University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 126: Blythe Eggleston Explains Life-long Learning in the Walton College

June 02, 2021  |  By Matt Waller

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In this episode of Be EPIC, Matt is joined by Blythe Eggleston, the Director for Executive Education at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. During their conversation, Eggleston shares how her role at Walton College aids in life-long learning.

Episode Transcript


0:00:08.3 Matt Waller: Hi, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Welcome to Be Epic, the podcast where we explore excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, and what those values mean in business, education and your life today. I have with me today Blythe Eggleston, who is the Director for Executive Education here in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Blythe has had a tremendous background that really makes her well suited for this position of Director of Executive Education, one is her tremendous work experience, she's worked as a Solution Engineering Change Management Consultant with Accenture. She worked for Murphy Oil in HR, and Murphy USA for several years in supply chain management. And she's been with the University of Arkansas for several years now. She has an undergraduate degree that focused on public relations and journalism, and she was the student body president, which says something about her. And she also has a master's degree in education that focuses on adult education and lifelong learning, so all of that comes together in a way, Blythe that really makes you well suited for this kind of a position, so thank you for serving in this role and also thank you for joining me today.

0:01:45.6 Blythe Eggleston: Thank you, Matt, looking forward to our discussion.

0:01:48.5 Matt Waller: It is interesting, Blythe how your background, both educationally and from a work experience is so well-suited for this kind of a position.

0:02:01.8 Blythe Eggleston: Yeah. I took a lot of the experiences I've had, especially at a consultancy where you work in many different organizations, you are immersed, a part of, witness many other cultures and work systems and able to really take that mindset on as we work with our clients who are from a wide range of industries and levels and presence levels in the US, and so yeah, it's been a really good transition actually.

0:02:30.4 Matt Waller: So Blythe, moving on to Exec Ed, when you think about a college of business, we're primarily dealing with students between the ages of 17 and 22, but of course we have master's degrees programs, many MBA programs, doctoral programs, we have certificates, etcetera, etcetera. And like for example, I know in our Executive MBA program, I think the average number of years of experience after undergraduate is something like 13, I believe 12 or 13 years, but we have people that are as old as me in the program periodically.

0:03:11.6 Blythe Eggleston: Only 29, right Matt? [chuckle]

0:03:13.1 Matt Waller: Yeah, right. But because of the dynamism of the market today, and because of all of the disruptive technologies throughout there, people really need to be focused on lifelong learning more now than ever. Would you agree with that?

0:03:30.9 Blythe Eggleston: I do, and I think about when I think about the university's place in that, how have you... Is executive education is our commitment to this idea of a student and a student is forever and a continued learner, and this is our commitment to that embodiment of a student for the entirety of someone's life, and I think that most people recognize the need today to maintain knowledge, especially given that it's at the ready, you can... It's out there, you can find it, you can find learning opportunities, be it a program or a book or whatever it may be, quickly and easily just with a few keys into a Google search, and we want to ensure we're an important part of that. We're a high quality part of that, and that's really where my mindset goes when I think about how does executive education fit in a university environment? It is our commitment to the idea of a lifelong student and learner.

0:04:36.8 Matt Waller: Now, I know you've actually been a lifelong learner yourself, you've been helping people be lifelong learners, you studied it, you have a degree in it, you must really be drawn to this concept, what got you so interested in it?

0:04:55.5 Blythe Eggleston: A few... Just little anecdotes from pop culture, I think a little bit about... Just recently, we were speaking with a candidate for our Associate Director position in Little Rock, and she asked what I liked about this job, and I know this sounds simplistic, but anyone that grew up watching Mr. Rogers, and remember, he goes to all of the different factories and plants, and you got to see how paper was made and crayons were made and that's how I feel about this job when we work with our clients, I never knew they did it like that, I never knew that it took so much to get this thing to my door, and just all of those experiences, I think, and manifested themselves into... I wanted to learn how other people learn and that level of fascination, I wanted to be a part of creating that for others.

