UCA College of Business Announces Outstanding Students of 2023-2024 Academic Year

At its annual Outstanding Student Awards Banquet, the UCA College of Business recently announced and celebrated the Outstanding Students selected for the 2023-2024 academic year. The awards given celebrate students who stood out this year in our academic programs and registered student organizations. The following selected students were selected because they have optimized their education by combining exemplary academic performance with internships, volunteerism, professional development, experiential education, and participation in clubs and other important experiences.

Outstanding Students of the Year


General Business
Miranda Ivy

“I feel like business fits me because I have lots of interest in many different areas that this major helps to fulfill. After graduation, I intend to explore options in the career field and gain experience for future endeavors.”

Miranda pictured with Dr. Watson who presented the award

Fully Online Undergraduate
Samantha Ashley

“As a non-traditional student, I have experience in a few different fields of business. At any given profession I have had, I always excelled in my computer skills. When I decided to go back to college to pursue my Bachelor’s degree, I chose a major in Computer Information Systems with a concentration in Business Analysis to hone my existing skills and become an expert in a field that entails tasks that I enjoy. After graduation, I am hoping to be able to secure a remote position as a Data Analyst.”

Sam pictured with Dr. Casey who presented the award

Carson Griffin

Carson chose to major in accounting with a minor in financial services. He says, “I chose accounting because of the career opportunities available and the flexibility that it provides. I love working with numbers and the world of business, so accounting is where I fit it. After graduation, I will pursuing a MAcc here at UCA. After that, I plan to work in public accounting at FORVIS.”

Carson pictured with Dr. Watson who presented the award

Computer Information Systems
Grant McKnight

“I have always loved working with computers, starting first with playing video games, then creating documents, and now writing codes in languages such as SQL. I chose to major in Computer Information Systems because of this interest, the opportunity to get a great job, and to have a career that I know I will enjoy. I am looking for an internship or full-time position in Arkansas.”

Grant pictured with Dr. Downey who presented the award

Computer Information Systems – Business Analysis
Aiden Mendolia

(not pictured)

Information Systems
Hayden Weaver

(not pictured)

Natalie Quisenberry

“I chose economics because of its omnipresence in the business world. I found myself applying economic principles in almost all of my lower division business core classes, which was very intriguing to me. This ultimately led to the changing of my major and I have enjoyed it ever since. After graduating, I hope to obtain a position in business strategy while simultaneously pursuing a masters degree. After some time in the corporate world, I would like to pursue my PhD and return to higher education as a professor.”

Natalie pictured with Dr. Hodges who presented the award

Linda Galeano Midence

Linda chose to major in finance and minor in data analytics. She says she chose it because there is more math involved in this subject. She also hopes to get a job in the United States after graduation, but if not, she envisions herself back in Honduras working at a bank.

Linda pictured with Dr. Snyder who presented the award

Insurance & Risk Management
Sophia Fulgham

“I am a third generation insurance agent so I’ve grown up around the industry. I feel like I’ve gotten a front row seat to seeing the good insurance can do. My dad always says with insurance you’re selling people a piece of paper and a promise that you’ll be there for them when they need you most. I feel really excited to go into an industry where I can help people in this way. After graduation, I have been accepted into the MBA program here at UCA and will start taking classes toward my MBA this summer as I study abroad in Amsterdam! I am open to pursuing any job within the industry after I graduate this May. I hope that I will eventually be able to come back and help my dad run his independent agency, Integrity Insurance.”

Sophia pictured with Dr. Yao who presented the award

Abbie Flake

“I am very math-brained but also love to be creative. Marketing was the perfect choice where I could do both! I am fascinated by the world of business and can express my creativity while also being analytical as a marketing major. I hope to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas in the full-time Walton MBA Program.”

Abbie pictured with Dr. Garner who presented the award

Bresner Austin

“I run a small business on the side, and I’ve always had some interest in the way that these businesses run that I work for. It’s also a great backup plan for the firefighting career I’m going to pursue; especially because with that schedule I could continue to run my business among other things. Knowledge of the economy and how many things operate in a country like America is valuable to me. After graduation, I plan to enter the Little Rock Firefighting Rookie School program.”

