Oh, how I love Italy

So being from Italian heritage, studying in Italy made sense for me. Get to know your roots. Right? So before coming over, I refreshed my memory a bit. My great great grandfather, Giuseppe Verucchi, came to America in 1896 and made his way to Arkansas all the way from Italy. After a couple months of being over here in Tuscany, I finally got the nerve to send messages to all the Italian Verucchis that I’m friends with on Facebook asking them if we are related from way back when. I sent a ton of messages and heard back from a pretty good number, but most people weren’t able to help me find out much information. However, I did hear back from a boy named Matteo. My message had sparked his interest about his family heritage, and we struck up a conversation. It turned out we are the same age (different only by 4 months). He was an engineering student in the city of Bologna, and there was a little population of Verucchis where he was. The train from Florence to Bologna was just about an hour, so after a little talking he offered to take me to the Archivo di Stato to check birth records, and then show me around the town. I thought it would be so cool, so I said, “Yes! Sounds great!” We worked out the logistics and on a sunny Friday morning, I made my way to the train station, bought a ticket, and found myself in Bologna an hour later. I found Matteo who then took me around the city, showing me the significant historical sights, the places the locals love, and all the rest. It was such a neat city. After climbing an old Medieval Tower to get a great view of the city from above the center, I knew the two of us would be good friends. After we took in as much as we could from up top, we went on back down and walked to the Archivo di Stato to look at the birth records of Bologna. I had never done anything like it, and to actually go through the process of looking up records from years and years ago was really neat. Rolling through the film collected from the different papers through the years. In Italy of all places. It was awesome. Sadly, I found no record of Giuseppe, but that’s OK. I at least got a great new friend from this experience.
After checking the records, it was time for lunch. Matteo took me to one of his favorite pizza places next to campus. Once finished and happily full, he took me around campus to show me where he studies and he and his friends hang out. At some point we decided our next move would be to drive up to this church overlooking the city on one of the surrounding hills. To get there we would have to take his car, which was outside the city center, so we walked over to the bus stop and took the bus #27, got off and walked to his car. It was this little silver Fiat and was oh so cute. So we then loaded up and went on our way up, up, up the hill to the incredible church that looked out over the city below. We moseyed around up there, exploring the church and the surrounding grounds. That was about all there was to do up there, so we then went back down to the city to get some of the best gelato I think I’ve ever had. Man oh man, it was good. At this point, it was about time for me to make my way back to the train station, so we drove through the city for one last look, parked the Fiat, and walked to the station. I thanked him for a fabulous day and then loaded the train back to Florence.
Since being here in Florence, I have made two local Italian friends: David and Paolo. They are SO fun! The two boys, myself, and my American friend Sam (she’s from Boston) had all planned to have dinner together this Friday night, so once back to Florence, I freshened up a bit and waited for my friends to come get me. Once it was time, we all loaded into David’s car and drove out of the city to his countryside home in Greve in Chianti. It was a really neat place. He had prepared a full Italian dinner for us, which we sat and ate down in their wine cellar. How cool, right? We had typical meat and cheese and a great local red wine to start. Then we moved onto the pasta, then onto the meat as the meal. Oh! And don’t forget the “Tuscan fries” (which were basically our American French fries, but better). Once we were all sufficiently full, we each poured a small glass of Vinsanto (dessert wine) and got out some cantuccini (dessert cookie that you dip in the Vinsanto) to finish up. It was the perfect end to a great Tuscan meal prepared by one of my real Tuscan friends. The four of us just shared friendship, food, and good times, and I don’t think I have ever felt more Italian.
The things I study in class are great and I really am learning a ton. But when it comes down to it, it’s days like these that I will leave Italy with the best memory of: The ones full of new friends and new experiences that you have to get out of the classroom to create.



Wow. Florence is so incredible. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to live over here for a semester. I am in so many interesting classes and am experiencing so many new things. Life is quite different over here. Much more so than I had imagined. I live on the residential side of Florence, which is quite different than life in the Old City Center. My apartment is on the street “Via Maffia,” no joke. How cool is that?