0:05:50.4 Matt Waller: So executive education, and then we've got what we call open enrollment courses, and we have customized courses... What's the difference between the two?

0:06:00.9 Blythe Eggleston: Yeah, no, that's a great thing for us to distinguish is open enrollment courses are typically geared toward an individual with an interest in a course, or possibly a small group of individuals from an organization that wanna learn about something.

0:06:16.0 Blythe Eggleston: They enroll themselves, get online, look at the class, see if it's a fit for them, and then work with us one-on-one to become enrolled, and then logistically get there and have that experience. Our custom courses were very proud to have deep trusting relationships with a lot of organizations, we work really hard, they'll come to us with a business problem, they think that a training and development program might help solve or mitigate, or they'll come to us with a very clear and identified need for a training program and we work with them, we typically get very involved in knowing them, knowing their cultures, their learners, what their current orientation is in their organization for training and development, and we really like to step in there pretty quick and feel like part of the team. So those are the two differences between open enrollment and custom programming.

0:07:14.1 Matt Waller: Now, what if someone thinks... Yeah, I want to say develop my leadership skills, but I'm not really an executive in our company, maybe they define executives as people that are vice presidents or above, and maybe I'm a manager, say I'm a senior manager of something. Is it okay for me to take executive education courses?

0:07:40.6 Blythe Eggleston: Yeah. We actually get that question a lot. Executive education has evolved into a generic term almost for university-based, mostly university-based non-credit training and development programs, it doesn't necessarily mean is exclusive for executives, it's typically for someone who's obviously out of an undergraduate program, but we have people in our courses that have been in the workplace for one year, 10 years, 20 years, even more, so what we offer resonates with people regardless of what level they're in in the workplace.

0:08:18.7 Matt Waller: So Blythe, what is the Walton College executive education view of a lifelong learner? And how do you see them?

0:08:30.1 Blythe Eggleston: We see them as an experienced adult professional in the workplace who has most likely a demanding job, and we see them when they come to us and they've got email building up, maybe they have colleagues, co-worker, subordinate leadership texting them, we know that there's an expectation for them that when they go back, they're able to share knowledge, apply knowledge the next day, which makes executive education and adult learning a lot different. They're typically, some are just the theory of adult learning, they are independent learners, and they want to be able to see that they are recognized for the experiences they bring to the conversation. Just as a side note, I went to a program one time and the instructor said he had two goals for the group, the first goal was to re-inspire and the second goal was to release the wisdom in the room, and that is a different... That's a different approach in adult learning, and that's what we really wanna achieve, our instructors, they provide the knowledge, but they also facilitate it and let everyone connect over mutual experiences in the workplace. If you think about an undergraduate student, they're learning, they're exploring they're thinking, it's possible, they may not have an opportunity to apply that knowledge from a course for years down the road. For an adult learner, that's potentially in a few hours they're expected to apply that knowledge and share it with others.

0:10:03.6 Blythe Eggleston: And the other thing that makes an adult learner different is their motivation is typically different, and we see that, we know that they are typically internally motivated, they wanna be better, they wanna have a promotion, they want work to be potentially a little easier, they want to take on new responsibilities, move into a different department, we see all those variables for them as a learner, and we'll do everything we can to eliminate any barrier that's between them and learning.

0:10:34.1 Matt Waller: When you think about the facilities, I know certainly our University of Arkansas Fayetteville Walton college campus has plenty of facilities for executive education, but we've also got a facility in Little Rock, and now we've got a facility in Bentonville, if I want a program for my company, is there one particular location that would be better than another?

