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.

EPIC Spotlight: Ashley Jancuska

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One might suspect that a Walton College Honors student would aspire to be an accountant, an investment analyst or an economist — but a physician?

Ashley Jancuska knew in high school that she was passionate about both business and medicine. The Walton Honors Program did not force her to choose between them – it equipped her for both.

“One day, I hope to use the knowledge that I have acquired in my Walton College classes to open and successfully manage a private medical practice,” she said.

“The Walton Honors Program fosters a feeling of camaraderie and community,” Ashley said. “Beginning with the freshmen core and continuing through my four years here, the small honors sections have provided me the opportunity to truly get to know my classmates on a personal level. Additionally, these sections allowed me to also get to know my professors.

“I enjoyed the challenge that honors classes provided as we explored topics in more detail. For example, the honors colloquium classes offered in my junior and senior year gave me an opportunity to study topics which are not traditionally covered in the normal business curriculum, like technical analysis and data mining. With the guidance of our professors, we are able to apply our knowledge to solve current business problems.”

Here at the university she is involved in Walton College’s alumni network and her sorority, Kappa Delta. She also volunteers in the Fayetteville community through Habitat for Humanity and the Northwest Arkansas Free Health Center. She served as a co-project leader in Students In Free Enterprise, where she was responsible for identifying the needs of students at the Fayetteville Adult Education Center and developing a program to address those needs.

Ashley also has studied abroad twice while at the University of Arkansas. She studied international business and e-commerce in Greece and global consumerism in Italy. As a member of the Walton Honors Program, she had access to “a number of grant and scholarship opportunities available to help defray the costs of studying abroad,” she said. Ashley said these grants and scholarships allowed her to “engage in international learning experiences and gain insight into other cultures.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Ashley plans to attend medical school where she is interested in pursuing either primary care or sports medicine. She is excited to combine her business and science knowledge to effectively communicate and manage both administrative and clinical staff. Ashley is grateful to the “top-notch faculty, supportive advisors and abundant resources” that the Walton Honors Program provides to assist her in continuing her success.

EPIC Spotlight: Ashleigh Toatley

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Over a four-year span, senior Ashleigh Toatley has gone from being unsure of what field to get into to becoming a leader in her department.
“From a young age, I knew I wanted to major in business, but I wasn’t sure of which specific field,” Toatley said. “Entering into college my objective was to major in a field that was growing and in demand. When I met with Barbara Lofton my freshman year, she told me about this major (called) Transportation and Logistics.”

Since deciding upon her focus, Toatley has plunged headfirst into the world of Transportation and Logistics through her courses in Walton College and extracurricular activities. She is a member of Women in Logistics and has worked with the Supply Chain Management Research Center, which led to her involvement in the University of Arkansas’ Operation Stimulus team.

While working at the Supply Chain Management Research Center in 2008, Toatley organized a research project outlining how interstate commerce trucking regulations vary from state to state across the 48 lower states.

“Through working with Dr. Terry Tremwel, I learned the importance of staying current about what is going on today in the transportation industry as technology and regulations are always changing,” Toatley said. “And though this was the hardest project I’ve ever worked on in my life, it was the most rewarding.”
Toatley made a great impression on the faculty at the research center during her time there.

“We certainly believe that Ashleigh is a talented student leader, but she also excels in research and presentation skills,” said Jim Crowell, director of the Supply Chain Management Research Center. “She displays attention to details and persistence in quality research.”

Crowell and his colleagues were so enthusiastic about Toatley’s performance on the project that they invited her to present her research at a General Electric Conference in Greenville, South Carolina, in front of 200 presidents and vice presidents of major trucking companies.

“It was great to see people interested in what I found so fascinating,” Toatley said.

In addition to being invited to the conference in Greenville, Toatley was also appointed to Walton College’s Operation Stimulus team as a junior. Operation Stimulus is a five-member undergraduate debate team that competes in a national conference in Denver against representatives from 13 other schools with top Transportation and Logistics programs. In the competition, teams are presented with a problem and must use analysis, qualitative and quantitative models, and research to develop the most practical solution.

