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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

Kaelyn McCarthy stands with clothing and other merchandise inside Kohl's department store.

From undergrad to management: Internship opens doors for UofSC retailing grad

By Allen Wallace, awallace@sc.edu
Posted on December 10, 2019

Like many college students, Kaelyn McCarthy didn’t arrive at the University of South Carolina with a specific career goal set in stone. She simply had an interest in fashion, a desire to learn and a willingness to challenge herself to go beyond what was expected. Learning in a capital city surrounded by opportunity for experiential learning, that passion and willingness to work hard evolved into goal setting and graduation success — going straight from undergraduate student to full-time manager.

McCarthy will graduate December 16 with a bachelor of science in retailing and a focus in fashion merchandising and digital innovations. She will step directly into a lucrative job in South Carolina’s retail industry, and it all started with an internship requirement for her degree program.

After I took a few classes, I realized fashion was about more than just the clothing. It's about the shopper experience and the science. The UofSC retailing program is very consistent: the professors all deliver different aspects of the same message, and it helped me build a really strong foundation.

Kaelyn McCarthy, December 2019 retailing graduate

“After I took a few classes, I realized fashion was about more than just the clothing. It's about the shopper experience and the science,” she says. “The UofSC retailing program is very consistent: the professors all deliver different aspects of the same message, and it helped me build a really strong foundation.”

McCarthy attended a job fair organized by HRSM in the fall semester of 2018 and met a Kohl’s manager. Conversation led to interview, interview to internship, and internship to a job offer — as well as a sense of finding a career fit.

“With department store retail there's always something to do, something to accomplish. It just feels right,” McCarthy says.

McCarthy’s impressive performance as an intern led not only to the job offer for after graduation, but also to a part-time job in her final senior semester as a supervisor, managing cashiers and customer service staff at a Columbia-area Kohl’s. She says the job has prepared her for her postgrad role as a manager in training, helped her set a goal of rising to district manager and gave her a chance to develop her leadership skills.

“I’ve learned that I am able to manage a team effectively and to gain the respect of others on my team,” she says.

McCarthy has also learned from the enthusiasm and passion of the South Carolina Department of Retailing faculty, citing Professor Karen Edwards as a particular influence and mentor. Edwards and other faculty members showed McCarthy how to lead. Now stepping into a position of leading her own team, many of whom have more years in the industry than she does, those lessons are serving her well.

“I've gained a lot of respect just from taking the time to get to know people,” she says. “You have to think of it from their perspective: just listen and make them feel their knowledge is validated.”

Learn more about the Department of Retailing.


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