University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 1: The Dean Team Discusses Platforms as They Relate to the Future of Education

December 05, 2018  |  By Matt Waller

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In this episode, the Walton College Dean Team including Matt Waller, Anne O'Leary-Kelly, Alan Ellstrand, and Brent Williams discuss topics related to higher education and beyond.

Anne O'Leary-Kelly is the Senior Associate Dean of the Walton College of Business. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in Business Administration and Management from Michigan State University.

Alan Ellstrand is the Associate Dean for Programs and Research at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. He previously served as the Director of MBA Programs.

Brent Williams is the Associate Dean for Executive Education and Outreach and Garrison Endowed Chair in Supply Chain Management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

Episode Transcript


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.

00:27 Matt Waller: We are here with the associate deans, we have Anne O'Leary-Kelly, who is Senior Associate Dean and Alan Ellstrand Associate Dean and Brent Williams, Associate dean. We are talking about the future and what the future might mean for the Walton College but there's so many trends going on. And overall we know that the Walton College our vision is through our research teaching and service to be thought leaders and catalysts for transforming lives. But what does that look like in 10 years versus how can we be doing things today to prepare for the future, that will really set us apart and allow us to be thought leaders? In fact this very conversation fits with our vision since we're supposed to be thought leaders, but it will also help us in being catalysts for transforming lives because we'll know better how to structure things to do that. So, let's start out by just picking a trend and any trend that we want. Brent do you wanna go first?

01:36 Brent Williams: Sure, I'll start. I think the one that's interesting to me the most right now is this idea of platforms that we see emerging in business. So three examples that come to my mind, Amazon of course comes to mind comes to my mind, Uber comes to my mind. All of those are platforms, platforms have three characters or actors I guess if you will, the platform owner, producers and consumers. And I think it's just interesting to think about us as the Walton College, acting as a platform. And so when I think about when you said The vision map the two pieces of that that jumped out at me thought leader and catalyst for transforming lives and it just made me think about in 10 years, I think that still holds true, it seems rather timeless how we are a thought leader, how we transform lives. Is that different because this idea of being a platform, I'd love to hear...

[overlapping conversation]

02:31 Matt Waller: Brent just to the quick follow-up if you take Uber, just as an example and how that... It really was... Really Uber is a digitized ecommerce approach to Taxi Black Car Service. And no one thought it would work, because originally when the idea came out, people thought who would wanna get in a car with a stranger but we know now that actually it's probably safer than taxis, because you get in a car and you can see Okay this person has given 5000 rides and he has an average of 4.95 stars. And there's comments about that person. And all the people who didn't get good ratings. They're not even driving anymore.

03:21 Brent Williams: Yeah. I think for a platform, I think there's three key things. This comes to my mind, one is access. Right? And think about with Uber, it allowed us to access this capacity that was out there that we didn't even know really existed before they uncovered it. Or maybe we knew it was there but we never thought about unlocking it. You think about... Think about Amazon, with millions of sellers that you and I can access on our phone immediately and think about without that platform, how much time or effort and we might could for a given product maybe we could access five right? Maybe we have enough time to go do that kind of research. Price transparency, I think, about what these platforms do for the transparency of pricing, you can see prices across almost any retailer anytime you want it in any location that you want it. And then... But you mentioned reviews, and that's another thing, right? So the peer to peer review is something that has emerged from this platform idea, that's powerful.

04:24 Matt Waller: Well, back to your capacity thing. Yeah they unleashed a bunch of capacity. I mean, I remember when I used to be in New York City if it rained, you couldn't get a taxi but now you can get an Uber, even if it's snowing. You might pay a little more, but you'll get one. And think about Airbnb the amount of ho... We used to have to build hotel capacity, to maximum demand. And now you don't need to because Airbnb kind soaks up that extra capacity. So there's that, there's the reviews. I guess we're already seeing a little bit of this if you look at Rate My Professor. If you'll take a look at Rate My Professor.

05:08 Alan Ellstrand: I have. And I noticed recently they got rid of the chili pepper which I think it was about time that they did.

05:15 Matt Waller: I know.


05:16 Matt Waller: Yeah I always felt really... How come...

05:18 Brent Williams: Did it embarrass you Alan that you had the chili pepper...

05:19 Alan Ellstrand: I evaded that chili pepper, in my defense.


