EPIC Spotlight: Chris Hofer

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“I really enjoy working and spending time with every one of my colleagues.”

That little container of yogurt on the supermarkets’ refrigerated shelves has more of a story than one would think. In fact, it’s a story that Christian Hofer, associate professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, likes to share for those needing a little initiation to how the supply chain works – and one many take for granted when they’re shopping for groceries.

Take the plastic used to make the yogurt container, for example. Or the aluminum that was mined and processed to make its seal. And the sugar and fruit needed for flavoring. Somewhere, on a dairy farm, cows are providing the milk to make the yogurt. All can come from different parts of the globe before they converge at a factory, where the elements are combined, packaged and then shipped to distribution centers and, ultimately, grocery stores. “So, collectively, all these ingredients may travel thousands of miles,” Hofer says.

“And amazingly, when you want to buy the yogurt, it’s actually there, waiting for you on the shelf,” he says.

But if there is just one mishap in the entire supply chain, chances are the item will never make it to the kitchen table. “And if the supply chain didn’t function so smoothly and efficiently, the yogurt cup wouldn’t cost 40 cents, it might cost four dollars,” he says.

When Hofer sees electronic or textile products while shopping, he says he cannot help but think about how the costs of getting them there may well be higher than the products’ material value.

Hence, supply chain management is not only a critical business activity, but something that also affects consumers in their everyday lives. It’s a world that continues to fascinate Hofer. His research interests include topics such as lean inventory management. He says while many may think that holding inventory is something bad, having too little inventory can be equally as bad. Hofer and his co-author Cuneyt Eroglu, a former University of Arkansas professor, developed the Empirical Leanness Indicator, which enables firms to assess how lean they are compared to their competitors of comparable size within a given industry. Their paper, “Lean, Leaner, Too Lean? The Inventory-Performance Link Revisited,” was a finalist for the 2011 Journal of Operations Management Best Paper award.

Hofer brings this and other related concepts into the Executive MBA classes he teaches. The students in these classes are working professionals. Many of those students have successfully implemented for their companies what they learned in class. “This not only creates immediate value for our students and their employers,” Hofer says, “but it also enhances the reputation of the Walton College and the University of Arkansas.”

Hofer, a native of Germany, says he is also fascinated by the “behind the scenes” competition that takes place in the corporate world, something consumers seldom see.

“We typically think of firms competing in terms of product features and prices,” Hofer says. “But firms also compete by innovating and imitating other firms’ supply chain practices in areas such as sourcing and manufacturing.”

Hofer has studied these competitive dynamics and co-authored a paper on the subject, “The Competitive Determinants of a Firm’s Environmental Management Activities: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing Industries,” which was published in the Journal of Operations Management.

When he gets a new research idea, he has a team of colleagues to brainstorm and collaborate with at the Walton College. “I think of it as our happy little bubble,” he says.

One of those people in his bubble is his wife, Adriana Rossiter Hofer, an assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management.

“We’re so lucky to work here,” Hofer says. “It sounds cheesy, but I really enjoy working and spending time with every one of my colleagues.”

EPIC Spotlight: Cary Deck

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“Everyone’s an economist, some are just formally trained.”

In Cary Deck’s world, everything is economics, but as he points out, “Everyone’s an economist,” he says. “Some are just formally trained.”

Deck is formally trained in experimental economics. As a professor with the Department of Economics at Sam M. Walton College of Business, Deck studies how people interact by presenting students with different scenarios and seeing how economic models hold up when subjected to actual human behavior. He also directs the Walton College’s state-of-the-art Behavioral Business Research Lab, an interdisciplinary facility where researchers can study human behavior and decision-making. For example, students may be in the role of stock traders experiencing price bubbles or may play the role of firms competing in a patent race.

Deck, who recognizes the complexity of the world we live in, says the behavioral aspect of economics particularly fascinates him. “To me, it’s putting the science in economics,” he says.

“You’re creating a marketplace, so you get full information on how buyers and sellers interact and what makes those interactions change,” Deck says. In a recent study he considered how a retailer’s ability to identify what products a shopper places in her cart might impact the coupons she might receive on her phone as she goes down the next aisle.