Bresner pictured with Dr. Chen who presented the award

Human Resource Management
Abby McMillin

(not pictured)

Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Connor Tuttle

“I believed this major would give me the best overall learning experience for what it takes to run a business. I saw that it included courses from all departments in the College of Business and that is what stood out most. I wanted to leave college feeling as though I had experience in multiple different areas of business. In addition, I felt as though this major would encourage me to take a leap of faith and start my own venture. After I graduate, I intend to pursue a full-time job at my current workplace, The Studio Downtown. I also am looking at other employment options within the marketing department of companies like Howler Brothers, Turtlebox Audio, Yeti, or other outdoor lifestyle brands.”

Connor pictured with Dr. Suter who presented the award

Logistics & Supply Chain Management
Elizabeth “Liz” Ennis

“Inventory analysis is something that just makes sense to me. I worked at a local grocery store in high school and the idea of supply and demand at a larger scale piqued my interest. After studying abroad in Austria this past summer, my drive for international inventory and shipping has only been solidified. After I graduate, I plan to work on my Master’s in Supply Chain Management while working in a company within my degree path.”

Liz pictured with Dr. Voss who presented the award

Master of Accountancy
Jacqueline Berntsen

“I knew I wanted to be a business major because many of my family members had their own businesses. When I took principles of accounting, I really liked the class. I interviewed a family member that was a CPA at about the same time and found the interview really interesting. So I picked it and stuck with it. After graduation, I intend to start working at HCJ CPA’s & Advisors and start studying for the CPA exam.”

Jacqueline pictured with Dr. Oxner who presented the award

Master of Science in Applied Data Analytics
Julian Haessner

Julian says he chose applied data analytics because of research opportunities, to develop of analytical skills, and to prepare for doctoral studies.

Julian pictured with Dr. Ellis who presented the award

Master of Business Administration
Joao Rodrigues

“I pursued a major in Applied Data Analytics because it complements my MBA, equipping me with advanced analytical skills to leverage data in strategic decision-making and enhance my expertise in the business field. After I graduate, I will be working as a Financial Analyst in a commercial real estate firm in Central Arkansas.”

Joao pictured with Dr. McMurtrey who presented the award

College of Business Overall Outstanding Student
Carson Griffin

Carson pictured with Dean Hargis who presented the award


Mahayla Edwards

Mahayla says, “I would love to own my own business and run it from the ground up! I may move to NWA open a store front for my boutique then move to Dallas a few years later and open another store and a coffee shop!”

Mahayla pictured with Dr. Moseley who presented the award

Accounting Club
Izzy Saettele

Izzy is very active at UCA and was convinced to choose her major in accounting because her supplemental instructor inspired her to choose it. She says after graduation, “I plan to stay at UCA for my MAcc and sit for the CPA exam. I want to go into public accounting, specifically in tax and stay somewhere in the central Arkansas area.”

Izzy pictured with Dr. Phillips who presented the award

Beta Alpha Psi
Carson Griffin

Carson pictured with Dr. Phillips who presented the award

Bears for Advancing Supply Chain & Operations Management (BASCOM)
Claire Coon

“My initial attraction to the business world was and still is the direct, real world applications of the field. From my first two classes in business, microeconomics and the global environment of business, I was able to take things out of class and straight away use them to better understand everyday events in my life. Starting in January 2024 after my graduation in December, I began working full time as a real estate agent for Homeward Realty here in Conway. This new year I look forward to serving Conway and the greater Central Arkansas region as a real estate agent by applying skills and knowledge I’ve acquired during my time at the UCA College of Business (COB).”

Claire pictured with Dr. Voss who presented the award

Gamma Iota Sigma
Cole Vangsnes

Cole says he chose Insurance and Risk Management because it is a “very interesting career field with people that make it ten times better.”

Cole pictured with Prof. Hudson who presented the award

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Collegiate
Kaddie Bailey & Malie Phimmachack

Malie: “I choose this major because I wanted to be able to help people. My interest in business-related activities began in High School, so I wanted to be able to pursue it in the future. Additionally, I enjoyed being able to assist others when they needed it, so I decided to major in management so that I could learn all the ins and outs of a business. After graduation I intend to go for my masters and start working.”

