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Luxury program's international focus leads to alumni's global impact

Posted December 7, 2017 12:09 p.m. EST
Updated December 8, 2017 4:01 p.m. EST

Global Luxury and Management MBA program teaches students what determines the very discriminating tastes of luxury consumers.

This article was written for our sponsor, Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.

Marquelle Turner-Gilchrist began his life far from where he is today, both physically and in regard to his lifestyle.

He grew up in the small town of Johnsonville, N.C., an hour from Raleigh. Despite its proximity to the state capital, Turner-Gilchrist says it's very rare to meet someone who has heard of his hometown.

"My town was full of great people, but from a young age I knew fashion was my passion," he said. "I was even awarded 'best dressed' as a superlative in my high school yearbook. Johnsonville has no stoplights, and there was certainly no access to the kinds of luxury goods I wanted to pursue."

Now Turner-Gilchrist lives in the oil-rich, Middle Eastern city of Doha, Qatar. He is the men's ready-to-wear buyer and commercial manager for Galeries Lafayette Doha through the Ali Bin Ali Group, a growing international distributor, licensee and luxury conglomerate. How he got from Johnsonville to Doha, Turner-Gilchrist in part credits to North Carolina State University's Global Luxury and Management program.

The global reach of luxury management program

As described by Kristie McGowan, director of the Global Luxury and Management program, the program is an "immersive, one-year accelerated dual degree master's program."

The fall semester is spent on N.C. State’s Raleigh campus, then the second semester is spent in Paris, the global headquarters of many of the world's leading luxury brands. N.C. State University partners with SKEMA Business School in Paris, one of the fastest growing business schools in France.

N.C. State and SKEMA work closely together to develop "synergistic academic curriculum and hands-on learning experiences," McGowan said. She described the students' academic and experiential-based curriculum as in keeping with N.C. State's wider "Think and Do" motto.

"This year, in addition to their time in Paris, our Global Luxury and Management students are touring places like New York City, the Champagne region of France, the French Riviera and the Netherlands to learn about the luxury industry," McGowan said.

These tours are meant to supplement in-class lessons and provide a chance for students to immerse themselves in the global luxury industry.

'The consumer is global, so we have to be'

Katie Sousa, like Turner-Gilchrist, attended the luxury management program at N.C. State. She is now in New York City working directly under the CEO of a global luxury consulting firm that works with Gucci and other of the world's top luxury brands.

Sousa said the Global Luxury and Management program was "by far one of the most key elements in making a progressive career in luxury, business and all things sales."

She described how students were immersed in a culture of "global nomads" with exclusive tastes. These consumers of luxury goods can tell instantly whether the salesperson is familiar with the products and with global culture by experience or if they've just been through classroom or sales training.

"Where we went, what we ate, who we interacted with are all pieces of a cultural experience -- an experience that you cannot get by sitting in a classroom," Sousa said. "The Global Luxury and Management program helped to provide us with that hands-on exposure. The luxury consumer is global, so we have to be."

Learning luxury

In these travels and experiences, the students are learning what determines the very discriminating tastes of luxury consumers. This question of "what makes something luxury," is one students like Turner-Gilchrist and Sousa can answer confidently.

"Luxury is about value," Turner-Gilchrist said. "The value is built by a number of factors, but among the most important are exclusivity, quality, and rarity."

The program is about more than simply understanding and experiencing the luxury industry though, McGowan said, it's about knowing how to succeed in it.

"A formal luxury industry education prepares young talent to be successful in the business of luxury," McGowan said. "Our program integrates an understanding of luxury industry sectors, consumers and brands with strategic business development, digital marketing, innovation and how all of these specialties fit within the global marketplace."

'Living my dream'

Both Sousa and Turner-Gilchrist are examples of how the Global Luxury and Management program has been able to achieve this for its students.

Turner-Gilchrist agreed with Sousa that the program was among the most critical pieces leading to his success.

"I'm literally living my dream," he said. "How many people can actually say that? I can, and N.C. State's luxury management program was definitely a major part of that."

This article was written for our sponsor, Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University.