me very appreciative for all of the teachers who have inspired me and help guide me down the path of academia.”

As part of the nomination process, Anastasia had to compile a portfolio of her accomplishments for the selection committee.

“Sometimes, as Ph.D. students, we’re just going and going and going. It was nice having an excuse to stop and reflect,” she says.

In her third year at the Walton College, Anastasia is pursuing a doctorate with a concentration in marketing. She also teaches Integrated Marketing Communication.

Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Anastasia always planned on being a teacher. When she signed up for a business class in high school, her plans took a detour.

“I fell head over heels for marketing,” she says. “I just ‘got’ marketing.” Her classmates also noticed, she says. When they did a virtual enterprise project, all of the “companies” tried to get her to be their director.

Others were taking notice as well.

“My business teachers, they knew I’d end up in marketing,” she says.

As for finding a university, Anastasia says she was growing tired of Rochester’s cold winters, which can include large amounts of lake-effect snow courtesy of Lake Ontario. She says she found a warmer alternative in South Carolina when she enrolled at Clemson University. While there, she took a marketing research class and, again, her focus was being refined. Anastasia says when a professor suggested she pursue a Ph.D., she realized her childhood dream of becoming a teacher could be fulfilled while being involved with both marketing and research.

“It’s just a win-win-win,” she says.

After earning her bachelor of science degree in marketing, she continued her education at the University of Georgia where she earned a master’s degree in marketing research. When it came time to select her final phase of her education, she says there were a couple of offers from universities. But when she visited the University of Arkansas, she sensed something special.

“It just immediately felt like home,” she says. “The marketing department was no different. You could just tell there’s this nice, friendly camaraderie.”

There’s also plenty of room for research. Anastasia is currently exploring how nanotechnology is being legitimized – or not – in our everyday lives.

Anastasia says when she needs to take a break, she’ll grab her dog Belle, a soft coat wheaten terrier, and go for a run.

“I rescued her two months ago, and she’s the love of my life,” she says.

Then, it’s back to the classroom, playing music for her students and engaging them in discussion.