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UCA MBA Program Named to Princeton Review’s Best Business Schools List

The University of Central Arkansas’ Master in Business Administration program was named to The Princeton Review’s Best Business Schools list of Best On-Campus MBA programs.

The list recognized the top 244 on-campus MBA programs around the country and was based on survey data from more than 17,800 students and school administrators.

“What makes our Best Business Schools list unique is that we factor in data from our surveys of students attending the schools about their campus and classroom experiences,” said Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of ­The Princeton Review.

Student respondents identified cost, diversity, high academic standards, job prospects upon graduation and accessible, knowledgeable faculty as attributes that separated the UCA MBA program from others.

“It has been our goal over the last few years to grow our program and provide a high-quality, affordable and flexible graduate program that our students could use to advance their careers,” said Mark McMurtrey, Ph.D., director of the UCA MBA program. “Our continued inclusion in this ranking of top MBA programs in the country shows our students find value in our program and the concentrations we now offer.”

The UCA MBA program has more than 150 students — up from 89 in 2016 — and offers concentrations in finance, health care administration and information management, as well as an option to embed a graduate certificate in data analytics. It is accredited through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

How to Engage College Students in Online Learning

The switch to online learning has left professors at universities and colleges across the country scrambling for ways to effectively bring traditional, classroom teaching models to students who now attend classes from their homes, apartments and dorms by way of a computer screen.

Anthony McMullen, J.D., assistant professor of business law

Anthony McMullen, J.D., associate professor of business law in the UCA College of Business, was part of a team of seven professors at the Academy of Legal Studies in Business to create a summary of effective strategies for professors to use for online learning in higher education.

The researchers found the best way to have success teaching college courses online was to quickly orient students, humanize the online environment and maintain engaging course material.

“Many professors need guidance on this, so our purpose was to compile these tips in hopes those who are new to online teaching could gain ideas and have time to carefully plan and prepare for their courses,” McMullen said.

Welcome Module

The first step identified was having a welcome module with a host of content that introduces students to the instructor and the course. The goal is to give students “low-stakes opportunities” to get engaged and learn how to find course material and complete assignments throughout the semester.

This can include a welcome email or video, an instructor bio, student introductions, the course syllabus, a how-to video on navigating course content and assignments and introductory assignments such as a syllabus quiz.

“This helps support and guide students through the online environment, especially if they are new to online courses,” the report states.

Humanizing the Course

Professors must also have a strong emphasis on the connection between faculty and students, as well as between students, the researchers found.

“You have to find a way to humanize the course and content,” the report states. “Professors need to facilitate multiple interactions with students without creating a barrier between technology and student engagement with the material. Previous research has found students from at-risk demographic groups had lower performance in online courses.”

One important factor to this is the use of online discussion boards.

“These can help instructors bridge the pedagogical gap between face-to-face and online learning by encouraging active student engagement,” the report said.

While discussion boards are often used, getting students to participate can be challenging, so it is important for professors to layout instructions and expectations from the beginning.

“This will encourage participation and create an environment of accountability and mutual respect,” the researchers said. “One tip is to have students not only post their own threads, but be required to comment on other student posts as well.”

Presenting On-Screen

Professors should use both synchronous and asynchronous material that effectively present the content of the course, complement one another and improve student motivation.

Synchronous instruction can include video conferencing to provide feedback on assignments, techniques and exam review.

“One recent technique that has found student satisfaction is presenting the professor’s screen,” the report states. “This allows professors to show PowerPoint slides normally shown during class. Professors can write and draw on the whiteboard and students can see that happening, just like a normal class.”

Voice-over PowerPoint presentations is an effective way to implement asynchronous learning, as well as assigning students to view short videos — preferably 6 minutes or less — on single topics discussed in the material.

“These ideas and others discussed in our article will be effective for teaching online, even when students return to physical classrooms,” the report said. “These strategies will help instructors reach and educate students wherever they may be.”

UCA Information Management MBA Ranked Among Top Programs

The Information Management MBA at UCA was ranked among the top programs in the country by Best Value Schools.

The program was ranked No. 8 among MBA programs in information technology, management and systems.

