Kirstin Newell ’24

In her first year, already researching what’s next (in retail)
Kristin Newell
Kristin NewellKirstin Newell ’24

Professor Joseph H. Hancock II<sProfessor Joseph H. Hancock II </s

Being recognized with the title “scholar” is nothing new to Kirstin Newell, a second-year student at LeBow College of Business who was selected to participate in Drexel’s distinctive STAR Scholars undergraduate research program. As a student at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago, she attended classes over multiple summers through the Collegiate Scholars Program at the University of Chicago, designed to encourage high-achieving and underrepresented public school students to apply to and succeed at highly selective colleges and universities.

That path led to Drexel, where Newell is pursuing a BS in business analytics and marketing. As a LeBow College of Business Research Fellow, she conducts more than 150 hours of research each term alongside her academic coursework. Newell also was accepted to the STAR Scholars program, which connects undergraduates to faculty mentors who help them learn research techniques and begin conducting research in their chosen field.

During her first year, she was one of 153 students across Drexel’s schools and colleges selected to participate in the program. STAR Scholars provides student a stipend and on-campus housing during the summer term, as well as access to opportunities – managed by Pennoni Honors College – such as traveling to a conference in the US or abroad. Support from generous alumni and friends can further grow these stipends and opportunities.

Interested in fashion retail and its connection to business analytics and marketing, Newell was introduced to Joseph H. Hancock II, professor and retail and merchandising program director at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Hancock joined Drexel following 20 years in retail operations, branding, merchandising, consumer behavior and strategy at brands including Gap Inc., The Limited and Target. 

“Working with Professor Hancock has been extraordinary,” says Newell. “He has helped introduce me to the business of fashion and cultural factors that impact the industry. He has guided me toward research tools such as databases and professional and academic journals, as well as invaluable networking opportunities.”

In a project titled “Next in Retail,” Newell investigated and identified innovations that might offer solutions to industry-wide issues as the impact of the pandemic grew across the country and around the world.

“As the year went on, and far more than COVID-19 was impacting consumer behavior, I wanted to take a holistic approach to understanding what marketing strategies will keep fashion retailers afloat,” adds Newell. “I conducted more than 300 hours of research throughout the summer and transitioned my study from investigating the pandemic’s impact on fashion retail to more broadly investigating how COVID-19, civil unrest and quarantine would impact fashion consumption.”

Newell presented her findings during the annual STAR Scholars Summer Showcase held virtually in September. Like the other students, Newell created a poster, wrote an abstract and produced a pre-recorded video discussing her project, all currently available at During the summer, members of the Drexel community were able to log in to an online platform using their Drexel email address to leave comments on the students’ work.

Of course, the 2020 cohort of STAR Scholars was compelled to shift to remote and virtual learning and presentations.

The STAR Scholars program has real impact on our students, increasing their confidence in their own abilities and helping them clarify their academic and professional goals. During the pandemic, we knew that we had to do everything in our power to continue providing that experience.

“As long as research was continuing at Drexel, we felt very strongly that our 2020 STAR Scholars could and should be able to participate in those activities,” says Jaya Mohan, director of Undergraduate Research and Enrichment Programs at Pennoni Honors College. “The STAR Scholars program has real impact on our students, increasing their confidence in their own abilities and helping them clarify their academic and professional goals. We knew that we had to do everything in our power to continue providing that experience.”

Newell believes her time as a STAR Scholar was an empowering experience that taught her how enthralling research can be, especially because the circumstances around her study were unfolding as she was conducting it.

“The STAR Scholars program was the impetus to my fashion retail minor and it led me to an internship and co-op at a startup in Chicago,” says Newell, “I am currently a brand strategist at Local Edition LLC, a retail pop-up marketplace that supports small and local businesses. We recently opened a retail space in the city's famous shopping district, the Magnificent Mile!”

“The STAR Scholars program is innovative and truly reflects the wonderful opportunities for our undergraduate students at Drexel,” adds Hancock. “In particular, Kirstin’s research is extremely timely and reflective of the zeitgeist. Her initiative is impeccable and her approach to the final project on retail and COVID was so impressive. At some point, I do believe this scholarship should be published.”

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