Around the corner from me, there is a market every day, which is where I get most of my fruits and veggies. In Florence, you go to the market or the grocery every few days rather than  once a week that we do in the States. It’s a pretty neat concept that all of your food is more fresh and colorful. So a few times a week, before I have class, I’ll go over to Piazza Santo Spirito and get a few days worth of mele e arancia (apples and oranges), which are especially delicious over here. My classes are going well. I’ve aced all my midterms (woohoo) and have a personal relationship with all my professors. On Monday and Wednesday I have Communicating in Italian with my precious little Florentine instructor: Francesca. On Wednesday, I also have Exploration of Wine Culture in Italy with my Greek instructor: Kristina. I am also enrolled in Marketing Strategies for the Arts taught by Alessandra who is from Germany. Then on Thursday, I go to History of the Global Economy with Mr. Andrea. And I have Business Strategy taught by Alessandro.

Something that is really neat about my business instructors is that they have all worked in the fields that they are teaching about, and Alessandra and Alessandro still do! It’s like teaching is something they do on the side just because they like it. So it’s really neat to hear their perspectives and their way of thinking on the topics they teach because it’s something they know well and have first hand experience in doing. The classes are also quite small (15-30 students) so you can relatively easily form relationships with teachers.
So far in Italy, I have been able to do a lot of traveling throughout Tuscany and beyond. Lucca, Orvieto, Viareggio, Montelpuciano, Pienza, Chianti, Assisi, and many more. As well as outside Tuscany to Venice, Roma, Pompeii, and a few others. I have also been able to go to Prague, which was almost like a storybook city, so colorful and full of life. As well as Athens, which was obviously incredible. Both were amazing in different ways. Athens with all of it’s ancient history, hiking up to see the Acropolis, and the panoramic view from the top, seeing the all the beautiful and not so beautiful things that the city contained. The beauty: historic sites, the lush vegetation, the people, the life. The not so beautiful: the strong sense of the economic divide. Even if you didn’t know that Greece was in economic despair, it was quite clear that the financial situation there is terrible, just from walking the streets.

To see the desperation and sorrow of some of the Greek citizens made me realize how lucky I am to be an American where there may be some economic issues, but its nothing compared to that in Greece. Then there was Prague with all of its recent history. So much has happened there within the past 50 years. All that occurred during World War II and it was pretty amazing to see some of the places where this history was made. Working my way up to see the phenomenal castle that overlooked the city, watching the Astronomical Clock that sits in the city center, and the fact that beer is cheaper than water made Prague a place that stole my heart. It was wonderful.
But back here in Florence, it’s the end of the Easter season. Last weekend, the city was celebrating the reason for the holiday. But with it’s own special traditions. “The Explosion of the Cart” takes place in front of the Duomo, which is the main cathedral here in Firenze formally known as Santa Maria del Fiore. It’s this beautiful massive structure built in 1446 from back when Florence was the capital of Italy. The festivities started about 9:00, when the cart pulled by giant white oxen started making it’s way from it’s housing place, to the front of the Duomo doors, arriving about 10:00. Once there, the monks started to sing and the bishop started speaking. It was beautiful, even though the weather didn’t quite match. Once the church bells rang 11:00, the real show began. A mechanical dove flew from the inside of the church, making its way to the cart, and ignited the show of fireworks. It really was a sight. I know we have all seen fireworks, especially those fantastic shows around the 4th of July, but this was something just so different. It was really neat to see this giant piazza packed full of people waiting to see beautiful booming fireworks exploding off of this antique cart, and watching everyone simply enjoying what was going on. After the fireworks were finished, the whole crowd rumbeled with applause and made the start of departure for their own Easter festivities. The cart was led out by a long line of Florentine men in rows of 3, all marching in sync to the beat of the drum. They were all dressed in Old Time Medieval Florentine garb that represented their family history. Real cool to see. Once I made my way out of the crowd, crossed the river, got some spremuta d’arancia (fresh squeezed orange juice) and made it back to my apartment on Via Maffia, my roommates and I decided to dye Easter Eggs. Coloring Easter eggs isn’t really a thing over here in Italy, so egg dying kits/food coloring isn’t so easy to find…had to improvise! We made our own egg dye from strawberries, blueberries, spinach, oranges, and red onions. And it was pretty neat. Something I have yet to do.
And this is life in Italy. You’ll hear from me again soon.


Study Abroad: Semana Santa

procession 1processionMy Spring break was this past week, and not many people know this but Spain’s break (Semana Santa) is full of different processions and parades to fill up the week. Every day there is at least one procession which includes a giant statue of Jesus and a statue of Mary. Everyone is dressed very culturally to celebrate the holy week for Catholicism. Different fraternities have their processions at different times. Some are completely silent, some go through caves, but all of them last for over five hours. Some start at 10 at night and go until sunrise. Spanish people truly love their Semana Santa. This was a very different spring break than what I have been used to but I loved see a different way that people celebrated it.

