Financial Advantages, One of the Many Perks of Living On Campus

April 25, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Maggie Ashworth
mashworth@smu.edu

When it comes to a college student’s living situation, students face the decision of living on campus, in a residence hall, or off campus, typically in an apartment or condominium. At Southern Methodist University, first-year students are required to live on campus, but after that, they can move out of the residence halls.

A long list of benefits comes with living on campus, from the convenience of being close to classrooms to the security of knowing that SMU is a safe environment with police officers constantly patrolling the area. However, on-campus living also offers financial advantages.

When freshman students move on campus, it’s usually their first time living away from home, and their first experience with real financial responsibility. At SMU, the average cost of living in the dorm, in a double or triple occupancy room, is $8,071 per year. Students living on campus are also required to purchase a meal plan, ranging from $253.50 to $2,649.50 per semester.

While living on campus may seem pricey, research has been done to compare the expenses of living on campus versus the price of living off campus. According to Karen Michlik, the assignments coordinator for residence life and student housing at SMU, there may not be much of a financial difference between each living situation.

“Well, we’ve looked at trying to compare, and when you get down to the breakdown of the utilities you have to pay, you’re not saving money off campus, unless you’re living with several roommates,” Michlik says.

Michlik also feels that living on campus provides benefits that cannot be found in off-campus housing. She says that student residents have everything at their fingertips. “On campus you’ve got the security, you’ve got everything billed to your student account, you don’t have to worry about utility bills. It’s got everything you need.”

Although the overall cost of living on-campus may rival the cost of living off-campus, residence-hall lifestyle is designed in way that can help students be more financially secure with fewer worries, especially since bills are paid upfront.

Freshman student Alexa Morawski agrees that living on campus comes with its advantages. She is glad that she doesn’t have to deal with the burden of paying for groceries, since she has a meal plan, and feels that everyday expenses will be more of a shock once she is not living on campus. “I think students would notice the price of living in an apartment much more. I think that once it is our job to pay the bills, the price of living off campus will seem much more expensive than we thought,” Morawski said.

On campus living also offers opportunities, such as becoming a residence assistant (RA), which helps students save money on room, board, and meal plans.

Joshua Parr, a senior at SMU, has lived on campus all four years and has spent the last three years working as an RA. For Parr, his position as an RA has been a financial benefit, as well as a valuable resource for staying involved on campus.

“Coming into college the plan was always to be an RA. My parents said that if I wanted to live on campus, the RA position would help financially. I never considered not being an RA because I would not be able to live close to campus if I wasn’t one,” Parr said. “It helped financially but the relationships I made and people I’ve been able to influence during my time as an RA means a lot to me.”

Parr’s role as an RA means that he is a resource for residents, helps with administrative responsibilities, and is required to be on call at least once a week. However, by accepting these responsibilities, Parr receives free room and board, as well as a meal plan. Parr estimates that he has saved around $15,000 each year he has worked as an RA.

At SMU, it is students’ decision on where they live after their first year of college. However, the opportunities and financial benefits of staying on campus overall can serve as a money-saving tool.

Texas-based company, Fossil, Watches its Way to the Top

April 25, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Maggie Ashworth
mashworth@smu.edu

Fossil Inc., a company that specializes in the manufacturing, distribution and sale of watches, accessories and apparel, has had a successful year during 2010. From 2009 to 2010, during the fourth quarter, Fossil has seen its net sales increase 32.8 percent, from $527.8 million to $701.1 million.

Fossil originated as a watch company in 1984, and while it sells and distributes additional merchandise, its watches continue to be the main source of sales. During the fourth quarter of 2010 all watch brands under the Fossil name have led to a 41.7 percent increase in global watch sales. These sales were primarily led by the brands of Michael Kors Inc., Fossil Inc., and Michele Watch. However, watches haven’t been the only source of booming business for Fossil. The company’s line of accessories saw a 10.4 percent increase in net sales, which was mostly due to the growth of sales amongst leather products for men and women.

The Asia Pacific region of Fossil’s sales was a primary area of growth last year. The wholesale shipments of merchandise to the Asia Pacific areas increased by $22.9 during the fourth quarter. According to the press release announcing its fourth quarter earnings for the fiscal year of 2010, this increase is due in part to the company’s decision to remove Fossil’s third-party distributor in Korea, and use a “company-owned subsidiary” instead, thus making the business more profitable.

Fossil ‘s headquarters are located in Richardson, TX, but the company operates stores across the world. According to Fossil’s reports record fourth quarter and fiscal year net sales and earnings, the most recent business summary, there are Fossil stores in over 120 countries, with over 360 company-owned and operated retail stores worldwide.