“(Operation Stimulus) is a great experience because you are among some of the greatest schools in the nation, like Ohio State and Michigan State,” Toatley said. “It’s a great feeling to know that you are representing the University of Arkansas, and you want to apply everything you’ve learned to the case you’re given. It’s also great to work as a team with other classmates because so many minds working together can create extremely creative solutions to problems.”

Toatley will lead the 2010 Operation Stimulus team in the upcoming conference on January 28-30.

Throughout her college experience, Toatley said that Walton College’s faculty has been an asset to her development.

“Having faculty who care about your college career and have great advice to give during challenging situations is the best aspect of the Walton College and the U of A,” Toatley said. “It’s true that you’re not `just a number’ at the U of A. Everything that I’ve learned in the classroom has allowed me to hold conversations with executive professionals in (Transportation and Logistics).”

Toatley has applied her knowledge of the field outside of Walton College. She worked for Tyson Foods for about a year and a half, interning in both the Transportation and Marketing departments.

“It was a great experience (interning in both departments) because I was able to see them operate on a day-to-day basis within such a large corporation,” Toatley said.

Toatley recently accepted an internship at J.B. Hunt, which she said she is looking forward to because it will allow her to continue to apply what she learned in the classroom in the workforce.

After graduation, Toatley said she hopes to join a growing and large corporation, or perhaps to apply to the University of Arkansas’ MBA program.

“So far, I’ve had the opportunity to interview with great companies in Somers, New York, and Omaha, Nebraska,” Toatley said. “Although it has become challenging to manage school, traveling, and work I have enjoyed every minute of the journey as I prepare for the big transition from school to the workforce.”

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.

EPIC Spotlight: Amy Farmer

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Dr. Amy Farmer has seen the struggles of undeveloped countries. She thinks students should see them, too. And then do something about it.

Farmer, director for the Office of Global Engagement at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, says she was motivated to get students involved in bettering impoverished communities after seeing conditions firsthand following visits to Peru and the African countries of Botswana and Zimbabwe. “As an economist, I would look at the conditions as the lack of opportunities,” she says.

Now, each summer, through the U of A Walton College Study Abroad program, Farmer takes Walton College students to Dangriga, Belize, for three weeks. Then, she takes another group to Nampula, Mozambique, for four weeks. “I felt compelled more from a personal level that students need to experience the world – and not necessarily their own,” Farmer says.

Partnering with other University of Arkansas colleges, the students combine their knowledge and skills to make lasting improvements.

Farmer says some in Dangriga, with about 9,000 residents, were leery of the group at first. They had seen many organizations come to help their communities, only for them to never return. Yet, each year, students come back, effecting change, whether it be resurrecting a business destroyed by fire, helping an entrepreneur with a business plan or getting someone a small business loan. The engineering students help with water purification and with building gazebos and wheelchair ramps. Health students may assist with diabetes testing and hospice care, Farmer says.

“We have friends there,” Farmer says. “They look at us as a friend.”

In Nampula, Mozambique, which has a very high unemployment rate, students help with a poultry farming business called Novos Horizontes. Investors created the business to help local people set up their own farms as a means to alleviate poverty and provide a nutritional food source. The students help farmers design water purification systems to keep chickens healthy and address any other of the farmers’ needs. The farmers often have chicken houses made from bamboo and thatch and without electricity. With no plumbing, many must haul water from the river. Yet, they’re working hard and succeeding, Farmer says.

Farmer says she would like expand the study abroad projects to Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam. “I think it’s just another part of the world where significant development is happening,” she says.

These experiences have given her students an edge in a global business world, Farmer says. Others, following graduation, have continued with humanitarian efforts. “I have had a lot of student who have gone into the Peace Corps,” she says.

Farmer has been an economics professor at Walton College since 1999 before assuming her current role with the Office of Global Engagement. She has taught both graduate level and honors undergraduate level courses.

Her research often focuses on the bargaining system. She says, for example, she has found that if people are willing to settle a conflict, such as with a court case, they usually follow through with what they agreed upon better than a judge’s ruling.

“Economics is, really, about how people respond to incentives,” she says. “It’s not just about the economy.”

Farmer’s work has been featured in publications such as Journal of Legal Studies, American Law and Economics Review and the Journal of Business.

She says the University of Arkansas fosters a great environment for both teaching and research. “The Walton College is a very collegial, productive place to be,” she says.

