This year’s incoming class in Poole College of Management’s Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) program will face changes and challenges thanks to the global pandemic, but they’ve already decided they won’t let it slow them down.
The incoming GLAM class totals 43 students from five countries and 22 undergraduate universities. The class is 72 percent female, which is something Allison Anthony, assistant director of the GLAM program, said is significant.
“These are future business leaders, and it’s such a strong representation of females – that’s something that I think is exciting,” she said.
Students enrolling in the GLAM program receive two master’s degrees upon graduation. They receive a Masters in Management with a concentration in Global Luxury from NC State, and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management from SKEMA Business School in France. Under normal circumstances, students spend the fall semester in Raleigh and the spring semester in Paris, followed by four months of combined thesis and professional work, such as internships or full time positions.
The pandemic makes for a unique year for this class, however. Most of the SKEMA students are French, and currently located in France, with one additional student in China. Those students are joining classes remotely for this semester, Anthony said. Orientation was done virtually as well, rather than the normal two-day, in-person event.
Yet she noted the cohort is making a strong effort to form connections with each other, hosting virtual happy hours on Zoom and creating group text chains.
Kristie McGowan, director of the Global Luxury and Management program, agreed.
“While the Fall semester looks a bit different than we envisioned, I am proud of the GLAM students,” she said. “They are attentive and engaged during classes and are actively encouraging, supporting and sharing with each other in and out of class.”
“In addition to learning about luxury, students are also learning valuable life skills. The flexibility, adaptability, empathy and perseverance they are showing in the program now will serve them well in their future luxury careers.”
Experiential learning is a big part of the program, and that’s adapted to a pandemic world as well, Anthony said. Guest speakers and workshops that would have taken place on campus are now virtual, but there are benefits to that format.
“We’re able to bring in executives from companies that are further away, that may not have been able to make the trip to North Carolina in person,” Anthony said. “It looks different, but we feel it’s still very interactive and engaging.”
This year’s cohort seems to agree. Here’s a look at a few members of the incoming GLAM class:
Cydni Baldwin’s interest in wine and spirits began watching her uncle make his own wine from muscadine grapes. She was fascinated by the process, and the care and patience that went into creating a successful batch.
As an adult she came to see wine as something that brings people together, and as an industry where there’s always something to learn.
“Wine is a growing industry, although it’s been around for hundreds of years,” Baldwin said. “It’s always changing, there’s always something new.”
Baldwin received her undergraduate degree from Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, NC, including a concentration in wine and spirits.
She interned, and was then hired by Foodbuy as a culinary implementation analyst, working on supply chain optimization. It was there she heard about the GLAM program from an NC State student she met there, and then later another NC State alum mentioned GLAM as well.
“I started doing some research and found this program, in my opinion, was the most unique in tying that management aspect and the luxury side of industry,” Baldwin said.
The dual focus on management and luxury appealed to her, as did the opportunity to obtain two masters degrees while studying on two continents.
Baldwin is certain she’ll pursue a career in the wine and spirits industry, but is open to sales or marketing, or procurement or importing.
Baldwin said she’s most looking forward to the peer and mentor networking opportunities within GLAM – access to industry experts and mentorship opportunities are at the heart of the program.
“I’m so excited to be able to have access to conversations, and to ask questions regarding the luxury industry to individuals who actually, live, eat and breath the luxury industry,” she said.
Spring in Paris and the cultural immersion experience are also high on her list.
The pandemic means less in-person trips to, and visits from industry experts, but Baldwin sees it as an opportunity to learn and adapt, which she believes are essential skills that will serve her future career.
“When you start in the business industry or luxury industry, nothing is ever going to be perfect or easy,” she said. “This is teaching us we need to pivot easily and also work from wherever we are.”
This year’s cohort has shown an increased interest in sustainability within the luxury industry, Anthony said.
Svetlana Geshtovt is one of those students. She received her undergraduate degree from NC State as well, and it was during her first semester as an undergrad that she took an elective in climate change and sustainability.
“To hear exact numbers and see actual data, and to hear the implications of that and how it affects us in the long term was kind of mind blowing to me,” she said.
One speaker, Jessica Thomas, director of the Business Sustainability Collaborative and lecturer at NC State, talked to the class about implementation of business practices to solve social and environmental problems, and Geshtovt knew that was exactly what she wanted to do.
She chose luxury and the GLAM program, intending to be a trendsetter in that endeavor.
“I thought, if I could create change on a luxury scale, then other industries will follow,” Geshtovt said. “Change is expensive, and luxury can set the trends.”
Coming into the program this year, she recognized that the competition for a career in luxury would be tough, and said she’s looking forward to developing her professional skills. Geshtovt also expects to build a network of peers, industry connections and mentors across two continents.
As an NC State undergrad, the pandemic had a lesser impact on her plans. She didn’t have to move to Raleigh for the program, as she was already here. In a way, Geshtovt said the pandemic pushed her to pursue the GLAM program – the economy wasn’t looking great in the spring and she saw this year as an opportunity to grow her skills.
“I knew a lot of companies might not be hiring for another year, as they’re recovering from economic effects of the virus,” she said. “I can really use this year to learn and study, and I would rather use this year in a productive way.”
Were it not for the pandemic, Maxence Grellet would be in Raleigh this fall.
Grellet, one of the program’s students from SKEMA, is a French national and remained in France this fall to take part virtually in the GLAM program. But he takes it in stride.
“It’s a challenge but it’s important to stay positive and focused on our goals,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to learn how to react to unexpected events like this.”
Grellet grew up in a small village surrounded by vineyards in the Champagne region of France. He’s worked in his parents’ family winery since he was a small child, which he said has instilled a passion for wines and spirits, and particularly for champagne.
He’s attended SKEMA since 2017, and said the GLAM program was on his radar from the start.
“In my opinion, the GLAM program is a path of excellence, as its structure and the program it offers are perfectly adapted to understand and apprehend a world of luxury that is rapidly changing,” he said. “Benefiting from cross-disciplinary courses on the three pillars of luxury, combined with an international environment with two highly respected universities and company visits, would not only allow me to develop an expertise in a luxury segment but also to broaden my vision of luxury in order to have a more comprehensive view of this market.”
Grellet said the practical aspects of the GLAM program are particularly attractive to him, including hackathons, company visits, and networking with professionals.
“It’s an opportunity for us to put into practice the accurate insights we’ve learned, but also to create a connection with luxury professionals,” he said. “This seems essential to me in order, not only to learn about the luxury sector but also, and above all, to experience it.”
His experiences with his family vineyard have Grellet focused on securing a marketing position within the wine and spirits sector, ideally within a champagne house, though he hopes his career path will touch several luxury industries in order to widen his knowledge and experience.