New and different are often words that provide the key to success for corporate America. That’s why one of the best known companies in the world reached out to Dr. James Galt-Brown, associate professor of History at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, to speak on rural America from his expertise as a lecturer in the one-of-a-kind Rural Studies bachelor’s degree at ABAC.
Galt-Brown spoke to employees of Wal-Mart during the corporation’s recent Rural Customer Immersion Symposium at the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. He used background material from one of his classes in the ABAC Rural Studies program, the only degree of its kind in the country.
Wal-Mart Project Manager Shannon Dilday put the entire symposium together. She found Galt-Brown from the ABAC Rural Studies program webpage and selected him because he “looked fun in the classroom.”
“At first, I thought ‘who would be playing this kind of a practical joke,’ but they were serious,” Galt-Brown said.
So serious, in fact, that he was the only speaker from the academic world invited to address the symposium audience.
“What I find most pleasing, gratifying and flattering about this opportunity is that when a Fortune 10 company needed accurate, up-to-date information on rural America they came to ABAC,” Galt-Brown said. “That says a lot for our Rural Studies program and how relevant rural studies are to the American marketplace.”
Wal-Mart does $75 billion in gross sales annually in rural America. The corporation wanted to know the reality of rural customers, the challenges they face, the rural population’s concerns and if the stereotypes of that segment of the population were accurate.
“The company wants to expand markets in rural areas in the United States, and they wanted an academic perspective,” Galt-Brown said. “I did some research and used some materials from my History of Rural America class to put together a presentation.”