He says he teaches his students to understand how markets work and how incentives influence people and affect outcomes. If seeing his passion for laboratory-based research gets them excited about economics, even better, Deck says. “When you see students realize how much we still have to learn about economics, and you can give them a toolbox to solve some of those problems, that’s always rewarding,” he says.

With a strength in mathematics, Deck says he knew as an undergraduate he wanted to be an economist. He says he also knew that most economic jobs require someone with a graduate degree so he went to the University of Wisconsin for a master’s degree. His interest in experimental economics research, however, was ignited when he was a graduate student at the University of Arizona, where he earned his doctorate degree under Nobel prize winner Vernon Smith, who pioneered the field of experimental economics.

Deck and his family came to the University of Arkansas in 2001. Though he says they fell in love with both the geography and culture of Northwest Arkansas – they enjoy the outdoors as much as possible – it was the university’s behavioral lab and the enthusiasm surrounding it that made this the natural move for them. “We have the best behavioral lab facility in the world,” he says.

While in Wisconsin, he met another economics graduate student who is a familiar face at Walton College: Kathy Deck, the director of the Walton College’s Center for Business and Economic Research, who is also his wife. Economics drew them together and they consider talking about maximizing “gross family product” a completely normal thing to do. The couple has a son, Josh, who has had a “supply and demand” poster in his room since his infancy. “Understanding economics is important for everyone. He is just lucky enough to have two trained economists living in the same house.”

EPIC Spotlight: Caitlin Britt

It started as a high school project. The class worked toward getting clean drinking water to Ethiopia, and Caitlin Britt was in charge of fundraising. The students’ goal was met, the water was provided and the class received photographs showing the community benefiting from the clean water. “It made everything worthwhile, and it put a perspective on how we can help others,” she says.

Now a senior at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Caitlin hopes to channel her altruism by either working for a nonprofit entity or in a corporation’s community engagement program.

Caitlin, who’s from Oklahoma City, is the first in her family to attend the University of Arkansas, and, unlike her parents and sister, is not choosing a career path in the medical profession. With an interest in numbers and history – Caitlin believes the business field incorporates both – she began researching schools that could provide her with the best education.

She was impressed that the Walton College is ranked among the best colleges by U.S. News & World Report. She also wanted to attend a large university that gave a small community feel. The Walton Honors Program provided the surroundings she was looking for, she says.

Majoring in both finance and economics with a communications minor, Caitlin says she feels the concentrations will enable her to pursue many opportunities, which are being made possible with help through the Honors College, Beta Gamma Sigma and Walton Fellowship scholarships. “Being able to have those tools – hopefully to serve the community – would be the ultimate goal,” she says.

This past summer, Caitlin worked as a revenue operations intern for nine weeks at ESPN’s print and media division in New York, where she held a variety of responsibilities. One in particular involved assisting with the sport network’s ESPY (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) website, for which she entered data and coordinated polling for the ESPY Awards. Caitlin was one of 70 interns selected in a pool of over 15,000 applicants, and the only one from Arkansas, she says.

While in New York, Caitlin also learned things not normally taught in the classroom: how to maneuver her way through the Big Apple and manage a personal budget. New York also offered great networking opportunities with its abundance in media and advertising, she says.

Caitlin says every undergraduate should get an internship in an unfamiliar city. “It does prepare you for the real world,” she says.

In 2012, she interned with Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation’s second larger producer of natural gas.

Caitlin is active in Walton College’s many programs. She is co-leader of the Walton College Honors Student Executive Board, which is comprised of Walton Honors Program students who work toward building alumni relations and organize social and marketing activities for the college. She is also a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority, where she serves as the new member coordinator.

She has also had opportunities to give to others. Last year, she studied abroad in Belize with other Walton College students. While there, her team helped create several business plans for community groups, distributed a micro-loan and built a playground.

All of this makes for challenging work, but she says it’s beneficial to the real world and she will carry that knowledge and encouragement by Walton College’s faculty, staff and students for years to come. “I have enjoyed being here so much with the relationships I have made,” she says.

 

EPIC Spotlight: Bunny Xu

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“There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools.”

One moment, Shicong “Bunny” Xu may be in a laboratory, working toward her biochemistry degree. A couple of hours later, she could be sitting in a classroom at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, listening to a lecture about supply and demand. This is where things start hopping.

She is an economics major, too.

