RTM Advisory Board

The Retailing and Tourism Management Advisory Board members include fourteen professionals representing both retailing and tourism industries.   Industry members include:

  • Andrea Bailey, Merchandiser, Gall’s
  • Brandon Blackerby, Store Team Leader, Target, Lexington
  • MK Cole, Senior Operations Director Aramark at University of Kentucky
  • Deena Davis, Quality Assurance Manager, VF Imagewear
  • Karla DiNardo, Owner, Oak Barrel Creative
  • Travis Farmer, Store Team Leader, Target, Covington, KY
  • Tara Hackett, Quality Assurance Testing Analyst, Carters/Oshkosh B’Gosh
  • Haley Harris, Store Manager, White House/Black Market, Hamburg Pavilion
  • Matt Higgins, Visitor Center Manager, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort
  • Amit Jain, Owner, Shingora, India
  • Paul Mortell, Controller, Alltech’s Beverage Division
  • Mary Quinn Ramer, President, VisitLex
  • Christin Shepherd, Store Team Leader, Target, Lexington
  • George Ward, Executive Director, Coldstream Research Campus

In addition to the fourteen industry members, the board is comprised of two students; one from each program in the department and two faculty members representing the faculty.

The Retailing and Tourism Management Department is an academic unit in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Students have the option to enroll in degree programs in merchandising, apparel and textiles or hospitality management and tourism. Graduates of the department are employed in many diverse fields including food service management, hotel management, tourism, purchasing, event planning, retailing and apparel testing.

 “The role of the advisory board is to assist the RTM department in preparing students for key positions in the hospitality and retail industries,” said George Ward, who is also a veteran hotel developer and former commissioner of Kentucky State Parks and former Kentucky Commerce Cabinet Secretary. “The diverse expertise around the table provides the department with practical advice needed to ensure RTM graduates enter the work force with a well-rounded education, hands-on work experience, and the skills required for successful career.”

"As the chair of the advisory council, it's my pleasure to work with such a distinguished group of professionals who give of their time and talent to benefit the RTM program and students. Our council brings together skilled professionals from the retail, hospitality and tourism fields, talented professors, and dedicated students from within the college.  Everyone serving on the council shares the common goal of preparing students for successful careers after completing their degree at UK," added Karla DiNardo, RTM Chair, Textile & Apparel Management graduate, and a travel and tourism executive from the meccas of Branson, Myrtle Beach, and also, international travel association, NTA.

Members of the advisory board have been a tremendous asset to the department’s faculty and students.  As guest speakers, they have shared their expertise and experiences.  In the pre-internship class, members of the board have volunteered their time to review student resumes and conducted mock interviews with the students. Also, members of the board have helped faculty by identifying local retailers and businesses who are interested in accepting interns.  Their contributions have enabled students to be more marketable in the workforce.

 “The industries we serve change rapidly,” said Vanessa Jackson, department chair. “We need the support of professionals in the field to help us maintain excellence.”

“We are honored that these successful industry leaders are giving their time to create opportunities for students and help the Retailing and Tourism Management department develop resources, said Nancy Cox, dean of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We hope that this mutual partnership will also help RTM give back to the industries in tangible ways.”