05:22 Alan Ellstrand: I was very relieved when they got rid of that. But yeah it's... That's sort of the democratization of the process, right? That students can go out of our system and weigh in on the quality of our products. And clearly, before the internet, there was no meaningful way to do that 'cause they got the local media or something but nobody was really interested. So that's a pretty big change. It's... I think, Rate My Professor is often a good check against what we see in terms of the internal teaching evals. But I noticed, too, with our teaching evals now that we've gone online but internally, the percent responding has gone down quite a bit too. And then that leads to a mental gymnastics over well, who's responding now? Is it a bifurcated distribution, just the few who love you and more likely people who have an axe to grind, people in the middle who are satisfied, not gonna take the effort to respond. It's a little bit hard to know.

06:33 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: I think an interesting thing about platforms too is that it works only if people trust the platform and I don't know that these platforms are mature enough yet for us to know when people will trust them and when they won't. So if you think about the consumers, producers and platform that you just set up Brent. If you think about that in higher education, we're producers, students are consumers. The online platform is what we see going on with a lot of new entrants into higher education market or into education market. But right now, what we have going for us is that we have institutional trust, because of history of this institution and history of campuses like ours. As that erodes, that's when we're really in danger. What will happen though to those online platforms, we already see a lot of pushback on those where there was no trust. So the folks were really taking advantage of students. They're currently still being invested in by the administration, but I think another administration can come in and change that around. And so, I think that's where the interesting part is. Does that platform build? Can it substitute for that institutional trust? And we see some of that going on with Uber.

07:52 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And then, I forget the name of Uber in China. There was kind of another group... Hitch. That's what it was called. And they were essentially... There was a lot of pushback there because they were advertising their ride-sharing service in a way that was very gendered. And so, they were essentially encouraging like, "Oh, if you pick up a ride from this ride-sharing, maybe you'll meet the person you're going to be with in the future," like the driver and the passenger. Well then, that started all kinds of discussions amongst the drivers about only wanting to go pick up the women who were of a certain age and comments about what they look like. Well, you can see how that would build a platform you don't trust at all. I think in our country, we haven't seen that kind of distrust, but we certainly see the bad behavior of Uber executives and things like that. But all of that... If you don't trust that platform, it all goes away. And I think that would be a really interesting area of research to look at and interesting for us as a college, because what we have going for us is the institutional legacy. We gotta hold on to that tight and figure out which aspects of that are critical to manage and maintain, and which aspects we're comfortable with letting go off a little bit. Sometimes I think we argue about the wrong thing.

09:17 Alan Ellstrand: I think that's an excellent point when you think about something like a CPA exam and a CPA credential. I think people accept that it's very specific. There's an exam that's designed to be the gate in terms of the gatekeeping. If people pass that exam at a certain level, they get their credential and they're in. With ours, you think about, our product is a diploma and it really varies so much across colleges, even within colleges. What goes into that diploma? Even across student experiences. Everybody who takes CPA exam, basically takes the same exam. Our students take different exams from different instructors. They take different curriculums. It's conceivable no two students have the same experience coming out. And yet, we put this blanket diploma over all of them and confer that status on them and say, "You're a grad, now go out in the world. And world, trust that this is a good product coming out." It's a lot harder to control and maintain that. And I think we're more vulnerable as a result.

10:24 Brent Williams: Maybe this was why career readiness is so important. And I mean.

10:28 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Yeah. It's exactly why...

10:30 Brent Williams: It's to solve exactly the problem that Alan was talking about.

10:33 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Yeah. In the extracurricular space, it is. Yeah.

10:36 Matt Waller: I think it also points to the fact that we need to be really careful to make sure that we maintain strong criteria for graduation. High standards. Because in some ways, part of our offering is that we are saying these people met these criteria, they accomplished these kinds of things. They're I think we're saying... I think generally, people think, if someone graduated from a major university, they're able to think critically. They're able to learn quickly and apply. But they're also ready to a certain level. I think if someone's graduating from a business school, there's the assumption that they understand accounting and finance and management and strategy and marketing and economics. So that when they're working with their peers in a company, they can talk shop and understand. It's really a lot about communication and learning and understanding. And I think that to your point Alan, our students, even in the Walton College but certainly within the university but also in the Walton College, they have many different experiences.

