Benjamin Lowry had a fascination with watches growing up, so the Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) Program offered through North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management might seem like a natural fit for him.
“The interest in watches came from my dad,” he said. “He always cared what kind of watch he had; he wore different ones day-to-day – as a kid I thought that was cool.”
But the path Lowry took to the GLAM program is perhaps not so typical.
He grew up in Champaign, Illinois, and said he made an initial attempt at an undergraduate degree after high school, but didn’t finish his degree. Instead, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 2011 and later attended commercial diving school, a trade school for underwater construction.
He married and did finish his undergraduate degree, but did so just as he and his wife were expecting twin boys. With the new additions to the family, Lowry continued to work in underwater construction on projects ranging from power plants to steel mills.
At the same time, he didn’t lose focus on his interest in watches. He wrote regularly for aBlogtoWatch.com, as well as writing for GearPatrol.com. As he wrote, Lowry learned more about watches and began to develop connections in that industry.
With a family at home, Lowry said he realized diving was challenging and sometimes dangerous work that kept him away from home more than he preferred. He started researching and thinking about how to turn his interest in watches into a full-time career.
Lowry heard about the GLAM program through a family friend with connections to Poole College and decided to apply.
“I always believe in following the things that I’m passionate about,” he said. “GLAM allowed me to follow something that I cared about.”
Students in the GLAM program graduate with two master’s degrees, said Allison Anthony, Assistant Director, Master of Management Program, Global Luxury. They receive a Masters in Management from NC State, and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management from SKEMA Business School in France.
“It is a very unique program; the two degrees are very distinct,” Anthony said. “Students study at NC State in the fall, and then in Paris in the spring.”
Following their spring semester in Paris, students have from May until December to complete a thesis or business plan, which is part of the required work from SKEMA. At the same time, they engage in four months of professional work, either through an internship or a full-time job, she said.
Roughly half the cohort is recruited by NC State, while the other half is recruited by SKEMA, Anthony said. The result is a very diverse student body. The current cohort represents not just the U.S. and France, but nine countries ranging from Japan to Germany, she said.
“We’ve got quite a bit of diversity in the cohort which really adds to the whole experience that the students are getting and the global nature of this program,” Anthony said.
Lowry noted the diversity of the group as well, adding that the group bonded quickly once they entered the program in Raleigh, often spending time together outside of their coursework as well.
“The diverse set of backgrounds in the program opened my eyes to the diversity of the luxury industry, a truly global and diverse industry with aspects I had previously never considered,” Lowry said. “We have people with interest in basically every facet of luxury.”
In addition to the academic coursework in the U.S. and France, Anthony said the program is very hands-on and experiential. Students travel to New York City to visit various companies and hear from industry leaders. The program focuses on the Business of Luxury, providing students with a holistic understanding of the luxury industry across the three luxury sectors: personal, experiential, and transportation, she said.
“Our focus on the Business of Luxury helps students identify their own career paths and also gives them a holistic understanding of the nuances and intricacies of the broader luxury industry and luxury consumers,” Anthony said.
Throughout the fall semester, companies also visit the NC State campus to talk with students, she said.
While in Paris, they’ll take study tours to the French Riviera and the Champagne region of France. With so many luxury brands headquartered in France, Anthony said the cohort receives additional luxury exposure from a traditional French perspective during that part of their degree program.
“The presentations that we’ve seen so far from corporations have been really interesting,” Lowry said. “It feels like a year-long professional development program – it’s very practical in nature.”
“We’re encouraged to work in diverse groups, with different types of people, and often on a deadline.”
To further supplement their experiential industry engagement, GLAM students participate in a unique mentorship program offered in partnership with NC State’s GLAM Industry Advisory Board. Each student in the program is assigned an NC State GLAM Board Member to mentor them throughout the duration of the program and beyond.
Mentorship was introduced by NC State GLAM Director Kristie McGowan in Fall 2018 and is an integral part of the program, McGowan said.
“By engaging with a designated luxury industry mentor, students establish their luxury industry network with accomplished executives from the very start of the program,” she said. “Their mentor network is intended to last them not only the duration of the program but also throughout their careers.”
With his affinity for watches, Lowry was paired with NC State GLAM Board Member and Tiffany & Co. Director of New Product Integration and Quality Assurance, Matthew Landman. Landman’s successful and broad ranging career in the watch and jewelry industry made him a natural fit for guiding Lowry through the next phase of his career.
Though Lowry will have to leave his wife and kids at home in the U.S. when he goes to Paris, he said he’s looking forward to the experience there.
“Paris is home to countless luxury icons, it’s going to be really cool to get that hands-on experience,” he said. “To be able to visit the companies and talk to the people that work for them – ask questions like, ‘how did you get here; and what do we need to be doing and thinking about to get here?’”
Following graduation from the program, Lowry said he and his family are open to going wherever the opportunities take them. He said he’d like to potentially work in marketing in the watch industry, having already had some experience in writing about products.
“I have a network and background in the watch industry and hope it will be along those lines,” he said.