They Called It A “BIG Show” And They Were Right!

3hree members of EAW’s team had an exciting opportunity to attend the NRF’s Retail’s BIG Show in New York City.

Published on

Last week, three members of Education at Work’s business development and marketing team had an exciting opportunity to attend the National Retail Federation (NRF) Retail’s BIG Show in New York City. As an organization, the NRF is over 40,000 members strong and has a leadership team from top retailers all over the world. As the “voice of retail”, the NRF is changing the way people buy and sell goods by focusing its mission on innovation within all aspects of the retail industry. The group has embraced being the catalyst for change in the industry helping all retailers, large and small, become successful.At this year’s event, our team quickly realized that calling it a “BIG Show” was not an exaggeration. Over 33,000 attendees from all over the world represented over 540 retail companies and participated in engaging discussions in a 200,000 sq. ft. exhibition hall. Even by dividing and conquering, the Education at Work team was only able to experience a fraction of the BIG Show festivities. However, our team was strategic about attending the most relevant sessions to our model and the event was a major success. The team captured insights and key takeaways to share from the speaking engagements and networking sessions. Here’s a recap of what our team learned:

When it comes to the challenges faced in the retail industry, size does not really matter. Players of all sizes are facing the same sorts of challenges and issues when engaging their customers.

As the largest consumer base of all-time, millennials (along with Generation Z) continue to be an essential part of shaping the future of retail. It’s especially important to these consumers that brands make a difference in the communities in which their retail business operates. In the speaking session “Creating an American Brand for the Future“, the made-in-Detroit brand Shinola was showcased as a grassroots start-up that cares as much about creating jobs in the community as it does about making profits on its quality watches and bicycles. At this session, Heath Carr, COO of Shinola’s parent company, emphasized that the brand of the future’s mission is not selling products on a mass scale. Instead, being sustainable on their own terms and integrating into a community is a much higher priority.

Omnichannel still continues to be a major retail trend, but a focus on improved technology and retail innovation is at the forefront. The changes in technology within retail are taking place at a rapid pace and are making omnichnnel solutions more efficient. For example, retailers are revamping their own processes and plans to better serve customers. Malcolm Goonetileke, SVP of Merchandise Planning and Inventory Management at Levi Strauss, spoke about how he recently cut down from nearly 40 different planning systems to just a few. In a separate session, Lois Huff, VP of Client Insights at The Limited, stressed that a “feedback loop is key” to gather and analyze customer opinions so product innovation can happen. Craig Fleishman, SVP of Corporate Development at Rebecca Minkoff, stressed the importance of being early to new social media platforms to connect with retail influencers and build an early customer base.

Improving the customer service experience is increasingly important for retailers to help customers get what they need exactly when they need it. In order to make things more efficient, customer service for retailers is moving towards new technologies, such as virtual online shoppers and Tweet support.

Our team also attended sessions on changing processes to make the store experience and buying experience more efficient, easier and integrated for shoppers. Capturing customers as soon as they walk in the door and capitalizing on their impulse purchasing decisions was stressed in a session that featured executives from KraftHeinz, GameStop, Mondolez International, and Shelfbucks. Data and analytics are critical to get a snapshot of where things are and connect with customers to learn their buying patterns.

At the session that featured the SVP of Marketing & Customer Experience of Virgin Atlantic Airways, a process was described for collecting and analyzing customer data more efficiently. First, set realistic goals for helping customers that you can measure in a short timeframe. Next, analyze the data from these goals and learn to adapt to make the process more efficient, then continue to innovate until you get it right and your customers are satisfied.

Overall, the theme of the BIG Show was educating the attendees, bringing them up to speed on everything they wanted to know about trends and innovation in retail. By networking, our team had over 45 engaging discussions with fellow attendees, turning these into positive relationships to take away from the event. Clearly, there are some BIG things going on in retail!

More Than A Man

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – an extraordinary leader.

Published on

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – an extraordinary leader. Most notably known for his leadership and advocacy during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, King’s inspirational strength and faith is proudly celebrated every third Monday of January.  For the colleges and universities here in Cincinnati, this holiday means more than just a day free of classes. King’s legacy is making waves this week at Xavier and the University of Cincinnati who’ve arranged a week of reflection and celebration to commemorate this extraordinary hero.

What exactly was King’s legacy? A new era in the United States where injustice and inequality became unacceptable. King was the unfailing voice of the civil rights movement until his assassination on April 4, 1968. In his time, he led the Montgomery Improvement Association, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March from Selma to Montgomery and a People-to-People tour advocating for non-violent efforts to bring about an end to discrimination. King published 10+ books, of which five are remembered as important milestones of the civil rights movement as a whole. We remember his, “I Have a Dream” speech with nostalgia, but even this iconic event was one in hundreds of speeches and sermons that moved mountains. King endured countless life threats, jail time, and was continuously met with anger while still managing to heavily influence President John F. Kennedy’s Emancipation Proclamation. The beauty of his story lies in his emphasis on love. He believed that, “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

UC and Xavier have planned a number of events to pay homage to Dr. King and inspire people to come together, absorb his message and take inspired action:

University of Cincinnati Events

Tuesday January, 12 – “Continuing the Legacy:  A Call to Action”

Thursday January, 14 – Racism and Xenophobia Round-Table

Saturday January, 16 – The Martin Luther King Jr. Luncheon

Saturday January, 16 – 18th Annual Red, Black, Green & Gold Ball

Monday January, 18 – “Justice, Freedom, Equality: We Can’t Wait”

Xavier University Events

Sunday January, 17 – Racial Justice & the Role of Jesuit Institutions Panel – Sunday January, 17

Monday January, 18 – Martin Luther King Commemorative March – Monday January, 18.

