UCA College of Business Names 2020-2021 Outstanding Students

On April 8, 2021, the UCA College of Business held its annual Student Honors Banquet to celebrate the academic achievements of the College’s students and recognize the outstanding students for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Outstanding students are those who take advantage of educational opportunities and show exemplary academic performance through internships, professional development and experiential education, volunteerism, and participation in clubs and activities.

The following students were awarded an outstanding status, chosen from over 1600 undergraduate and graduate students:


Elsa Mattson was named the overall Outstanding Student for the College of Business because of her many academic achievements.

A triple major with a 3.95 GPA, Elsa earned a BBA in Economics with International Trade Concentration, a BBA in Management Information Systems with a Business Analysis Concentration, and a BA in Chinese. Elsa also earned a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM).

As a Research Fellow for the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE) for two years, she published a refereed journal article about occupational licensing requirements and its effect on workers during the Great Recession; published an Op-ed about Pennsylvania’s licensing requirements, which was noticed by their Governor’s office; and presented her studies at the International Academy of Business Disciplines conference. She also earned a Mainframe Apprenticeship at Ensono in summer 2020.

She served as President of Team Global at UCA and was selected to represent the College at recruiting and accreditation events during her senior year.

Elsa will begin a Master of Science in Business Analytics at William & Mary on a merit-based scholarship starting in the fall.


Devin Gilbert completed his BBA in Accounting at UCA and did two internships. He is currently a Graduate Assistant and tutors students in our “Principles of Accounting” and “Intermediate Accounting” courses. Devin has proven to be cool under pressure.

After graduation with his Master of Accountancy (MAcc), Devin is going to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the largest accounting firm in the world.


Claire DeBusk just completed her BBA and is starting the UCA Master of Accountancy program this summer. While she was an undergraduate, she did five internships, served as an officer of Beta Alpha Psi, placed second with her team for Best Practices in Investing in Yourself, and was involved in service opportunities in Conway and overseas.


A triple major with a 3.95 GPA, Elsa Mattson earned a BBA in Economics with International Trade Concentration, a BBA in Management Information Systems with a Business Analysis Concentration, and a Bachelor of Arts in Chinese. Elsa also earned a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). She served as President of Team Global at UCA and a Research Fellow for ACRE, earned a Mainframe Apprenticeship at Ensono in summer 2020, and was selected to represent the College at recruiting and accreditation events during her senior year. Elsa will begin a Master of Science in Business Analytics at William & Mary on a merit-based scholarship starting in the fall.


Daryl achieved a 4.0 GPA, majoring in Finance with a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. While at UCA, he co-authored a paper with Dr. Chen and presented it at the 2021 International Academy of Business Disciplines conference; worked as a Life Peer Coach for Housing and Residence Life; and volunteered for several organizations and events, including the Big Event, Team Global and others. Daryl would like to pursue an MBA in Finance and earn a Data Analytics Graduate Certificate or a Masters of Science in Business Analytics, after which he may then work toward a Doctorate.  He wants to eventually work as a financial analyst at the African Bank of Development.


Bethany is a first-generation student completing a BBA in Insurance and Risk Management with expected graduation in December 2021. She is the Vice President of Gamma Iota Sigma and currently an intern at State Farm while maintaining a 3.82 GPA. She plans to begin her career in the insurance industry after graduation.


Ashley Phipps is a non-traditional student who completed her BBA in General Business completely online while raising two boys under the age of five. She graduated in May 2021 with a 3.36 GPA. She plans to begin a career in banking.


In May 2021, Kayla Dean completed her BBA in Management Information Systems with a Programmer/Analyst Concentration. She finished with a 3.94 GPA and earned a Mainframe internship at Ensono in summer 2020. Kayla also was active in volunteer work serving in the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program from fall 2018 to spring 2019, as a UCA Peer Coach from fall 2018 until graduation, and as an AmeriCorps BearsServe Member at the UCA Food pantry from fall 2020 to spring 2021.


Rohan Saxena graduated with a 3.49 GPA in May 2021, earning a BS in Information Systems with a Computer Science minor. He stayed busy during his UCA undergraduate career by studying abroad at The Hague University, earning an internship at Granules Pharmaceuticals, serving as Housing & Food Services Committee Chairman for the UCA Student Government Association, and working at UCA International Engagement and the Department of Biology. Rohan has accepted a job as Tableau Administrator at Lucid Motors, a Silicon Valley luxury electric car company.


