An associate professor of marketing and director of the Center for Teaching Effectiveness in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, two-time alumna Molly Rapert believes there’s nothing more fulfilling than serving others.
A newly-elected board member of the Arkansas Alumni Association, Rapert began her U of A career as a teenager, sitting on the steps of Old Main in 1978, as her oldest brother began his journey at the U of A. She recalled looking down at the sidewalk and thinking how unique it was that student names were on the sidewalk and wondered where were those people today.
For Rapert, Senior Walk represented one common bond; no matter where students came from or if they spent their whole lives loving the Razorbacks, it was the sidewalk that brought them together.
Rapert explained that she became obsessed with the Senior Walk and would go on other campus visits, but in the back of her mind, she kept thinking about that heritage at the U of A, and knew this is where she wanted to go to school.
“I came on a National Merit scholarship and loved it and did my undergraduate and master’s here. I met Dub Ashton, who made me believe that I could be a marketing major and that’s what I was supposed to do and kind of started down that path,” Rapert said.
After graduating from the U of A, Rapert worked in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and later taught at James Madison University in Virginia, where she credits that position to a professor she had at the U of A.
“He put my name in for a job interview at James Madison without even telling me,” Rapert said. “He just said you are meant to teach, you just don’t know it yet.”
When officials at James Madison called Rapert as a finalist for the job, she told them they had the wrong person, as she did not apply for the position. The officials told her otherwise saying they received a five-page letter of recommendation stating they were the ones who needed to get her career started.
Rapert said that she had no plans of becoming a teacher, but her teachers saw her potential long before she could. She gave credit to her professors because they invested in her and took risks to begin her career, even without her knowledge.
“It taught me a lot about what the teaching profession can do and how you can serve others with generosity to help them be happy in life,” she said.
She returned to the U of A in 1991, after earning her doctorate from the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I feel so blessed that a University I love thought it fitting to hire me back and it’s been a great 24 years,” Rapert said.
As a tenured professor, Rapert follows a very typical path: research, teaching and service, and teaching is by far her favorite. However, she feels a big obligation to pay it forward.
“That’s something my parents instilled in me early and that’s what I take the most job satisfaction from. It’s not the money, it’s not resources, it’s that I get paid to make a difference in somebody’s life,” Rapert said.
As her way to pay it forward, Rapert also serves on the board of directors for the Walton College Alumni Society, and as a faculty advisor to some organizations such as Kanakuk Kamps, KLIFE and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
“How many jobs can you say that,” Rapert said. ”You don’t get jobs that allow you to see that domino effect.”
A big motivating factor for Rapert to serve on the Arkansas Alumni Association board was the ability to see it full circle as her oldest son will attend the U of A in the fall. Both Rapert and her husband are U of A, Walton College graduates and as they suggested to their son to take some campus visits, he told his parents that he’d been taking a campus visit for 17 years.
“We couldn’t make him go on a campus visit. I wanted him to have that experience and he just said, ‘I’m supposed to be at the U of A.’ He said I see how much you all love it and I love the people that I’ve met and this is my family. For me to know how much lies ahead of him these next four years, and how much lies ahead of him at my University, is so special and it was just a reminder that I need to step in and give back to an institution that has become a community to my family,” Rapert said.
In 2012, the Walton Alumni Society Board named its 2012 scholarship the “Molly Rapert Walton College Alumni Society Scholarship” to recognize Rapert’s contributions to past, present and future Walton College students.
Through Rapert’s tenure, she has earned several awards such as the Charles and Nadine Baum Faculty Teaching Award (2012), the University of Arkansas Honors College Distinguished Faculty Award (2011), Marketing Management Association Top In Nation Teaching Award (2010), Beta Gamma Sigma Outstanding Teaching Award (2007), the Arkansas Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award (2002), the Walton College of Business Excellence in Teaching Award (2011, 2001, 1998), the Walton College of Business Excellence in Service Award (2006, 1993) and the Excellence in Advising Award (1996).
Her research work has been published in various journals, and she has hosted numerous teaching workshops. Each summer, Rapert travels to Italy, where she represents the University of Arkansas, teaching in the C.I.M.B.A. study-abroad program in Paderno del Grappa.