It’s an exciting time at the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona. With the addition of the brand new McClellan Park Building and the upcoming Global Retailing Conference, it’s no wonder that so many alumni return to the Center to pursue advanced degrees as their careers unfold. We asked Melinda Burke, the Lundgren Center’s Director, to bring us up to speed on all of the current and new student offerings.
As Director of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona, you collaborate with 30 industry corporate partners to expand resources available to faculty and students to support education, outreach and research. How have these partners contributed to the development of your students? Can you share an example?
The partners in the Lundgren Center are essential to our success. We strive to build a bridge from the classroom to industry and we do this by involving our partners. In this past year we have hosted executives in the classroom, sponsored professional development workshops, coordinated field trips and study tours. The Lundgren Center provides an entry point for our partners to reach out to students, build relationships and hopefully successfully recruit tomorrow’s retail stars.
PetSmart is an excellent example of a partner who contributes a great deal through the Lundgren Center, and in return reaps numerous benefits. We offer a career development class we call the “Career Wise Cats” where students develop a resume, perfect their interviewing skills and identify a career path that interests them. Petsmart executives regularly present in class and offer interviewing tips and career guidance. The students in the class are also eligible to interview for Petsmart summer internships, academic scholarships or part time peer-to-peer mentoring positions. Both PetSmart and the Lundgren Center consider the program a great success – students develop their professional skills and PetSmart identifies talent for internships and training programs.
Mr. Lundgren is a 1975 graduate of the University of Arizona and as an alumnus of this great university he is a role model for our students and resource for faculty. He has been invaluable in helping us shape our vision for the Lundgren Center for Retailing. He visits campus once a year and provides our students with a strong perspective on what it takes to lead a successful organization like Macy’s. He supports our belief that centers like the Lundgren Center for Retailing are critical in highlighting opportunity and building interest among students in retailing careers.
Tell us why internships are important and how they shape a student’s professional development and career.
Our academic program encourages all Retailing and Consumer Sciences students to complete an internship between the junior and senior year. We structure the internship so students can earn up to nine units of academic credit with a 10 – 12 week internship. The experience is an important balance to the classroom. We know that students hoping for placement in an executive development program with a retailer when they graduate must demonstrate some level of real world knowledge about the industry. The internship provides this exposure and builds knowledge of the company. Students who graduate with our academic major and a structured internship are in high demand by the retailing industry. Many already have a job offer waiting for them when they graduate.
Do you have any stellar graduates making a name in retailing you’d like to mention?
We are very proud of the accomplishments of our graduates. We have many working today for department, discount and specialty retailers in buying, planning, visual merchandising, marketing and human resources. Many have also chosen to work in manufacturing as sales managers. It is rewarding to see where how the careers of our alums unfold, many stay in the industry while some have returned to get law degrees, MBA’s or PhD’s.
What does the Lundgren Center offer retailers and related employers that is different from other schools? Tell us about the program’s collaboration with the Eller College of Management and why that is significant.
The University of Arizona has an enrollment of 38,000 students and an excellent Career Center that serves the needs of several hundred employers who recruit on our campus. What is often difficult for recruiters is finding the connection with the right student groups, clubs or classrooms in order to meet candidates. The Lundgren Center offers the opportunity for partnership and a place to connect with outstanding students and faculty. Every partner in the Lundgren Center has a student ambassador to assist with recruiting. Our faculty invite retailers into class and we sponsor an award winning SIFE Team. The Lundgren Center represents all retailers and promotes retailing careers to all students at the University of Arizona.
The McClelland Park Building, a 72,000 square foot new building, is the home for John and Doris School of Family and Consumer Sciences and your center. Talk more about this building, the classes you offer and how it benefits efforts to recruit more students to retail programs.
Our building has brought excellent visibility on campus to the retailing program. In our bright, light-filled building students can enroll in over 14 courses that focus on all elements of the retailing industry such as retail strategy, brand management, marketing strategy, global retailing and consumer behavior. With this new visibility has come significant growth in our retailing program – over 500 students are now majoring in Retailing and Consumer Sciences. To manage this growth and improve the overall quality of our graduates there are rigorous academic and GPA requirements. Our students must complete accounting, statistics, business math, economics and research methods courses before they can declare themselves retailing majors. In this way we are assured that incoming students have the strong quantitative skills our companies are seeking.
There are some star retailers headlining the Global Retailing Conference this year – executives from Macy’s, The Home Depot, Walmart, Kohl’s, JCPenney and fashion designer Rachel Roy to name a few. What or who are you looking forward to the most? What do your students gain from attending the conference?
Our conference this year is at the new Dove Mountain Ritz Carlton and offers a very strong lineup – an unbeatable combination. Personally I am looking forward to learning more about the innovative strategies in place among all the successful companies represented. I can’t say there is one speaker I am looking forward to over another, I usually get at least one good piece of information from every speaker. We make a point of opening the conference to our retailing students, and they turn out in high numbers. The students get exposure to some of the brightest minds in the industry today and they are offered an unparalleled networking opportunity.
What else should retailers know about the Terry J. Lundgren Center and your programs and plans?
I am always looking for partners who share our enthusiasm and commitment to the development of tomorrow’s retail stars. If you would like more information about partnering opportunities please contact me at email@example.com. You can also find the Center on Facebook and Twitter.
University of Arizona’s Lundgren Center for Retailing is one of NRF Foundation’s College Partners. Melinda Burke also serves on NRF Foundation’s Board of Directors.