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Taking Flight – July 2021

Message from the Dean

I often write these commentaries while I’m traveling. I travel quite a lot it seems, for a variety of reasons, and being alone in a car, on a plane, or in an airport gives me opportunities to watch and to think. It’s during those moments that I see or consider things related to business and business education that I like to share in these letters. Indeed, just this morning, I was at a hotel in Virginia, where I am currently visiting another university. Virginia only recently lifted some pandemic-related restrictions, and this particular hotel reopened its restaurant just last week.  So, they were terribly understaffed and under-practiced, setting tables, hustling food, pouring coffee, taking payments, and just about running themselves ragged. 

During a lull in the action, I chatted briefly with my waiter. It turns out, he was the general manager of the hotel! It was a small, boutique-type place with about 120 rooms, and, over the past year, this GM had done virtually every job in the building: cleaning rooms, managing staff, hiring and training, performing maintenance, working the front desk, and serving as the only waiter, as is the case this morning. Now, that alone is impressive and speaks well of him and the rest of his team. But, what struck me even more was how much the customers seemed to appreciate the effort. Even if the menu was limited and the delivery was clunkier than normal, what really seemed to matter was the fact that staff members were doing all they could to create and deliver a positive experience for their customers. Put differently, you could tell that they really cared about the work they were doing and the value they were delivering. And the customers seemed to understand and appreciate that. Of course, that got me thinking about the Parker College and the way we teach and do business. First and as it relates to teaching, I hope we are instilling in our students a desire to create real value by caring about the quality of the work they do. Naturally, we have to teach the functional material and develop in our students the technical abilities required to actually perform the jobs for which they are hired, but those same technical skills are taught in every school and possessed by every business graduate. What really adds value to those skills is the care, motivation, and effort that is put into the work. I observed that just this morning. 

Secondly and perhaps even more importantly, I want that sort of care and effort to be characteristic of how we actually do our business as teachers, researchers, and administrators. Every day, we deal with students, with parents, with other members of the faculty, staff, and administration. We answer phones, deal with requests, meet with people in the hallways, or visit with them at events. And, in every one of those settings, we are representing the Parker College and sending a subtle message to everyone who is watching. Of course, people want their questions answered and problems solved, but, more than any of that, what they really want is good service, to know that we care, and to know that we are making the effort. It’s essential that we model that work ethic for our students. But, far beyond that immediate impact, it’s important that we cultivate, promote, and internalize that sort of culture amongst ourselves. It will differentiate us in the marketplace more than we realize, but it will also leave a lasting mark on those who observe us, setting a positive example, leading in a powerful way, and demonstrating, yet again, the value of the Parker College brand.      

Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Ford

Christopher Ford (MKTG & BFA, 2008) is a region contracting officer for the Environmental Protection Agency (CPA). He is responsible for providing acquisition services for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and 6 Tribes. As part of his responsibilities, Chris conducts reviews of solicitations based on dollar value, method of acquisition, and set-aside goals. In addition, he fosters partnerships with internal and external stakeholders by communicating present and future mission goals and objectives while facilitating integrated multi-discipline teams in the regional office to address system-wide and unit-specific objectives. Chris regularly provides assistance to small businesses, procuring entities, collaborative partners, resource partners, and the general public regarding needs as they relate to EPA. Routinely, he offers advice, training, and guidance on contracting matters to project managers and contracting officers as well as researching and developing guidance material for the region acquisition workforce and customers. Previously, Chris has held positions such as senior contracting officer for Hurricane Recovery, IMT Procurement unit leader, region contracting officer, small business coordinator, and district ranger for the USDA Forest Service Southern Region as well as contract specialist at the U.S. Army Mission Installation Contracting Command.

Chris says the best part of his job is problem solving. Each acquisition is like a puzzle, and the puzzle pieces are the interdisciplinary skills needed to complete the project. As a contracting officer, Chris manages a team consisting of the contractor, engineers, budget officer, technical expert(s), and other subject matter experts on each project. In this role, he gets to be a project manager, mediator, facilitator, and business advisor all in one, which is a great experience!

By nature, Chris is a high performer who takes pride in his work. One of the major challenges he has faced in his career is hearing, “I’d love to promote you, but you’re too valuable where you are.” While it may be flattering to learn that one is too valuable to promote, it is a tough obstacle for an ambitious person to overcome. Chris conquered this challenge by sharing his business practices with his peers through mentoring and documenting his standard operating procedures in order to make them easier to share.

