Jonathon Schilling is a 2017 alumnus of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He received his degree in International Business with an Economics Concentration and graduated summa cum laude. Jonathon currently works in the Business Skills Rotation Program at Boeing where he administers contractual operations and functions for Boeing's Global Services Group Program.
00:08 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'm here today with Jonathon Schilling. Jonathon is originally from St. Louis, Missouri area. He came to the Sam M. Walton College of Business to go to the business school and to major in International Business, and he graduated in 2017.
00:47 Jonathon Schilling: Correct.
00:48 Matt Waller: And he now works for Boeing in...
00:52 Jonathon Schilling: Oklahoma City.
00:53 Matt Waller: Oklahoma City. And he had to be very persistent about it. Jonathon had a great experience here in the Walton College, and we're gonna talk a little bit about that, but Jonathon, thank you for joining me today.
01:07 Jonathon Schilling: Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here with you right before the hogs game today.
01:12 Matt Waller: Yeah, it should be fun. We're playing LSU today. [chuckle]
01:15 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah, it should be interesting. We'll see how that goes.
01:17 Matt Waller: It's going to be a little challenging today, but Jonathon, I wanna start out with the fact that you're from the St. Louis area, which is a wonderful city. My wife's from St. Louis and I really appreciate St. Louis.
01:34 Jonathon Schilling: Yup, it's a great place to be from, and all my family is still there.
01:39 Matt Waller: And of course, Boeing has a big facility there and you've wound up working for Boeing.
01:44 Jonathon Schilling: Exactly, yeah. The story behind that is my dad worked for Boeing, and basically grew up with that, with Boeing around the dinner table if you will, growing up and influenced by the company. And they have a large presence in St. Louis. And so, that was one of the reasons why... Well, I grew up there.
02:04 Matt Waller: Well, it says a lot for Boeing that your father worked there for... How long?
02:11 Jonathon Schilling: 32 years.
02:12 Matt Waller: 32 years. And that you wanted to work there, and that you eventually got to work there.
02:18 Jonathon Schilling: Yup. It was a life-long aspiration, that's for sure.
02:22 Matt Waller: Well, that says a lot for Boeing. That's exciting. And then being from St. Louis, St. Louis is a huge city, but you're close to lots of other schools. You're close to Mizzou. You're close to the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. There's just a lot of schools that you're really... University of Iowa.
02:46 Jonathon Schilling: Saint Louis University.
02:48 Matt Waller: Saint Louis University?
02:49 Jonathon Schilling: Yup.
02:50 Matt Waller: UMSL. University of Missouri, St. Louis, but you chose to go to the University of Arkansas, the Sam M. Walton College of Business. I'm glad you did.
03:00 Jonathon Schilling: Thank you. So am I.
03:00 Matt Waller: You were a great student. [chuckle]
03:02 Jonathon Schilling: Thank you.
03:03 Matt Waller: And would you tell me just a little bit about the background there?
03:07 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah, of course. You're right. There were a lot of options to consider when I was going away to college, but after I was evaluating all of the options and keeping Arkansas in the running, I came there to visit and do the whole campus visit for Arkansas, and really fell in love with, originally initially, the setting that Arkansas is set in, in the Ozark Mountains. It was unlike anything that I'd experienced anywhere else, and it also completely flipped my assumption of what Arkansas was upside down. Northwest Arkansas to me, blew me away as far as how beautiful this campus is and just the surrounding area. I kind of view it as a city on a hill, but it's a campus on a hill, especially when you see Old Main from far away. It's got like a mythic legendary aspect to it that I was really drawn to, and then once I actually got more educated on Arkansas, and started to evaluate the financials of it, the value that I saw in this program really started to shine through.