Bunny says pursuing bachelor’s degrees from two different University of Arkansas colleges wasn’t intentional. When she first enrolled at the university, it was at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, where she indulged herself in science. Yet, she couldn’t ignore her surroundings. “There are a lot of corporations in Northwest Arkansas, and Walton College is one of the best business schools,” she says.

After speaking with Jason Adams, director of the Walton College honors program, Bunny realized she wanted to explore majoring in business as well.
“I found that I liked both, so why not stick with them?”

She says she’s still defining her career path, one that could include the business side of pharmaceuticals or working as a chemist in the nuclear power field, or maybe a combination of the two.

That path included coming to the United States as a 13-year-old with her mother from their hometown of Jilin, a snowy and sometimes bitterly cold province in China. Settling in Rogers, Bunny says the heat and humidity was a dramatic change. “But we love Arkansas now,” she says. “It’s a beautiful state.”

As a newcomer to the United States, Bunny spoke only Chinese and was required to take an English as a second language class her first semester of school. She also followed her mother’s advice of reading 50 pages of English text a day. Bunny caught on fast. After only one semester, Bunny scored high enough on her English proficiency exam to attend classes with the rest of the school.

Four years after moving to Rogers, she was accepted to the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Science and the Arts in Hot Springs. She lived in a dormitory and concentrated on math and science as a discipline, which, she says, was like a smaller version of a university.

In her junior year at the University of Arkansas, she was an Honors student and lists studying abroad in Japan as one of the high points of her college career. She says she hopes to study overseas again, this time in India.

Meanwhile, Bunny is focusing energy on her two honors theses – one involving protein participation under the guidance of biochemistry associate professor Paul Adams. She’s still working out the details for her Walton College thesis.

Bunny is also active in several campus chapter organizations, including the National Retail Federation Student Association, which is sponsored by Walton College’s Center for Retailing Excellence, Circle K International, the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society and the Chemistry Club.

She says she learned to manage her time effectively in high school and usually devotes three to five hours daily to her studies. She says she turns off her cellphone and all social networks on her computer when doing her schoolwork, and she is usually in bed by 11 p.m. and gets up each day at 7 a.m. “Because I get enough sleep, it helps me concentrate better,” she says.

Bunny is also a supplemental instruction leader for economics professor Charles Britton’s macroeconomics class. Each week, she and about 45 students review the previous lesson in her role as both tutor and adviser. “I’ve been in those students’ shoes before,” she says. “I can help them out.”

As for her nickname, she says she initially wanted her adopted American name to be “Bonnie.” This was before she mastered her English, and many interpreted her to say “Bunny,” instead. “I just kind of got stuck there,” she says. “I like it.”

EPIC Spotlight: Brian McCaster

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“You have to ask yourself, ‘What do I want to learn from this?’”

When Brian McCaster was in high school, he spent 11 months in Paraguay as an exchange student. The experience opened his eyes to issues beyond his central Arkansas home near Conway, especially when Paraguayans would ask him questions about the United States’ government and economics.

This past summer, Brian returned to South America, this time to Brazil in the Study Abroad program sponsored by the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He and other students, through the guidance of Walton College economics professor Andrew Horowitz, met with business experts, including those with supply chain management and logistics backgrounds.

Brian plans to graduate in May 2012 with a degree in international business management and a minor in Spanish. He says his classes have been challenging but in a good way.

“Whenever you take those classes, you have to be focused,” Brian says. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What do I want to learn from this?’”

Though this background would make him suited for a career in international business, Brian says it has prepared him for something else: working with high school students and college freshmen. He already has experience in the area. For the past three years, Brian has served as a resident assistant at Maple Hill South dormitory, lending an ear to new students as they adjust to their independence.

Brian says he had planned to enroll in graduate school immediately after earning his bachelor’s degree. A phone call changed everything. A recruiter with Teach for America, a program where leaders commit two years to teaching children in low-income communities across the country, asked Brian to join the organization.

Brian was reluctant at first. “But I got on the phone with this guy, and everything made sense,” he says.

Brian says the program will help him test his strengths before he moves on to graduate school later.

Reaching out to the community’s needs is also Brian’s passion. He has participated with Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), an international nonprofit organization that has a Walton College chapter. His involvement has included replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in low-income housing and working with older people in various capacities from teaching them how to use the Internet to helping build a community garden at the Fayetteville Senior Activity and Wellness Center.

