Longtime professor Frank Niles is leaving John Brown University after 16 years of teaching political science to take on a job with Walmart as a leadership developer and executive coach. His last day at the University will be Sept. 18.
“Corporate America doesn’t run on academic America timeframes, unfortunately,” Niles said, explaining his sudden departure.
It all started when Niles had the opportunity last semester to speak publicly to Walmart executives about leadership. He was invited to a causal 15 minute meeting with one of the executives, but Niles said the two men hit it off and ended up conversing for over two hours.
In this meeting, Niles learned about a potential job that might open up in the future. Niles said when he heard the job description, he was very excited, but at that point it was still only a possibility.
About four weeks ago, Walmart contacted Niles and told him the potential job opening had become a reality and would be posted. By Wednesday, Sept. 2, Niles officially had the job.
“It’s a perfect fit for what I do and what my passions are,” Niles said.
Professor of language studies Warren Roby has known Niles for 15 years and said he counts him as one of his best friends on campus.
“I’m going to miss him,” Roby said, “But I’m happy he’s got a great opportunity.”
Roby said that while it might not be expected for a political science professor to also be a life coach, Niles has a wide range of skills and passions. Some of which include blogging for the Huffington Post, performing a TED talk and being referenced for a CNN article.
“He really is a great example of life-long learning,” Roby said.
Niles said he loves his job at the University, but that this opportunity with Walmart was too good to pass up.
He added that while he will still be able to hangout with his university colleagues after he leaves, the thing he will miss most is classroom discussion.
“I’m going to be really sad leaving the students,” Niles said, also saying that he will miss ongoing interactions, seeing students grow as people and in their understanding of class material, as well as hearing about students’ development after undergrad education as they go to graduate school, get married and get jobs.
“That’s very gratifying about this job,” Niles said.
“In Walmart I’ll be doing the same thing, just on a much bigger scale,” Niles said, explaining that the passion he has for helping people develop and be the best they can be will carry over to his new job.
Allan Aguilar, junior political science major said he first found out that Niles was leaving when it was announced in his political science class on Thursday, Sept. 3.
“I am incredibly sad that he’s leaving,” Aguilar said, calling Niles “a great mind,” but added, “I’m happy for him.”
“He’s a great professor, super intelligent, knows what he’s talking about obviously, and it’s just unfortunate that I’m not going to have him for all the other classes.”
Despite his remorse for seeing Niles go, Aguilar said he thinks that the Political Science program can recover and grow, and he hopes that students will continue to join the program.