Kaddie chose to focus on Accounting and Religious Studies. She says, “I chose both of them because I love helping people. Accounting can be used in so many ways for the betterment of others like being a Volunteer Income Tax Assistant to helping corporations run their everyday operations. I get to work with those around me for the betterment of others. Religious studies helps me get to know the world more and allows me to help others across the street, across the states, and across the world. I get to be a light in communities full of darkness. After graduation, I intend to do a two year Journeymen program through the North American Missions Board and possibly short-term missionary work before coming back to earn my Master’s Degree in Accounting and possibly sit for the CPA exam. Life is an open book so I may end up doing something completely different, but this is what I think I am going to do.”

Kaddie and Malie pictured with Dr. Suter who presented the award

COB Student Ambassador
Abbie Flake

Abbie pictured with Dean Hargis who presented the award

COB Students Earn Awards at Arkansas Student Congress

On November 12-14, three COB students participated at Arkansas Student Congress, sponsored by the Arkansas Communication and Theater Arts Association. Because this is an activity that involves policymaking, Dr. Anthony McMullen, Associate Professor of Business Law and sponsor of the debate team, encourages business students to participate.

Dr. Anthony McMullen in shown is the photo along with the participating students:

Karlie Holland (front left): Received an award for excellent in caucus and was recognized as the best delegate for UCA. In addition, her bill, short titled: “A bill recommending to the Arkansas General Assembly to require sex education be required in secondary education systems,” received an award for best bill in the Senate. It passed the Senate, but unfortunately did not pass in the House.

Michael Isaac (back center): Received an award for excellent in caucus and excellent in committee.

Rebecca Pool (front right): Her bill, short titled: “A bill recommending to the U.S. Congress that protects consumers in all states from purchasing previously totaled vehicles from flooding with washed titles,” received an award for third best bill in the Senate. In addition, it passed both houses, making it a Law of Congress. In addition, it has received attention from the Arkansas Times.



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.

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.

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.

MBA Director McMurtrey Earns 2023 SWDSI Distinguished Service Award

The Southwest Decision Sciences Institute (SWDSI) has named Dr. Mark E. McMurtrey as its 2023 Distinguished Service Award recipient in recognition of his achievements in research, teaching, and service. He was presented the award on March 9, 2023, in Houston, Texas at the SWSDI 52nd Annual Meeting. McMurtrey holds the appointment of Professor of Computer Information Systems and Analytics and MBA Program Director for the UCA College of Business.

The SWDSI is a division of the Decision Sciences Institute, a professional organization made up of those interested in sharing research on the study of decision processes and the application of quantitative and behavioral methods to the problems of society.

Dr. McMurtrey has also been recognized as the SWDSI 2020 Outstanding Educator; he also has been awarded the UCA College of Business “Excellence in Service” Award (2014) and the “Excellence in Teaching” Award (2017).

Dr. McMurtrey has been very active in service with DSI and SWDSI in conferences for over 30 years. Between the two he has well over 100 activities, ranging from author, discussant, reviewer, session chair, track chair, presenter, VP-Finance, Program Chair, President, and Past President. McMurtrey had a research study win the Distinguished Paper Award at the 2022 SWDSI Conference in March and competed with the winners from the other regions at the National DSI meeting in November, finishing as a runner-up. McMurtrey has also been a Council Member for SWDSI and serves on both the Strategic Planning Committee and Outstanding Educator Award Committee.

CISA Professor Honored as Most Valuable Professor by UCA Student Athletes

Dr. Mike Ellis was honored last night as “Most Valuable Professor” at the UCA vs Arkansas State baseball game for his impact on UCA student-athletes. Here Dr. Ellis is pictured with MBA student and right fielder Kolby Johnson, who nominated him for the award. Dr. Ellis serves as an Associate Professor of Computer Information Systems & Analytics. Congratulations, Dr. Ellis!

UCA College of Business Ranked Among Top 50 Most Affordable Master’s Programs in the Nation for 2023

UCA has been ranked as one of the nation’s top 50 most affordable colleges for online master’s programs in business. Just six percent of regionally accredited postsecondary institutions earned a ranking position from OnlineMastersDegrees.org (OMD). UCA’s business programs earned top honors for overall quality, affordability and commitment to student success.

