College of Business creates first-of-its-kind Skills Lab in Arkansas

State Farm Business Skills Lab ribbon cutting ceremonyOn April 14, 2017, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business cut the ribbon and debuted its newest tool to better prepare students for the workforce.

The State Farm Business Skills Lab, on the second floor of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development, was designed to help students master effective communication skills. Inside, two offices, a conference room, and two sets of cameras are available for students to practice interviews and presentations.

Dr. Lenita Davis, department chair of marketing and advertising and executive director of the sales program, invented the skills lab system with Haywood Pulliam, chief executive officer and president of cenergyIT.

After enhancing their original concept, the duo created what is now known as interact Solution.

The interactive system allows students to record sales pitches, marketing presentations, and conduct mock-interviews in a fixed environment, all while panelists, professors, and corporate partners can watch live and provide students with instant feedback.

“It’s proprietary technology, and there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the state of Arkansas,” Davis said.

In 2008, Davis and Pulliam worked to build a video sales lab solution to help Davis better evaluate her students during marketing role plays. The system would also give her students the ability to view and critique their onscreen interactions.

“Back in the day, sales students would use video cameras to record their work,” Davis said. “It would take about 15 minutes for the video to render, so the more students you had, the more complex things would get.”

To simplify the process, Davis came up with the idea to construct a more controlled system. After meeting Pulliam by chance, Davis sought to collaborate with the tech genius to help bring her idea to life.

When Davis came to UA Little Rock in 2015, she pushed to have the system installed, knowing it would benefit students and professors. In response, the College of Business gave the proceeds of its annual golf tournament to establish the lab.

Once State Farm got wind of the idea, 12 company agents decided to invest in the lab, securing five-year naming rights.

Now that the UA Little Rock College of Business houses the first skills lab of its kind in the state, Davis hopes that other departments and universities in Arkansas will gravitate toward the idea.

Davis has already witnessed extensive success of the system, as over 30 universities nationwide, including Baylor and Clemson University, have installed the skills lab, as have clinical educational programs, speech and hearing labs, and physician assistant labs.

To visit the State Farm Business Skills Lab or for more information, contact Lenita Davis at lmdavis@ualr.edu or 501.569.8864.

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