Dr. Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College of Business, is taking time out of his administrative schedule to give 50 students from the Honors College an opportunity to network with some of the state’s business legends along with several entrepreneurs who built respectable companies in the Natural State.
“There is something amazing about Arkansas and its business acumen. In my two years of traveling the world to meet with 250 of the most successful Walton College alumni I can tell you many of their success stories have a common thread — the importance of networking,” Waller told prospective students at his informational lecture held at the UA Tuesday evening (Mar. 7).
His new class dubbed “Arkansas Business” will be taught in the Fall for one-credit hour. Waller is capping the enrollment at 50 and it’s open to students in the UA Honors College. The format of the class includes an intimate discussion with a select group of business leaders who will co-teach the class and field questions from the students. A select group of students then will be invited to dine that same evening with the business professional for a more intimate setting. He said the students will have several opportunities to dine with featured guests throughout the semester.
Waller said he’s called on Walton College Alumni, some of whom have been honored in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. Bill Dillard, Warren Stephens, whose father Jack was alumni, Todd Simmons along with top execs from Wal-Mart, J.B. Hunt Transport and Murphy Oil and First Security Bank owner Reynie Rutledge are among the businesses and professionals taking part in the course.
Waller said marketing guru Elise Mitchell and Rick West and Henry Ho, founders of Field Agent, also will be featured speakers in the program.
Waller said the class will deal with various relevant topics in the areas of marketing, finance, accounting, supply chain management, information systems, healthcare and crisis management. He welcomed Honors Students to sign up for the class regardless of their field of study.
“We hope to get art majors and engineering majors in the class and every discipline in between,” he said.
The students will be asked to work on two group projects in the course that pertain to a topic discussed in the course.
“The business community across Arkansas is connected, perhaps more so than in other states. I once asked Reynie Rutledge why he sent all three of his children to the University of Arkansas. He said that for anyone doing business in Arkansas there’s not a better place to go to college,” Waller added.
That’s likely because of the relationships between different businesses. Waller said while Northwest Arkansas is the home of Wal-Mart and J.B. Hunt Transport, it was Little Rock-based Stephens Inc. that took those companies public and has continued to provide investment banking services for them.
Stressing the importance of networking and increasing business connections outside of Northwest Arkansas, Waller said the Walton College is working with Warren Stephens to offer non-credit classes to be taught in downtown Little Rock. The venue is Walton College Little Rock in a building provided by Stephens and the focus will be on healthcare and bio-health disciplines given the importance of that sector in central Arkansas. He said Walton College will manage enrollment on its website and more details will be released in the coming weeks.
While there are about 6,000 students in the Walton College, Waller said up to one-third of them come from the Dallas area, or some other Texas city. He said more recently there have been students coming from a few other states. For any student, Waller said the new program is a great opportunity to get an inside look at some of the state’s successful businesses and network with business leadership.