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Published: November 9, 2017 Author: Juli Holbert

Ohio University’s Career and Leadership Development Center (CLDC), in partnership with the Patton College of Education’s Department of Human and Consumer Sciences, recently sponsored two industry tours for students to explore retail and hospitality career and internship options. The tours gave students diverse, informational exposure to the professional world of both retail and hospitality.

Jamie Dahl, assistant director for hospitality, merchandising and recreation at the CLDC, helped put the tours together and documented the students’ experiences on both trips.

“Both industry tours offered students unique experiential learning opportunities,” said Dahl. “Some of our students have landed internships based on some connections made on these tours.”

Retail Trip

The Oct. 13 retail trip included 17 students from the Patton College’s Retail Merchandising and Fashion Product Development (RFPD 3890), a retail course on professional career searches. 

Students traveled to Columbus as a group for a full day of activities, visiting a Kohl’s store in Grove City, a Nordstrom store at Easton and the corporate headquarters of DSW. Each stop created a set of unique opportunities for students to engage with people in the field, network with management professionals and learn about career and internship options.

Kohl’s management talked with students, offering information on the store’s layout, an overview of the company and an inside look at its culture. Professional team members discussed career opportunities at Kohl’s as well as the company’s internship program with the visiting students.

At Nordstrom, students interacted with management and human resources employees and learned about the company’s strong focus on the customer and its success on personal styling. The Nordstrom visit also provided students insight into how the company has integrated technology into its business model and its retail locations. Students also learned about Nordstrom internship opportunities.

At the DSW headquarters, students on the trip paired with more than 20 other students from the University’s Fashion Associates student organization to get a full tour of the facility. Students interacted with DSW professionals to learn about marketing/customer relationships, merchandise planning and allocation and product buying. Donna Williams, a DSW buyer, discussed the process of quality-testing shoe samples with students. All students then participated in a hands-on comparison of products to determine the highest quality shoe.

Lauren Rhines, a senior studying retail merchandising and fashion product development, said that the industry tour gave her a newfound appreciation for matching her own values to a company’s values. 

“I think this trip helped me to see that there are so many opportunities out there upon graduation, and that I need to understand what is important to me in a job or company,” Rhines said. 

The Retail Merchandising and Fashion Product Development (RFPD 3890) course will be offered again in the spring 2018 semester, and Rhines noted how valuable industry tours are.

“Being able to have hands-on experience is really important to me, and talking with working professionals was not only beneficial but so much fun,” she said. 

Among the Ohio University students who have earned internships after participating in an industry tour is Baileigh LaRue, a senior retail merchandising and fashion product development major who is minoring in marketing and business. LaRue participated in the DSW tour last academic year and landed a 12-week summer internship with the company this past summer. 

“I had a great experience,” LaRue said of her internship, noting that her time with the company was spent working on store operations. “I worked hands-on on a wide variety of project that I knew my department and other departments would use in the future. I got to work with a variety of supervisors and directors. I felt like I was a full-time worker, not an intern.”

LaRue credited Ohio University, the CLDC and all of the opportunities provided through her academic program with setting her on a path to professional success.

“The CLDC allowed me to learn more about myself in regards to my professional self,” she said, noting the experiences she’s had earning the office’s leadership certificates, taking its career courses and participating in a mock interview. “My specific program is built of great people who are wanting to help and assist any way they can, and the clubs that are offered within my major have provided great insights to the retail industry.”

Hospitality Trip

The following Thursday, 24 students from a range of majors, including restaurant, hotel and tourism, visited the Hyatt Regency Columbus – an industry tour offered in partnership with the Ohio University Alumni Association, which provided transportation for the students.

Students experienced department immersion in the following areas: housekeeping, guest services, event services, event set-up, outlets, culinary, sales, event planning/sales, stewarding, engineering, human resources, and senior operations leadership. In small groups, students were invited to explore three of those areas.

The students were treated to delicious lunch that they enjoyed alongside OHIO alumni who are employed with the Hyatt Regency Columbus, providing the current and former students an opportunity to network. That Bobcat interaction continued after lunch with a panel discussion, during which the alumni employed at the Hyatt Regency Columbus provided career advice and shared their professional experiences with the company. 

Students were then broken into groups and given real-world case studies based on actual experiences the Hyatt Regency Columbus staff have had while working in the hotel industry. Using the knowledge they gained earlier in the day, students developed their proposed solutions, even working through an added “twist” in the middle of their scenario. They then presented their case studies to Hyatt Regency Columbus staff and were provided feedback from various departments.

Brennan Kaufman, a senior studying hospitality management and business administration, said this was the second time he’s attended the Hyatt Regency Columbus tour. 

“It’s an amazing experience for my peers and me because of how high level of an operation the Hyatt Regency is,” Kaufman said. He noted the opportunity the hospitality management majors had to shadow the Hyatt Regency Columbus’ managers as they interacted with all the various elements of the business from food and beverage to front desk operations. 

Kaufman’s main takeaway from this year’s trip was completely centered on networking.  

“I received countless business cards from OU alumni who have careers with the Hyatt Regency. They are all interested in keeping up with my career path as well offering me their expertise and experience for anything I may need,” Kaufman said. “During this trip, I was able to really sit down with the sales manager and also the general manager. Having these conversations with such high level employees could never have happened without our program’s wonderful relationship with Hyatt.”

In addition to the retail industry tours, Lauren Rhines also participated in the Hyatt Regency Columbus tour.

“I would definitely recommend these trips to students who are looking to learn and develop. It is important to recognize the resources available to us, on and off campus, and utilize them,” Rhines said. “These trips were eye-opening, informative and engaging.”

Ohio University students pose for a photo on a recent industry tour at the corporate headquarters of DSW.

Ohio University students pose for a photo on a recent industry tour at the corporate headquarters of DSW.

Ohio University students on an Oct. 19 industry tour of the Hyatt Regency Columbus pause to take a group photo.

Ohio University students on an Oct. 19 industry tour of the Hyatt Regency Columbus pause to take a group photo.