University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 123: Outstanding Students

Kirsten James and Torey Morris are two recent graduates of the Walton College who used the resources and opportunities Walton College provides to their advantage professionally. Read more...

More About This Episode

Kirsten James and Torey Morris are two recent graduates of the Walton College who used the resources and opportunities Walton College provides to their advantage professionally. In this episode of the Be EPIC podcast, Kirsten James and Torey Morris sat down with Matt Waller to discuss how the resources Walton provided helped them land internships, gain relevant experience, and take on leadership roles that would transform their college experience and resume.


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Episode Transcript

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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.

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0:00:28.6 Matt Waller: I have with me today, Kirsten James and Torey Morris. They're both seniors in the Walton College, and by the time this is played, they will have already graduated. And the reason I wanted to interview them is I feel like they've done a terrific job of utilizing the resources of the college to learn, to network, to become a leader, and it would be great if we have more and more students following these kinds of examples. So I wanted to talk to them. So thank you for joining me today.

0:01:14.2 Kirsten James: Thank you for having me.

0:01:16.3 Torey Morris: Me as well. Thank you, Dean Waller.

0:01:18.8 Matt Waller: So first of all, you're both seniors. Kirsten, what are you majoring in?

0:01:24.8 Kirsten James: Yeah, so I'm studying information systems and marketing.

0:01:29.5 Matt Waller: And Torey, what do you study?

0:01:32.2 Torey Morris: I am an International Business major with a concentration in Supply Chain Management, and then I have a double minor in Spanish and Business Analytics.

0:01:40.0 Matt Waller: That's great, and just out of curiosity, Kirsten, where are you from originally?

0:01:46.0 Kirsten James: So I'm from Rogers, Arkansas. So...

0:01:47.6 Matt Waller: Rogers, Arkansas.

0:01:48.3 Kirsten James: Close to 15 minutes to Fayetteville.

0:01:50.3 Matt Waller: Yeah, [chuckle] that's convenient.

0:01:52.2 Kirsten James: Yeah.

0:01:53.6 Matt Waller: Torey, where are you from?

0:01:55.3 Torey Morris: I'm the opposite end of the spectrum. My home town is called Mansfield, Texas. It's like 30 minutes or so south of Dallas.

0:02:01.5 Matt Waller: Okay, great. So again, I want to explore a little bit about some of the things you've done. You've both been involved in internships. You have been involved in all kinds of things that the Walton College has to offer, and so I wanna explore some of those, especially since some freshmen will be listening to this and even some seniors in high school. But Torey, I'm just curious, before you came here, did you know you were gonna get as engaged as you did, or did you decide that after you were here for a while?

0:02:35.8 Torey Morris: It's funny that you mentioned that. If you would have said I would have done the things that I've done five years ago when I was making my decision to come to the U of A, I probably would have laughed. I wouldn't have imagined the opportunities I would have had, the people I would have come across and things like that, so it was a very unique experience to see how far I've come and since I first step on campus.

0:02:54.0 Matt Waller: So Kirsten, were you super engaged in high school, and did you know that you would be as engaged as you are here in the Walton College as you have been?

0:03:06.9 Kirsten James: Yeah, that's a great question. I was pretty involved in different clubs and sports whenever I was in high school, so I was a cheerleader all throughout high school. I did school cheer and competitive cheer, and I was also just involved in a couple of different clubs at Rogers High School. And I definitely did have an expectation that I wanted to get really involved on campus. I definitely wouldn't have expected that I would be as involved as I am now, though.

0:03:33.7 Matt Waller: So Torey, I noticed that you spent about a year engaged with Forever Red, which is SAKE, and for those of you who don't know, SAKE is a class actually that students can take, courses where the students run a business that the university owns and it sells like diplomas in a really nice frame with a rubbing on the sidewalk. And for those of you not from the university, everyone's name who has graduated from the University of Arkansas is in the sidewalk. It's engraved on the sidewalk, going back to the 1870s, everyone's name. Forever Red will take and do a rubbing, so that you can actually see it on a piece of paper that would be in a frame with a diploma. They actually have other products as well, but that's kind of the one that really got them started, and I think it's still... Is it still the top producer for SAKE?

0:04:44.9 Torey Morris: Oh for sure. I haven't been in it for about a year-and-a-half, but just for communication with the faculty we have and the people that are still helping assist with the organization, I know that rubbings are very, very popular.

