Image result for An Education Through First-Hand Experience at NYU SternNEW YORK, United States — NYU Stern announced its Fashion and Luxury MBA in 2017, becoming the first business school in the US to offer such a programme.

The Greenwich Village-based school merges a history of business education with industry insight drawn from current leaders in the field. The programme’s one-year curriculum combines core business skills such as marketing, leadership and accounting with the core industry skills of retail strategy, supply chain management, and consumer behaviour.

Complementing its theoretical curriculum with the opportunity to gain comprehensive first-hand experience, Stern brings students and companies together through its compulsory Stern Solutions curriculum. These experiential courses enable students to apply what they’ve learned by taking part in consulting engagements with partner companies, under the supervision of faculty and mentors. Previously, students have engaged with the likes of Carolina Herrera, Christian Lacroix, LVMH and The Met.

Alumni from programme have gone on to work at Shiseido, Coach and Tom Ford, among others

With 22 students currently enrolled in the class of 2020, the course has comparatively high levels of student and faculty mentoring. The programme also welcomes a variety of professional backgrounds, with 41 percent of those enrolled having previously worked in consumer products, fashion or retail.

NYU Stern leverages its New York City location through career and networking opportunities, and NYC Immersions. Students have access to Stern’s network of more than 110,000 alumni and the newly formed Fashion and Luxury Council, made up of nearly 40 industry leaders. The NYC Immersion provides an introduction to what makes the city the best place to study the fashion and luxury sector and culminates in a live case with an industry partner. Alumni from the Fashion & Luxury MBA programme have gone on to work at Shiseido, Coach, Tory Burch and Tom Ford, among others.

Now, BoF sits down with three students and alumni from the Fashion and Luxury MBA to discover their experience of studying at NYU Stern.

Nikitha Reddy | Source: Courtesy

Nikitha Reddy — NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA Alumna, May 2019

We had great experiential learning opportunities that provided us with real-world experience.

Why did you choose to take the Fashion and Luxury MBA at Stern?

This programme has a more specialised curriculum focused on retail and learning opportunities that I couldn’t find at other programmes in the US. We had classes like retail strategy and analytics, consumer behaviour, retail operations and supply chain management that really deepen your understanding of the industry.

We also had great experiential learning opportunities that provided us with real-world experience. Through Stern Solutions and DBI, which stands for Doing Business In courses, we would tackle real-world business challenges in the fashion and luxury industries.

A good percentage of our class didn’t work in the industry before, so Stern Solutions allowed them to gain that experience, which they could then speak to during job interviews. These classes also helped me pivot to a career in marketing after business school.

Which class did you value most at Stern?

The Consumer Behaviour class at Stern helped me understand how certain purchasing decisions are rooted from a really young age. This has helped me put myself in customers’ shoes and understand how the touchpoints they have access to throughout lead them to a purchase decision.

It’s important to know what your brand is and stay true to that. I think a lot of companies are trying new methods to capture customers and sales, whether that’s leveraging new technologies or opening new retail channels. While all that is exciting, it’s important to understand who your customer is before you incorporate something like that into your strategy.

How is Stern preparing you for the realities of an ever-changing industry?

Prior to Stern, I worked in retail strategy and planning at Apple, so coming from a consulting and tech background, I knew I had a lot to learn. The retail industry is experiencing a dramatic shift in the way customers are buying, which results in employers looking for new skillsets and backgrounds to address this change.

We were able to hear first-hand from industry professionals about the challenges they were facing

With all the dramatic shifts that are happening in the retail and beauty industries right now, Shiseido was looking for people that worked outside of the industry. So, coming from this consulting and tech background at Apple helped me distinguish myself, as well as a deep understanding of the beauty industry.

What interaction did you have with the industry?

We had opportunities to network with industry professionals, whether through mixers with Stern alumni or connecting with the Fashion and Luxury Council, and a surprisingly large number of alumni worked in the beauty industry, so we had a good amount of exposure talking to professionals from Estée Lauder, L’Oréal and Shiseido. From them, we were able to hear first-hand from industry professionals about the challenges they were facing and how we could leverage our business school education to better prepare us to address those challenges in the workplace.

Becca DeCoud | Source: Courtesy

Becca DeCoud —NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA Student, May 2020

The professors have been incredibly flexible to help us get everything out of the class.

How would you describe studying the Fashion and Luxury MBA at NYU Stern?