0:11:05.1 Blythe Eggleston: I don't think so, but I do recognize that as adult learners, they have a lot of demands going on in their lives both personally and professionally, so it is great to have those locations, they're typically nearby a business or an organization. And there is so much value in leaving the workplace, sometimes there's that immersion piece that really strengthens if you go off-site, sometimes that's not possible, and we are certainly able to go to any organization, but we're also able to create this other world and an experience for them, that's a little bit different, and there's balancing comfort and discomfort when you take someone off-site, you want them to be physically comfortable, you want them to enjoy the space, but you also want them to feel that slight bit of discomfort that comes with change and we're able to really enhance that if we are able to bring an organization into one of our locations.

0:12:03.3 Matt Waller: In some cases though, let's suppose we have a company that maybe their senior people want training in one thing, but they want thousands of people trained in another... Are there solutions you have that help with that?

0:12:20.9 Blythe Eggleston: Yeah, that's kind of back to our approach of having an instructor and a provider integrate with them early on, we actually, had actually a call very similar to this yesterday, where an organization... It was the same topic, essentially the same focus, but the leadership group wanted a little bit different version of it, but then they wanted 50 people on their team to have a version of it as well, and the version that the leadership wanted was both the content plus how to help everybody else implement this particular topic, and we're well-versed in that and... It's fun. It really is, it really is fun getting to identify the persona of the people that are going to be in that and what barriers they're facing, what challenges and how the content we provide will help that particular group have a better work day, have better outcomes for the company. And we recognize the value of that time. And so it's important to us.

0:13:25.7 Matt Waller: What if a company wants online training.

0:13:28.9 Blythe Eggleston: We absolutely can provide online training, which is really helpful, especially when you have teams that are in remote locations or multiple different locations. One thing though, we're really trying to pay attention to over this past year, is how do you maintain a level of experience with that? By experience, when you walk out of a training program, there are times anybody can recall when they've been in... It's just you felt like you were totally present, you were in another world, you were listening to everything despite everything else going on. Now, that's harder to do in a virtual world. I think you have to be really intentional. And what we've talked about with our instructors a lot is really think about see, hear, do, they see you on the screen, the learners they are listening, and then try to have them do something even if it's stand up and go find the mug that you're drinking out of or we have a worksheet to help you reflect whatever it would be, we're trying to really strengthen those experiences, so we do offer online training, but we want it to be different, and we want it to be an experience in itself, even if it is two dimensional as a screen.

0:14:42.3 Matt Waller: So Blythe, when students take an executive education course, they're giving up time, time from work, time from personal... How do you view that?

0:14:55.8 Blythe Eggleston: We see everyone that comes into executive education as someone who's giving us their time, and I think about... I don't know why, but this scene plays in my head over and over again from a movie called Erin Brockovich. I think it came out in the late '90s or the early 2000s, and Julie Roberts starred in it, but she's in an argument with her supervisor, her boss, who's an attorney, and she is kind of a legal assistant, and he tells her she's getting too upset and to not take something personally, and Julie Roberts gets really upset and yells and screams and says, "This is my blood, my sweat, my tears, my time away from my home and my kids, this is my work. Of course, I'm gonna take it personally." And every time I think about when we ask for someone's time, I think about that trade, we have asked them to give us their time, and we recognize value of that, we think about... When I say we, I mean our team, we think about what our time means to us, and we wanna make sure we're giving everyone far more than a fair shake for their time away from their home or their workplace.

0:16:04.2 Matt Waller: We've been doing Exec Ed in the Walton College for a long time. And I remember back in the '90s, I think it was, they asked me to do a program on sales forecasting using point of sale data, and I had experience with that in a number of ways, but also I've studied it from an academic perspective, and I remember it was a two-day course. The first one I did I think had, I think it was 28 people, if I remember correctly, experienced people from teams in town, and I asked everyone to bring data on a desk... [chuckle] If you can believe that... We had a computer lab, and I said, "The way I teach is we just actually jump in and start forecasting in a way that was really practical," and one nice thing about that was that to some degree, they felt like they were doing their work, they were actually doing something that they needed to do anyway. And they were having trouble with it. I remember though, there were times, there are some things you can't forecast, for example, if a product sells maybe on average one unit per week in a store and you wanna forecast daily demand, you can't do it, so sometimes...