0:04:57.4 Matt Waller: Yeah, it's a great way to learn about how to run a business, and it's one of those things that I think I've heard of students graduating and learning about it later and saying, "I wish I would have known about that." But I know you've been involved in other things. And what are some things Kirsten that you've been involved in that you've really felt like you got a lot out of, you think students should know about or at least investigate?

0:05:24.0 Kirsten James: Definitely one of the things that I did my freshman year that kind of differentiated me was being a part of Leadership Walton. I am actually currently President of Leadership Walton right now, and I just think that's a great way to really put yourself out there, especially in the Walton College. That was one of the things I heard about whenever I was a freshman where they were talking about professional development and getting to know other professors and students in the Walton College. And that was just the one that really stood out to me. It was a great way to get to know other Walton students, but then also network with professionals in the area, which was an awesome experience. And I think now you have to be a sophomore now to apply, but for all of you trying to figure out how to get involved on campus and in the Walton College, definitely look at Leadership Walton.

0:06:11.5 Matt Waller: Torey, you're also involved in Leadership Walton. Have you had a good experience with it as well?

0:06:17.6 Torey Morris: Very much so. I currently serve as the Vice President of [0:06:20.4] ____ Outreach, so I kinda work with Kirsten on making sure that our members know what kinds of events are going on and how to get engaged with our corporate recruiters and things like that. It's been a phenomenal experience. I've gotten exposure to a lot of people and things I wouldn't have imagined, so Kirsten and I and a couple of other Leadership Walton members got the experience to go to Chicago and represent the Walton College as well, Leadership Walton at a private [0:06:43.3] ____ Manufacturers Association trade show. So it was a unique experience to get the side of a buyer as well as the manufacturer's perspective as well, just seeing how those interactions take place among many, many other things through the four-day event that we were there for.

0:06:57.8 Matt Waller: And I know also Kirsten, you were involved in being a Walton College Ambassador. Could you describe that?

0:07:08.1 Kirsten James: Yes, absolutely. So through Walton Ambassadors, we basically just pair up with students and families who may be interested in coming to the Walton College, and we give them a tour around Walton and get to let them know all of the great reasons to become a Razorback and a student in the Walton College. And that's definitely been one of the most rewarding things I think I've been able to be a part of because I've had people reach out and say like, "Hey, the insight that you had and the experiences you had is what pushed me to want to be a student at the University of Arkansas and then the Walton College. So Torey is also a Walton Ambassador, and that's one of the first times I think that we met each other was through Walton Ambassador training. So it's a group of awesome students. Anyone who's a Walton Ambassador just has really left a mark on campus.

0:07:55.8 Matt Waller: Now. Torey, one thing I see you have been involved in as well, is you've been serving as a supplemental instructor for Data Analysis and Chemistry, Fundamentals of Chemistry. It's kind of interesting for a business major, but first of all, Torey, many people won't know what a supplemental instructor is. Would you mind sharing what that is?

0:08:19.4 Torey Morris: Of course, we have some courses that we need additional assistance with, so we get to meet with another student who's a little bit older who has taken that same course as us and already received an A in it. So we meet with them once a week with about 12 to 14 other peers of ours, and we try and go through the material that we learned that week. So we can either do notes. We can either go over practice problems, go over homework questions or whatever we need to be more more successful in the class. So the impact my supplemental instruction leaders had on me when I was going through those classes made me want to seek out the opportunity to have that role and be able to give back to my peers. So for two years, I served as the data analysis supplemental instruction leader, and then just some things shifted within the class plus system, which is the university students service. So I transitioned to the Fundamentals of Chemistry. It was an nice change to pace every day, going to think in that mindset as well as thinking in the business mindset.

0:09:09.8 Matt Waller: And Kirsten, I know as well, you've had internships with General Mills, Harvest Group and Johnson & Johnson. You're still at Johnson & Johnson as an intern, right?

0:09:26.2 Kirsten James: Yes, I am.

0:09:27.6 Matt Waller: So you've done a lot of internships, which is something I always encourage students to do as soon as they can. We've had students start internships as early as the summer after their freshman year. I think the earlier you do it, the better it is, because you learn so much about what you like, what you don't like, and also you learn a little bit about the company cultures, which vary dramatically. Most students don't realize how different cultures are between companies, but I know your first internship, it looks like was with Harvest Group. Tell us a little bit about Harvest Group and what you did there.