Chris, who obtained an MPPA in public policy and administration from Northwestern University in 2013, says his proudest accomplishment is graduating from the 2021 Atlanta Federal Executive Board Leadership Government program. Out of the 44,000 federal employees in the Atlanta area, 26 were selected for this program, which aims to aid in succession planning to ensure a pool of highly qualified persons to replace the Senior Executive Service (SES) roles projected to leave federal government service within the coming years.

Chris credits the Parker College with preparing him for his career by teaching him that “success stops when you do.” During his time in the College of Business, Chris met C. Douglas Johnson, Ph.D., who was then an assistant professor of marketing. His early conversations with Johnson encouraged Chris to dig deeper and challenge himself. He recalls he had never heard of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program before speaking with Johnson, but his involvement with that program lead Chris to an internship working with the National Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, D.C. In turn, Chris’s involvement with COE taught him to navigate the waters of the federal government and laid the groundwork for many of the facilitation and partnerships skills he uses to this day. As the regional contracting officer for USDA Forest Service, Chris partners, negotiates, and facilitates meetings with chief executives, state officials, and senior executives throughout the federal government. The confidence Johnson gave Chris helped him succeed as a leader at Georgia Southern and as a leader in every endeavor since.

Another of Chris’s lasting memories involves his participation in a special marketing cohort headed up by Kathleen Gruben, Ph.D., associate professor emerita of marketing. The cohort’s charge was to conduct a marketing study on how to establish brand loyalty amongst teens in convenience stores. The cohort journeyed to Las Vegas, NV, to present its research, “Teen Buying Behavior in Convenience Stores,” at the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) on behalf of Parker College and Coca-Cola. This experience provided invaluable lessons applicable to Chris’s current job responsibilities.

But, most importantly, while at his Georgia Southern SOAR session, Chris remembers hearing one of the leaders say, “Southern can be whatever you want it to be…if we don’t have a club for you, you can start your own.” These words lit a fire under him that sparked the perseverance that would define his undergraduate years and beyond. As an undergraduate, he connected with like-minded students to charter two fraternal organizations, served in various leadership roles, and became the president of the Student Government Association—all while earning two degrees. Specifically, in the Parker College, Chris was initiated into the Epsilon Chi chapter of Delta Sigma Pi International Business Fraternity.

In the vein of creating his own organization, Chris would like to say, 

This same drive of being a leader has transitioned well into my career, resulting in the founding of a … [fundraising] company with …[a] fellow eagle and fraternity brother. Our company, Spirit Surge Marketing Group, managed fundraisers through metro-Atlanta for high schools, private schools, and non-profit organizations. We raised thousands for clients while encouraging unity in the community, promoting school spirit, and fostering partnerships with local restaurants and businesses. 

Chris resides in the Atlanta area. In his spare time, he enjoys being an avid movie watcher and playing board games with his wife, Camille, and children, Aiden (10) and Alyssa (7). In the future, Chris looks forward to continuing his career in civil service and becoming a senior executive of a federal agency.

One of Amsterdam’s famous canals

MBA Around the World

by Benjamin Tankersley

Rhyn Cason (MBA, 2019) has seen his job take him around the world, an opportunity he was given by showing the initiative to complete his MBA at Georgia Southern. Prior to enrolling at Georgia Southern, Rhyn worked for several different companies putting his undergraduate degree in microbiology and biochemistry to work. After working for a few different companies, Rhyn made his way to SNF Holding Company in Riceboro. After just six months as a technical rep, he was promoted to key account manager.

“That was when I decided to go back and get my MBA,” Rhyn said. “I was doing a lot more profit and loss statement and business case type management. With a science background, I needed to know that.” As he began his search, Rhyn looked at a few different online programs, including Georgia Southern, The University of Georgia, and Oklahoma University, but it was ultimately Georgia Southern’s in-person MBA program that attracted him most.

“Really, what attracted me to Georgia Southern is that it had an in-person aspect to it, which was something I really thrived on,” Rhyn said. “I learn… better when I can discuss and converse with my professors. And the fact that the program was very accessible, that you could take classes two nights a week and I could work full time, that was the deciding factor for me.” Two Parker MBA professors who impacted Rhyn’s studies were Tim Cairney, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting, and John Hatem, Ph.D., professor of finance.

That flexibility was very important early on when, during the semester of his leadership course, Rhyn and his wife welcomed their third child into the world. “I was in the delivery room reading my leadership book while we were waiting on my daughter,” Rhyn said. “And, then, also, I traveled pretty extensively at that point. I was doing 50 to 100 nights a year and hotel, and it was all very, very doable.”