04:06 Jonathon Schilling: The fact of how highly ranked the Sam M. Walton College of Business is and how much funding and support that it has from massive companies, aside from Walmart, but, and obviously that's in there too, really made it synthesize for me a pretty easy decision at that point because, quite frankly, it was for me more exciting, more of a step outside of my comfort zone, and cheaper to go to Arkansas than it was to go to University of Illinois Champaign or even Mizzou. And so, that's kind of the... All of those reasons culminated in my decision and I have never regretted it for a second, never once has it crossed my mind that I shouldn't have gone here. I'd felt immediately that I belonged here. And I have loved every second of it, never looked back.
05:01 Matt Waller: Wow. I'm so glad to hear that. And I know, one thing I was really impressed at, and the reason we wound up meeting, of course, I shook your hand when you went across the stage, but a thousand other students went across the stage and I didn't know you, but the reason I got to know you is you wrote some letters to your former professors after you graduated, and thanked them for what they did. And I was super impressed with that. And they shared the letters, the emails with me, and I said, "I wanna meet him." And I found out you were in town and so that's how we set this up and here it is, a Saturday, a game day. The game starts in two and a half hours.
05:46 Jonathon Schilling: Yup, yup. We're being very productive today, but yeah, the letters... Those two professors had a profound impact on my collegiate career and, really, established in a foundation of international curiosity. That I already had but really kind of made it more intense and gave it a context that I didn't have before. And it just was... I guess kind of a for it to come back around full circle to incorporate the lessons that they had taught me, to actually materialize in my post graduate career was something very special and something that I felt it pertinent to show my gratitude for. And so the letters were just, I knew that I was gonna be in Fayetteville for the game and they were some of my favorite professors that I had and I really liked them as not only professors but as people. And if I had an opportunity to thank them in person, I wanted to take it while I was here for the LSU game.
06:53 Matt Waller: Well I think that says a lot about you that you took that initiative and that will go far for you in life.
07:00 Jonathon Schilling: Thank you.
07:00 Matt Waller: Now let's talk about each of them. One of them is Robert Stapp.
07:04 Jonathon Schilling: Correct.
07:05 Matt Waller: And he taught Japanese economics, was that what it was?
07:09 Jonathon Schilling: Yep. So I had Stapp for a number of economics courses in the honors college over the course of my college time. But one of the courses that he's very, very passionate about is his elective Japanese economics course. And I took that course. I am not very familiar with Japan, never been, but I really like Stapp and I like his passion and the way that he teaches and so I wanted to learn something new. And took the class and enjoyed it thoroughly. And then for all of the lessons that he taught in that class to come back around at my current job was something special I wanted to thank him for.
07:49 Matt Waller: And the other course was a strategy course by Vikas Anand. Professor Anand is also the director of our MBA programs as well as a professor in management. Now this course from Vikas was on strategy but he also brought in lots of international aspects to it.
08:12 Jonathon Schilling: Exactly. So he really highlighted not only the strategy of domestic US companies, but really brought in and weaved in an international thread to the course and showing how other companies of other countries approach business in general and that there, with culture comes a different approach to life and then a different approach to business. So he did a really effective job at highlighting that and preparing the students to not only be domestic business people but international and global business minded. And that really rang true to me and struck a chord. And also just like with Stapp, Vikas has his own teaching style that I really admire. And is very laid back and very thoughtful in what he says.
09:03 Matt Waller: He is.
09:03 Jonathon Schilling: And... Which is very impressive. Just to listen to him speak in the class but also just in general. I'm looking forward to meeting him tomorrow and thanking him in person. Hopefully I'll be able to thank Stapp in person today actually so.
09:15 Matt Waller: Good. When I first became dean three and a half years ago, as soon as I did I got Vikas to help me complete our strategic planning process. I thought we might as well go to the expert and have him do it and he did a great job but and anyway when you were here in the Walton college, I know you also in addition to taking some classes that had international business content, you also went on a couple of study broad type of programs.
09:58 Jonathon Schilling: That's right.
10:00 Matt Waller: One of them was to Panama and although you're an international business major with an emphasis in economics you did a study abroad that was more focused on supply chain management and that was to Panama. Would you mind talking a little bit about that?
