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Student and Alumni Success

GLAM Program Closes, But Its Impact Lives On

There’s an optimistic outlook for the future as alumni talk about the rich network they’ve built and the knowledge and skills GLAM graduates will continue to bring to the luxury industry.

By Lea Hart

Poole College of Management recently made the difficult decision to close its dual degree Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) graduate program with the last class set to graduate this year.

The GLAM program is not ending due to a lack of success, but rather because of a shift in the long-term goals of the college, due in part to the pandemic and resulting global economic depression, Poole College Dean Frank Buckless announced in a statement.

Steve Allen, associate dean with Poole College of Management, noted the GLAM program attracted hundreds of strong students who went on to launch successful careers.

GLAM students at the SKEMA Business School in Paris
Students during the New York City trip

“They also had a great experience visiting New York and Paris to get first-hand exposure to the luxury industry,” he said. “The benefits of a Master of Management from NC State will last them a lifetime.”

While the news was tough to hear for students, alumni, board members, faculty and staff, there’s an optimistic outlook for the future as alumni talk about the rich network they’ve built and the knowledge and skills GLAM graduates will continue to bring to the luxury industry.

“You have a group of alumni in this niche, an elite group that have pursued this degree and parlayed it into a career and into an opportunity that they never dreamed of,” said Bill Humphries, chair of GLAM’s Industry Advisory Board. “It’s given them the skills, the opportunities, and the doors opened to achieve great things.”

The history of the GLAM program

The GLAM program launched in 2012 and graduated its first class in 2013. It’s a unique, accelerated dual degree Master’s program in which students receive a Master of Management with a concentration in Global Luxury from NC State, and a Master of Science in Global Luxury Management from SKEMA Business School in Paris, France. They spend the fall semester in Raleigh and the spring semester in Paris, followed by four months of combined thesis and professional work. 

“It was a result of NC State and Poole College of Management realizing that employers, specifically in the luxury industry, needed talent who could understand the intricacies and the nuances of the luxury industry and its consumers,” said Kristie McGowan, director of the GLAM program. “The luxury industry needed employees with a global and also a holistic understanding of the business of luxury, with a focus on all three luxury sectors.”

The program’s focus on the three sectors of luxury – personal, experiential and transportation – is also unique. In the United States in particular, and often in luxury programs outside the U.S., McGowan said the focus tends to be predominantly on fashion or on just one sector of luxury.

The program’s focus on the three sectors of luxury – personal, experiential and transportation – is also unique. In the United States in particular, and often in luxury programs outside the U.S., McGowan said the focus tends to be predominantly on fashion or on just one sector of luxury.

“We really wanted to be able to support the business of luxury,” she said. “As a result, we partnered with SKEMA France and together we offered this one-year, dual-degree program.”

McGowan became involved in 2013 as a PhD student. The former director, Nancy Cassill, built the GLAM program from the ground up, McGowan said, and she went to work for Cassill as a graduate assistant. When Cassill left for an Associate Dean role in the College of Textiles, McGowan moved into the director role.

“The one thing about NC State’s GLAM team is that we are small and mighty, with an emphasis on both of those things,” McGowan said.

The program is run and maintained by McGowan, along with an assistant director – a role most recently held by Allison Anthony – and GLAM’s own internal career management support.  It is also advised and bolstered by its Industry Advisory Board, with board members who have significant experience spanning all three sectors of luxury.

“We had one of the most engaged, dedicated and passionate industry advisory boards,” McGowan said. “All of them participated in a board mentorship program that I started a few years ago, where each student was paired with a board member.

We had one of the most engaged, dedicated and passionate industry advisory boards. All of them participated in a board mentorship program that I started a few years ago, where each student was paired with a board member.

“Board mentors approached those relationships not just for the year, but saw them as an opportunity to provide career-long relationships and mentoring.”

Humphries said he got almost as much out of his board experience as the students did from the GLAM program.

