Step inside Jason Adams’ office, and there is a lot to take in. The walls are adorned with posters, signed jerseys and pennants – mostly related to the Arkansas Razorbacks, though there are a few tributes to the Chicago Cubs.
Adams says it’s not uncommon for students’ eyes to wander toward the memorabilia when they first come to his office at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. They’re a good ice breaker, and Adams, Walton Honors Program associate director, is happy to pause the conversation to share some details as to where he got what and when. They also serve as a reminder that Adams, for a time, had planned to coach high school football athletes.
Instead, it’s college honors students.
“It’s a lot like sports,” Adams says. “You’re kind of coaching kids up and helping them find their way.”
Adams says honors students are typically overachievers, and it’s not uncommon for them to have a years’ worth of college credits by the time they enroll as freshmen, enabling them to graduate in less than four years.
From there, students may wish to add a major or minor, graduate early and/or go to graduate school. Some are undecided about their major, so Adams suggests they decide after taking introductory courses in the different concentrations the college offers.
And while some students may be thrilled to receive a B in a particularly difficult class, the grade may be devastating to those used to making a 4.0 GPA. Adams tries to explain to them it isn’t the end of the world and likely won’t affect their standing in the Walton Honors Program, which requires its students to maintain a 3.5 GPA.
“Honors students come to us with a lot of interesting situations,” Adams says.
To be accepted in the program, students must have an ACT score of at least 28, or 1310 for SAT (critical reading and math), and a high school GPA of 3.75 or greater.
While honors students receive certain benefits, such as early registration, they often find the network of people available to them to be the most valuable, Adams says. They take many of their classes alongside the same honors students during their college career, creating relationships that can last a lifetime.
Adams, who grew up in North Little Rock, was going to college in southwest Arkansas when he made a trip to the University of Arkansas campus during homecoming. He found the crisp air and the changing Ozark foliage breathtaking. He transferred and earned a history degree as coaches are typically required to teach an academic class. He was employed in the corporate world for a while before returning to the University of Arkansas, where he worked a couple of roles on campus while earning his master’s degree in higher education administration. In 2008, Adams was hired to be associate director of the Walton Honors Program, where he single-handedly advised around 300 students throughout the academic year. Now the office advises more than 800 students with the help of Katie Pope, Walton Honors Program assistant director. The office has since provided other services, such as overseeing the Honors Freshman Business Connections class and offering an eight-week course to guide students through their honors thesis preparation.
His job has enabled him travel with honors students to Japan and India through Walton’s study abroad programs. He also benchmarks the honors program with those at other universities, developed a network of honors program advisers like himself and invited them to Fayetteville for the Business Honors Conference in 2018. A year later, the conference took place at the University of Utah, and Adams looks forward to its return following the pandemic.
Adams has seen many of his students go on to great successes, from working at accounting firms and banks to earning law degrees and doctorates. He stays in touch with many of them, and some visit Walton to share their stories with undergraduates.
“I like working with the students,” Adams says. “I enjoy talking to them and getting to know them. It’s like coming to work and having a new puzzle to put together each day.”