From an early age, Jennifer Galt discovered a love of retail and working with people. Now General Manager of the University of Delaware bookstore, Galt still infuses her role with dedication, passionate enthusiasm, and a definite sense of fun. During the summer break on campus, she spent some time with us to explain why Barnes & Noble College can help tackle some of the bigger problems facing education, why you’ll always find her where her staff is, and what’s most likely to be on the cover of her favorite summer reading.
What was your first job?
As soon as I turned sixteen I found work at a small grocery store in a college town. In three months, they made me Closing Supervisor, handling the money and making sure everything was done for the day. That was a little overwhelming at first, but that’s also when I realized how much I really love working with people. I kept that job all through high school and college breaks I was just a kid managing college kids. I guess in that sense, I still am!
How do you describe your current role at Barnes & Noble College?
Although I’m employed by Barnes & Noble College, I also work for the University, so my job as General Manager is to really ensure that my store and my staff are essential to the fabric of the campus.
What are you working on right now?
Well, we’re in the middle of Rush, so all the preparation to ensure back to school goes smoothly has been working. This summer, I also helped out getting our new Georgetown University store ready. Pretty high on my to-do list, though, is developing a UD True Spirit fan site, it’s going to be a huge opportunity for our school! [Editor’s note: True Spirit fan sites are alumni and athletics focused virtual stores that specifically speak to the alumni sports fan.]
How would you describe your campus and its students?
We’re a college of 20,000 students, but it still feels like home. The class sizes are small, and people care about each other. We’re also a state campus, and I see that reflected in our student booksellers— they want to work, want to be involved, and that speaks to the whole attitude of the student body. It just feels like home when you come to the campus.
In your view, what’s the biggest challenge facing education today?
Cost, retention and student debt are on the minds of administration, faculty, parents and students, and I really do believe we offer a solution for that, through the kinds of savings our rental program provide. We also offer great career opportunities though our Best Seller Program, and through the resources we’ve put together in our Career Now initiative. To me, a program like Career Now just makes so much sense; partnering with career services, helping with resumes and mock interviews to better prepare our students for work and a life after college.
Why, in your view, is Barnes & Noble College such a great campus partner?
I think the best way I can answer that is recalling one Move-In Weekend. I found a parent in the store who was just not ready to go home yet after leaving her child for the first time. We talked for a while and I was able to reassure her that the bookstore was just one of the resources available to support her child throughout her college life. I think examples like that speak to our sense of community and our very personal connection to the campus. We’re also an organization run by students. Our students can explain the benefits of renting their textbooks from their own experiences. They know what Move-In Weekend means, or what it’s like during finals week. You’re never going to get those kinds of personal questions answered online.
Where do you think the biggest opportunity lies for Barnes & Noble College for the future?
First Day Solutions. I have a freshmen level class of over 450 students involved in a First Day Solutions program with 12 faculty members who love the fact that they can really advance their class and assign homework from day one—just sign into your LMS and you’re ready to go. The textbook isn’t dead, but the idea of a custom book with a digital component, that can be homework or be lab orientatednow that’s exciting.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your current role?
I would work for the Chamber of Commerce, working with businesses in a college town. Either that or flip houses. Or open a bakery —on a beach!
What is your favorite part of the bookstore?
With my staff—anywhere they are!
What’s a characteristic you find most prevalent in Barnes & Noble College people?
What jumps out at me is dedication—at every level. The reason we work so well with our campus partners is because we work so well with each other. Everyone is so passionate about our company and doing their very best every day, whether they’re a barista or a vice president.
Favorite book or book you’re currently reading?
I’m a big beach reader—anything with a beach chair on the cover usually finds its way to me. Probably reading so much non-fiction in grad school led me down that path.
Most valuable thing you’ve learned at Barnes & Noble College?
Early in my career, I worked on the opening of the LSU Bookstore with (now Vice President, Stores) Paul Maloney, and learned how important it is to take care of your people. Paul had a connection with everyone around him, even on first meeting someone. Caring for those around you, and being able to teach them and help them grow—and to pay that forward is so tremendous.
Best day at Barnes & Noble College?
My first year with the company, I was so blown away by the Campus Leadership Awards at the Annual Meeting. Seeing all those amazing people and what they had achieved made me really want to win that award. In 2011, I was the recipient of the Campus Leadership Award for Territory 1—and it honestly makes me a little emotional—even now. For your campus, your team and your peers to recognize the job you’re doing, and the things you’re trying to achieve, that’s overwhelming.