Logan Tribble is working toward his BBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. He is not only a great student in the classroom but also an active participant in the activities of our partner, The Conductor, and the activities of the “Central Arkansas Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.”


Jack Bornhoft, the Outstanding Logistics & Supply Chain Management student, has a 3.83 GPA, is the student representative on the board of the Arkansas Trucking Association, and completed an internship with Insight Logistics Management.


Lucas Southard has 3.84 GPA as he works toward a BBA in Management with a concentration in Human Resources Management.


This year we have two winners for the BBA in Marketing. Both Laura Lane and Emma McKnight are outstanding students in the classroom earning GPAs of better than 3.8, and both have demonstrated tremendous potential to achieve success in their chosen field of marketing.


Brandon Scott Phipps is the Outstanding Student of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. Phipps received his undergraduate degree in Computer Science from UCA and has excelled in the MBA program. In addition to being a veteran, Brandon is launching a new Homewell Health Services franchise in Conway with the help of College of Business Professor Dr. Jeff Standridge.  Phipps was also recently named a member of the new class for the Conway Area Leadership Institute.


The UCA College of Business includes:

The goal of the UCA College of Business is to provide a hands-on, experience driven, education that prepares graduates to take on global issues. Through our diverse programs of study and distinguished faculty and staff, we take creative, engaged students and give them the tools to succeed when they earn their degrees. Our students travel the world, start their own innovative businesses, and join established businesses across the country.  Whatever their next step, our students are ready to make a positive impact.

Learn more about our programs of study and distinguished faculty and staff.

Senior Finance Major RandeeK McPherson Shares How She Secured a Full-Time Job Months Before Graduation

Senior finance major RandeeK (pronounced Randee-Kay) McPherson recently spoke to Professor Ivan Hudson’s Insurance 3324 class about her lessons learned and how she secured a full-time job months before she is set to graduate in May 2024. McPherson credited her time spent at events like UCA Career Fairs, which helped her make the right connections to find internships.

Why did you choose this field of study?

I loved numbers and planning for the future. I didn’t know what job that would be or how that would look. I just knew it was the most enjoyable to me.

Tell us about your internship experience.

I knew I needed a potential job opportunity after graduation, and choosing an internship the summer after my junior year answered so many questions about what I would be doing.

One month into my second internship I realized I want to be a financial advisor, and because of that, I’m going into my senior year with a job already secured after graduation, and that makes all the difference when starting classes. During my internship, I noticed that I was ahead because I knew some of the things [my coworkers] were talking about just from my classes [at the College of Business].

If I hadn’t tried this internship, I wouldn’t have been offered a job after graduation! Knowledge-wise though, I learned that some things matter more than the dollar you’re making, if you’re helping others.

Any lessons learned you’d like to share?

I did two internships, and the first one was valuable because it helped me see that job path was NOT right for me. The time students take now to do internships will help so much more as you get closer to graduation. There are so many options, and you’ll never know which is right for you ’till you try!

I also realized that insurance knowledge is required in financial advising, which is why I am investing in those classes. This past summer I passed my Life and Health Insurance Exam and will be studying for the SIE [Securities Industry Essentials] this school year.

What advice do you have for your fellow students?

1. Do an internship.
2. Take any study group opportunities you can as well as bonus points!! They make it easier at the end when your final grade is due.

Dr. Joe Cangelosi Shares His 35+ Years of Experience Through Teaching & Research

 Dr. Joe Cangelosi, Professor of Marketing, shares about his research, advice for students, and what brings him the most enjoyment as a Professor.

Why did you choose marketing?
I am a market researcher by trade, being in the MR industry for 5 years before going back to get a doctorate in marketing, so I could be a university professor.

What have you studied in your research?
I have studied the Marketing & Distribution of Preventive Health Care (PHC) information. I have been publishing in the area for 20+ years, finding new niches to focus my efforts. I have learned the demographics, activities, behaviors, social media tendencies of PHC consumers, across generational cohorts. I’m always looking for another publication opportunity in a good health care marketing journal.

What tips or advice would you give to new, current, or prospective business students?
1. Work hard in school so you can determine what your special gifts are.
2. Don’t be overburdened with hours on a job while in school; work the hours necessary to survive; don’t be buying new cell phones or a new car or buying too much of anything; just get through school with some good grades so you have the skills and grades to be competitive in the job market once you graduate. Students should heed my advice based on my 35+ years of teaching, research and consulting; I have a good feel for what it takes for students to succeed.

What about your job brings you the most joy?
1. engaging students and seeing their success after graduation
2. getting manuscripts published in health care journals
3. teaching market research
4. the collegiality in the department of marketing and management; it is the best; good dept chair too!