“I got to see Kristie grow and build this program to where it is from where it started; the whole staff is incredible,” he said. “And these students were so inspiring.”

“We attracted students who were interested in the double major but were also go-getters. These were students that didn’t leave anything on the field.”

Together, the GLAM staff, faculty and the board led the program through many successes over the years. Graduates of the program, including this year’s class, number 355. Those alumni are working at luxury companies large and small across every sector of luxury and all over the globe, McGowan said.

“Almost any luxury company or brand you can think of, we probably have alumni working there,” she said. “Students have benefitted from the niche cross-cultural aspect of the program.”

The program served as a differentiator for NC State and Poole College as well as the only master’s program in the United States that focused on the business of luxury.

“We really took the NC State Think and Do motto to a whole new level,” McGowan said. “It has been such an academic and experiential program.”

Students at the GLAM welcome event in Raleigh
Students from the SKEMA Business School posing with Mr. and Mrs. Wuf

McGowan said she’s proud of so many aspects of the GLAM program.

“I’m proud to have been part of something that was literally built from the ground up,” she said. “There was no formula to follow – it was just a matter of being creative, resourceful, resilient, entrepreneurial, passionate and dedicated.”

“It was a constant evaluation and re-evaluation as to how to provide the best to our students while simultaneously building and maintaining luxury relationships.”

The unique nature of the program allowed Poole College to attract new and diverse students to NC State. In the current cohort of 43 students, 22 different undergraduate universities are represented, she said.

McGowan is especially proud of the program’s students and alumni.  The luxury industry can be unforgiving, she said, and the GLAM program prepared students for that.

“They enrolled with the hope that it would launch the career of their dreams,” she said. “So many had not even travelled outside the US, or been exposed to the luxury industry and they found themselves working and living abroad and being immersed in the luxury industry.”

GLAM is also unique in that it has also been a predominantly female business graduate program, often with roughly 75 percent of a cohort being female.

“It was empowering and it was distinctive for our students,” McGowan said. “Companies would often comment on it when we’d travel to New York.”

In addition, often 35 to 40 percent of students were underrepresented minorities, she said.

“The breadth and depth of experience that each of the students brought into the cohort was almost as important as the education that we were providing to them,” McGowan said.

Alumni and Industry Advisory Board members reflect

The impact of the GLAM program on the lives of its alumni continues to resonate. The program provided a truly unique opportunity to pursue what many would call their dream careers.

Emily Byerly (’15) has a unique perspective as both an alumna and Industry Advisory Board member. Today, she works across the transportation and experiential luxury sectors with Burgess Yachts.

“What prepared me most, especially in the industry I’m in now, was the projects we did in the GLAM program and the global influence of the program,” she said.

As a board member, Byerly’s role has, in large part, been about educating current GLAM students about life post-graduation. She gives them a realistic view of what it’s like to work in the luxury industry, noting that it can take work to reach their ultimate goals.

“I knew I wanted to be in yachting, but my first job was in home furnishings,” she said. “I knew I had to keep working hard and progressing to get to where I wanted.

“I do tell them, right after graduation, you may have to swallow the hard pill, but you will get there.”

Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist (’14) grew up in rural North Carolina and says with a laugh, that he always wanted to get away from there. He did that and much more. Following the GLAM program, he lived in New York City where he worked for Hugo Boss before moving to Qatar to continue working in the luxury industry. Today, he’s back in New York working for Gucci as the merchandising manager for Gucci’s men’s ready-to-wear line.

The GLAM program provided him access to the luxury industry in a time when it was difficult to get through the door as an underrepresented minority, he said. It also provided a global view, exposing him to many walks of life.

“Two of my closest friends in the program were from China,” Turner-Gilchrist said. “For me, coming from this small town in North Carolina, it was so important to have that type of exposure because the fashion and luxury industry is such a global industry.”

“It helped me understand the ways different people work and present. I feel much more comfortable and prepared in my profession because of that exposure.”