“The program is designed to help students prepare for upper management positions in the corporate world,” said Best Value Schools of the UCA program. “It focuses on project-based instruction, case studies, computer technology, research, problem solving, communications and teamwork.”

The Information Management MBA is one of four concentrations offered at UCA, in addition to a general MBA program. The Information Management MBA includes 21 hours of core courses and 9 hours of electives that include courses in quantitative analytical methods, project management, principles of information security and business intelligence.

Learn more about the Information Management MBA here.

In October, Best Value Schools named the UCA MBA program among the most affordable online programs in the country. It was the highest-rated Arkansas school and second-highest Southland Conference school named to the list.

Doug Voss Named to American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee

Doug Voss, Ph.D., professor of logistics and supply chain management

Doug Voss, Ph.D., professor of logistics and supply chain management, has been appointed to the American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee.

As part of the committee, Voss will help the institute identify top research priorities for the trucking industry. The appointment runs through 2022.

“Our members serve a critical role in identifying and prioritizing the trucking industry’s top research needs,” said Rebecca Brewster, president and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute. “We congratulate all those appointed by the ATRI Board to serve in this important role and look forward to working with them.”

The American Transportation Research Institute, founded in 1954, conducts transportation research that focuses on the industry’s role in a safe, efficient and viable transportation system. In the past, this has included research on congestion, economic analysis, safety, security, technology, environment and infrastructure.

Its research committee is composed of professionals from across the trucking industry, including sectors like motor carriers, industry suppliers, drivers, shippers, academia and government.

Voss is the director of the UCA College of Business’ Center for Logistics Education, Advancement and Research, and was named the Scott E. Bennett Arkansas Highway Commission Endowed Chair of Motor Carrier Management in 2015. He has been at UCA since 2007.

Voss is the first person from UCA to serve on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee.

“Dr. Voss has been vital to the growth of our logistics program since its inception in 2017,” said Michael Hargis, dean of the College of Business. “This latest recognition shows our program continues to gain respect among industry professionals across the region and nation, thanks to Dr. Voss’ efforts.”

Voss also serves on the Arkansas Trucking Association Board of Directors and has since 2015. He was a member of the inaugural class of the Arkansas Trucking Association’s 40 Under 40 Council in 2010 and served on the council through 2016.

He earned his bachelor’s and master’s in transportation and logistics at the University of Arkansas. He earned his doctorate in logistics at Michigan State University.

Marketing Professor Susan Myers Wins Award for Paper on Instagram Engagement During Pandemic

Susan Myers, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing

Susan Myers, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing, won Best Paper: Digital & Social Media from the Society for Marketing Advances for her work regarding increased Instagram use during this year’s pandemic.

Myers received the award Nov. 6 during SMA’s virtual 2020 conference.

Her paper looked at how COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines impacted consumer use of Instagram by looking at engagement rates with the top brands on the platform. The study compared engagement rates in the two months prior to the first regulations put in place for COVID-19 and the two months following it.

“The research indicated the engagement rate per post was higher during the pandemic than before despite the fact there was not a significant difference in the quantity of posts made by the brands,” Myers said.

Myers also found that consumers were generally looking for content unrelated to the pandemic as posts with COVID-related hashtags did not have a higher rate of engagement.

While some of these changes in social media use may be temporary, Myers said corporations will likely continue to invest more as consumers develop new routines in the pandemic.

“It seems doubtful that consumers will return completely to the old ways of operating as customer expectations for digital alternatives have grown,” Myers said. “Customer reliance on digital consumption continues to grow as will their expectations for brands’ digital experiences.”

The Restaurant Recession

Jeremy Horpedahl, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics

One of the most visible signs of the COVID-19 recession has been the massive harm to restaurants and bars. We see it as we drive around town: Restaurants are closed, doing curbside service only, or have radically altered their layout to make their spaces safer.

We can also see the harm to restaurants in the economic data. Back in the depths of the shutdowns and labor market contraction in April, fully one-third of all job losses in Texas were centered on the “food services and drinking places” industry, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls these establishments. Pre-pandemic, this industry accounted for 8.7 percent of all nonfarm jobs in Texas.