11:54 Matt Waller: I think you could go a path in the college that would give you more critical thinking skills than another path. You could go a path that would give you more experience working in teams and collaborating than another path. So I think to some degree, what we're talking about here, and Anne, you were really saying we need to maintain our institutional strength, we need to make sure that what we're producing in students is somewhat consistent on the one hand. We wanna give them flexibility if they wanna study one topic versus another. But I think for the general skills, it's really important that there'd be some sort of leveling. And Brent, it gets back to what you just mentioned. Career readiness is one way that we can do that. And since we're talking about that.

12:49 Matt Waller: As a platform, if we do view it as a platform say 10 years out, there's gonna be a lot more platforms. Okay. We see that platforms were introduced in the hotel industry, platforms were introduced to the transportation industry, they're actually being introduced in many industries right now. What would a platform look like really in higher education in the future? Let's just think about Airbnb for a second. What would the Airbnb of higher education and business look like?

13:26 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: I think it'd be just what we were talking about. I think you could say, "Here is the type of professional I want, I want someone who has these skills, these competencies, these experiences." And if you think about the vast number of potential applicants you might survey, you could be very particular about what you're looking for there. I want somebody who's had experience in China, and Egypt and Ireland. [chuckle] And there's gonna be somebody in this country, who has that along with these different skills. And these knowledge basis. If you thought about an Uber platform around the world, you can search for who you're looking for for a job. And that's back to institutional trust again, because if there's some benefit we get that leads the person who's hiring a student to say, and I want them to be from the Walton College because I know that I can trust the consistent quality of those students. That's a parameter they enter 'cause they're searching for who they're looking for. If they don't say that then...

14:32 Matt Waller: You know Anne I think that's a really good point. See an Uber, you're just paying to get from point A to point B. So this is a big difference between a platform and a taxi service so to speak and a taxi and a platform in higher education and business. Because what we're looking for is more equivocal. The dimensions are There's more dimensions, we're not just going from point A to point B. We're looking for someone to hire that has certain kinds of knowledge and experiences and that's why back to the institutional part, it seems to me that this could be broader than what we typically think. If a company were looking for someone to do business in Arkansas, it might not be best to go to New York University to find an employee.

15:27 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Exactly... Yeah, somebody who knows this area their community, the people in this state, the culture. And I think we forget too that, there would be this issue of if there's a platform in this area, the employer choosing the applicants. But it goes the other way too. So as we're talking about building out a platform like this in career services, a large part of it is how does the company profile themselves and what are the key dimensions that they need to identify 'cause the student is gonna search in the same way, right? I want a company that has a conscience, I want a company that pays high, I want a company that's located in these two states.

16:10 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And so companies are gonna have to think about how they present themselves in a different way too. And that's already happening now with some of these with the WeWork platform that's already part of they're building out that employer part. We heard that in the dream board, remember when they said, "we wanna be able to present ourselves to the students, and we wanna see the student, and then we can match and you all get out of the way."

16:33 Brent Williams: So I think when you are... So we're talking about one dimension of our platform I think. We're talking about students and jobs, thus far. But there's more dimensions than that. So you just brought up our companies that look at us to hire our students or to engage with our faculty. It can be part of our platform. Our alumni are a part of our platform, our faculty. The interesting thing about a platform is that all parties have to add value to it. You think about, well how do I do that with an Amazon? I give my opinions or feedback, via reviews or product reviews, experience reviews to make the platform better. So I think it's interesting that two things: All the parties have to contribute, and then the platforms that are most successful are the ones creating the most meaningful engagements between all of these parties.

17:31 Brent Williams: And not just two, but all of the parties in. And I actually think that when I think about the Walton college, I think that's why we're positioned very, very well over the future. If we think that way, think about the accreditation teams that have visited us, some of the things that they've said is how connected we are. Companies that are connected to us, interacting with us. Think of how many executives come and give their time in the classroom. I think we have an advantage, a big advantage as we think about ourselves as bringing all of these players on the platform.

18:05 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Is it just because we've done it early though, because of the gift we receive from the Walton's and because of the place we are in the world, is that replicable by others once they jump into this space or is there something we need to be doing to make sure that we don't get pushed aside?