Grace Isley ’20 and her fellow GLAM classmates
Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist, GLAM class of 2014
Reina Robinson ’19 outside of the Versailles Palace

Ericah Rogers (’18) studied fashion in her undergraduate degree, but wasn’t quite sure where she wanted to go from there. The GLAM program helped her find her focus.

“I always correlated fashion with luxury and the GLAM program helped put all that together for me,” she said. “It helped me understand what I loved and why I loved it.”

After working for luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, today she’s a client relationship manager for The Webster, a luxury multi-brand fashion house.

“The range of classes in the GLAM program definitely prepared me for the work I do now,” Rogers said. “I can see the full scope of what’s going on, from supply chain to leadership to merchandising.”

Reina Robinson (’19) was already an NC State undergraduate in the Wilson College of Textiles when she heard about the GLAM program. She knew she wanted a future in fashion, but wasn’t sure in what direction she wanted to go. Today, she works for Nordstrom Corporate in Seattle, where she was hired into the company’s merchant-in-training rotational program.

GLAM Class of 2020 Nordsrtom Corporate Tour
GLAM students outside of a Ralph Lauren store
GLAM Class of 2019 at the One Thousand Museum presentation

“The GLAM program helped me feel really confident in who I was and what I knew,” she said. “Coming out of undergrad, I wasn’t sure what I could bring to the table – I had a great education and degree but didn’t know how to speak to it.

“GLAM helped me hone in on my skills.”

Grace Isley (‘20) is among the most recent graduates, finishing the GLAM program in 2020. She is also an NC State undergraduate from the Wilson College of Textiles.

“When senior year was approaching, I knew I wanted to continue my education and pursue a master’s degree,” Isley said. “I was invested in the luxury fashion industry but wanted to expand my knowledge on personal, experiential, and luxury transportation.

“GLAM was the perfect avenue to explore luxury as a whole through its 360-degree view of the industry.”

Isley worked for Michael Kors as an undergraduate, and then interned with Louis Vuitton and Luxury Institute during her time with the GLAM program. She was one of a number of GLAM students and alumni impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, starting her internship at a time when brick-and-mortar stores weren’t necessarily operating as usual.

Following her internships in luxury fashion and luxury consulting, Isley accepted a marketing and operations role with the Natural Diamond Council, which promotes natural diamond jewelry.

“At the Natural Diamond Council, we’re able to use our luxury media brand Only Natural Diamonds to create emotional dreams by sharing inspiring stories about natural diamonds 365 days a year,” she said.

After working six years in the fashion industry, it’s not where she originally imagined she’d end up in the luxury industry, but Isley said that’s where the benefits of the GLAM program really stand out.

“Through GLAM, we were able to explore and develop our individual strengths,” Isley said. “Through curated workshops with our directors and professors, classes, and industry visits, we were able to evolve our talents and watch them flourish throughout the program.”

Carrying the program’s success forward

As McGowan succinctly puts it, “the program is ending, but the industry isn’t.”

The GLAM program provided students with core strategic management skills with a focus on an understanding of the global luxury industry, she said. Those are skills that will be carried forward by alumni in their careers and will continue to impact business and industry for years to come.

It also provided a unique network of GLAM alumni who will remain connected.

Students of the GLAM class of 2015 sitting front row at a show during London Fashion Week
GLAM alumni at a networking event
GLAM class of 2014 students at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva Switzerland

Rogers said she feels uniquely connected to her cohort and knows that won’t change.

“We all knew each other’s hopes and dreams, and we still encourage each other,” she said. “We’re in constant communication because we’re curious and care about each other’s lives.

“I am still learning from the projects my classmates are doing and the things they’re posting.”

Robison also talks about the connections she made, along with the networking and communication skills she developed while in the program.

Equally impactful were the experiences the program provided, she said.

“To be able to immerse myself with my classmates in Paris; to visit the world headquarters of all of these luxury businesses,” Robinson said. “Being a part of the GLAM program really expanded my horizons. It made me feel like so many more opportunities were possible.”