Bond University

Australia never ceases to surprise me with its beauty and friendliness. This really hit me when I went on a 9-day road trip starting in Sydney and ending in Adelaide. With 5 guys from my uni on the Gold Coast and another buddy that visited from the University of Arkansas, we decided to rent a minivan and start off with two days in Sydney. During these two days, we got to experience all of Sydney’s beautiful sights on a futuristic electric bike. Also, we might have decided to check out a few local pubs too while we were at it.

After Sydney we headed to the Snowy Mountains which we found far from snowy. What we did find though is Mt. Kosciuszko, which is the tallest peak in Australia. After our long hike, we hopped back in our minivan and headed to Melbourne for three days. In Melbourne, we got to experience the famous lane ways, four of the finest wineries, China town and the hipster culture. Next was the part of the trip everyone was waiting for….The Great Ocean Road!

The Great Ocean Road starts right outside of Melbourne in a famous surf town called Torquay. The road takes about four hours to drive with no stops, but the stops are what the road is all about. Words literally can’t describe the beauty of this road though. Not only did we get to see the 12 apostles (One of them being the Razorback), Loch and Gorge, Cape Otway, and the London Arch but also a few wild koalas up close. After finishing the the great ocean road we decided to stay in another surf town Wollongong. After Wollongong we headed to Adelaide where we spent our last night on the road trip. Didn’t really get to spend too much time in Adelaide but the thing that stuck out the most was its futuristic architecture. Overall another great adventure in the Land Down Under!


The End of the Dean Jones Era

By Marty Murad


On March 6, 2015, Dean Eli Jones announced to the University of Arkansas community that he had decided to accept the position of dean of the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. He leaves behind him a myriad of accomplishments at the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Walton College has raised more than $91 million in the period from July 1, 2012, through Feb. 28, 2015. Fifteen new members were recruited to the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board and three new committees – Walton College Campaign Arkansas Committee, Student Recruitment and Career Development Committee and the Marketing and Communications Committee – were formed.

In 2013, Walton established seven key strategic growth initiatives, with input from key stakeholders:

  • Student Outcomes: To create a student outcomes framework that is longitudinal and more comprehensive than what currently exists.
  • Research: To be among the top 20 public business schools in research by 2020 and be recognized as such.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: To be the Subject Matter Expert for talent management, research and best practices in diversity and inclusion in business. We also aim to be known for successful development and ongoing operation of programs to provide encouragement and support nationally and globally.
  • Global: To integrate a global perspective throughout all of the activities in the college, creating a truly global culture.
  • Build an Institute of Advanced Data Analytics and Innovation: to be the premier institute in data and retail analytics.
  • Build a School of Global Retail Operations & Innovation: To be the premier institution for education and research in retailing.
  • Build a School of Entrepreneurship & Innovation: To develop a transformational undergraduate and graduate degree in entrepreneurship.

In addition to these initiatives, Walton extended its global reach by partnering with universities in Brazil, China and Vietnam. It launched new programs, such as the 100 percent online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree and a multidisciplinary Master of Science in Statistics and Analytics.

Finally, the Walton College faculty published more than 100 peer-reviewed academic articles and numerous books. The college graduated roughly 1,000 students and increased the student credit hour production by more than 15,000, as well as enrollment by 400 students.

Dean Jones transformed countless lives while at Walton, including my own. In his three-year tenure, he fostered a learning environment where students are encouraged to question, learn and challenge themselves to be a better student.

Thank you, Dean Jones, for inspiring us, impacting our lives and making Walton a place filled with innovation.


By Audrey C. McClain

5456383_origIt was recently brought to my attention that Gränna, the polkagris producing capital of Sweden is just on the other side of the lake, and that I could get there using my bus card…so I went. Polkagris (pronounced POLKA-grease) is Sweden’s famous red and white stripped candy. I can’t say that if someone would’ve offered me something called polkagris without offering an explanation I would have accepted it. The name itself isn’t very appetizing. However, the candy is peppermint flavored…so it tastes a lot better than it sounds. It was invented in 1859, when the dance the Polka was famous, and that is where the name comes from. A man would ask a woman to dace the Polka, and then he would offer her something sweet, or a “gris” as the Swedes say.

Read Audrey’s entire blog here.



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