18:22 Alan Ellstrand: I think the... I think we have a fairly unusual business environment here in terms of the three major companies, but then all those other major companies that have ancillary offices here, and I don't think there are any other places in the world that have that concentration and for whatever reason, so many of those people reach out to us, even though they are not our grads, but they wanna be important stakeholders and that's something that I think we can offer our students that, very few other universities, well business schools at universities can. It's just the variety of opportunity here to do internships while they're here.

19:07 Alan Ellstrand: It seems like when I got here, for undergrads, I've been here since 2000. It was not that common. Summertime students go home for the summer and have a summer job. These days it seems like almost every student I talk to stays here to do an internship over the summer and that really prepares them in a way that students just didn't have that opportunity previously. I think that's a real strength that very few other places and when I was MBA director we could line up all the internships for students that we needed to. And then other universities they basically say, "Find a summer internship, good luck and let us know how it goes when you come back." And again, I think that's just a tremendous advantage for us.

19:57 Matt Waller: That gets to another trend, just shifting gears for a minute here. And that trend has been occurring again to your point, Allen for quite a while and it really started with Walmart, Tyson and J. B. Hunt, but Northwest Arkansas has an unusual density and concentration of expertise in consumer products, in retail and in supply chain management. When you think the biggest company on earth based on revenue is Walmart. The biggest protein producer on earth is Tyson. And one of the biggest logistics and extremely innovative logistics companies is J. B. Hunt. We've got all of that right here and what you're seeing now, so for a while to your point in the 90s, in the 2000s, there were all these suppliers, consumer products companies that moved big offices here to supply Walmart, but they have inadvertently spun off all kinds of companies.

21:05 Matt Waller: I think about Field Agent as an example, Collective Bias and Acorn doing influencer marketing. There's more and more e-commerce and ancillary businesses to the traditional retail and CPG world and same with supply chain. There's so many supply chain management and logistics companies that have been spawned off here in Northwest Arkansas that those trends are going to continue. Even though more and more product is purchased online, it's still a small percentage of the total amount of product that's purchased. But when you start thinking about the creative ways that we're starting to see supply chain, retail and consumer products expertise brought together in companies here, it's quite remarkable. I know one student, that we know of, this is just one simple example. He did an internship at Walmart in shoes while he was in school here. He loved drawing shoes and designing them.

22:14 Matt Waller: And when he graduated he started in the e-commerce business in shoes and he had enough knowledge to be able to actually do it. And now he's making a good living with an e-commerce. It's B to C and it's directly the consumer. But if you look around Northwest Arkansas, another one I think of is Engine. Some of you know about Shopify. Shopify is the biggest online e-commerce platform. So if you have a company you wanna sell a product, you can use Shopify. It's a software as a service platform. Engine had so many companies, it was spawned out of AC Ventures. AC Ventures was basically helping startups get going and so many of them were e-commerce companies. They were noticing all these problems with Shopify and that led them to create Engine, which will be a competitor to Shopify. They said, "Oh, we need to change these features and functions." And there aren't many places on earth where you'd have all of that kind of experience coming together. And so certainly the kind of jobs that are gonna be available here are going to continue to change and I think internships are going to continue to be available. But I wonder if this trend says that there's gonna be a higher percentage of internships and jobs with smaller companies relative to the percentage that are with big companies.

23:44 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: I also think we would think about, I don't know, what internships are. I'm just thinking about what's the value added we bring in the environment you've just described. So if we're an educational institution, what do we contribute to that? It brings us institutional trust and it seems like, two things jump out at me. One is we help to bring talent here. That and use our infrastructure around the world as educational institution to bring talent here. And the second one is, and it's kinda connected to that, internships don't have to be face to face. What's gotten us to where we are is that we have this geographic access to these companies, but we were just talking about that it doesn't mean so much anymore as an institution in bringing talent. It's a different type of talent than we do when we have a four year undergraduate but I think that's what we need to be thinking about. What is our role in that place?

24:44 Brent Williams: One thing you make me think of, I've never really thought of before is we think about the curriculum when we think about internships on top of that, generally speaking, what if we thought about it differently? That is most of us struggle to learn in abstraction, but internships create a context for learning. And it just made me think about what if you have paid a lot of internships where the curriculum actually integrated into the internship? Our digital learning assets possibly.