Raised by his grandparents, Brian says his business classes have made him think about his grandfather, who owned a concrete business before retiring. Growing up, he says, he never thought about all of the business decisions his grandfather surely made. Brian says his experience at Walton College gives him a newfound respect for the business and the man, and he now looks to him as a crucial source of guidance.

Brian also seeks guidance at Walton College. Naturally curious, he sometimes visits different professors during their office hours to find out their passions and motivations.

“You can learn something from anybody,” Brian says. “No matter who it is, you can learn something.”

EPIC Spotlight: Brad Audrain

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“I had great experiences with Walton College, and I’m proud I was able to graduate there.”

This past New Year’s Eve, revelers in downtown Fayetteville greeted 2012 with a new taxi cab service available – one with a minimal carbon footprint. Green Cab Co. made its debut by offering safe rides for those who had a little too much fun or simply wanted a safe ride home.

Several months later, the black hybrid automobiles can be seen all over Northwest Arkansas, and the company’s co-owner, Brad Audrain, says he is already making plans to expand.

“We try to use every new innovation and less energy than any other cab companies here or anywhere else in the country,” he says.

But driving cars with a lesser carbon footprint isn’t all the company does to stay green, Audrain says. It uses iPhone card swipe devices for credit transactions and offers electronic receipts via email, though drivers will provide paper receipts when asked, he says. Passengers are also not allowed to smoke in the vehicles.

A graduate of the Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2006, Audrain says he still refers to his textbooks when it comes to managing the dozen or so dispatchers and drivers who make up the business. They also come in handy when working with independent contractors, he says.

Though he grew up in Memphis, Audrain says one of the primary reasons he chose to attend the University of Arkansas was because it was his family’s alma mater.

“With parents, grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides of my family having attended the U of A before me, it was the obvious choice,” he says. “I was a huge Razorback fan since the day I was born.”

He says he selected a business management major because it is a broad field that can be applied to any facet of his professional life. He wouldn’t know, until years later, how he would apply that knowledge, he says.

“I had great experiences with Walton College, and I’m proud I was able to graduate there,” he says.

He confesses, however, that he wishes he had paid more attention to his studies as an undergraduate and advises new and prospective businesses to not dismiss any subjects being taught in the classroom.

“The stuff you don’t think matters, it’s there for a reason,” he says. “The professors and administrators know what they are doing, and you’re there for a reason.”

Following graduation, Audrain enrolled in law school with plans to become a lawyer. He earned a law degree, and even practiced for a year. But, he says, the legal profession was never for him.

A new career opportunity came through a conversation he had with Sarah Sparks Diebold, whom he shares Green Cab Co.’s co-owner title, along with Matt Powell. He says Diebold was looking at some ideas for a niche business in Northwest Arkansas, and the two explored ways to make a difference in the community. When they discovered an environmentally friendly cab company in Madison, Wisc., Audrain researched the idea and Powell joined forces. After “five or six” months of planning, Green Cab Co. secured an office in downtown Fayetteville in November with a fleet of four Toyota Priuses in place New Year’s Eve, Audrain says.

Now, the cabs run routes all over the area, including to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill. He says his customers are of all ages, whether it be professionals doing business in the area, people stranded due to auto troubles and, of course, the late-night visitors on Dickson Street. “It’s everyone from across the board,” he says.

As for Green Cab Co.’s future, Audrain says he would like to increase his fleet and, perhaps, expand into other college towns in the mid-South. He says Green Cab will continue to use either hybrid autos, like the Prius, or electric cars once they become more mainstream. He says this fits in with Fayetteville’s personality.

“They like to keep things funky around here, and so do we,” he says.

EPIC Spotlight: Blake Strode

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“Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”

Hotels. Travel. Spreadsheets. Numbers. As a professional tennis player, Blake Strode often draws on knowledge gained as a student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

“It helps to make sense of everything,” Strode says of his business degree. “I definitely use things I learned all the time.”

Since graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2009, Strode, now living in Cary, N.C., has pursued his lifelong dream of playing professional tennis.

And succeeding.

In the past two years, Strode has won successive U.S. Open National Playoffs and continues to get accepted to “bigger and bigger” tournaments, he says. This can complicate things a little. During his senior year, Strode was accepted to Harvard Law School. “I’ve deferred for three years since then,” he says. “It’s a year-by-year kind of thing – an ongoing question. But I’m going to go.”

