Nov 7, 2023 - Food and Drink

Taco Talk: Sam M. Walton College of Business' Brent Williams

Brent Williams, interim dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Photos: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Worth here. I recently connected with Brent Williams, interim dean of the University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton College of Business, at Taco & Tamale Co.'s newest spot in Fayetteville's South Yard.

The setup: The chain started several years ago in Little Rock, then expanded with a spot on the Bentonville square before coming to Fayetteville. The menu touts that it serves "Ark-Mex" fare.

  • Williams went straight for the chargrilled ribeye steak tacos with a cucumber salad as a side ($16.50).
  • I was attracted to the smoked pulled pork with white barbecue sauce and Delta-Q sauce with beans and rice ($15).
  • We split a plate of three Delta tamales ($7).

Driving the news: Williams was named interim dean in August after Matthew Waller stepped down from leading the college to return to teaching full time.

Catch up quick: At 47, Williams is the youngest person to fill the role in recent memory. Some could see that as a negative, but he has two children in the early to near-college age range, so Williams feels he grasps what his students most need.

  • Keeping graduates in Arkansas is a priority but requires a good connection with in-state corporations, he said.
  • Williams encourages leaders at companies in the state like J.B. Hunt, Tyson and to hire interns, get on campus and partner with the college on projects.

By the numbers: Undergraduate enrollment is up 87% — from 4,450 in 2013 to 8,333 this year.

Graduate enrollment is up from 389 to 586 in a decade — nearly 51%.

The bottom line: Despite growing numbers, there's room for more students, Williams said. Supply chain management is a focus area for the college — not just because of his background, but because NWA is a prime location due to its "big three" large public companies: J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods and Walmart.

Yes, but: Entrepreneurship will continue to be a front-burner item, too, he said.

The verdict: Brent and I both loved the tamales. They had a flavorful kick.

  • The steak was good, he said, along with the cucumber salad.
  • I enjoyed the Delta-style pork tacos with tender meat and loads of complementary flavors.
  • They challenged my preconceived notions of a taco, but at the same time were familiar — a lot like spending time with Williams.

📌 Taco Talk is a regular feature. We sample a taqueria with the movers, shakers, artists and bakers of NWA, and rap about news in their world.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More NW Arkansas stories

NW Arkansaspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios NW Arkansas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more