10:17 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah. I'd be happy to. So that trip was directed by Dr Terry Esper and he also had a profound impact on me over the course of that trip and then also the supply chain course as well in addition that I took supplementary. I...
10:36 Matt Waller: Was that international? So... Or did you take just introduction to supply chain management?
10:41 Jonathon Schilling: Correct.
10:41 Matt Waller: Okay.
10:41 Jonathon Schilling: Correct. That was taught by Dr Esper. And so I already had a, ironically enough it could be as far as the credits worked out for that international study abroad course, it could be considered supply chain or economics, because it had, we also visited banks and studied a little bit of the banking strategy in the banking environment in Panama which was very interesting and a little bit of an outlier. Because of the different I guess you can say relaxed banking laws that exist in Panama as opposed to other countries in the Americas. So that's why... I was interested in supply chain management, but I was also interested in the economic aspect as well. So it was kind of a two birds with one stone situation.
11:25 Matt Waller: And how old are you right now?
11:27 Jonathon Schilling: 23.
11:28 Matt Waller: Yeah I mean, I think when I was 23 I had no clue about some of the things you're talking about. That's very impressive. But it's kind of neat too that they integrated both supply chain management and economics and finance into one study abroad program.
11:45 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah. And law too. Dr Esper set up a great itinerary throughout the whole month that we were there. Every day we were meeting different types of business people in Panama. From supply chain directors that work for companies like DHL for example, to the directors of the national bank of Panama, to a lawyer that deals with international law for Panamanian companies that also have a heavy presence in the United States or vice versa. And another interesting aspect of Panama is just the influence that the United States has had on the country over the history of the last century with the Panamanian canal. For a period of time there, that canal was US territory and actually part of, considered the United States. And so they use the American Dollar still, the us dollar. Just having that awareness and all of that exposure was really something interesting to me and I'm so thankful that I was able to leverage and actually go down there and experience it first hand.
12:55 Matt Waller: What was the Panama Canal like?
12:58 Jonathon Schilling: So it was actually a very special time to be there while I was there, that was 2015. The summer of 2015 that I was there because they were about half way through expanding the canal, expanding the capacity to allow for a larger girth of ship to just be wider because as global trade is expanding and growing so is the ships. Actually, the capacity of the ships and so the Panama Canal itself was so amazing the fact that how old it was when it was first created in the technology that was leveraged in the early 1900s. In order to actually lift ships up and over land to get to the lakes that basically connect through the different locks to get from the Pacific to the Atlantic. So, that was very interesting and to see the new expansion locks under construction was very special because it was the first one that was happening in a 100 years. I think as I understand it now, those locks are complete and they're operating and functioning as they should so it's very interesting.
14:05 Matt Waller: And then the other international experience you had was in Spain.
14:09 Jonathon Schilling: That's correct.
14:09 Matt Waller: Would you tell us a little bit about that.
14:11 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah, so just as a quick background I was born in Spain but moved back to United States when I was two years old and had never been back since and so I wanted to try and use my college experience as an opportunity to go back to Spain and visit kinda where I was born and but also tie back into international business in some way shape or form and so that made sense with an exchange program. So I studied abroad for a semester at Universidad de Carlos Tercero which is just south of Madrid and it's the exchange program that the University of Arkansas has with the University in Spain, studied Econometrics in International Macro and Micro Economics there. It's very challenging especially for kind of the last semester of my college career which is when I ended up going over but it was so rewarding to go back to where I was from. And my parents raised me kinda with a little bit of the Spanish culture just because they spent so much time over there and it's a big part of their life. So to go back and kind of see the country up close and through my own eyes was, I'm so glad I took that opportunity and just went for it basically... Yeah.
15:26 Matt Waller: You know, when you're in the Walton College you take... You start off by taking a little bit of everything, business, law, accounting, finance marketing, management, supply chain management, economics, etcetera, etcetera, information systems. You take all these different courses and then you eventually by the time you get into your junior year you start taking more specialized although really the whole time you're in the Walton College you're studying business but you study other things and you study different sometimes you might focus a little more on accounting or more on finance or whatever the case may be in your case international and economics. But did you find the academic content to be interesting and useful from a business perspective?
