Just back from my annual trip to Syracuse University as part of their Retail Advisory Board for the Whitman School of Management (1800 full-time undergrads), I’m delighted to report that the retail program there (with exceptional professors like Amanda Nicholson, Ray Wimer, and Linda Cushman) is churning out qualified and talented retail majors with a strong grasp of the business, its challenges and opportunities. What’s more, a new program focusing on digital opportunities at retail (in collaboration with SU’s iSchool) ensures that graduates will be well prepared for our rapidly changing omni-channel universe.
With several of my industry colleagues (including designer Henry Grethel, Tim Miner from TJX, Meg Newhouse from Ross Stores, Jonathan Greller from Doneger, Richard Mast from Bloomingdale’s, Dan Lieberman from Fila, Maureen Baltazar from Hermes), I spent an entire day judging senior presentations that evaluated their recent summer internships. These students worked at Macy’s, Kohls, JCP, Unilever, Kraft Foods, Bergdorfs, and other companies; their analysis of each store’s strengths, weaknesses, advantages and threats showed tremendous insight. (I’d bet that retail management would learn much about their own stores from these student critiques!) Despite a precarious job market, most of these seniors already have job offers for next year based on their successful internships; I highly recommend that retailers looking for top talent get involved with this program in the future. (Whitman is one of few business schools in the country to offer a retailing major.)
Another part of our Advisory Board experience involved addressing the incoming Whitman freshmen. Judging from their intelligent, sometimes provocative questions and the long lines of students waiting to get business cards from Bloomingdales, Ross and TJX, it looks like our industry is attracting a new generation of enthusiastic workers, creative thinkers and inspired leaders.