Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Holly Hall returned home in summer 2008 to accept a full-time faculty position at Arkansas State University (ASU). She became a tenured professor this past spring.
A Jonesboro native, Hall was marketing manager at the Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics and a faculty member at John Brown University in Siloam Springs when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named her to the Forty Under 40 class in 2007. The Soderquist Center became Milestone Leadership after a rebranding in 2018.
Before she left the center, Hall was its customer relations and communications manager. She started at ASU in August 2008 after learning about an opening to teach media law and public relations.
“I jumped at it because, at that point, I knew I wanted to teach full time, and Jonesboro is home to me. It’s where all of my family are located,” Hall said. “I was happy to return, although there are aspects of Northwest Arkansas I miss a lot.”
She was also on the faculty at Kaplan University, a predominant distance learning institution, from January 2008 to October 2017, teaching online courses to nontraditional students.
At ASU, she became a tenured professor in June 2019 and previously had been a tenured associate professor since 2014. She worked to develop the first social media and strategic communication course in the region and the first degree program in the area that emphasized social media management in 2015.
She and a colleague co-developed a Master of Science in strategic communication degree in 2018. She also developed a track in information technology law and policy to go along with the master’s degree.
Aside from her work as a faculty member at ASU, projects and publications she completed contributed to her becoming a tenured professor. She has 17 published articles, written five book chapters, presented 20 papers, completed 14 reviews, moderated or provided discussion at nine events, been awarded nearly $10,000 in grants, and was a speaker or gave talks 17 times. She explained she sets benchmarks to reach achievements and spends a lot of time writing in the summer. One of her recently completed articles set to be published this year regards how dark money has impacted judicial elections. She has two more articles in the works, and one will be about Little Rock’s campaign to court Amazon to the city.
Hall, 46, is also pursuing a post-graduate certificate in data protection and information governance from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. She expects to complete the online program in May.
“This whole data protection area is new, and trying to keep up with the trends is difficult, so I’m going back to school just to make sure I have a good background in that area,” she said. Europe seems to have stricter laws and more requirements, and she said she wanted to find a school there to learn more about the topic.
As a professor, she’s taught five classes per semester over the past three or four semesters. Most of the lessons she teaches are face-to-face with 30 or fewer students, but she’s taught an online class with 47 students. She said she likes that the classes are small enough to be able to know each student individually.
“We’ve seen a just huge growth in the online area just because so many students now have to work, so they need the flexibility to take online classes,” Hall said. “I see more and more online classes. I do all online classes in the summertime.”
Her background is unique for someone in academia, she said. She earned a law degree, thinking she was going to become an attorney. Instead, she worked in public relations for 10 years and started teaching. She said she’s been able to get to know well several students who have earned their bachelor’s degree in strategic communication and gone on to law school.
In her career at ASU, Hall hopes to continue to grow programs that are relevant and practical. As a volunteer, she supports the Humane Society, is a Sunday school teacher at First United Methodist Church in Jonesboro and provides social media consulting. Hall has a 14-year-old son, and she enjoys cooking and baking and doing freelance voice-over work.