IU junior attends retail federation’s ‘Big Show,’ thanks to scholarship

During the three months she spent studying in Italy, Indiana University junior Kelsey Pepmeier discovered the perfect expression to describe her preparation for a career in retail: “Buona fine a buon principio.”

Translated as “A good beginning makes for a good ending,” the phrase illustrates Pepmeier’s drive while studying at IU, including networking in Las Vegas, working with the Retail Studies Organization, hosting a seminar for 50 fellow students in Chicago and snagging her first internship with Kohl’s Department Stores as a sophomore.


Kelsey Pepmeier

Now, Pepmeier can add “attending The Big Show” to that list. She recently attended the National Retail Federation’s annual convention and expo in New York City courtesy of a $5,000 Ray M. Greenly scholarship.

“I would not have had the opportunity to attend the Big Show without the scholarship, so I’m extremely appreciative of it,” the Freelandville, Ind., native said. “It will not only be an opportunity to meet new people but also to discover opportunities and expose myself to other facets of the industry. I return from seminars like the Big Show re-energized and even more excited about my choice to enter retail.”

Pepmeier will graduate in 2014 with majors in apparel merchandising and Italian with a minor in business, after which she hopes to work in product development. She just returned to the United States after studying in Bologna, Italy, a location she chose specifically because of its lack of tourists.

“I wanted the real Italian experience,” she said. “The program was a full immersion program, meaning we didn’t speak any English. I lived with an Italian family that didn’t speak English, took classes at the University of Bologna with other Italian students and babysat for two Italian children. I took classes in Italian literature, history, art and poetry. The experience has really broadened my understanding of diverse cultures and has pushed me to appreciate viewpoints different than my own. Living in a foreign country has played a huge role in my personal development and I have gained invaluable experience to use in my retail career, such as communication and the ability to adapt to new and challenging situations.”

That ever-shifting world is what first drew her to retail, Pepmeier said.

“I have heard it said that no day in retail is the same as any other,” she said. “I enjoy that spontaneity and the fast-paced rhythm.”

And while she praises apparel merchandising professors Janis Shaffer and Eloise Paul as “an integral part” of her career path, she believes her experiences at events like the Big Show have propelled her further along.

“The only way to gain experience is to practice, and this means learning by doing,” she said. “It’s not enough to attend classes. You have to engage and take action. I think this is the best part of the experience; life is more fun when you try new things and broaden your horizons.”

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