In March, several students from Rankin College of Business traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas as part of the RCB on the Road program. The students visited The Don McDonald Group, Arc Best, and First National Bank of Fort Smith. Business Advisory Council members and alumni Don and Jennifer McDonald hosted the students.
“We really wanted these students to get to a different part of the region—to see what options are out there,” said Jennifer. “Fort Smith isn’t the largest city, but we do have a lot of businesses and a lot of opportunities. It’s a great fit for SAU students.”
Don and Jennifer were married right out of high school. Both attended SAU and graduated with finance degrees.
“We both had academic scholarships,” Don said. “I worked in the oil fields to make a little extra spending money and Jennifer managed the married housing at SAU.”
Jennifer graduated in 2.5 years and went to work after graduation in accounting.
“It was actually Jennifer’s idea that students from South Arkansas (University) might find Fort Smith attractive,” said Don.
“I had some business acquaintances who all thought (inviting the students here) was a great idea.”
Don went to work for Merrill Lynch immediately upon graduation. In May, he celebrated 30 years with the company.
During the trip, the students spent a few hours with staff at Merrill Lynch learning what each member of Don’s team does day to day, he said. Friday morning they went to Arc Best and then First National Bank before heading back to Magnolia.
“My team shared their roles and responsibilities with the students and then our market executive provided more information on what job opportunities and options are available within the firm.”
Don and Jennifer also hosted the students at their home for an evening meal, providing an opportunity to talk to the students in a more relaxed atmosphere.
“We were able to talk to them more about the other parts of the job that are important like writing thank you notes, getting to work early and staying a little late—not just doing what is asked and being respectful of others…Jennifer and I really enjoyed it.” Don said.
According to both Don and Jennifer, the students made great impressions.
“They had good questions and were professional in their interactions,” Don said. “It was a very positive experience.”
Through the RCB on the Road program, the college hosts a travel program in which students in each major, at least once every two years, have the opportunity to engage with business leaders and tour business operations related to their field of study.
“One thing we really wanted was to show these young adults opportunities outside south Arkansas,” Jennifer said.
Don agreed, adding that the ability to travel makes the world smaller and can offer different perspectives.
“We’ve also contributed to the travel fund to help these students go to different places and give them different experiences,” Don said. “We just want to be able to give back and make a positive difference in the lives of others.”