Accounting Students Make an Impact through the VITA Program

Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars are unclaimed when citizens do not file tax returns. Many do not file because they believe they can’t afford to file their taxes, but the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program can help qualified tax payers file their returns for free. The program, allowed by the IRS, offers free tax help to people who make $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need help in preparing their own tax returns.

Macy Dillard

For students, VITA is a great opportunity to gain experience and give back to the local Conway community. Led by UCA Accounting Professor Ashley Phillips, the program is open to COB students who would like to volunteer or earn college credit in accounting. VITA volunteers receive training and can either prepare returns or do intake. Experienced CPAs then review each return.

“Taxes are stressful for many people, and by helping through the VITA program, I was able to alleviate a big part of that burden. During review meetings, I could see the gratitude and relief wash over my clients’ faces,” said accounting student Macy Dillard.

Last year, students volunteered approximately 420 hours to return more than $324,000 of taxpayer money to the community through the preparation of over 250 tax returns for low-income taxpayers in the region.

“I am so thankful for the big difference I got to make as just a student for both individuals, their families, and the local community as a whole. It is an amazing feeling to see firsthand how much you are helping someone. On top of that, I got great experience, developed my social skills, and gained volunteer hours,” Dillard added.

To receive college credit, students must register for the course that occurs in spring, complete at least 25 tax returns, complete a total of 80 hours (3 hours per week) at United Way. To find out more, contact Professor Ashley Phillips about how to register for the course in spring 2023.

If you need help preparing your tax return in early 2023, learn more about getting help from VITA in Central Arkansas.

Innovation Challenge 2 Winners Announced

Congratulations to our Imagine Lab Innovation Challenge 2 winners: Savannah Conly, Grayson Pinson, and Veronica Bertolusso!

The competition launched early this fall, and this time students were challenged to select a day in September and tell us how to celebrate it in a big way. Using tools found in the Imagine Lab (3rd Floor of UCA’s College of Business), the competition winners designed a big-time celebration that, at the least, brings people together.

Many thanks to Stoby’s, a long-time Arkansas favorite, for contributing to our prizes for our first place winners!

See Related Article: Innovation Challenge Series at UCA: First Winners Announced!


First Place: Savannah Conly – ($100 value prize) + Stoby’s prize

Cinema day is a day all about relaxation, connecting with your friends and family, and having fun. By making this a National Holiday, it brings people together and allows them to enjoy something together. It caters to all ages, it brings people together, and creates a new market for a different spin on gift giving.


Second Place: Grayson Pinson ($50 value prize)

The Birth Day is a day where we recognize everyone’s birthday on one day. It doesn’t replace your actual birthday; instead, it is a day that we can all come together to commonly celebrate one day that we all love. It solves all gift-giving problems related to birthdays. We now have one centralized day that gifts can be expected rather than having to decide who you will gift a gift to on their actual birthday. It is a day I would personally also love to celebrate- it sounds very fun for everyone to have a birthday at the same time.


Third Place: Veronica Bertolusso ($25 value prize)

My proposed day of celebration is the International Student Day! It would be celebrated yearly on September 28. ISD will allow international students (and not!) to get together and appreciate all cultures from around the globe. During ISD international students will celebrated together throughout one big cookout where everyone will make their most loved Home meal and will later be followed by a karaoke night with song in each home language. ISD is celebrated during the first two weeks of Hispanic Heritage Month. However, many cultures not only aren’t celebrated well enough, but some of them are still unknown! ISD would help solve this issue and expand cultural knowledge to international students and not! And who doesn’t love a good cookout and karaoke night!


Congratulations to these winners. Stay tuned for the announcement of our next challenge on Monday, October 10!

UCA College of Business Names New Department Chair

(Conway, Ark.) – The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) College of Business has named Dr. Tracy A. Suter as the new Chair for the Department of Marketing and Management. Dr. Suter began his role at the start of the spring semester.

As Department Chair, Dr. Suter will collaborate with the faculty and supervise department activities that support the college’s mission to provide an innovative and relevant curriculum combined with hands-on student experiences in the business community. He will also teach creativity and innovation courses from a marketing point of view and continue his research interests in creative problem-solving and business innovation.

