Ranked seventh among California’s top private “national” universities by U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Colleges, with an illustrious list of alumni that includes Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll, San Francisco former mayor George Moscone and jazz icon Dave Brubeck, it’s easy to see why more than 1,100 new freshman and transfer students recently enrolled at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.
Young, accomplished and talented students from around the world come to the University to experience an exceptional education in a student-centered learning environment. “Pacific is an exceptional private university with rigorous academics, where talented students receive the personal teaching and experiential learning opportunities that prepare them for success in their careers and lives,” said University of the Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck. “The latest rankings reflect what we all know – that Pacific is a superb choice for anyone who seeks a teaching-centered private university with a diverse, engaged student body.”
Supporting that student-centered philosophy is the University of the Pacific Bookstore, which provides the student body with learning materials, school supplies, Pacific apparel, snacks and beverages. Managed by Barnes & Noble College since 2000, the bookstore acts as a support system for students and faculty, and is aligned with the cultural, brand and academic mission of the school. It is that philosophy that empowered Store Manager Nicole Castillo to act on a specific request from a student.
“A student came into the store and said she had recently visited a friend at another university and saw a school-branded Hello Kitty mug and wondered if we could stock them with Pacific branding in our store,” Castillo says. “At first, I wasn’t even sure how popular Hello Kitty was with college students, but I did some research and discovered that it is extremely popular in some markets — and our school was one of them.”
Indeed, Hello Kitty, a fictional graphic Japanese character, is popular among certain millennials. Originally aimed at pre-adolescent females, Hello Kitty’s market has broadened to include adult consumers. Castillo took to tracking down vendors who were licensed to use Hello Kitty and Pacific images, and worked with the Barnes & Noble College home office to place an order. “It’s important that we listen to our students, so when one of them requested this type of merchandise, I had to look into it,” she explains. “After looking at a lot of different products, taking feedback, and knowing what sells in our store, we decided on several key items: mugs, i.d. holders, Nalgene water bottles, keychains, acrylic cups and tote bags. We thought these items would really resonate with our students — and we were right!” Castillo exclaims. Assistant Store Manager Ashley Costa agrees. “Hello Kitty has done very well,” she says. “We even have high school students, who are here visiting on campus tours, buying the merchandise.”
University of the Pacific student Jessica Robinson noticed an immediate interest by students on her campus. “I was really happy to see the merchandise in the store,” she says. “I’ve seen a lot of interest from students on campus, so it was a great decision to bring it to the bookstore.” The junior geology major also notes something else that students really like about the bookstore — beyond the brightly colored water bottles and cute coffee mugs. “Students really like that their voice is being heard when it comes to making decisions about merchandise in the bookstore. It shows they are listening to what we want.”
Store Manager Castillo is happy her company is structured in such a way that allows her to fulfill a student’s request. “Our company empowers me to find what works on our campus,” she explains. “I don’t have to have the same thing in my store that every other campus has. I can offer merchandise that is unique to what Pacific students and faculty want — and that can include anything from a custom textbook package to a special study aid to Hello Kitty.”