0:10:08.4 Kirsten James: Yeah, absolutely. Harvest Group was probably the best company I could have picked to have an internship with for my first one. They're a company located out of Northwest Arkansas, so that was really convenient. It was a close drive from my parent's house in Rogers, and I was a sales insights intern for them. So that was really one of my first experiences I got to have working with sales and business analytics. And Harvest Group is a faith-based company in Northwest Arkansas, and they basically help smaller companies get into Walmart, build their shelf, help with analytics, replenishment, marketing. And they have a great company culture. That is definitely the biggest thing that stood out to me about them. It allowed a great environment to have mentorship with those on your team, and that was just a great first entry into any sort of business role. So Harvest Group kinda gave me the base CPG knowledge that I was then able to apply at General Mills as well as Johnson & Johnson.

0:11:09.5 Kirsten James: But with General Mills, I was an intern on their cereal team, so selling cereal into Walmart. That was actually through the heat of COVID, so it was a shortened experience, but still a great experience nonetheless. But through that, I got to hone in on my skills more of using different data visualization software, so Neilsen, Tableau, Excel, and through that internship, I realized how much I liked grocery in CPG, which was... I wasn't really sure what side of CPG I wanted to do, but I love how fast grocery is. It's always changing, has a lot of different innovation. So that was something that really excited me, and I'll actually be working with General Mills post-graduation on their cereal team again. General Mills is one of those where probably most Americans have had their Cheerios or Wheaties or some sort of General Mills product at some point in their life. So it was really cool to impact a business like that, especially at the level of Walmart.

0:12:11.7 Matt Waller: So when you graduate, will you be working for them and selling to Walmart?

0:12:17.4 Kirsten James: Yes, I will. I'll be on the same desk as I was this past summer.

0:12:21.7 Matt Waller: And Torey, I understand you also did an internship with General Mills. Was it also on the team here selling to Walmart?

0:12:31.7 Torey Morris: Yes, Sir, but my role was a little bit different. I was working on the category management desk, and so the way that we talk about it internally is that our paychecks are signed by General Mills, but we're working for Walmart. So I had direct visibility to the buyer, so the desk I was working on was our Tex Mex desk, refrigerated baked goods as well as soup. And so we had direct visibility to providing insights to our buyers about what SKUs were performing well, what SKUs were not performing well, just all kinds of training. And like Kirsten mentioned, we were there in the heat of COVID, so we got a lot of unique insights and communications with our buyers.

0:13:06.0 Matt Waller: Well, that must have been a really interesting experience, Torey, being able to see both the side of the supplier and the side of the retailer so clearly.

0:13:18.1 Torey Morris: Yeah, that's an understatement, honestly. So I got to learn how we were viewing things internally, just trying to make the effort to gain more market share and gain more shelf space, but then I understood why things are structured in the manner that they were. So the one great thing about the Walton College is we are exposed to all different aspects of business, so through one of my marketing classes, I got the base-level knowledge of understanding how shelves are structured. So you made structure. Like a cereal shelf, you may put the sugary cereal at a lower level, so kids can see it more easily. And that kind of came into play doing that internship, so I got to see us draw the modules within the stores, ostensibly the layouts for the stores. And it was actually very interesting seeing how many unique modules we have to draw for every individual store with all the unique regional SKUs as well as all the national SKUs and many, many things. Being on category management is gonna be a challenge that I'm looking forward to very much, very much so.

0:14:09.5 Matt Waller: So Torey, after you graduate, what are you planning on doing?

0:14:14.7 Torey Morris: So I'm going down the same path as Kirsten. I signed my whole-time offer to return to General Mills this coming summer, and I'll be working on a form of a category management. I'm not sure exactly which one, but I'm excited to get back to that area of the business for sure.

0:14:29.2 Matt Waller: Wow, well, congratulations to both of you. One other thing I wanted to explore with you, Torey, you've been a peer ambassador for the Business Living Learning Community. So first of all, most people won't know what a Living Learning Community is, so what's a Business Living Learning Community?

0:14:48.1 Torey Morris: Right. It's a very unique experience offered to our first-year freshmen, so we have the option to put students at one of two residence halls that are directly across the street from the Walton College. We essentially own the entirety of the floor, so we have, I think in the maximum capacity here, we would hold about 80 or so students. And so about half of them would live in Founders, the other half would live at Humphreys. And it's just a great way to get those students connected, so we have those students go through our freshman business cohort together where they take three different classes together. They take our Freshman Basic Connections Class, the Public Speaking Class as well as Business Law. And then we just try to offer them a lot of additional support, so we do social events. We've done things like play football against the Honors College or we'll go to fast lanes and low.