25:12 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And that's exactly what University of Waterloo does. Their model and entrepreneurship and how they've been so successful as students. They're learning in the classroom, they've got an internship, they're back in the classroom, they've got an internship. That's been a key part of their success.

25:12 Matt Waller: Student who have internships. The more internships they have and the earlier they have it in the program, it seems like they're more marketable. And I think that part of the reason is, from what I've heard is that they're able to communicate better.

25:50 Alan Ellstrand: Totally agree. I mean, when they... Not only do they pick up the communication skills, but I would imagine at the interview, when they communicate with the people interviewing them and they share the real workplace experiences they've had, rather than saying I took this course and this course and this course. Nothing wrong with the courses, that's what we do here, and that's a core part of who we are. But I think the students who can differentiate themselves by having these more premium experiences, those are the things that really grab the attention of the people who are looking for people to join their firms.

26:27 Brent Williams: Now if you think about the idea of contributing to the platform. And so many of our employers already do this, but if we were talking to them and saying, "How could you contribute to the platform?" Internships is top of mind. Earlier...

26:41 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Flexible internships.

26:42 Brent Williams: Yeah, flexible. The freshman that becomes a sophomore that had some kind of internship think what he or she learns in the second year, and also what he or she adds to the conversation in the classroom that 50 people benefit from. That's additional value to the platform.

27:01 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Well, and I think then again thinking about both sides of the platform, we're talking to this point about how we ensure that students are prepared to be good employees. But as they go into these internships, we also need to be thinking about ensuring that these are the right learning experiences for our students. So we have to work with employers a lot. We've all heard the bad story of a student who goes on an internship and they were just paid grunt work. They didn't gain anything in terms of their knowledge base for the field they're studying. And I don't think very many of our employers do that. But the institutional trust that we have to have with students is when you have an internship through Walton, we guarantee it's gonna be at least this quality and these are the kinds of things you can expect to get.

27:48 Alan Ellstrand: The students we place in those internships are gonna be job-ready to do... And going back to career readiness, I had a student recently tell me that she was in an internship in a really top notch CPG company. And although she thought the internship went well, at the end they said, "Well, we really would have expected that you'd be able to do these things." And she said it really made her feel bad at the end of the experience. She wished the company would have told her those things sooner, so that she could have been working on them. But again, there was something of a mismatch between what the company thought they were getting and what the student possessed on entering the internship. And I think we could do a better job of identifying to our students what the expectations are, and also working with the client companies to have them just better prepare the student for the experience they're gonna have and what the expectations are.

28:48 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: That's a really good point because I think it's sort of this old view of internships we've had where you might have two parties that just sort of endured this period of time, even though it's not working because well, we're being all being polite, and we said we'd do this, and you're coming. So we'll just let you continue to come. But it doesn't add up to any real learning.

29:08 Alan Ellstrand: No. And so, the student was deceived by thinking, "Everything seems to be going great." Companies thinking counting the days down till we're gonna send this person back. Let's do it in a more thoughtful way so that both sides can benefit more. Also, I think if we look at internships as a one-size container from May till August. Why does it have to be that? Especially for early students, why can't it be a three or four-week experience, where it'd be like an internship boot camp, almost? This will put you in the environment. We have a very specific task we want you to do. This will prepare you for a more meaningful internship down the road.

29:48 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And maybe that task could be bring something that you learned in your classroom and share it with this team. So we need some expertise in X and your internship is you bring that and bring it to life for this group and then you can assign them.

30:05 Alan Ellstrand: We have that part of our mentality in higher ed is that one size only. So 16 weeks. It takes you 16 weeks to learn basic supply chain, marketing, physics, sociology. Is that true? Each of those disciplines? This exact same amount of...

30:25 Matt Waller: That's great.

[overlapping conversation]

30:25 Matt Waller: That make sense.

30:29 Brent Williams: It's a law of nature.

30:29 Alan Ellstrand: Yeah.

30:29 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Yeah.

30:30 Brent Williams: You've been promoting this is how we intern on social media. I've heard you actually say that it's partially for this reason, of helping students and employers start to educate themselves of best practices. Is that fair?