The affordable pricing of the Georgia Southern MBA also played a key role in his decision. With his MBA in hand, Rhyn recently received a promotion to senior product manager, at which he will be overseeing a couple different product lines for all customers at SNF. “I think the MBA definitely opened up a lot of opportunities with the organization, just on an initiative basis,” Rhyn said. “They see that you are willing to put in the work to better yourself.”

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Rhyn traveled a lot for work, having several accounts throughout Europe. “I don’t necessarily know that I needed to go to France or Barcelona to apply the skills [earned from my MBA], but they certainly paved the way to move up to where I could go do a lot of those things,” Rhyn concluded. Though in Europe for work, it was not all business as Rhyn was able to do some sightseeing—including Notre Dame Cathedral before the devasting fire, the Eiffel Tower, the French crown jewels, and Amsterdam’s canals.

Georgia Southern Society for Human Resource Management Student Chapter Recognized

Georgia Southern University’s Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) student chapter received a 2020–21 Superior Merit designation from the national SHRM organization for providing superior growth and development opportunities to its student members.

SHRM student chapters have the opportunity to earn an award based on the number of activities they complete during the merit award cycle, the most recent one of which lasted from May 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021.

“This is especially good news considering how difficult it was for student organizations during the past COVID-impacted year,” said David Sikora, Ph.D., associate professor of management and SHRM student chapter advisor. “The SHRM officers did a great job under very challenging circumstances. It’s good that their hard work is recognized by the national SHRM society.”

The SHRM Student Chapter Merit Award program encourages the development of more effective student chapters and distinguishes outstanding activities and projects. Chapters are recognized based on operations, chapter programming and professional development of members, support of the human resource profession, and SHRM engagement.

“The members of our SHRM student chapters represent the next generation of human resources leaders, and it’s critical to highlight the instrumental role they play in SHRM’s success,” said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM president and CEO. “The hard work of these students shows the future of the profession is, indeed, in good hands. I applaud their accomplishments and ability to foster innovative programming, development and interest in human resources as we navigate changing workplaces.”

Parker Alumna Named to Top 10 in 10 Young Professionals List

Augusta Magazine, in partnership with the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, has announced ten of Augusta’s most outstanding young professionals. Parker College is pleased that Mary Elizabeth (Beth) Bargeron James (MBA, 2010; MKTG, 2008), vice president and marketing director at Queensborough National Bank & Trust, has made the list. In addition to her duties at Queensborough, Beth is currently attending Georgia Banking School and plans to become a Certified Financial Marketing Professional within the next two years.

To learn more, go to Congratulations, Beth!

Marketing Faculty Participate in AMS Webinar

On Thursday, July 22, the Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) hosted “What Makes a Good Reviewer?” a webinar for all academics and doctoral students in the field of marketing that focused on an in-depth discussion of how to serve as a good peer reviewer to the academic community, as well as how to respond to a reviewer’s commentary as an author.

Jackie Eastman, Ph.D., professor of marketing from the Parker College of Business and co-editor of the Journal of Consumer Behavior, participated as one of five prestigious panelists. “It was an honor to be part of such an esteemed group of panelists and a thrill to be able to present to 188 attendees from 42 countries. Even as a presenter and an editor, I learned so much from the other panelists in the session on how to be a better reviewer and editor and how as an author to better respond to the reviewers’ comments I receive,” commented Jackie.

The webinar was moderated by Parker faculty member and AMS director of online seminars Hyunju Shin, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing. “It was my pleasure organizing and moderating the successful webinar. This particular webinar was personally meaningful to me because our very own Jackie Eastman joined the panel sharing her experiences and insights as a journal editor on the topic of ‘the review process from the editor’s view,’” said Hyunju.

Toma Opines on the Rising Rate of Inflation

Sean Evans of WTOC-11, Savannah’s CBS affiliate, recently interviewed Mike Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Economics, regarding the local impacts of the national rising rate of inflation. According to Toma, used car prices are now 40 percent higher than they were this time last year. In addition, higher prices for groceries, gasoline, and other consumer goods have many Americans searching for cheaper alternatives, but, he cautioned, it is important to look at inflation numbers in context, especially when comparing a recovering economy to one in the middle of a pandemic. Toma stated that the current rise in inflation has nothing to do with national leadership, “Regardless of who was President…[after the pandemic], you’re going to see significant macroeconomic effects that completely overshadow which party is in control of the White House or Congress or whatever.” Prices and inflation should level out in three-to-six months he concluded.

To see the entire interview, go to

Last updated: 7/27/2021