This fall, Dr. Cangelosi is teaching Principles of Marketing and Marketing Research & Data Management. Students can plan to take these classes taught by Dr. Cangelosi in the spring. He also will be presenting an abstract at the 2023 Atlantic Marketing Association Conference in September 2023.

UCA’s Online CIS Business Analysis program Ranked #11 in Nation by AnalyticsDegrees.org

AnalyticsDegrees.org has ranked UCA’s Online BBA in Computer Information Systems: Business Analysis program #11 overall in a comprehensive assessment of all online bachelor’s degrees in business analytics in the country. This ranking recognizes the program’s unique educational value to business analytics students.

Computer Information Systems combines the business profession with modern computer technology. CIS graduates are prepared to work in many capacities, depending on desire and the courses chosen. Graduates work as developers (programmers), database or network administrators, analysts of all kinds, security experts, project managers, and other roles that combine business with technology. The Business Analysis Concentration focuses on data analytics or using data to help managers make wiser decisions. There are multiple courses and focus areas for students to choose from, including data visualization, data mining, predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics, and using Python for analytics.

AnalyticsDegrees.org, a business and data analytics education website, applies our thorough rankings methodology to all online business analytics programs in the country. Their analysis includes multiple factors, from program quality and price to reputation and student outcomes, accreditation status, academic focus, delivery format, and external awards. Next, they assess program costs to determine its accessibility. Finally, they consider the program’s history of successfully graduating business analytics students. Programs that perform well in all areas earn a placement in the rankings.

Student Spotlight: Kamryn Glover

NAME: Kamryn Glover

CLASS: Junior

MAJOR: Accounting
MINOR: Data Analytics

UCA Peer Coach
Accounting Tutor
COB Ambassador
Works part-time

What did you choose your major?
I chose it because I’m very interested in math and learning about how accounting is the “Language of Business.”

What do you want to do after graduation?
Receive my Masters in Accountancy and my CPA license

Why did you choose to be a COB Student Ambassador?
I applied to become an ambassador because I’m always looking for ways to give back to my support system that I’m fortunate to have at the College of Business. Many of my professors do everything they can to ensure my success, and I feel as if it’s my duty to give back to them as much as I can.

COB Alumnus & Advisory Board Member Named Among Arkansas Business 40 under 40

Congratulations to Mr. Drew Gainor, CEO at Catalyst Financial, for his recognition in this year’s list of “40 under 40” by Arkansas Business. Among the many for reasons his inclusion in this year’s class, Mr. Gainor is significant to the University of Central Arkansas as a College of Business 2012 graduate and a College of Business Advisory Board member.

UCA President, Dr. Houston Davis; Ms. Haley Fowler, Senior Director in UCA Advancement; Ms. Jaime Briggs, Senior Director in UCA Advancement; Honoree Mr. Drew Gainor; UCA Board of Trustees member, Mr. Jim Rankin Jr.; UCA College of Business Dean, Dr. Michael Hargis.

Arkansas Business honored this year’s class at a luncheon on June 13 at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock. The annual list recognizes 40 people under the age of 40 who are making a significant impact on their companies, organizations, and communities.

Mr. Gainor thanked his mentor Mr. Jim Rankin who is a real estate developer, UCA Board of Trustees member, and community leader; Gainor also shared an important lesson he learned growing up.

“My first job was selling auto parts at the age of 9 in my home country of Honduras. I learned to appreciate all my blessings and to keep things in perspective. I learned that hard work is always a formula that leads to better things.”

Mr. Gainor’s Top Professional achievements
• Forbes Top Financial Security Professionals Best in State
• Conway Area Chamber of Commerce Business Executive of the Year, 2020
• Million Dollar Roundtable Top of the Table Advisor

Read more about Mr. Gainor’s recognition by Arkansas Business.

Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Kao

In April 2023, Dr. Alexander Chen visited alumnus Jessica Kao (MIS 2019) in Taipei during his travels overseas. He sent an update on his visit with Jessica for COB’s Alumni Spotlight column.

Dr. Chen with Jessica Kao

Jessica Kao is an exceptional alumnus of the Management Information Systems (MIS)* department at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). Since January 2020, she has been working for Qualcomm Semiconductor Inc. in Taipei, where she has demonstrated her commitment to her work and the skills she developed during her studies at UCA.