0:15:33.4 Torey Morris: We also try to do at least one community service event every semester as well as academic events as well, so we've held study sessions for our students. We've actually had various panels whether it be professional or students just to offer insights to what the students should expect moving forward in their college career or trying to move into the internship and professional space, among many other things. The Living Learning Community was very special to me as I got to be a part of it when I was a freshman, and now for the past couple of years, I've gotten to serve as the peer ambassador, and again, just do that part, that's very important to me of giving back to others and hopefully helping impact their experience in a positive manner.

0:16:09.5 Matt Waller: Kirsten, I noticed that on your LinkedIn profile, you have a certification you received while you were here called Retail Link training. Most people, again, may not know what Retail Link is. What is that?

0:16:26.0 Kirsten James: Yeah, absolutely. So Retail Link is basically a data... So Retail Link is a demand signal depository, so that's a great way for companies to go in and pull back any sort of numbers that you're looking for in terms of Walmart. So the past three internships that I've had, I've worked a lot within Retail Link, and this Retail Link training was offered to all students in the Walton College to go in and learn more. And I personally knew that Retail Link was one of those softwares I was gonna be using a lot post-graduation, so it's something I wanted to really hone in my skills on. But you can pull all sorts of things, and it's a great way to pull data into different sorts of data visualization software. So my go-to usually is pulling data from Retail Link and throwing it into Tableau to create some sort of dashboard. But Walton College is great about providing different sorts of training like that. My training was provided through an analyst at Smokers, so she was the one that was teaching us all about Retail Link.

0:17:33.9 Kirsten James: And I would just tell any students that are trying to find trainings like that to just check out Handshake, and there's a ton posted all the time for great different trainings that you can use. I know that there's different focuses. This one was probably more primarily focused towards CPG and people may be interning with Walmart or a supplier of Walmart. But I know that there's finance trainings, and if you're trying to figure out some certifications or trainings, to check out Handshake.

0:18:03.8 Matt Waller: Yeah. And for students that may not know, if you go to the Walton College website, you go to... There's a tab called Current Students, and another then tab called Walton Career Services. And on Walton Career Services, you can get to Handshake. But yeah, you're right. Handshake is something people need to become familiar with as early as possible, and when you go to the website, there's a tutorial, so you can learn about it and pretty easy to use. Torey, you're currently in an internship. Would you tell us about that?

0:18:44.4 Torey Morris: Yes, so I currently work for Kellogg's actually. I work on their logistics/replenishment desk. It's a very unique space. We deal with all of the logistical things, as well as we do special projects and one-off things that the team may need. So it was a very nice contrast to get exposure to a different area of business in comparison to my sales internship that I had this past summer with General Mills although it's in a sales office and I get to learn that information and see how our work impacts the office/team collectively as a whole. But again, we're working for our Walmart team, so I get to track our performance. So I get to see the on-time metrics, the informatics, how Walmart find operation works. They've actually rolled something out called a Supplier Quality Excellence Program, and my manager kind of let me take charge on that and try to develop some information and insights that we could share internally with our team in for how to improve our performance, so we can reduce the liability we may face for fines, moving forward.

0:19:41.9 Matt Waller: So, Kirsten, you've been involved in many other things within the university. I know you've been a Razorback Booster Club president, Office of Financial Affairs board member. You've been on the Distinguished Lectures Committee Vice Chair and many others. Tell me a little bit about how they impacted you.

0:20:05.8 Kirsten James: Yes, absolutely. So freshman year, I started off in student government as a part of Freshman Leadership Forum, and that was really my first experience on campus that made me realize that I really wanted to get involved both in and out of the classroom. So Freshman Leadership Forum ended up turning into the Office of Financial Affairs, and OFA is a branch of student government where we provide student money to different organizations on campus. And that was such a great and rewarding experience for me, just getting to provide those monies to those students and then attend their events and just see how happy and excited they were that they were able to get funding for those events to really impact the different students at the University of Arkansas. That was definitely one of the organizations that I really got involved in that allowed me to get to know other students outside of the Walton College, to meet some great mentors at the University of Arkansas and to have a role in the Office of Student Activities. That's the route that I took, and I believe that it served me really well now looking back at the past four years at the University of Arkansas.

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0:21:18.3 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 BeEpic podcast, one word, that's B-E-E-P-I-C podcast. And now, be epic.

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