Magazine May 2019

Sam M. Walton College of Business Opens its Doors to Little Rock

by Dustin Jayroe | Photos by Jamison Mosley

On October 12, 2018, the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business officially opened its new Executive Education Center in Little Rock, effectively bringing one of the most prestigious names in business education to central Arkansas.

The Executive Education Center offers non-credit training and development programs that range from short seminars to extensive, multi-day courses, as well as custom programs that are available in face-to-face and digital formats. All of which makes it a flexible yet dynamic offering for business professionals.

The University of Arkansas College of Business was created in 1926 as the official business education department of the university. In 2000, the college was officially named the Sam M. Walton College of Business, following a sizable cash donation from the Walton family. At the time, this was the largest ever cash gift to a public business college. This prompted the naming of the department to be after the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton. 

Walton College has become one of the most popular colleges on the campus of the University of Arkansas. With more than 5,000 students enlisted in the business college every semester, it is the second-largest college at the U of A.

Popularity and prominence are not just singular to students in Fayetteville, either. According to US News and World Report, the Walton College is among the top 25 undergraduate business schools in the country. It’s also ranked in the top 50 graduate business programs. It has been ranked as having the 13th best marketing program among all schools, and 11th ranked accounting program. 

Now, that educational expertise with national recognition is available in Little Rock in the form of the Walton Executive Education program. 

Debbie Davis is the director of the Walton College of Business’ new Executive Education Center in downtown Little Rock.

Debbie Davis was named the associate director of the Executive Education Center before its official opening last year. In fact, she was the first official employee of the program. The role and expectations set forth for the associate director are, according to the job release, “creating positive client relationships, application and proposal development, program management, and marketing and communications for the center and programs.” 

When tracing back her professional history, it is abundantly clear why she was the right person for the job. 

Before taking the helm of the Walton Executive Education program, Davis attended the University of Arkansas where she graduated with a bachelor of science in marketing management in 1992. She later obtained a master of arts in management from Webster University. 

Since, she has worked in various marketing roles, including for Baxter International and Euronet Worldwide. Most recently, she worked at Little Rock Christian Academy, where she held elevated positions such as associate director of development, associate director of admissions and director of communications.

When speaking to the mission of the program, she says that its existence is founded upon guiding principles of the University of Arkansas. 

“The University of Arkansas has eight guiding priorities,” Davis says. “One of the priorities is ‘The University of Arkansas is unique in that it is both the state’s flagship university and a land-grant institution. With this unique status comes a responsibility to engage, collaborate, and provide outreach to the citizens, businesses, governmental and civic entities of the state to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.’

“Walton Executive Education serves as an extension of the Walton College, meeting the education needs of business professionals throughout the state and region,” Davis adds. “It is our goal to support the economy of Arkansas by helping Arkansas companies to develop their employees.”

The Walton Executive Education Center provides three distinct pillars atop their program offerings: programs for individuals, programs for organizations and online learning.

From there lie the five subject areas from which courses are offered: marketing and communications, strategy and management, entrepreneurship and innovation, leadership and finance. Each of which has a wide range of specific areas of interest within.

Through the marketing and communications program, the course offerings to date are communicating from mission to message, captivating audiences and boot camp for message managers.

The leadership program courses include leaving a leadership legacy, leading with emotional intelligence and ethical leadership.

For organizations looking to educate their associates or leadership personnel through any of the classes, Walton Executive Education can create a custom program to best suit the needs of any organization. 

 The online learning platform offers finance for non-financial managers, which teaches the interpretation of financial statements and how employee’s decision may impact those statements, and a certificate for the study of capitalism, which instructs the ins, outs and value of free market capitalism.

The programs are led by Walton College professors, as well as industry experts. So, individuals and companies who elect to take programs in Little Rock are being instructed by the most qualified of individuals possible. 

Additionally, the facility is available to rent as a professional meeting space. 

Since the grand opening in October, the Walton Executive Education center has had more than 100 organizations visit, and more than 300 persons participate in the various program offerings.

As far as the future is concerned, Davis has two priorities atop her list: Grow the number of companies and individuals to serve, and to continue to enhance the program offerings.

Following suit in working with those goals in mind, the center is introducing a new lunch and learn series this summer to continue to come up with ways of reaching and teaching as many individuals as they can. They will also be rolling out a new schedule of fall courses. 

 No matter your experience level or area of focus, the new Walton Executive Education center more than likely has something to offer to enhance your professional expertise. 

The name “Walton” means so much to the state of Arkansas. This latest step of expansion by the Walton School of Business all but solidifies that and continues the mission to support the future of industry and business leaders in Arkansas. By doing so, they live up to the legacy of their namesake. 

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