Because we’re a small number [in the class] at just 22, the class size adds a more familial tone. But the diversity of our prior careers shows through, with students from engineering, marketing, research, fintech and more. We have dynamic conversations knowing that we’re all focused on similar goals.

We consider ourselves a tight unit and that makes it easier for me, having moved from California, to be a part of this programme. The administration has also done a great job integrating us into campus life. We have Block Olympics coming up, which is one of the most highly anticipated sports events at Stern, and people are already signing up for clubs and retreats.

Which class did you value most at Stern?

One of the most valuable classes I’ve taken was our leadership class. A huge takeaway from that session was the focus on leadership as a behaviour instead of as a role. Far too often, I think students in business school check off the quantitative skills like finance and statistics, which are helpful, but I appreciate the dedication to making us more holistic, better balanced leaders.

Regardless of how the industry changes, I’m confident I will leave Stern with a toolkit on how to approach these issues

I wasn’t great in finance at undergraduate level, and I was a little nervous about the quantitative-based classes, but the professors here don’t just teach the black and white of the curriculum. They help us engage with more quantitative-heavy courses as a language instead of as something we have to check off as a core class, so I’m able to draw connections from a real-world approach, which has been a pleasant surprise.

How is Stern preparing you for the realities of an ever-changing industry?

I know Stern isn’t going to send me out into the world having said, “This is exactly how you’re supposed to do it,” because that would be setting me up for failure. Instead, it teaches you the skillset of thinking differently. So regardless of how the industry continues to change, I’m confident I will leave Stern with a toolkit on how to approach the issues that come up left and right.

The professors have been incredibly flexible, willing to meet via phone calls, via Skype, outside of office hours, on the weekend — I haven’t had one professor to date that hasn’t been willing to bend over backwards to help us get everything out of the class.

 What interaction do you have with the industry?

My experience in New York has been shaped by the opportunities this programme has to offer and that’s in large part due to the NYC Immersion class. Every Wednesday over the summer, we had classes out in the field, visiting different companies and meeting with retail executives, getting insight from experts and what they’ve done in their careers. We also look at different functions, from marketing, PR, merchandising and planning, to supply chain and logistics. It’s a wealth of first-hand knowledge, which you can’t learn from a textbook or PowerPoint.

Denise Zhu | Source: Courtesy

Denise Zhu — Fashion & Luxury MBA Alumna, May 2019

I got my job at Amazon through Stern’s career services and it was a role I identified as a goal to achieve after my MBA programme.

Why did you choose to take the Fashion and Luxury MBA programme at NYU stern?

I was a career switcher. I worked in finance for three years then an e-commerce start-up for a year before I applied to this programme. At the time I was looking at schools, this programme didn’t actually exist. But because I wanted to work at the start-up, I waited a year to apply and magically, Stern launched this programme, which was exactly what I was looking for. Business school is about academics, social and professional skills, and I think I got all of that from this programme, wholeheartedly.

You can really feel at home at Stern. Everyone would hang out in the café and students would be collaborating in every part of the campus building. After classes ended, we would go to the Met, grab dinner, go to Washington Square Park and have lunch — there are so many things that the city and specifically the downtown location offers that really helped my classmates and I stimulate our friendship.

Which class did you value most at Stern?

The Stern Solutions projects helped set me up for the real world in terms of how to come up with a message and convey that message in a simple, deliverable way. Working with creatives can be very difficult, so having the soft skills to extract data in a way that creatives will trust and understand is crucial.

Business school is about academics, social and professional skills, and I think I got all of that from this programme

In the spring semester, I did a project with the global e-commerce sock company that was looking to expand into a new product type. My classmates and I came up with a go-to-market launch strategy, which involved competitor, pricing and market analyses. Then during the summer, we did a project with the Met — that was great to see how a huge historical institution is run. We were in teams of four or five to rebrand one of their membership groups, which we then presented to the board.

How did Stern prepare you to work in the industry?

I got my job at Amazon through Stern’s career services and it was a role I identified as a goal to achieve after my MBA programme. We met with career services early on, revising our resumes before we even got on campus. So during the summer, career services knew this was what I wanted.

When application time came, one of the Career Coaches emailed me to check I got my application in. I then went into the office multiple times for mock interviews and I wouldn’t have been offered the job without their help. I could then pick courses that could help me with my job at Amazon, taking four to five elective courses to address the gaps that needed to be filled.

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