0:17:31.0 Matt Waller: Again, this is over 20 years ago, but I remember it was the first time I realised really clearly that a lot of times people don't know what they need, they thought they needed forecasting, but they really needed to learn more about inventory management. And one of the things I've always liked about custom education for companies, at least in my experience, every time I've been involved over the years, we've talked to really senior people at the company to understand what's their objective.

0:18:03.8 Blythe Eggleston: That's kind of... If I could throw back to that conversation about how we talk with our custom clients, and those conversations are not 30-minute conversations, if we wanna really make and help them achieve an outcome. So to give a parallel to that, we have a lot of clients that come to us and say they need leadership training, that's a really broad range of skills and competencies that fit under leadership. So our next question is, we try to get to the anecdotes, what is this lack of leadership in your organization look like? And not just one anecdote, but a series of them, and sometimes the outcome of that maybe actually they have a challenging email culture, or there's really a broad set of people that don't know how to write a good email, to communicate effectively about technical issues or whatever that could be, but it somehow manifests itself to a leader in the organization as a leadership problem, and so we try to really help discover what might actually be needed. And I think it's worth mentioning our process, what we go back to a client with initially, something we call a program concept, but we also really try to capture outcomes, what does your organization look like after everyone has gone through this program? And that could look like a decrease in conflict and a shorter time to solidifying deals or whatever it may be.

0:19:41.2 Blythe Eggleston: That's an organizational outcome. Now, the reason an organization is able to achieve that outcome through training development is because individuals learned very specific learning objectives around potentially brevity or how to write a great subject line, whatever it may be... I'm just using that as an example, but you're right, sometimes people don't know exactly what they need, and everyone's language around what is needed is different, so we try to get to the heart of the challenge and the problem and the desired outcome.

0:20:17.2 Matt Waller: So Blythe for those listening who are interested now, what is the next step for them, how should they contact you or work with you, either for open enrollment or for customized?

0:20:29.9 Blythe Eggleston: Yes. I would say visit our website, we have our courses that are on our website for open enrollment, we also have a video there that talks about how we create online content, we also have information about options for custom delivery as well, and so... Custom's, a long conversation, and we just love for people to reach out and we can get started from there.

0:20:53.6 Matt Waller: Thank you so much Blythe.

0:20:56.0 Blythe Eggleston: Alright, thank you, Matt.

0:20:58.8 Matt Waller: Thanks for listening to today's episode of the Be Epic podcast from the Walton College. You can find us on Google, SoundCloud, iTunes, or look for us, wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us, you can find current and past episodes by searching, beepic podcast, one word, that's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now be be epic.


Matt WallerMatthew A. Waller is the dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair and professor of supply chain management. He is also the host for the Be EPIC Podcast for Walton College.


Walton College's EPIC values -- Excellence, Professionalism, Innovation and Collegiality -- are the heart of Dean Waller’s podcast. Since the beginning of the series, Waller has interviewed business professionals, industry experts, CEOs and Walton College students to bring listeners first-hand accounts directly from the entrepreneurial world.


Waller is an SEC Academic Leadership Fellow and coauthor of “The Definitive Guide to Inventory Management: Principles and Strategies for the Efficient Flow of Inventory across the Supply Chain,” published by Pearson Education. He is the former co-editor-in-chief of Journal of Business Logistics. His opinion pieces have appeared in Wall Street Journal Asia and Financial Times.


Waller received an M.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and a B.S.B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri.

Walton College

Walton College of Business

Since its founding at the University of Arkansas in 1926, the Sam M. Walton College of Business has grown to become the state's premier college of business – as well as a nationally competitive business school. Learn more...

Be Epic Podcast

We're sitting down with innovators and business mavericks to discuss strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship. The Be EPIC Podcast is hosted by Matthew Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Learn more...

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