EPIC Spotlight: Amanda Dooly

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Dancing is Amanda Dooly’s passion. Growing up in Fort Smith, she spent long hours studying ballet as well as contemporary dance styles. Her skills are so strong, Texas Christian University offered her a spot in the School for Classical and Contemporary Dance.

Although Amanda says she had envisioned a career in the arts, by the end of her senior year at Southside High School, she was thinking about other occupations. Her father, treasurer at Baldor Electric Co., played a big role in her decision to pursue a business degree, especially after she traveled with him on a business trip to New York. While there, she and her father met with the global investment bank BNP Paribas. The discussions she had with the directors and vice presidents intrigued her.

When it came time to choose a college, the University of Arkansas, only about an hour north from her hometown, seemed like the logical choice. “I decided to come here because it’s closer to home,” she says. “Family is big to me.”

Amanda says when she first enrolled as a Sam M. Walton College of Business honor student, she majored in international business with Spanish as her focus language. During her junior year, she changed her major to accounting and continued to take Spanish courses in order to complete a minor.

Little did Amanda know that a high school meeting with BNP Paribas would lead her to last summer’s internship with the company. She lived in New York, and her title with BNP Paribas was corporate acquisition finance summer analyst. She analyzed financial data regarding proposed corporate takeovers, acquisitions and mergers.

Amanda says her internship and business courses all point to a bright future. “All of the resources at the Walton College prepare you for a career after graduation,” she says.

Participating in the Walton College Ambassador program allows Amanda to represent the college in different ways, such as giving tours to prospective students.

This doesn’t mean she’s left dancing behind. She is able to choreograph pieces for the Western Arkansas Ballet Company in Fort Smith and the Southside High School Dixie Belles. She also serves on the board of directors of the Dance Coalition in Northwest Arkansas and has even provided her dancing skills to the University of Arkansas. Last year she was Pork Chop, the smallest of the university’s uniformed mascots, and performed at all of the home football, basketball and volleyball games as well as gymnastics meets. Amanda’s family also offers a scholarship in her name through the Western Arkansas Ballet Company to enable aspiring choreographers to attend a summer choreography intensive. As a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, she has served as fraternity educator and step show chair and volunteers with Race for the Cure each spring.

This May, Amanda will continue her education through the Integrated Master of Accountancy (IMAcc) program, a five-year Walton College program where, upon completion in 2013, Amanda will receive bachelor’s and master’s degrees and be eligible to take the certified public accountant exam.

“I have been very blessed to have so many unique and inspiring opportunities available to me throughout my college career,” Amanda says. “I would encourage other students to take advantage of any opportunity they are presented with from the minute they step on campus.”

EPIC Spotlight: Alice McMillan

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Alice McMillan is determined to make the most out of her time at the University of Arkansas. The Kansas City native is a junior in the Sam M. Walton College of Business and is pursuing a degree in marketing with a minor in Spanish. In addition to her studies, McMillan participates in several programs and organizations on campus.

A number of factors contributed to her decision to attend the University of Arkansas. “I was looking for an opportunity to get out of [Missouri]. I wanted to experience something that I hadn’t gotten the chance to experience before. This school is one of the most affordable and the best deal at the same time,” McMillan said. She received the Silas Hunt scholarship, which not only helps pay for tuition and fees, but also waives her out-of-state tuition. “Also, the culture down here was nice. It was really friendly and I liked the vibe I got when I came for a campus visit. It’s a big school; but at the same time, it’s very intimate. I like that,” she said. “I also knew how good the Walton College was. It’s ranked very high and is one of the top business schools, and that’s what I was really interested in.” McMillan said she shares many of the qualities that tend to define business majors. “It’s just how my brain works. I’m really competitive, innovative, and a perfectionist—a kind of type A personality, which is stereotypically what a lot of business students are,” she said.

The summer before McMillan’s freshman year, she had a municipal finance internship in Kansas City. “The biggest project was the city’s annual comprehensive financial report. I worked with the head financial officer. I also worked with some auditors and was responsible for clerical stuff.” She said the benefits of this experience were clear from the beginning. “It showed me what I could do with my degree and how some of the different majors can relate to one another. It also showed me a lot about how things work after college—basically, how adults operate.”

