Graduating Student Spotlight on Josiah Johnson

UA Little Rock finance and economics major Josiah Johnson represented a statistical analysis of the spillover effects and general efficacy of small business initiatives in small towns featured in the TV show Small Business Revolution for his project for the Student Research and Creatives Works Expo. Photo by Ben Krain.

Josiah Johnson, a Donaghey Scholar and senior from Sherwood, is graduating this semester with a BBA in finance and a BBA in economics.

During his time at UA Little Rock, Johnson has been an integral part of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center’s Startup Team, which specializes in assisting clients who have never been in business or had to learn about business before.

He’s also been recognized for his research that looked into the impact on small towns that have been featured on the TV show “Small Business Revolution.” His research project earned first place in economics during the 2021 Student Research and Creative Works Expo.

What are your thoughts on graduating?

I am excited. I started college a little later in life, and it’s nice to catch up to where my friends are. In this last semester, it feels that a lot of my efforts have been recognized. It’s validating that my four years have been worthwhile.

Why did you start college a little later in life?

I’m 25, so I started my freshman year when I was 21. I had a little later start than most people. I had Lyme disease in middle school that went undiagnosed for a while, and I actually never attended high school. After getting my GED, my first full-time job was a transition back into the real world. I knew I couldn’t go to a university straight off the bat, so I saved money for a little while. I actually wrote my Donaghey Scholars essay on the value of attending college. It allowed me to research the pros and cons of getting a degree.

Why did you choose UA Little Rock? 

The first thing is that the college is close to my family and where I grew up. I wasn’t sure about relocating. For me, UA Little Rock was a good opportunity because of the proximity and familiarity. I was preparing to take out quite a bit of loans until I found out about the Donaghey Scholars Program, which ended up working out really well for me.

Who were your favorite professors at UA Little Rock?

I have to mention Dr. Rhet Smith. I am co-authoring with him, and I am still entertaining the idea of getting a Ph.D. in economics because of him. Dr. William Jergins, Dr. Moiz Bhai, and Dr. Casey Rockwell were all wonderful professors as well. I am thankful to both Dr. Simon Hawkins and Dr. Jessica Scott from the Donaghey Scholars Program for their support and open office where I could always ask questions.

What are some of the highlights from your college years?

My favorite class has been applied econometrics with Dr. Jergins. I looked at the effect of earned income tax credit programs on personal consumption and estimated the effect it would have in Arkansas. Understandably, we might expect people who have earned income tax credits to increase their personal consumption.

I was able to utilize everything I’ve learned in class and work. Going to present my research at the Southern Economics Association Conference this November was a totally new experience, and I was grateful for that opportunity. One professor liked my research so much that he wanted me to apply to his university’s Ph.D. program in economics.

I also studied abroad right before COVID. It made me more open to international travel. I was in Seville, Spain, during spring 2020. I got to go skiing for the first time, and I actually thought I picked it up pretty quickly.

Tell me about your work with the ASBTDC?

My work at the ASBTDC has been great. I first went to one of their events, and asked if I could just volunteer for them. It just so happened that they needed someone to cover an employee who was going on vacation. After that, they offered me the job. The work I’ve done has complimented my education and made me realize my interest in market research. I love working with data and transforming that data into something that makes sense for people who don’t like crunching the numbers.

With the Startup Team, I definitely have clients that I check in with often. I hope they will be very successful. The things I’ve learned in class and on the job can help entrepreneurs who haven’t done something like this before or maybe didn’t go to college or business school. It’s empowering that I can give recommendations to new business owners andI hope to visit those businesses once they open.

What are you looking forward to after graduation?

I have a great job here at the ASBTDC and I am weighing getting a master’s degree in business information systems. I’m still open to other job opportunities. Whatever I do, I would like it to involve research, big data, or business consulting. Those are the three areas that interest me the most.

What advice would you give to new students?

I’m a big fan of Google Calendar. I spent my first week of classes with my syllabi, and I put all of my due dates and all of my class dates in my calendar. I didn’t want to be caught by surprise. I definitely recommend the Mathematics Assistance Center where I had several tutors that were wonderful. I also encourage going to all the on-campus events and making connections. I loved living on campus and hosting game nights.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Part of me wishes I could be here longer. I’ve done a lot at UA Little Rock, and I’ve enjoyed my time here. I couldn’t have imagined going to another school. The benefits that the Donaghey Scholars provided exceeded my college expectations. I loved my cohort and the community we’ve built. It’s intimidating starting college from scratch, and I felt that I started with a great group of friends.

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