In total, over 450,000 restaurant and bar workers were out of work, out of about 1.1 million before the pandemic. Relative to the size of the restaurant and bar industry, workers at these businesses were hit four times as hard as the average worker. While everything is bigger in Texas, these figures are closely comparable to national data, where restaurants and bars accounted for 7.9 percent of employment before the pandemic, and about 28 percent of job losses through April.

Within the restaurant and bar industry, bars and restaurants that depend primarily on dining room service were hit much harder. Fast food restaurants, for example, were already well-equipped to provide drive-thru service.

Read more at Texas CEO Magazine.

Living in the What If: Managing Risk in 2020

Cindi Burleson, director of the Center for Insurance & Risk Management

When I was a risk manager there were times I sat with the executive team planning for the future and an idea would be presented that prompted many “what if” questions. A lot of heads would shake and, occasionally some would ask, “Do you have to be in the room?”

Here are some of those questions:

  • What if our servers completely crash and we can’t operate for a time?
  • What if there is a market crash and our investments take a hit that requires months, or even years, to reach a recovery point
  • What if hiring practices we’re considering lead to disgruntled workers?
  • What if there is a pandemic that results in our business being shut down for a long time — for instance, one to six months or longer?

These questions were asked to determine how the company would respond to potential business-disrupting situations. These are low-frequency occurrences that would have a high impact. And this is exactly where many businesses are living today.

Read more at ArkansasBusiness.com.

Centennial Bank Gives $25,000 to UCA College of Business Enhancement Fund, Names Student Commons Area

Centennial Bank has given $25,000 to the University of Central Arkansas College of Business’ Enhancement Fund.

The enhancement fund supports student programming, enhanced learning opportunities, as well as professional development opportunities for students, faculty, and staff in the College of Business. As part of the gift, Centennial Bank has also named the Student Commons area on the second floor of the College of Business building as the Centennial Bank Student Commons.

“Centennial Bank is one of our college’s most involved partners and supporters,” said Michael Hargis, dean of the UCA College of Business. “Their consistent support and partnership enables our college to provide important learning opportunities for our faculty, staff and students.”

More than 40 UCA alumni and current students are employed by Centennial Bank, making it one of the university’s largest corporate partners.

The bank is the wholly owned subsidiary of Home BancShares, co-founded by Johnny Allison and Robert H. “Bunny” Adcock, member of the University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees. It has locations in Arkansas, Florida, Alabama and New York.

In 2019, Centennial Bank became the first bank to establish an endowed scholarship in the college.

In 2006, the bank established the Johnny Allison Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, which has brought more than 20 speakers to the college to talk with students. Past speakers include Bunny Adcock, Marshall Stewart, Karen Garrett, Rush Harding, Rick Massey, Steve Strange, and former Govs. Mike Beebe and Mike Huckabee.

Additionally, the bank created the John. W. Allison Entrepreneur Endowed Professorship Fund which supports faculty within the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program. The program began in 2012 with a cohort of 40 students which has nearly doubled since.

The UCA College of Business has more than 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers 14 baccalaureate degrees, two master’s and one graduate certificate and one technical certificate across four academic departments and houses the state’s only insurance and risk management program. The UCA College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Visit uca.edu/business for more.

UCA Center for Insurance & Risk Management Director Cindi Burleson Featured on Arkansas Shrimp Tank Podcast

Center for Insurance & Risk Management Director Cindi Burleson was on a recent episode of the Arkansas Shrimp Tank Podcast.

Burleson spoke with co-hosts Matt Haas and David Sims about the development and growth of the program — the only of its kind in Arkansas — and how 2020 has changed the way we view risk management.

Burleson is a lecturer in the Department of Economics, Finance, and Insurance & Risk Management. Listen to the full episode here and catch a video recap above.

UCA College of Business Professors Present Arguments on Arkansas Issue 1

Issue 1 on Arkansas ballots this November considers an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution that would continue a 0.5% sales tax for highways, roads and bridges.

UCA College of Business professors Jeremy Horpedahl, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics, and Doug Voss, Ph.D., professor of logistics and supply chain management, recently presented both sides of the argument in op-eds published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

To read the argument in favor of Issue 1, presented by Voss, click here. For the argument against Issue 1, presented by Horpedahl, click here. The views expressed in the op-eds are the authors’ own and not an official position of UCA or the College of Business.