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The Harbert College of Business is committed to providing a superior student experience that produces highly sought-after graduates. Industry-focused opportunities such as this prove out that value proposition every day.
Each year, the supply chain faculty attends many national conferences and events — that’s not unusual. What is unique about the supply chain program is that when they travel from coast to coast, they take students along with them. Last year, over 35 students had the opportunity to attend national conferences alongside their faculty. Their objective is simple: expose students to the supply chain world first-hand and help students gain a greater understanding of the industry and the careers offered. An added benefit is that faculty can connect students directly with industry leaders while they are at these events together. But the greatest part is that the students have proven to be remarkable advocates for the college — introducing new employers to Auburn through their attendance.
Fourteen Harbert College of Business Supply Chain Management students had the opportunity to attend the 2020 National Retail Foundation (NRF) Student Program in New York City from January 9 – 12. Here, they were offered the chance to learn from retail and fashion industry CEO’s as well as participate in curated company tours, educational sessions, and a career fair that included powerhouse organizations. The National Retail Foundation is the world’s largest retail conference and expo, drawing 18,000 retailers and 40,000 attendees representing 99 countries.
The Auburn students selected to attend (expense-free through a scholarship program sponsored by the NRF) were from among a pool of thousands of applicants across North America. Those chosen were Barry Neal, Andrea Ahmed, Zihan Zhang, Rachel Johnson, Cameron Oden, Murphy McCammon, Katherine Stiegler, Sarah Lucas, Eric Pilcher, Adrienne Leonard, Catherine Andrews, Ashlee Walker, Will Sansom and Maggie Gilbert.
Senior, Maggie Gilbert called it the “experience of a lifetime.” Katherine Stiegler, who came away with a full-time job in the Kohl’s home office called it “amazing.” (Gilbert and Stiegler are pictured above.)
“New York City is the heart of the retail business world,” said Marcia Gibson (who attended the event with the students), Coordinator of the Supply Chain Management Professional Experience Program at the Harbert College. “There is no local equivalent to this event. To expose Auburn supply chain students to this level of the retail world, we have to take students to the source — and that is Manhattan. It has no equal.”
“Our students do an amazing job of representing our program at professional events. Employers often pull me aside and tell me how impressed they are with our students — they mention that our students stand out in the crowd due to their professionalism and communication skills. We simply can’t buy better advertising for our program than that.”
— Marcia Gibson, Coordinator of the Supply Chain Management Professional Experience Program at the Harbert College of Business
The Harbert College students, along with students from all over North America, gained great exposure to corporate thinking and the retail world through professional presentations made by top shelf retail organizations like Levi Strauss, Macy’s and Sephora.
“Many of the organizations that attended are companies we aspire to bring to Auburn for recruiting purposes,” said Gibson. “In supply chain, we have found that we can attract many employers to Auburn by first introducing them to our students at conferences and professional events. Our students do an amazing job of representing our program at professional events. Employers often pull me aside and tell me how impressed they are with our students — they mention that our students stand out in the crowd due to their professionalism and communication skills. We simply can’t buy better advertising for our program than that.”
Gilbert (a May graduate, who recently accepted a full-time job) considered the executives to be “down to earth.”
“J.K. Symancyk talked about how he majored in history in college and he never thought he would end up as CEO of PetSmart,” she explained. “One piece of advice that stood out and seemed like the underlying theme throughout the conference was always keep learning. No matter where you end up in life, in your career, or personally, soak up all the knowledge you can and use it as a tool guide. Every CEO who gave a speech talked about how even though they are on the executive suite level, they are still learning new things every day.”
Pilcher, also a May graduate, said he learned more at the conference than he expected.
“I was informed about the sustainability initiatives of these large retailers, the environmental impact of the fashion industry, and new companies like Rent the Runway that are trying to combat the wastefulness of fast-fashion. Aside from the conference, I was able to visit the great city of New York for the first time. I had always thought about living in New York after graduation, but I had never been, so I could not confidently look for jobs in the city. After visiting, I realized how much I love New York and how I would love working there after graduation.”
“One piece of advice that stood out and seemed like the underlying theme throughout the conference was always keep learning. No matter where you end up in life, in your career, or personally, soak up all the knowledge you can and use it as a tool guide. Every CEO who gave a speech talked about how even though they are on the executive suite level, they are still learning new things every day.”
— Maggie Gilbert, Senior in Supply Chain Management
Stiegler attended with the goal of gaining an internship. Her life changed in Manhattan.
“On the last day of the event, I waited in the Kohl’s line at the career fair for about 30 minutes,” she explained. “When it was my turn, I asked about the internship and the representative told me their internships had been closed. I was devastated and my whole body just sunk. But I made sure not to show that.”
Stiegler, who said she waited in line too long to turn around and walk away, was asked if she was interested in a merchandise analysis position at the company’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office. Two weeks later, after two rounds of interviews, she was given a job offer. “I am so thankful,” she said. “I thanked the recruiters for giving me the opportunity. I’m still at a loss of words. I didn’t expect this.”
Gibson says attending national conferences like the NRF allows supply chain students to think big.
“Students can dream of working for Calvin Klein or Macy’s, but their résumé is not very likely to make it to the CEO’s desk. However, when our students rub elbows with industry leaders at events like this, you never know — they may end up with a job offer at a top company! This is why we make such a special effort to bring our students to professional events. They help us expand our footprint beyond the southeast — where people are not always familiar with the value of the Auburn brand. Our students are literally helping us move our tent poles into new territory.”