30:44 Matt Waller: Yeah. So this was an experiment really that was based on a trend that's occurring. Another trend. And that trend is that people use social media to gather information to make decisions many times even to collaborate around topics. And so I started thinking about what are the things we could do in the Walton College, that would change behavior and make the students in our constituents better off. So I made a list of them and I experimented with one of them this summer and that was the following. We need students in internships earlier. We need students in... More students in internships and we need companies to offer internships, not just summer jobs. And there's a difference. I thought well... I was actually reading a book by a marketing professor from Walton. And the name of the book is Contagious. It's a very good book, and it's based on his research. He's a phenomenal researcher. Well published. And one concept in his book and I won't explain it in detail. There is sometimes good behavior that occurs that's invisible.

32:10 Matt Waller: And so the good behavior is not adopted as widely because people just don't know people are doing it. So you wanna take good behavior, make it visible and attach positive social capital to it. That's the... It's one of the six ideas in his book based on his research. And so the way I thought about this for the internship problem was a percentage of our students are doing really great internships. The other students don't know about it. Some students think, "Oh well, people go and study abroad in the summer or they go home in the summer." Well, there are some people that do all three. They do a study abroad in May, they go home in June, and they do an internship in July. Now every combination is possible, but it's not an either or. You can do internships whenever you want. So one of our students came up with a hashtag. You might say, "Well, why is a hashtag important if you wanna take a behavior that is not known and make it visible?" And again that is some students are in great internships. So we want other students to be able to see they're in great internships and what they're doing in the internship, one.

33:22 Matt Waller: Two, we want companies to be able to see the great internships they're offering and be able to improve their internships based on that. So anyway I needed a hashtag because hashtags are how you search on things like LinkedIn, for example, social media outlets. So I needed a hashtag that was not so... If I used the hashtag internship, they're gonna get everything under the sun with that search. So this one student came up with the hashtag, #ThisIsHowWeIntern. And I can't explain why that would be good, but it sounds like a song that exists now that I'm not aware of.


34:09 Matt Waller: In fact I was telling this story to my kids, and one of my kids, Grant, who's a senior and here at the university. He said, "I know you didn't come up with that." And I said, "You're right. I didn't. A student did." Anyway we got a couple of students in good internships to post about where they're interning to think their employer to think who they're working with at the employer, to point out a few characteristics of their internship that made it so great and to take a picture of them standing by the logo of the company. Some of this happened and then it started happening faster and faster. Other students without being asked would see, "Oh, this is what students are doing." And so then they would make a post. It's still going on by the way. And I typically will take them and re-post them and say something about it. I don't know how... If you go to hashtag... LinkedIn, if you go to hashtag #ThisIsHowWeIntern, I think there's around 100 now, that have been posted. Students now clearly see what they're doing. A bunch of students have great internships. Employers started contacting us saying, "We don't think we have a very good internship program. Could you help us?"

35:38 Matt Waller: So this was my experiment and after a month and a half I concluded it worked. What shocked me was how quickly it worked. And part of the reason I think it worked so quickly is this is a hot topic. If you're a student and you see that your peers were doing these great internships, and you didn't, it makes you wonder if maybe I should have. And if you're an employer and you see that one company, the students said they did X, Y and Z, and it was very meaningful. And you realize, "Oh maybe this is why we have trouble getting interns here." And so it really can help everybody. But that's just one example, but it is a good example of a trend and that is people more and more are collaborating through social media in a way that brings out best practices and allows for creativity. We also wound up writing a blog about that. There's a LinkedIn blog article called, This is How We Intern. That's the title of the article.

36:44 Matt Waller: But down at the bottom you can see where people have been. You see there is a lot of traction. I think at this point I've posted maybe 11 blog articles on LinkedIn over the past year. This one got so much traction, it had been re-shared 11 times as of today. I don't know, maybe 30 replies, conversation that's generated. That doesn't count all the emails and phone calls that we're getting as a result. So I think maybe one of the implications is for our platform is, we need to be figuring that things that are meaningful and important to our contributors to the platform. And so this is way to allow them to contribute effectively to our platform.

37:35 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: That's an interesting issue because it's our platform but it's our brand more than our platform. It's not our platform where that's happening, but it's our brand that's getting affected by it. So it raises an interesting question of, "Do we want all that on our platform, or do we want it all over the place? Do we want it on LinkedIn? Do we want it on Instagram? Do we want it Walton network? Where do we want that, and how do we know about it, track it, influence it, when it can be so diverse?

