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Targeting Talent at MNU

It’s the nation’s sixth largest retailer according to the National Retail Federation. Target’s nearly 1,800 U.S. stores attract customers with higher-than-average incomes and educational levels. Known for innovation in design of its goods and through partnerships with high-end designers of all things from apparel to household goods, the corporation is an icon of the American retail experience.  

Meet the Management Team (left to right) Missy Sterling, Clair Plummer ('15), Courtney Cox ('09), Kalyn Pfaff ('16), Samantha Moore ('15) and Tyler Garrison ('15). Other Kansas City area management include Britney Lewis ('16), Justin Vargis ('15) and Annie Wiskus ('17)

Now Target is attracting more than shoppers from MNU. Its store leadership team in the Kansas City area is becoming a sought-after destination for MNU graduates with eight MNU interns or graduates part of Target’s management team. Some have started with Target internships, which led to permanent positions as executive team leaders (ETLs). Others were hired for the positions after graduation. Though Target has historically recruited at larger universities, representatives now visit MNU each semester and usually present a seminar in one of Professor Lisa (Lesslie '94) Wallentine’s marketing classes. It all started with alumna Courtney Cox (’09).

Cox, a mass communication major, has been with Target for six years. The training and experience she has gained there have given her insight into each area of the corporation’s in-store business. In fact, she soon will manage her own store as a store team leader—think general manager. At 29, she may be young for this new position, but she is not inexperienced.

“Target has taught me a significant amount about running a retail business and managing people,” Cox says. “Target is passionate about developing people. My boss is excited about making me a better leader every day.”

During her senior year at MNU, Cox was introduced to Target’s management training program at a career fair at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. After a year on the job, she approached Missy Stirling, a store team leader, about recruiting at MNU. Not only did she want to help fellow alums get jobs, but also she wanted to “show the business world how great MNU students are.” Stirling agreed and has been pleased with the caliber of students she can interview from MNU. 

Missy Stirling, store team leader and Courtney Cox (’09), executive team leader, have created a strong partnership with MNU for recruiting new talent to the corporation’s management program.

“We recruit, train and develop the best of the best,” Stirling says. “When we are recruiting we are assessing the candidate for the ETL role and, most importantly, beyond. Especially in recent years, MNU has been a big player for us when it comes to finding the best of the best!”

Stirling says MNU and Target have built a strong partnership with the assistance of Wallentine, who works hard to ensure that students are ready for the interview. 

“Professor Wallentine is an amazing partner for us, as she is the one behind the scenes ensuring the candidates are ready and knowledgeable,” Stirling says. "This enables us to interview the candidates who are truly ready and passionate about the opportunities Target has.”

Samantha Herring-Moore (’15) is one of the alums who interviewed with Cox and Stirling and landed an ETL position last year. Moore completed Target’s six-week training program in human resources and asset protection before being placed at the Olathe South store. Moore says she will need to be in her position for 18 months before being promoted, though she may receive pay raises. Promotions can be to a higher-volume store or into a different ETL role such as logistics, hard lines (products except clothing), guest experience, soft lines (clothing), food, overnight logistics and operations.

“There are many ways for an ETL to move up and get promoted within Target—a lot more options and possibilities than most businesses have,” Moore says. Stirling, who is also Moore’s store manager, echoes that thought.

“We have an amazing talent culture at Target,” Stirling adds. “A great training program, a lot of responsibility, never-ending personalized development, great benefits, tons of advancement opportunities, very competitive pay, and you get to work with the best team in retail.” 

On the other end of the management spectrum, just starting out, is Kalyn Pfaff (’16), a senior business administration major, who landed a permanent ETL position nine months before graduation. Pfaff first completed one of the coveted Target executive internships during the summer after her junior year. During her senior year, she was the MNU campus liaison and extended executive intern for the Kansas City district.

“The extended intern role allows me to continue training and building my leadership base in stores before I start full time,” Pfaff says. “It’s been awesome [having a job settled before graduation]. I haven’t lost sleep or stressed much thinking about the near future, and I’m sure that’s rare for graduating seniors.” 

In addition, Pfaff says the extended experience has made her “more than prepared” to start her full-time Target career this summer. 

Accent Summer 2020
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Summer 2021

Momentum builds with new construction, the return to in-person Commencement and athletic success despite the pandemic! Enjoy this issue of Accent Summer 2021.

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