As a high school senior, Greensboro native Jessica Papier was determined to study fashion at one of the nation’s leading institutes. “I made a deal with my mom that if she took me to tour New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), I would also tour UNCG. FIT was impressive, but once I met with Ann Ramsey [retired faculty member] and toured the school, I fell in love with the campus and the program.”
As an accelerated degree student, Jessica will complete her Bachelor of Science in Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies and a minor in Business in May 2017, and her Master of Science in CARS in May 2018. She thrives on staying busy and working hard – traits she says she inherited from her mother. “At one point last semester, I was working six part-time jobs, including a paid merchandising internship with Vanity Fair (VF) Jeanswear and a campus brand ambassador position with Belk.”
“Jessica is one of the most engaged students I have seen in my nearly twenty years as a faculty member in the CARS program,”said Dr. Nancy Hodges, CARS department head.
“She consistently makes the extra effort to do well academically, as evidenced by her perfect 4.0 GPA, but she also seeks out opportunities to push herself to develop ‘real world’ industry knowledge and skills.”
Jessica’s intrinsic motivation is already paying off. She boasts an impressive list of awards and recognitions, including UNCG’s Student Excellence Award (2017); first place in the CARS Industry Summit (2017); recipient of the Young Menswear Association’s Fashion Scholarship (2016); winner of the Best Visual Presentation award for the CARS Internship Poster Competition (2016); and semi-finalist for the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Next Generation Scholarship (2015).
“These are highly competitive awards,” Hodges shares, “and Jessica’s participation illustrates her willingness to take risks to compete and to stand out among her peers.”
“Our assignment for the 2017 CARS Industry Summit was to come up with an innovative approach to producing and selling wool,” Jessica explains. “We created a men’s line of clothing that can be worn to the office and then transition outdoors. Think J. Crew meets Nautica and Vineyard Vines.” As head of the marketing portion, Jessica created an ad campaign based on the various myths and facts about wool.
She was nominated by her professors for the 2016 National Retail Federation’s Next Generation Scholarship, and, as a semi-finalist, she was invited to attend their Big Show Convention in New York City – an event that attracts prominent fashion industry leaders. While there, she encountered a Belk representative who remembered her from a previous headquarters visit. “She said she had my resume on her desk. That was the factor that made me realize: This is going to work. I’m going to be in the retail industry and I’m going to be successful.”
Jessica interviewed for an internship with a recruiter during “Belk Day” on campus, and was subsequently nominated by her professors to join a select group of CARS students for two school-sponsored visits to the company’s flagship store and corporate offices in Charlotte. “I fell in love with Belk and was able to complete a full-time, paid internship with them last summer,” Jessica recounts. Impressed with her performance, Belk offered her a full-time summer position with the company’s competitive Emerging Leaders Program, which begins this May. Upon completion, she will be placed within the company as an assistant buyer or assistant product manager. “I hope to eventually work in product development. I’m impressed with the company’s expansion of their private brands. Belk hired a new CEO last year and one of their biggest goals is to enhance their online presence. I’m excited to be entering at such a transformative time for the company.”
She credits the CARS program and its faculty with providing a firm foundation upon which to build professional connections. “Most people do not realize that the Greensboro area is a great place for retail. From VF, Belk, Hanes, ITG Wool, and Cotton Inc., industry execs are consistently hiring students from the CARS program.” Jessica is grateful for her experiences at UNCG and she is excited to see where her future in the retail industry will take her.