When she isn’t in class, McMillan is taking part in extracurricular activities. One of her favorite programs is the Spring International Conversation Partners Program. “I get to basically teach English to our international students and welcome them when they get here,” she said. “I’ve worked with people from Japan, Brazil, Korea and all kinds of different places. If they have a test or presentation, I’ll help them study or I’ll listen to them and help them with their presentation skills. My job also is to get them acclimated to the campus and America in general.”

She also mentors new business students through the Freshmen Business Connections program. “Every FBC teacher has a student assistant and my job is to facilitate discussion for them. We talk about issues that freshmen face and also how to be successful in the business school. I helped with advising and was also responsible for planning FBC’s social functions for the year,” she said.

As a Connections mentor, McMillan helps underrepresented or minority students understand and deal with the issues they face that may not have been addressed at new student orientation.

McMillan is a Silas Hunt mentor and member of the National Association of Black Accountants. She also participates in the Center for Retailing Excellence mentoring program and is mentored by Saatchi and Saatchi X. She was chosen to take part in the Razorback Sports Marketing Internship Program in summer 2010 and the 2010-2011 school year. She will also begin working with SAKE in the fall and said she is really looking forward to the experience.

McMillan’s activities are not contained to the University of Arkansas campus. In fact, some of them take place thousands of miles from Fayetteville. In 2009, McMillan attended the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama with a select group of students; and, in summer 2010, she will be travelling to Africa on the African American Studies department’s inaugural trip to Ghana. “I chose this program because [professors] approached me about it and told me they wanted me to come and be in it. Also, it’s my motherland. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go where you originated from. I had several trips I was choosing from, like Italy and Mexico, but I figured I would have an easier time getting back to those places than getting to Africa.” McMillan said she is very excited for this travel opportunity.

She’s enjoying the present, but she’s still making plans for the future. If McMillan could have her dream job, she would work in international marketing. “I know it’ll take me a while to get to it, but I’d like to do product development and market research in another country. I’d like to utilize my Spanish [minor] somewhere like Costa Rica or Guatemala and do research or have a product there.”

McMillan said more education is likely in her future. “I think I want to go to graduate school-maybe stay at the Walton College for a fifth year and get my MBA, and then go out and look for a job.”

EPIC Spotlight: Alexandra Kosmitis

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For recent Sam M. Walton College of Business graduate Alexandra Kosmitis, college was about balancing education and extracurricular activities. When Kosmitis wasn’t in class pursuing her accounting degree, she was active in her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, serving as chapter president and, later, Panhellenic president for University of Arkansas Greek Life.

When Kosmitis moved from her Pine Bluff home to the University of Arkansas, she knew what she wanted to study. “I knew I wanted to do business before I came to school, and I knew the Walton College had a good program.” She said the Walton College core curriculum gave her a taste of each major branch of study, which helped her find out what fit her best. “When I got through the big four subject areas, I decided I didn’t really like marketing, information systems, or economics, but I liked accounting,” she said.

Kosmitis said she also knew she wanted to be a part of the Greek system. She rushed Zeta Tau Alpha her freshman year and later served as chapter president. She also served as step team co-captain with her fellow senior Zetas at the 2010 Sprite Step Show. Her team won the grand prize: $100 thousand for scholarships and education. “It was a really great experience.” There was, however, a bit of controversy over their win. Two days after the competition, another team, Alpha Kappa Alpha from Indiana, was named co-champion. Kosmitis said that didn’t cheapen the victory, though, and the Zetas got to keep all of their prize money.

Kosmitis said she has really enjoyed her time in Fayetteville. “I really like the University. It’s been a good experience.” Her favorite part: “The people I’ve met, especially in the Walton College. You get so close to them because you have those four core classes together and, in your major, you have classes with the same people, so you really get to know other people really well.”

Kosmitis has graduated from the Walton College, but she will return to campus in fall 2010 to attend the University of Arkansas School of Law. “I’ve always wanted to go to law school. My aunt is a lawyer, so I’ve shadowed her before. Also, the summer after my freshman year, I interned with Judge Jody Dennis in Pine Bluff and I liked it a lot,” she said.