Exterior of Nancy Nicholas Hall in the evening, with lamps and windows glowing.
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Center for Retail: Michael Stallsmith

Michael Stallsmith is a 2011 BBA Marketing graduate of UW-Madison who was highly involved with the Kohl’s Center for Retailing as a student.In this interview, Michael provides his background as UW graduate and advice for future graduates.

What was you favorite part of your program?

No question, it was every experiential learning opportunity I took advantage of with the Center for Retailing. My only regret was not discovering it all sooner. Representing UW-Madison while presenting at the NRF Big Show as well as traveling to China with the program were definitely a couple of my personal highlights that I still value looking back on today.

How did you get your first job out of college?

Through a connection I was able to work my way into getting an introductory phone call with a recruiter at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They were not recruiting at UW-Madison, but at that time, I was determined to marry my passions for sports and retail. Lucky for me, I was able to secure one of the final spots in their merchandising trainee program. Most importantly I learned to be myself but be prepared. Holding intelligent, thoughtful and genuine conversations with working professionals goes an incredibly long way in making that important first impression.

What is one area you wish you would’ve focused on more, academically or non-academically, during your time at UW? 

Entrepreneurship. While I’ve yet to fully try something on my own, I wish I had realized then that I had every opportunity in college (resources, time, people, etc.) to take a shot at something I thought was worth exploring. If nothing else, I would have learned a lot in the process of figuring it out.

If you could give advice to your college self what would you say? 
  • Trust your gut. It will rarely steer you wrong.
  • Lose the fear of failure. Be confident in what you have to give.
  • Be vulnerable and put yourself in more uncomfortable situations.
  • Learn to appreciate learning for learning’s sake. It doesn’t end with college.
Where can you see yourself in the next couple years or where do you see the retail industry? 

Tough question. I’m one that tends to get a little anxious when thinking about the future as the world and industries continue to change at faster rates. Retail is a prime example of that (no pun intended). This is no longer the retail of old. The industry is still learning to move, adapt and change more quickly. I see myself growing as a retail thought leader and strategist. My experience has been built on a foundation of business leadership in merchandising, which I’ve now combined with a greater acuity for marketing, creativity, and design. I aim to grow more technologically skilled in the years to come so that I am able to provide a unique retail voice and perspective no matter what my professional role may be.