AR Blue Cross Blue Shield Partners with UCA College of Business for Take Over Day

On Monday, March 4, 2024, business experts from Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield visited the College of Business for a “Take Over” Day! They spoke to students in every area of business to share their expertise and career opportunities available to students. In fact, Arkansas BCBS was recently named for the third consecutive year by Forbes magazine among America’s Best Employers for mid-sized organizations, which makes COB eve more thrilled to welcome this company to “Take Over” our college.

Several BCBS experts shared with our students about a wide range of business fields including accounting, marketing, human resources, finance, information systems, and more.

[Read more…]

Insurance Industry Leader Turned Faculty Member Brings Experience to Classroom, Leads UCA Center for Insurance & Risk Management

Ivan Hudson, Director of the UCA Center for Insurance & Risk Management and Lecturer, joined the College of Business faculty in fall 2023. In this interview, he shares his insights about his first semester, his advice for students, and his vision for what’s ahead in 2024.

Give us some highlights of your experience in the business environment from before you joined the UCA College of Business Faculty.

I got my career start with the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. In November of 2008 I went to work for the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation as Program Associate. At this time in 2008, two-thirds of Arkansas voted to pass the Lottery legislation. Fast Forward to October of 2009 when I joined the start-up management team at the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. Over the three and a half year period that I was there, I served in a number of capacities, including Procurement Director and Internal Operations Director. I’ll completed my MBA while there, and when I finished my MBA program at UALR December 2012, I launched the Ivan Hudson Agency as my entry into the insurance industry. In March 2014, I secured my Series 6 and Series 63 designations to help set me apart in the industry.

Networking has always been important to me. My personal and professional mantra is “You can network or not work, but you can’t do both.” That really speaks to my core value of building relationships. Solid meaningful relationships, will take you places that even education and other resources can’t.

Career Facts about Director Hudson: [Read more…]

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.

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.