Kirsten Schaffer

Kirsten Schaffer

Director of Marketing and Business Development, Simon Property Group
Sioux Falls, SD
Marketing, 2011

"Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, support you and your goals and encourage you to pursue your dreams. Don’t forget to show these people you value them. You may not realize it now, but these individuals significantly shape who you are and who you will grow up to be."

Q&A with Kirsten:

Describe your current educational or professional pursuits.

For the past four years, I have worked for Simon Property Group (SPG), an S&P 100 company and global leader in the ownership of premier shopping, dining, entertainment and mixed-use destinations. While you may not recognize SPG, you probably recognize the name The Empire Mall, one of SPG’s properties. At The Empire Mall, I serve as the director of marketing and business development. In this role, I connect local businesses to Empire’s shoppers via advertising and on-mall activations, assist leasing in bringing in new retailers to Empire, connect businesses with a cost-savings gift card employee incentive program, create marketing plans and strategies for over 140 retailers, manage a strong team of marketers and serve as an Empire Mall spokesperson for in-studio and on-location television segments.

Working at The Empire Mall has allowed me to bring my passion for retail, entertainment and shopping combined with my marketing and sales expertise to help enhance the shopping experience at Empire. It is an honor to play a part in enhancing the shopping, dining and entertainment options in Sioux Falls.

How did your USD experience influence your career path?

In conversing with my peers, I have learned that not all universities and business schools are created equal. The business classes at USD weren’t just lecture format, but applied, too. We were assigned hands-on, real world projects which provided us with skills and experience to prepare us to enter the workforce.

One of my most educational and rewarding experiences while at USD was in Rand Wergin’s senior level class, where we were tasked with writing a marketing plan for Sioux Falls Catholic Schools and Beacom School of Business. Not only did we write marketing plans for real organizations, but we presented our plans to a panel of executives, were judged on our plans and given feedback on our presentation from the panel. The success and thrill I had in that one class reinforced my decision to become a marketer focusing on overall strategy.

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

My proudest achievement cannot be narrowed down to a single moment or recognition, but I am pleased to say I’m proud of the place I’m in both personally and professionally. Beginning with graduating with my marketing degree in three and a half years and always being one of the youngest on my teams, I have been promoted numerous times, mentored a handful of individuals in their current pursuits, selected to oversee 30 malls and assisted in pursuit and opening of some first-to-market brands, such as Athleta, lululemon and Evereve at The Empire Mall.

In the United States, we are oversaturated with retail compared to the successful industries in Canada and Europe; therefore, over the last few years, the retail environment has continued to evolve, even impacting The Empire Mall. Despite all of these changes, I am proud to say Empire is experiencing year-over-year growth and I have played a key role in our continued success. In addition to adding numerous new retailers, I’ve expanded the lineup of mall events, increased gift card sales and enhanced the experience for customers visiting Santa, all of which drive more traffic and sales to our retailers.

What was your USD experience like? Were you involved in any campus organizations or activities?

I like to think I have been a Coyote for life as I grew up in Elk Point, just minutes from Vermillion, and my parents are USD alumni. Since I lived so close to Vermillion, I was nervous that USD wouldn’t be fulfilling – I was so wrong. While at USD, I worked 20-30 hours a week, was a member of Alpha Phi sorority and highly dedicated to my studies, receiving my degree in three and a half years. In addition to my academics and work experience, I also attended many USD athletic events to cheer on the Coyotes.

At USD, I met lifelong friends and had many experiences that I could have never imagined. I wouldn’t trade my experience at USD for anything in the world!

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