16:18 Jonathon Schilling: Absolutely. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do when I first entered into the Walton college of Business. I know I wanted to be in business but I didn't know that I wanted to for sure go into economics and for sure be, have an international aspect to it. That was synthesized over a period of time and taking, being exposed to the accounting course and the finance course and business law like you said. As far as the educational content of these courses goes, what was very impressive to me was how each professor had their own special and unique spin or impact that influence on the content of the course. A great example is with Vikas Anand, that course that I took was honors strategic management and his background growing up and being born in India and then using that as kind of a springboard to highlight how Indian business operates for example and juxtaposed those differences with the United States and how we here conduct business. Was something so special and interesting to me that made it engaging and fun to learn it, interesting as opposed to just learning details and memorizing concepts. So it gave me a real world context to what we were learning which made it a lot more engaging and interesting in my opinion. That's just one example of many.
17:50 Matt Waller: When you move down here of course you mentioned earlier that you thought the area was pretty because of the Ozarks and I agree with you. It's one of the reasons why I still live here and been here for 25 years. I love the beauty here. And of course, now you're living in Oklahoma City but you're back for a football game. So we've been focused a lot on the academics which is the main reason you come here anyway but there's a lot of other things here and one are sports and extra curricular activities.
18:32 Jonathon Schilling: Correct.
18:33 Matt Waller: What kinds of extra curricular activities did you enjoy?
18:37 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah, that's a great question. So in addition to the academics and joining the Walton Honors College and satisfying all of those requirements which I think is something a topic in of itself that is worth noting, how great the Honors College and specific is for students. The extra curriculars here are, have made such an impact on my life and specifically the fraternity that I joined at the University of Arkansas.
19:03 Matt Waller: Which one's that?
19:05 Jonathon Schilling: I joined Phi Gamma Delta, Fiji fraternity here. We're one of the largest chapters in the nation, and I took on a leadership role as a pledge educator for the fraternity, which in addition to what I was learning in the classroom, I was really learning how to manage and lead an organization and uphold certain standards for those that I was kind of leading, that were modeling their approach to college after my behavior, kind of leading by example. And so, I got an opportunity to kind of run, almost, an organization that had conflicting agendas and different opinions about different sort of things that had to be mediated or facilitated, and so, that made a massive impact on my confidence level and engaging with other people that have, like I said, conflicting agendas or want different things for different reasons, and managing people in general. And I also just, the camaraderie of the fraternal-ness that you enjoy there is just, it's amazing to me.
20:16 Matt Waller: Now, personally, I wasn't involved in the Greek system when I went to college, but I have four kids and one of them graduated from the Walton College a couple of years ago and she was ChiO.
20:31 Jonathon Schilling: That's awesome.
20:32 Matt Waller: I've got a son that's a senior who is Lambda Chi, and I've got a son that's a sophomore that's a Sigma Chi, and I've got a daughter that's in high school. But all of them have had really good experiences with the Greek system here. And of course, our Greek system here is larger than I think most schools. I've heard it's the largest. I don't know if that's actually accurate, but it's one of them.
20:56 Jonathon Schilling: It's one of the largest, and I'll be honest, it's... I didn't come into college wanting to join a fraternity. I didn't... It wasn't something that my dad did, but I'm so glad that I did and it is really a vibrant community, in my opinion, and one that really does an impressive job of preparing its members to make that transition into the real world from college to post-graduate career life. I would highly suggest anybody that is semi-interested in it to just at least give it a shot, and if you don't like it, at least you gave it... The worst that can happen is that now you know for sure. I really enjoyed it. I went into it with a very open mind and I've got so much out of it, so many lifelong friends now that I would not have ever met had I not joined, and yeah also just feel very fortunate and gracious to be, to have that opportunity to join that fraternity and have that impact on my life.
