New face of Walton MBA programs brings passion to work

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 935 views 

Adam Stoverink

Adam Stoverink joined the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas in 2017 as an associate professor of management.

In a recent interview, he said that he enjoys making a positive impact on the lives of students and finds the experience particularly rewarding.

That authentic love for his work resonates with his students.

“His class is hands down my favorite that I’ve taken in college, and he’s hands down my favorite professor I’ve had in college,” said Madison Rye, a senior from Bryant. She took Stoverink’s leadership class in fall 2020 and has been his research assistant since April. “He has a unique teaching style and an engaging way of lecturing. He’s very passionate about his students.”

Earlier this year, the UA presented Stoverink with an opportunity to have a more significant influence. He said he’d never considered his higher education career turning toward administration, but this opportunity was too good to pass up.

In May, Stoverink took over as Walton College’s director of Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs. That encompasses approximately 250 students in both the traditional (full-time) MBA program and the executive (part-time) MBA program designed for working professionals. Each program lasts two years. Walton College also offers a Healthcare Executive MBA, which specializes in healthcare administration.

“Under Adam’s leadership, the MBA programs will be able to adapt more quickly to changes in demand for new managerial skills and capabilities as a result of his effective leadership and his ability to create high-performance work teams,” said Matt Waller, dean of the Walton College. “I also believe the quality of the service delivered to students and faculty will improve because he will improve the business processes enabling the MBA programs.”

Stoverink assumed the job following the departure of Vikas Anand, who took a job at North Carolina State University as associate dean for academic programs. Anand was MBA director at the UA for seven years.

Stoverink, 40, is still teaching leadership and ethics to undergraduate, MBA and executive students. He said staying in the classroom was a condition of accepting the job as the MBA programs director.

“[The new job] has lived up to the hype,” he said. “Beyond the classroom experience, those one-on-one meetings and getting to know the students on a personal level has opened up more doors for that positive impact that makes me tick.”

Stoverink grew up in Carthage, Ill., and attended college at the University of Missouri.

“My dad went to law school there, and my brother went to medical school there; I thought I’d check out the business school,” he said.

Stoverink earned a management degree from Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business in 2004. He worked in the corporate world for a few years before going back to school at Saint Louis University to pursue an MBA.

Stoverink recalled that he pursued the degree without a clearly defined idea of what he wanted to do with it.

“I can remember Googling’ Best Jobs in America’ because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life,” he recalled. “The list I clicked on said, not surprisingly, a professional athlete was No. 1. No. 2 was a college professor. I thought, ‘I could do something in that arena.’”

After graduating from Saint Louis University’s Chaifetz School of Business, the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University accepted his application into its Ph.D. program. He earned the degree in 2013, concentrating on organizational behavior and human resource management. Stoverink taught at Northern Illinois University for the next four years before arriving in Fayetteville.

“As a professor, the entire reason I’m there is to make a positive impact on others and to transform lives,” he said. “It’s such a rewarding and meaningful experience to be in front of a group of people and talk about topics that we are passionate about.

“College professors are among the most fulfilling jobs there are, I believe.”

Stoverink researches leadership and high-performance work teams, and several prominent journals have published his work, including the “Journal of Applied Psychology,” the “Academy of Management Review” and the “Journal of Management.” He has also been featured in “Forbes” and “Harvard Business Review.”

The Walton College also named Stoverink the 2020-21 MBA Teacher of the Year.

“He practices what he preaches,” Waller said. “To lead the MBA programs, you must be able to coordinate among eight different academic departments as well as many other service units within the Walton College. That requires leadership and the creation of high-performance teams.”

Stoverink, who is writing a book on leadership, said there are many qualities a good leader should have, but he specifically mentioned two: self-awareness and empathy.

“The combination of those two and having a reputation of being an honest, ethical leader with high integrity are how you get things done in the workplace these days,” he said.

Stoverink said he thrives on personal connections with students and colleagues, and he was worried those would suffer during the COVID-19 virtual academic year last year.

To his surprise, the opposite occurred. He proactively forged connections through events such as virtual happy hours with MBA students and robust email activity.

“At the end of the first semester, teaching virtually, I realized I had forged stronger relationships during a pandemic than I did when we were in person,” he said. “Personally, the pandemic has improved the way that I teach. It all comes back to the overarching philosophy that I have to try and find the buried treasure in all your struggles and failures in life. As bad as the pandemic was for many reasons, there are silver linings that we don’t want to lose going forward.”

The Walton College has returned to 100% in-person instruction this year.

“The classrooms are popping, and the conversations are lively,” Stoverink said.

According to Stoverink, the value of an MBA is that it prepares students to look at every aspect of running a successful business.

“The MBA is a timeless degree,” he said. “I don’t see it ever going away, simply because it is the degree that offers a holistic view and understanding of running a business. It provides students with the information they need to make critical decisions that factor in different areas of the organization.”

Madison Rye, Stoverink’s research assistant, is in her first year as an accelerated MBA student, which allows UA undergraduate students the chance to earn a graduate degree in just one additional year. The option is available to high-achieving students in the Walton Honors Program.

Rye will graduate with a double major in marketing and business management in 2022 and is an MBA candidate for the Class of 2023.

“I did consider finishing my undergrad and pursuing my MBA at a few other colleges, but that was the backup plan if Walton didn’t work out,” she said. “Ultimately, I wanted to stay in Northwest Arkansas. I had the accelerated opportunity, and I absolutely love the Walton College.”

Rye said she wanted to get an early start on pursuing an MBA for two reasons.

“I was on track to graduate undergrad in three years, and then COVID hit. And I didn’t feel like I got the full college experience,” she said. “I also had so many aspirations and dream jobs and no idea which one I wanted to pursue, but I knew I would need an MBA for any of the positions.”

Over the past year, Rye’s career focus has sharpened. She is pursuing an MBA with a marketing concentration, which is a good match for her ambition of securing an upper-level marketing or content creation position at a large company. She’ll also need an MBA for another career goal — a college adjunct professor.

She described the UA MBA program’s culture as collaborative with helpful and accessible faculty.

“In the past two weeks, I’ve met with Adam to discuss some future career options, both of my professors to ask questions and discuss class-related concepts, and my adviser for some scheduling questions,” she explained. “I love all of our faculty and staff.”

Besides the academics, Rye agreed that the opportunity to build a network over the next couple of years is just as crucial as the MBA itself.

“One of the biggest benefits of the MBA is all of the networking opportunities — if not the biggest,” she said. “Our cohort in itself is a great way to build close friendships and connections, but there are also so many career fairs, professional development days and guest speakers that allow us to meet with tons of professionals across every business industry.”