Retail Connect Brings Students and Industry Together

November 22, 2021

Students, alumni, and retail leaders from across Minnesota and beyond gathered virtually on Tuesday, October 26 for Retail Connect 2021. The annual event brings industry and academic communities together to address the challenges and innovations shaping the retail landscape.

This year’s event, entitled SPACE EVOLUTION: E-Commerce & In-Store Innovation, featured retail experts in e-commerce and in-store innovation and explored how the unprecedented growth of both are transforming the retail space. Speakers included Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr, co-founders of Who What Wear in discussion with Target Senior Vice President Gena Fox and Sephora Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Yeh in discussion with Kohl’s Executive Vice President Nancy Carruth.

During the event, the recipients of the 2021 Leadership and Diversity Awards were also highlighted. These student awards were made possible by Retail Connect Signature, Platinum, and Gold level sponsors The Stable, Kohl's, Target, The Creative Partners Group, JL Buchanan, Made For Retail, Ovative Group, and the Bluebird Group. Students who received scholarships include:

  • Nick Waskosky, The Stable Signature Leadership and Diversity Award
  • Valery Kadiman, Kohl’s Platinum Leadership and Diversity Award
  • Annie Skogen, Target Platinum Leadership and Diversity Award
  • Pei Jet Teh, The CPG Platinum Leadership and Diversity Award
  • Olivia Bennett, JL Buchanan Student Leadership Award
  • Meghan Kiese, Made for Retail Student Leadership Award
  • Olivia Rein, Ovative Student Leadership Award
  • Victoria Osterhus, The Bluebird Group Student Leadership Award

In addition to the Leadership and Diversity Awards, the Retail Merchandising Program also contributes 50% of its Retail Connect proceeds, beyond event expenses, to a scholarship fund for incoming students from underrepresented communities. “We are thrilled to be able to provide financial support to both incoming and current retail students and to be able to recruit and retain more diverse students for the College of Design and Retail Merchandising program. Thank you to all of our sponsors for contributing to this important mission and the future of retail,” said Center for Retail Design and Innovation Assistant Director Peggy Lord.

You can watch the full event below!

At the onset of planning for Retail Connect 2020, event organizers thought their largest obstacle would be overhauling the event’s brand—then the pandemic hit followed swiftly by the killing of George Floyd.

The College of Design’s Center for Retail Design and Innovation (CRDI) has entered into the biggest partnership in its history with omnichannel retailer Kohl’s. Based outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Kohl’s financial commitment over a three-year period will support CRDI’s work to enrich the student experience in retail merchandising.

On December 3, students, faculty, and staff celebrated the official opening of the new Center for Retail Design and Innovation (CRDI).