UA Walton College of Business Dean Eli Jones Still Uses Sales Skills

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 12:00 am  

In his first year, Eli Jones has spent time visiting with leaders throughout Arkansas, university officials say. (Photo by Ryan Miller)

Jones has many resources at his disposal in northwest Arkansas, including a network of 400 alumni who volunteer in various roles within the Walton College of Business. Plus, Wal-Mart headquarters, representatives of Wal-Mart vendors, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and Tyson Foods are all within 30 miles of campus. Still, Jones hasn’t been content to interact only with them.

During his first 90 days on campus, Jones embarked on a listening tour of faculty, staff, students and alumni. Jones, who notes he’s “still listening,” didn’t limit his focus to just northwest Arkansas, something that alums like First Security Bancorp CEO Reynie Rutledge, a member of the search committee and a UA trustee, have noted.

“What I appreciate as much as anything is the time he’s spent outside of northwest Arkansas,” Rutledge said. “He’s taken time to get to central Arkansas and other parts of the state to meet people and talk.”

While his position as dean does include a sales component, that isn’t what drew Jones into higher education. Prior to joining higher education as an assistant professor at the University of Houston, Jones worked at Quaker Oats Co., Nabisco and Frito Lay Inc.

It was while working for Quaker Oats that Jones realized he had a passion for teaching. He was promoted to a sales planning position in Florida, a job that essentially had him teaching others in the sales force how best to approach clients and move product.

“From that point on I took positions with companies that really allowed me to teach,” Jones sad. “That, I think, is what I was born to do.”

Energized by the opportunity to teach co-workers and motivated by a former professor’s suggestion that he pursue a doctorate, Jones went back to school. He received his doctorate in 1997 and then went into the profession full time, eventually working his way into administration.

Still, Jones, busy as he is, continues to spend time researching and working in the classroom. Those are the aspects of the job that keep him energized, he said.

It was Jones’ ability to bridge the academic and corporate worlds that sold the search committee on his ability to lead the Walton College of Business.

“He seeks excellence in everything he does — in his relationships with our corporate partners, with students and with faculty and staff within and outside Walton College,” Chancellor G. David Gearhart said. “In fact, I think in just one short year, he has come to epitomize excellence on this campus: His strong leadership and understanding of corporate as well as the academic communities have already solidified the college’s reputation for being a leader in undergraduate and graduate business education and the preparation of its graduates for professional and academic success.”

 

 

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