Business Students Learn Label Manufacturing in the Windy City

Retail association's gathering proved a positive learning experience for many

Heath Rooks (left), Rachael Dickens, Amy Jo Carpenter, career planning specialist at the UM School of Business Administration, and Ryan Arneson attend the 2018 PLMA University Outreach program in Chicago. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi business students were among 60 undergraduates from 20 U.S. colleges and universities chosen to participate in the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s third annual University Outreach program.

The meeting, held Nov. 10-13 in Chicago, was in conjunction with PLMA’s annual trade show. The program provided students with an immersive experience in the grocery retailing and store-brand industry.

The Ole Miss students, all seniors, participating in the program were Ryan Arneson, a management major from Granite Bay, California; Rachael Dickens, a marketing and management major from Vancouver, Washington; and Heath Rooks, a marketing major from Collierville, Tennessee.

“It was such an honor for the students and me to participate in the PLMA outreach program,” said Amy Jo Carpenter, career planning specialist at the UM School of Business Administration. “We interacted with students and advisers from many other colleges and universities around the country and gleaned valuable information from industry leaders.

“Clay Dockery, an Ole Miss business school alumnus and vice-chair of the organization, afforded us this opportunity to network and gain hands-on experience in this area of retail business, and we returned with valuable new knowledge.”

The program included two days of university-level classes, followed by two days under the mentorship of practicing professionals in the buying and selling divisions of retail businesses. Participating retailers included Costco, Aldi, Ahold Delhaize, Topco, Wakefern,, Walgreens, CVS, Wegmans, Albertsons and Walmart.

The classes included an overview of retailing and store-brand development in the U.S., the role of manufacturers and retailers, generational marketing, store brand innovation, the e-commerce revolution and career orientation, along with a tour of three supermarkets.

All coursework was led by industry executives and experienced consultants. Directed visits and subsequent analysis of three nearby retail stores also offered examples of private-label products.

“We believe that learning about the various aspects of our thriving industry will encourage the students to consider the trade as a career choice following the completion of their education,” said Brian Sharoff, PLMA president. “As in prior years, the 2018 students came away with a deeper knowledge and appreciation of store brands as well as of potential employment and career opportunities.”

Besides UM, participating schools were Auburn University, Baruch College, Cal Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo, Grambling State University, Howard University, Illinois State University, Ithaca College, Niagara UniversityNorth Carolina A&T, Portland State University, Saint Joseph’s University, Texas A&M University, Tuskegee UniversityWestern Michigan University and the universities of ArizonaArkansasFlorida, Illinois and Missouri.