38:10 Matt Waller: That is a really good point 'cause if you think about it, if we would have created... If we would have done that on Blackboard or...

38:13 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Nobody would have...

38:13 Alan Ellstrand: Yeah.

38:13 Matt Waller: No one.

38:13 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Yeah.

38:13 Matt Waller: This gave it visibility. In fact I... And I'd mentioned this, that one person who contacted me was the CEO of a company in New York City based on seeing this interaction that was in August. So I don't know this person at all. In fact, we weren't even connected on LinkedIn. But you're right. It seems like it's something that is, it's almost out of our hands a little bit. It seems like we can initiate and we can influence, but we can't control. And I think that might be the nature, maybe that's another trend in general.

38:58 Brent Williams: Isn't that the nature of the distributing roster of platforms now?

39:05 Alan Ellstrand: That we're all part of a partnership with everybody and we can't control it, and if we did control it, it would come across contrived.

39:14 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Brings me back around our conversation about career services, 'cause this is one of the things that we've been thinking about with a career services platform that is our platform. And you said earlier, maybe there won't be platform for career services at some point. But what that means is we have no idea, right? Our students, we prepare our students, we get employers prepared to recognize our students and off they go, and that as somebody who, as an institution that has to know how we do that creates some challenges for us. So how do we show that we've been effective in what we do? What are our metrics in that space? That's gonna be the nature of what we do, we're not obviously we will drive it through what we control.

40:05 Alan Ellstrand: We even have a sense today how many of our students actually get jobs through the career center versus just going on LinkedIn, and other places like that, and getting jobs through the broader market.

40:18 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Probably not.

40:19 Alan Ellstrand: My guess is it's moving in a way.

40:21 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: We can look on who's unemployed and their numbers employed, and we can look at how many came through and then calculate.

40:28 Brent Williams: When I'm thinking platform, I'm thinking fairly broadly, not an Information Systems platform if you will, but you think about one thing I think we'll have to ask of our alumni is that one way they really can contribute is to give us the information about where they are, what their successes are, and then also what the deficiencies are. But that constant feedback coming from employers, alumni, our students that's contributed to the platform in a way that's gonna make it better.

41:00 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Yeah, it's the only way we'll know it I think.

41:02 Alan Ellstrand: And I don't think we a systematic way to leverage that information at this point, and we need to be thinking about how we can.

41:11 Matt Waller: One other thing that's interesting about this trend of democratization of information about performance and needs and wants and really everything we can think of. The one hand you've got rate my professor, which makes visible performance that used to be secret and people are even putting in comments there. But you even see it on the social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram in particular, 'cause most of the people teaching in our college don't use Snapchat, or Instagram, and yet students are talking about us. They may even take pictures of something in the syllabus and say, "Can you believe this is in the syllabus?" Or they're talking so that the knowledge about what's going on in the classroom and courses in the college as a whole, I think the trend is in 10 years if we think that it's well-known now, it's gonna be completely transparent by then. People have a very good idea of what's being taught. And I think it's even possible that employers will have more visibility to the actual content of what's being taught. So, the other day [42:33] ____ something really interesting in her class. She has started having some of her former students that have jobs at various places take selfie videos. Have you seen these?

42:49 Brent Williams: No.

42:50 Matt Waller: Oh, they're awesome. So these students who have been out, just maybe a few years, they'll be walking around their office, they sit on the desk, they point the camera to their screen and say, "I'm analyzing this data. I'm using Excel to do it, and once I'm finished, I'm gonna take it to Jim." And she walks over. "Hey Jim, in a little bit, I'm gonna give you this information, what are you gonna do with it?" Let me just decide about how to divide up the shipment, that's gonna go to these 10 stores, whatever it may be, right? But these people watching it. I've been around these companies for a long time, but watching that those videos I'm like, "Wow I didn't realize this because there's so many unique jobs out there, but I think on the one hand, what we're doing is gonna become more visible. But what the students are doing and what the companies are providing is it's already it's like Glassdoor, right? If you go to Glassdoor you can see our company's treating their employees well. What do employees say about them all that's gonna become more visible. And then changing gears to research we see the same thing. I mean, we used to not know, I remember one year and I can't remember who was dean here at the time, but you will probably can remember this... One of the deans published the list of all of our faculty and their citations. How many times they've been sited, and some people throw a fit about it. Do you remember this?

