Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the Aug. 17 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.
Vicki Vasser-Jenkins has seen several personal and professional changes since the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal chose her as a Forty Under 40 honoree in 2013.
She has welcomed them with open arms — especially the arrival of her first child.
Vasser-Jenkins and her husband — she married Greg Jenkins in 2015 — adopted a newborn son in January. She was involved in the final trimester of the birth mother’s prenatal care and was present when the baby was born.
“When you’re trying to have a child, and adoption was not our first option, you don’t know how that story’s going to end when you go down that path,” Vasser-Jenkins said during a recent interview. “But it’s been the best thing that’s happened to me the past seven years. He’s been our greatest blessing.”
Her son’s arrival came not long after Vasser-Jenkins started down a new professional path. In mid-December, she went to work for Walmart’s legal department. She is one of six attorneys who support various aspects of the retailer’s merchandising division.
Vasser-Jenkins said she was not searching for a new job when the Walmart opportunity came up but thought her background might make a good fit. A bachelor’s degree and an MBA in accounting from the University of Arkansas propelled her to an accounting position in Oklahoma early in her career. Still, it didn’t take long for her to decide to change course and enroll in the UA School of Law.
After a couple of years as a law clerk, Vasser-Jenkins joined Rogers law firm Matthews, Campbell, Rhoads, McClure & Thompson in 2006. In 2012, the firm named her its first female partner. She focused more on transactional work in four years (2015-2019) working for the Rogers office of Wright Lindsey Jennings (WLJ).
While working for WLJ, she also spent a year working full time in the nonprofit arena as in-house counsel and finance director for The Pack Shack. A mission trip to India arranged through her church and some soul-searching triggered that line of work, she said.
“Even though sometimes things aren’t the right fit, you learn something from it. It’s not wasted time,” Vasser-Jenkins said. “It wasn’t the right fit for me long-term to work for a nonprofit, but it told me I wanted to work in-house in a cross-functional setting.”
Vasser-Jenkins, who is also a CPA, said working for the world’s largest company is akin to being a general practice attorney.
“Every day we have different challenges and different clients with different needs,” she said. “It’s been a great fit for me, and I enjoy the work every day. I’m fortunate to work with a great team that has lots of experience with the company.”
Vasser-Jenkins helps with licensing reviews and intellectual property concerns related to Walmart’s private brand of toys. She also helps with global sourcing issues and supports the retailer’s “Open Call” event for U.S. manufacturers and entrepreneurs.
Another area Vasser-Jenkins supports in the merchandising division are issues related to personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic. She leads the company’s PPE legal working group. She works on concerns that weren’t on anyone’s radar when she took the job in December. Since she was new, she could take a lead role in the work.
“I didn’t know a lot about the FDA in law school. I’ll be honest,” she joked. “I’ve become more equipped there, but fortunately, there are some brilliant people in the company who are health and wellness experts in legal compliance. It’s been challenging, but I’ve learned an awful lot.”
Vasser-Jenkins said she’s also learned about some of the critical things Walmart is involved in when an emergency arises. It’s a source of pride, she said.
“In a crisis, you see a different side of the company and how they use their size for good, in terms of helping associates, COVID testing, things like that,” she said. “It makes you proud to work for an organization like that.”
Vasser-Jenkins is a past board member of Mercy Health Foundation and is a member of the group’s Women With a Mission committee. She’s currently a board member of the Arkansas Bar Foundation, UA School of Law Alumni Society, and Shared Beginnings, an adoption agency based in Fayetteville.