21:54 Matt Waller: That's great. So, now, you mentioned the outdoors. What kind of things do you enjoy doing outdoors?
22:03 Jonathon Schilling: Well, I'm really into cycling. I sort of attribute it to Lance Armstrong, even though that may not be the best person to, but that's who everyone knows, but also mountain biking as well. There's a really great trail called Slaughterhouse, it sounds...
22:16 Matt Waller: Slaughter Pen.
22:17 Jonathon Schilling: Slaughter Pen, yeah. I went out there a couple times. It sounds a little bit...
22:22 Matt Waller: It sounds gruesome. [chuckle]
22:23 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah, exactly, gruesome or intimidating, but it's a great trail, and yeah, the community here, as I understand it, is growing rapidly as far as mountain biking goes, but in addition to that hiking. So, Devil's Den is just, what 25-30 minutes away, and it's gorgeous. Actually, when I was growing up and going through high school, I did a lot of racing for cycling, and the first time I actually came to Fayetteville was for the Joe Martin Stage Race. Which is a bicycle race that occurs here that's one of the biggest in the country, and I raced in that race before I even came to college and that was my first time seeing that Arkansas isn't just all cornfields and plain, but is actually incredibly beautiful Ozark hill country, more or less.
23:11 Matt Waller: Northwest Arkansas has world class mountain biking.
23:16 Jonathon Schilling: Yes.
23:16 Matt Waller: Some of the best in the United States without question, and of course they're constantly putting in... Did you ever go on the Razorback Greenway?
23:29 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah, I ran on that and roller-bladed on that, I went to the Hyper and rented out skates, actually, roller skates, and roller skated all throughout that and actually ran a half marathon with my dad here.
23:42 Matt Waller: Did you really?
23:42 Jonathon Schilling: Which incorporated a lot of those trails. Yeah. That was... That was an interesting experience. I didn't really train for it very much and I was pretty sore for a pretty long time after that half marathon, but that really leveraged the Greenway trails. And are they adding on to it, as I understand?
24:00 Matt Waller: It goes from south Fayetteville really all the way from Mount Kessler, which also has great mountain biking, all the way up to Bella Vista, almost to Missouri. But they keep adding more and more spurs so you can get to it from... You can really get to just about anything you want in Northwest Arkansas now, on the trails.
24:18 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah. The infrastructure here is impressive to me. I remember coming down here for the first time and all of the highway was under construction. And that's all done now, for any prospective high school students wanting to come here, there's no construction anymore, at least not in the highly trafficked areas.
24:38 Matt Waller: Anything else you wanna tell me about, with respect to your international?
24:45 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah. I think there'd be just one key aspect or key concept that I took away from studying abroad and from the various teachers that had the international underpinning to their courses, and the word that I use for it is awareness, having an understanding and awareness that there are different approaches to business and life outside of the United States, and for students to have that awareness, I think is something special and to understand that there are customs and approaches to business that cause them to function in different ways outside of the United States could be a factor leveraged and could set somebody apart as they're entering the business world because of how globalized business is now, and as it's becoming more international and more intertwined and that's, as it should be, that awareness is an X factor, I think, that makes students who have that stand out.
26:00 Matt Waller: I agree. Jonathon, thank you so much for taking time to, one, come back, I'm thrilled you're still coming back to the University of Arkansas, but two, to take time on when you could be out tailgating, having a lot of fun talking to the dean, which isn't as much fun, but I appreciate you doing that so much.
26:16 Jonathon Schilling: Yeah. Thank you so much as well, taking time out of your Saturday to talk to me and make time for a student, and also, I just wanna say thank you for all of the above and beyond effort that you put forth to grow this program and make it even better. It's already really, really good and you're doing a fantastic job and continuing to improve it. I think I cannot wait to see what this program looks like five to 10 years down the road, and I will definitely be coming back for years to come.
26:44 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 Epic.