Growing up in St. Louis, Strode says he “fell in love” with the University of Arkansas campus while visiting. “Everyone we met and spoke with was so friendly and welcoming, and it was such a warm community.”

Though he didn’t follow Arkansas sports, he got caught up in the school spirit in Fayetteville. “You could tell that everyone loved, breathed the Razorbacks,” he says.

When he arrived for student orientation, he planned on majoring in industrial engineering. By day’s end, however, he realized a combined major of Spanish and international economics would be more practical and would also be beneficial for studying abroad. Still, playing tennis was also his goal, he says. “I wouldn’t have done anything that didn’t make sense to me,” he says.

As a student, Strode maintained a 3.98 grade point average. While a senior with the University of Arkansas men’s tennis team, he was ranked the nation’s 13th best singles player in an Intercollegiate Tennis Association poll and won the fifth most single victories in Arkansas history.

He has come a long way from being the 12-year-old who won a contest for the best essay about tennis legend Arthur Ashe. Sponsored by the National Junior Tennis and Learning network, Strode’s prize was a visit to the U.S. Open. Years later, when Strode played in a tournament sponsored by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, a similar Arthur Ashe contest for students occurred. This time, Strode met the students and got to read their essays and look at their Ashe-inspired art.

When he’s not competing in tournaments, Strode says he practices tennis at least four hours a day and works out during the rest, making his athletic career a full-time job.

Whatever path his life takes, he says he knows that Walton College provided a solid educational background. “I had a lot of good professors,” he says.

Yet, his tennis career keeps building, and he says he wants to see where it will take him for now.

“I’m just playing as many tournaments as I can,” he says.

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: Ben Rector

“I've just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”
“I’ve just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”

A lot has happened since Ben Rector performed concerts downstairs from the cafeteria of the Pomfret Hall dormitory. As an undergraduate, Rector was juggling two worlds: that as a marketing student at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, and the other as an up-and-coming musician with weekend gigs.

“I tried to stack all my classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and leave Thursday night or Friday morning,” he says. “That was an interesting double life.”

In between hitting the books, Rector was always finding ways to make some pocket change through performing, and even managed to release a music album his freshman year. In 2006, he won the grand prize in the pop category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song “Conversation.”

By his senior year, the singer-songwriter whose diverse music talent ranges from folk to pop had released three full-length albums, performed about 200 gigs and was engaged to be married. He also made another big decision about life after graduation: moving to “Music City U.S.A.” – also known as Nashville, Tenn.

That was in 2010. Rector and his wife, University of Arkansas graduate Hillary Swanton Rector, have since watched his career flourish. His 2011 album, “Something Like This,” peaked at No. 15 on Billboard magazine’s Top Rock Albums and fared even better at No. 11 in each category for the magazine’s Top Digital Albums and Independent Albums. His music has been featured on television shows from “ESPN SportsCenter” to ABC’s “Modern Family.”

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In high school, Rector filled much of his time writing songs, playing the guitar and singing. “It felt really natural for me, and it was something I really enjoyed,” he says. But there was the matter of college. His older sister had attended the University of Arkansas, which wasn’t far from his Tulsa, Okla., home. He says he already liked Fayetteville from visiting here. When the university offered him a scholarship, it was hard to refuse, he says.

As for a major, he decided marketing would provide a good foundation to just about any career he pursued. When it was apparent that having a music career was essentially launching a business, he began applying things he learned from his business classes. Now, Rector says he plays an active role in finding new and creative ways to market his songs and concerts. “Obviously, the huge part of making music is, hopefully, that people will know you are making music and want to buy it or want to come to shows,” he says. He says he found good mentors in Dr. Molly Rapert, marketing associate professor who already knew his sister, and Mark Risk, a real estate instructor with the finance department who encouraged Rector with his aspirations in music. Rector, in fact, did a commercial real estate internship in Dallas as a student. “I spent a lot of time at the W-C-O-B,” he says.

After a tour this spring, there’s no time for rest. Rector says he’ll release a new album followed by another tour, possibly in the fall at the earliest. And he doesn’t mind at all. “Things have grown quicker than I thought they would,” he says. “I’ve just been really fortunate to do something that I love.”

(Posted May 2013)

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.