“This year, we focused on the schools making it easier for students to compete in today’s increasingly difficult job market,” said Kyle Darland, co-founder of OMD. “Each ranked school offers a fully or partially online master’s program in business at a time when earning a master’s has become a minimum barrier to entry for many.”

Darland is referencing a recent survey from CareerBuilder, which found that “thirty-three percent of employers are hiring workers with master’s degrees for positions that had been primarily held by those with four-year degrees.” These employers cited an evolution of the skills needed to perform the jobs as the cause of the shift, and an increase in work quality, productivity and employee retention as the result.

“Providing students with opportunities to get a master’s online is only part of our rankings,” said Darland. “Top-ranked schools also had competitive tuition rates and/or scholarships to help drive costs down. And with grocery, gas and other expenses on everyone’s mind right now, an affordable master’s is key.”

OnlineMastersDegrees.org analyzed more than 7,700 accredited universities by using data pulled from the schools themselves and from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). After the data was compiled, OMD’s data science team then applied a proprietary algorithm to rank all qualifying schools for each of the different master’s degrees specialties. Primary data points include:

  • Academic counseling services
  • Career placement services
  • Student/faculty ratio
  • Tuition
  • Percent of students receiving school-based aid
  • Amount of school-based aid per student

To be eligible for ranking, a university must hold active regional accreditation and have at least one partially online master’s program in the ranking subject.

About OnlineMastersDegrees.org
OnlineMastersDegrees.org began in 2020 to support online learning at the master’s level. Our user-friendly, research-backed content helps students find scholarships, resources, financial aid, and connect with accredited colleges and universities across the country.

2022 Faculty Excellence Award Winners: Professors Nelson, Horpedahl, Shaw, Burleson, Chen, & Schlachter

Each year the College of Business recognizes its outstanding faculty with awards. This year, four new awards were created to highlight the exceptional work of this faculty and to encourage continued excellence in the areas of societal impact, research, service, innovative teaching, engaged teaching, and an individual’s impact on the college itself.

(pictured from left to right, back: Schlachter, Chen, Nelson; front: Burleson, Horpedahl, Shaw)

COB Impact Award: Steve Nelson

This new award was created to recognize faculty or staff who have outsized impact on the success of the UCA College of Business. Professor Nelson’s work outside of the classroom is most often noticed by faculty. He has served as the Director of Assessment since 2016 and revamped data collection and improvement team communications. He is an outstanding communicator who helps all faculty understand what and when to assess, which contributes to continuous improvement of the college for our students.

Societal Impact Award: Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl

Dr. Horpedahl is the incoming Director of the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE). Outside of the classroom, he is well known in the region for sharing his expert testimony with the Arkansas Legislature as well as with the general public in the newspaper and on television. On Twitter, he helps citizens understand how to tell fact from fiction and often dispels incorrect statistics and rumors. He is also a regular contributor to Economist writing every day. This new award was created to encourage societal impact such as Dr. Horpedahl’s impact on countless students and citizens.

Innovative Teaching Award: Steve Schlachter

Professor Schlachter was recognized because of his efforts to innovate in every one of the classes he teaches, whether face-to-face or online. His work sets an excellent example as the world of higher education attempts to find ways to engage students in- and outside of the classroom.

Engaged Teaching Award: Professor Cynthia Burleson

Professor Burleson is the Director of the Center for Insurance and Risk Management (IRM). She welcomes IRM professionals on a regular basis to help students gain experience and network within the industry. Burleson’s excellent work contributes to UCA’s IRM program, which remains the only IRM program in the region, and partnerships with employers are one reason why UCA has one of the most active internship programs in the state.

Excellence in Research Award: Dr. Alex Chen

Dr. Chen is known for his excellence in research. The quality and quantity of his published works are truly excellent, but he was recognized for this award because his focus is teaching others how to research well. Dr. Chen collaborates with other faculty and students in much of his work. In this past year, four of his articles that involved student collaborations underwent review, an achievement which helps his students stand out as they pursue employment and higher education opportunities.

Excellence in Service Award: Susan Shaw

Professor Shaw serves on committees doing work that is noticed by faculty, but her work coordinating the annual IT Careers Camp in partnership with Acxiom impacts high school students around Arkansas.  The event is a significant amount of work each year, and Susan does a fantastic job organizing the camp, which educates students about IT careers and encourages them to continue their education beyond high school.