44:28 Alan Ellstrand: I do. I remember it very clearly.

44:30 Matt Waller: Well, now we can go online to Google Scholar and not only see what the citations are, but we can actually see where it's been cited. We can see the h-index and the i10 index, and we can then even look at the particular article if we want to. If that was something that we were really careful about before. I think the same thing is gonna be true with the kinds of methodologies people are using, how rigorous it is. That means, too, that companies were gonna become more aware of what we're doing the general public, it's almost like everything's becoming more transparent for us which I think is good. It'll probably... If you look at ResearchGate or the Social Sciences Research Network SSRN, because you can go there and pick a research topic, enter in and read a working paper on some very esoteric topic that's relevant to your research. And ResearchGate almost seems like a bit of a social media platform for research.

45:42 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: It's interesting thinking about the transparency issue that there will be a lot of information available and everybody's empowered to put out their version of information. So Rate My Professor is a good example. For academics, for people that work at universities, that can be challenging sometimes, because you look at that and you think, "How accurate is that information?" We're trained to think about whether the information is accurate or not. And in so many ways, we have no idea...

46:14 Matt Waller: Right.

46:15 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: When we look the information that's out there. But I think we're out of sync with what a lot of young people think because we're always thinking how do we verify this, again back to trust, institutional trust. You need some stamp of approval saying, "This is true."

46:31 Matt Waller: Right, and that's what's disappearing.

46:33 Brent Williams: Yeah.

46:33 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And that's what's disappearing and...

46:34 Matt Waller: And so, think about Wikipedia for a second.

46:37 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: Yeah.

46:37 Matt Waller: Right? They say Wikipedia... No one authorized it and says, "Okay, this is accurate." But collectively, the people are making sure. In fact, studies have been done that show that Wikipedia is way more accurate than an encyclopedia.

46:56 Brent Williams: Mm-hmm.

46:57 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And so, if you have the numbers to make that true, what you need is a large and diverse group of people who are looking at it.

47:05 Matt Waller: Yes.

47:06 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: So when you see this in every aspect, like this morning, there was a story on NPR about one of the film festivals and they were talking about how few women there are, who are directors or movie critics. Okay, so think about choices we make about what movies we go see. But there's a relatively small number of movie critics who drive that and they're very homogeneous, but yeah, we use that piece of information. So that's one that, to a lot of people, doesn't have much institutional trust. Rotten Tomatoes? I look at Rotten Tomatoes more than that. So sometimes, you have to have the large group of people to make that true.

47:53 Matt Waller: This is really interesting, looking at these trends, and again, I think it's important for us since we, in the Walton College, our vision is to be thought leaders and then we think about what do we need to be doing as a college to make sure that we come out well as these trends emerge. And it'll help us be better catalyst for transforming lives as well as we learn about these things, but I'm really grateful that our team can get together and really explore these things and think about what we should be doing for the future. So thanks for taking time to do that.

48:37 Brent Williams: I would also say I'm thankful to work in a faculty where we can have this conversation. So I look forward to hearing what the faculty and staff have to say about these trends, what their thoughts are. I think all four of us would want to have that.

48:50 Alan Ellstrand: Yeah, absolutely.

48:51 Matt Waller: Yeah, because we... It's not like we think we have a conclusion.

48:56 Alan Ellstrand: Right.

48:57 Matt Waller: Everything we've brought up today isn't about conclusions and it would be important for anyone listening to this to know that we're raising the issues as trends, and to Brent's point, as a faculty, we need to decide what this means and where we're going.

49:16 Alan Ellstrand: Yeah, this is just the beginning of the discussion not the conclusion to it. So I would love to hear what other people think.

49:24 Anne O'Leary-Kelly: And it's just a great opportunity to sit and get your head out from what you're working on in the moment, to talk these things through, to take time to talk them through.

49:35 Matt Waller: Well, Anne, Allen and Brent, thank you so much for taking time to talk with me about these trends that clearly are going to affect higher education and business and just really appreciate you taking that time.

49:53 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 podcast. Be sure to subscribe and rate us. You can find current and past episodes by searching, "Be Epic Podcast", one word. That's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now, 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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