Dean Michael Hargis welcomed Suter to the College of Business saying, “Tracy is innovative, engaging, and committed to student and faculty success. He also has a long track record of success as a leader in higher education. I look forward to Tracy’s contributions to the development and continuous improvement of our college’s programs.”

Suter, originally from Russellville, brings a wealth of expertise from his 25-year academic career as he assumes the role of department chair. In addition to teaching, Dr. Suter has authored many academic articles and textbooks and served in other administrative capacities. His most extensive experience was as a 15-year faculty member at Oklahoma State University.

“As a first-generation college student from the great state of Arkansas, I do not take my opportunity or responsibility lightly to nurture and develop the next generation of leaders, thinkers and doers,” said Dr. Suter. “I look forward to working with my departmental and college colleagues in helping students grow and succeed here at UCA.”

Suter earned his Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of Arkansas. Before teaching, he worked as a marketing and analysis specialist at an aviation company.

Established in 1969, the UCA College of Business offers 20 undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates to equip current and future business professionals to successfully and ethically meet the changing business environment. The AACSB-accredited program offers a thorough business education as well as opportunities for hands-on experience and industry networking.

UCA Expands Computer Information Systems & Analytics Degree Options to Address Changing Business Environment

The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) is offering new degree and certificate options through its Computer Information Systems and Analytics (CISA) department, expanding opportunities for CISA students and current business professionals to gain top in-demand business and technical skills.

Beginning this fall three new Applied Data Analytics programs will be available: a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Science, and a technical certificate. These new programs follow the successful addition of both an undergraduate minor and a graduate-level technical certificate in data analytics two years ago.

“I chose to get this graduate certificate because I believe data analytics is the future. As technology is evolving, businesses are using analytics to make informed decisions, solve problems, help reduce risks, and increase return on their investments,” said Joyti Lal who is working to earn a Master of Business Administration concurrent with a Data Analytics graduate certificate.

The Department of Computer Information Systems and Analytics (CISA), located within the UCA College of Business, combines highly desired technical skills with sound business principles. The department’s name was changed in July 2021 from “Management Information Systems” to better reflect what the department now offers. [Read more…]

COB Student Intern Earns AR BCBS Scholarship

UCA College of Business student, Daisy Martinez Carranza, is this year’s $5,000 academic scholarship winner for the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) 2021 Summer Internship Program. Carranza served as a Group Marketing and Member Engagement intern, and over the course of ten weeks, she gained real-world experience by working closely with their managers and teams, attending department meetings, participating in special projects, and sharing her questions and ideas.

Crediting knowledge gained in classes and valuable experience during her internship, Carranza said, “this is as much a win for me as it is for my advisors and mentors here at UCA.”

To earn the award, Carranza not only did exceptional work during her internship but also presented a final project to top BCBS executives. She was chosen as a finalist and then the winner of the $5000 scholarship for her senior year at UCA. Please join us in congratulating Daisy Martinez Carranza on this significant achievement.

Three UCA College of Business Alumni Named to Arkansas Business “20 in Their 20s” List

Arkansas Business has announced its 2021 class of “20 In Their 20s”, including three alumni from UCA’s College of Business. Ericka Gutierrez, Grace Rains, and Joyti Lal were named as rising business and community leaders.  [Read more…]

UCA Economist, Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl, Receives Award for COVID-19 Work

(Conway, AR) – Dr. Jeremy Horpedahl, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) College of Business, has been recognized for his work to provide accurate coronavirus information and dispel misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The award comes from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which announced on Sunday its ten most recent winners across North America.

Dr. Horpedahl won the prize for his policy and data analysis on pandemic-related economic topics such as coronavirus precautions, tolls and trends, vaccination development and distribution, unemployment, as well as local, national, and worldwide financial impacts.

“Part of what motivated me was simply to understand the pandemic better myself, and I was glad to help others navigate the same questions that I had about the state of the world,” said Dr. Horpedahl.

Horpedahl was also a co-recipient of another award from the Mercatus Center for the blog EconomistWritingEveryDay.com, where he is a weekly contributor.

“Dr. Horpedahl’s efforts to communicate complex topics in a more approachable way has helped inform and educate others about economic policy. This is important work during an already confusing and stressful time, and we are proud of his effort and impact,” added Dr. Michael Hargis, Dean of the UCA College of Business. [Read more…]

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: [Read more…]

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.”

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.