Tuesday January 19 – Right to Not Remain Silent: Student and XUPD Discussion on Brutality, Community Relations, and Citizen Rights

Wednesday January, – 20 MLK Keynote: Becoming a Social Activist with Rosa Clemente

Thursday January, 21 – Why it Mattered: Reflecting on 2001 Riots featuring Father Graham

Thursday January 21 – Whiteness and White Privilege Conversation

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” King’s reputation is not limited to what he once did, but how he continues to inspire the conversation about equality and community. This year, UC and Xavier have chosen to remind us of King’s undying love and patience which inspired monumental change in the United States.






About Education at Work

We are a non-profit organization helping college students graduate with less debt by partnering with our clients to address their customer service needs through a high-achieving, millennial workforce. Learn more about us: www.educationatwork.org.


About Laura Forero

Laura Forero is currently a junior at Xavier University studying Public Relations and Advertising. She enjoys reading, writing, and following a PR crisis as it unfolds in modern day media. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

The University Life Investment

Did you know that there are roughly 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States?

Published on

Did you know that there are roughly 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States? For those of us who decide to attend one of those 5,300, choosing the right college can be daunting. With college debt at an all-time high in the US, it can be easy to assume cost is the one and only important factor, however, college is not only an economic investment, but a lifelong one.  After considering what type of university best fits your expectations and needs, you also need to consider another equally important set of factors.

My first year of college was overwhelming. The very first day, I found myself standing in the corner of the Cintas Center atrium at Xavier University observing the crowd of my peers and their parents hugging goodbye. It was the start of my “new” life. In conversation with peers and old friends, I’ve realized that regardless of what kind of university you attend, the “college experience” will inevitably change you in some way or another. I’ve compiled a list of five important elements to consider that can help you choose the best possible life investment.


Big City or Small Town

Believe it or not, some large universities have their own zip codes. Large institutions offer a wide variety of majors; they’ll have famous research institutes and attract prestigious faculty members; fraternities and sororities will be just two types of the countless associations and activities that are offered; and sports – so many sports. Meanwhile, small institutions often specialize in a smaller range of specific majors; professors interact directly with individual students and encourage thorough understanding of the material; advisors, financial aid officers, and university mentors are more involved throughout college; and there exists a strong sense of community due to the small number of students.

Auditorium or Classroom

Class size, otherwise referred to as “student-faculty ratio,” often correlates with the institution’s size, but has different degrees of importance. The number of people in a class will call for varying degrees of participation, discussion, and communication within the course. A class of 1-20 students makes it easier for professor to encourage discussion and participation from everyone. However, a one to two hour class with 500 students makes it nearly impossible for a professor to require involvement. Classes with fewer students foster a more personal relationship between professor and student which can facilitate job and grad school recommendations after graduation. On the same note, students in large lecture halls who go out of their way to stand out have the same odds.

Location, Location, Location

Whether you plan to move ten states away from your hometown or prefer to commute, the cities and neighborhoods surrounding your dream school play an important role during college. Entertainment, culture, health, and safety are all affected by location. Where do you want to spend your 21stbirthday – at a bar in downtown Chicago, or on a vineyard in California? Check your closet, because you’ll need a jackets during Minnesota’s freezing winters. Remember that even though a college education typically takes two to five years, that’s 80 – 200 weeks you’ll be spending in a new environment.


This is where college visits are crucial. The second you walk into the dining hall, take a good whiff. Odds are that whiff will either bring you comfort or terrify you. Depending on the housing restrictions and location, meal-plans are the easiest way to stay fed during semesters. The food served can depend on anything from the location of the university, to the universities overarching philosophy. Fish Fry Friday will be a staple during lent at a Catholic institution, whereas gumbo might be the specialty in Louisiana. Some schools emphasize healthy choices while others will win with their traditional comfort foods. If meal-plans will be your primary source of nutrition, don’t let it slip your mind before it’s too late.


Big or small, college is about community. Although academics are a top priority, the relationships that you create in college will carry you through important life milestones. Outside of roommates, clubs and organizations are the best way to meet new people. They also help to differentiate you from others graduating with the same degree. A college that can provide well-rounded opportunities will cultivate a memorable college experience.


Prestige, academia, and financial aid often draw students in without a second thought. I advise against taking a blind leap without considering size, location, and lifestyle first. The National Student Clearninghouse Research Center reported this year that 37.2% of students transfer at least once within six years of college. Doing a little research can save you time, credits, and funds that you could lose in transferring to a better fitting institution.










About Education at Work

We are a non-profit organization helping college students graduate with less debt by partnering with our clients to address their customer service needs through a high-achieving, millennial workforce. Learn more about us: www.educationatwork.org.

About Laura Forero

Laura Forero is currently a junior at Xavier University studying Public Relations and Advertising. She enjoys reading, writing, and following a PR crisis as it unfolds. Connect with her on LinkedIn.