Michigan Student Flies the Nest, Spreads Wings in Kent, Ohio, Soars in New York and Lands Corporate Job in Wisconsin
Brittany Rhoa knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career in fashion retailing and began doing her research early in high school.
By the spring of her junior year, she already had visited Kent State University, having heard about the fashion program through a family friend.
"I based my college search around fashion merchandising because I knew that’s what I wanted to do," says Rhoa, 22.
Now a senior at Kent State majoring in fashion merchandising, the Mattawan, Michigan, native explained how Kent State continued to stand out as she debated universities.
A 2014 graduate of Mattawan High School, located just west of Kalamazoo, Rhoa says none of the Michigan schools she investigated worked for her. Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo was too close to home, while Central Michigan University’s location was too remote.
Michigan State University was an option, but Rhoa would have had to major in advertising and marketing, as the school does not offer a specific fashion merchandising program.
Rhoa also investigated the University of Kentucky, but its fashion program was smaller than Kent State’s, and required students to plot many of their own classes, a task that Rhoa found a little daunting.
When deciding between Kent State and Kentucky, Rhoa chose Kent State based on two factors.
The first was Kent State’s education-abroad program. Kentucky offered a similar option, but at Kent State, the university took care of planning the trip.
"They plan and place us overseas. The best part was that they had the school already setup; all of the credits transferred, the housing was all set up for us. We didn’t have to figure out any of it ourselves," Rhoa says.
The second factor was money.
At Kent State, Rhoa learned that she qualified for more than $5,000 in scholarships each semester for all four years.
Her parents, Rhoa says, "were floored by the amount of scholarship money Kent State gives."
"Kent State offered me more money, and it ended up being cheaper to go here than to go to Western Michigan, which is only 20 minutes from my house," she says. "What solidified my decision to come here was the cost."
What solidified my decision to come here was the cost.
Plus, when she visited the campus with her parents, they were impressed by the growing downtown and improvements on campus, many of which they noted took place in the year between her first visit in 2013 and her second visit as a high school senior.
"We all agreed that the progress made in just a year was a telltale sign that the university was only getting better and growing," Rhoa says.
Being on campus for the past four years and 300 miles from home, Rhoa says, has helped her to spread her wings.
At Kent State she joined the Delta Gamma fraternity and became active in Greek life, which provided her with a variety of leadership and networking opportunities, along with those she received from the fashion merchandising program.
Rhoa spent the 2017 Spring Semester abroad in Florence, Italy. "We went everywhere," she says, "It was amazing."
As she approaches graduation in May 2018, Rhoa knows she made the right decision. "I have had nothing but a good experience here," she says.
Rhoa is leaving Kent State with a job in her field already secured and a stack of recommendation letters from the professors and advisors who have helped her over the years. Kohl’s actively recruits on the Kent Campus, and Rhoa accepted a job offer in product development at the retailers’ corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
One of her college highlights came just before the start of the Spring 2018 Semester. At the suggestion of one of her professors, Rhoa entered the Next Generation Scholarship competition sponsored by the National Retail Federation. Rhoa is involved in the federation’s student association on campus.
She was one of 25 semifinalists, all of whom received a trip to New York in January to attend the federation’s annual convention, where officials awarded the scholarships. Rhoa was one of five finalists for the top award.
While she did not win the $25,000 grand prize, she and the other three finalists each received $10,000 awards, money that Rhoa hopes to use to settle into her new home in Milwaukee.
Rhoa says the New York event was a great opportunity to network, and many other Kent State students attended. "There were executives from every major company there and a career fair. People left with jobs and internships, which was awesome," she says.
Those types of beyond-the-classroom opportunities are what made her education at Kent State particularly successful, she says.
"It’s definitely worth it," Rhoa says of her decision to leave Michigan for college. "I am extremely grateful that I came out-of-state and that I went somewhere where I didn’t know anybody."
It’s definitely worth it. I am extremely grateful that I came out-of-state.
Having grown up in a small town, Rhoa says the large and diverse Kent Campus was a great learning experience for her, which she believes has prepared her for future adventures. "I’m from a small town, coming here first made being abroad so much easier."
Now Rhoa dreams about having a job that will continue to allow her to travel the world. She is excited at the prospect of working for Kohl’s and hopes to eventually be able to advance within the retail corporation.
"I’m hoping that product development is a good path to be on," she says.