Global Connection: Merchandising, marketing students benefit from Asian study abroad

More than 300 UNT merchandising and marketing students have learned firsthand the ins and outs of major U.S. retail operations in Asia, thanks to the Hong Kong/Beijing Study Abroad Program offered through UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism.

Created in 2003 by Dee Knight, associate professor of merchandising and associate dean in the college, and Lou Pelton, associate professor of marketing and logistics in the College of Business, the program is available each summer to students.

UNT faculty work with U.S. retail industry partners with operations in Asia, including Target, Fossil, J.C. Penney Co. and The Apparel Group, to help the students learn about overseas product sourcing, which helps set them apart from their competition in the job market, Knight says. Since the program began, students have interacted with business executives, industry leaders and Asian government officials while visiting Hong Kong, Beijing and Malaysia.

"This opportunity gives students access to industry leaders and perspectives they otherwise wouldn’t have," Knight says.

In May, Knight and Marissa Zorola, a faculty advisor and lecturer in merchandising, sponsored 26 students on the three-week excursion to Hong Kong. Students met with Asia officials from Fossil and toured Target Sourcing Services, part of the U.S. retailer Target Corp., to learn about logistics operations. Faculty from Hong Kong Polytechnic University led students on a retail tour.

"The program’s richness comes from our company partnerships," Knight says. "This experience is important for our students because the retail merchandising industry has become one of the largest employers worldwide and a leading global industry."