As part of her role at Qualcomm, Jessica is responsible for identifying key inefficiencies and issues across different projects. She develops user guides and training materials and conducts training sessions for both internal and external clients. She collaborates with multinational teams to develop and test various programs and projects. Additionally, she leverages her system analysis skills to work on supply chain operation and procurement systems for clients across APAC, the Americas, and Europe.

Jessica credits her success in the professional world to the rigorous training she received from UCA’s outstanding faculty members, particularly those in the Computer Information Systems & Analytics*, Marketing, and Management departments. She believes the College of Business at UCA provided her with a balanced, practical, and valuable education, which equipped her with the necessary tools to excel in her field.

Working alongside colleagues who mostly hold master’s degrees from prestigious universities in Taiwan and the United States, Jessica’s exceptional performance and professionalism have earned her the respect and trust of her teammates. She has also received substantial raises for her outstanding achievements. To learn more about Jessica’s achievements, check out her profile on LinkedIn.

* When Jessica graduated in 2019, the department and program were named Management Information Systems; in 2021, the name was changed to Computer Information Systems & Analytics to reflect updates to the program.

UCA Economist Explains Federal Debt Ceiling in PBS Interview

In this issue of Arkansas Week, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack discusses the U.S. debt ceiling, and the impending deadline for raising it, after which Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl explains the economic impact it could pose. Click the image below to watch the interview:

Dr. Horpedahl serves the community by explaining complex economic issues that affect the average American. He also Associate Prof. of Economics at UCA and the Director of the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics. He received his PhD in economics from George Mason University in 2009, concentrating in public choice, public finance, and economic history. His research has been published in Econ Journal WatchConstitutional Political Economy, the Atlantic Economic JournalPublic Choice, and Public Finance and Management. Dr. Horpedahl has also published op-eds in a variety of regional and national publications. Prior to taking on the role of Director, Dr. Horpedahl has been a researcher with ACRE since joining the UCA faculty in 2015.

Students Honored for Work With Community Tax Assistance Program

Congratulations to Harris Felton and Kiadan Zheng for winning university-level service awards for their work in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program this spring (students pictured at left with UCA College of Business Dean Michael Hargis).

Professor Ashley Phillips oversees and coordinates UCA’s annual involvement with VITA through the United Way of Central Arkansas. This tax season, students completed 329 tax returns, helped taxpayers claim $357,549 in refunds, and saved taxpayers approximately $60,000 in tax preparation fees.

The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals.

College of Business Names Its 2022-2023 Outstanding Students

In its annual awards banquet, the College of Business celebrated its Outstanding Students of the 2022-2023 academic year. The awards given celebrate one student who stood out this year in each academic program and registered student organization. Students recognized have optimized their education by combining exemplary academic performance with internships, volunteerism, professional development, experiential education, and participation in clubs and other important experiences. See the all of the full resolution photographs.

  • Outstanding Undergraduate Student of the Year – Will Biernat
  • Outstanding General Business Student – Jose Castro
  • Outstanding Undergraduate Accounting Student – Daniel Wheeler
  • Outstanding Master of Accountancy Student – Jake Harris
  • Outstanding Information Systems Student – Kevin Groce
  • Outstanding Computer Information Systems Student – Sian Fox
  • Outstanding Cybersecurity Management Student – Joshua Andrews
  • Outstanding Data Analytics Student – Maralgua Gansukh
  • Outstanding Master of Science in Applied Data Analytics Student – Brandy Bryant
  • Outstanding Economics Student – Takahito Orr
  • Outstanding Finance Student – Jake DeBusk
  • Outstanding Insurance & Risk Management Student – Will Biernat
  • Outstanding Management Student – Alli Snodgrass
  • Outstanding Marketing Student – Delwin Portillo-Orellana
  • Outstanding Innovation & Entrepreneurship Student – Lauren Martin
  • Outstanding Logistics & Supply Chain Management Student – Peyton Tolliver
  • Outstanding Human Resources Management Student – Lauren Vrazel
  • Outstanding Master of Business Student – Kolby Johnson
  • Outstanding Biz@Bear Student of the Year – Mason Smith
  • Outstanding COB Student Ambassador – Amaya Whitmore
  • Outstanding Beta Alpha Psi Student – Kaidan Zheng
  • Outstanding Accounting Club Student – Carson Griffin
  • Outstanding Gamma Iota Sigma Club Student – WIll Biernat
  • Outstanding Bears for Advancing Supply Chain & Operations Management (BASCOM) Student – Peyton Tolliver
  • Outstanding Phi Beta Lambda Student – Kaddie Bailey