In a May 11, 2010 conference call, Kosta Kartsotis, chief executive officer of Fossil described the company’s recent progress, as well as plans for the future. “The Fossil brand also continues to reap rewards with strong sales growth and increased margins across our total stores platform. Combined with our e-commerce and catalog initiatives, our retail store growth is continuing to boost awareness of the Fossil brand… resulting in increased sales through both our retail and wholesale channel,” Kartsotis said.

Fossil’s recent success can be attributed to the company’s continued effort to bring something new to its stores and merchandise, as well as the distribution of products through other licensed brands. However, Fossil’s recent earnings release shows that most of the company’s sales, 76.2 percent, are wholesale. This figure means that Fossil’s largest source of income stems from manufacturing watches that are sold to other retail companies and only 23.8 percent of the company’s sales are made directly to the consumer, or through its own retail stores and website.

By distributing products under the name of several brands, Fossil appeals to the masses, regardless of their style and budget. Bryce May, a sales associate at a Dallas Fossil store says that “some people don’t really know that we manufacture that many [watches]” but then the customers will come into the store and say “I saw this at Michael Kors, and then I saw it at Fossil and it looks the same. But some people just have to have the name.” Fossil distributes watches to brands such as Michele, known as a luxury timepiece retailer, and Michael Kors, a brand that is known for having fashionable statement pieces.

Aside from distributing products to other retail companies, Fossil has also been revamping its own company image. Fossil has recently launched a new type of Fossil store, a pop-up store. “First one of its kind for us, it’s in SoHo. It’s cool, it’s completely different from anything we do. We sell things we find at garage sales, we sell everything in there,” said Kevin Stephens, manager of a Fossil store in Dallas, TX. Fossil is exploring a whole new aspect of retail by not only selling its own brand, but also exploring the sales of vintage items and random finds, mixed in with the company’s own merchandise.

Overall, the company’s addition of retail stores, continued sales of proprietary brands, and launch of a pop-up store is bringing significant increases of sales and income.

CEOs of Southwest Airlines and American Airlines “Take Off” at SABEW

April 8, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

By Maggie Ashworth
mashworth@smu.edu
 
Friday, April 8, 2011, business professionals and journalists gathered in Southern Methodist University’s Crum Auditorium for “Up in the Air: The Future of U.S. Airlines.”

The discussion featured the Chief Executive Officers for two of the country’s leading airlines, Southwest and American Airlines. The discussion was part of a series of lectures and workshops at the 48th Annual conference for the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).

The session was lead by Terry Maxon, airline writer for Dallas Morning News, who introduced Southwest CEO Gary Kelly, and American Airlines CEO, Gerard Arpey. Maxon helped lead the conversation and prompted questions for both speakers to answer.

One would have expected some serious tension between these competitors, but the discussion could not have gone more smoothly. With a room full of business writers, there were plenty of questions to keep the speakers talking about a variety of subjects.

Kelly addressed the Southwest Airlines incident in Arizona last week, when the airline was forced to land a Boeing 737 in Yuma, Arizona, after discovering a hole in the roof of the aircraft.

“It was not expected, it is not what we want, certainly for our customers. It is a very, very rare occurrence. We have over a million takeoffs and landings a year, every single year, and the Boeing company has said that this was an unexpected event. The NTSB, of course, is leading the investigation into the incident and has already reported that Southwest Airlines was in full compliance with our maintenance program, that there were no missing maintenance steps,” Kelly said.

In response to the Boeing incident, Arpey still has faith in Boeing for American Airlines. Arpey stated that within the next year he thinks that American will actually host more Boeing 737 planes than MD-80s.

“The MD-80 has been a great airplane for American, but it does burn a lot more fuel than a 737, so it’s a good economic decision for us. And I think you can expect us to continue down that path,” Arpey said.

Other topics discussed during the lecture included the American Airlines decision to not file for bankruptcy, the problems faced in the transportation industry, as well as Southwest Airlines and American Airlines opposing views on charging customers for baggage, change in travel plans, and cocktails.

Today’s conversation leader, Terry Maxon, who regularly writes about the travel industry for The Dallas Morning News, felt that overall the discussion with Arpey and Kelly went very well. Maxon’s only complaint was that there was not enough time to have all the questions answered. Maxon feels that with so many issues in the airline industry, including pricing, customer service, fuel, and the impact of natural disasters, there could have never been enough time to discuss all aspects of the business. However, Maxon was pleased with the questions that were asked, and the topics that were discussed.

“There were a lot of questions asked, the audience got to ask a lot of insightful questions. You always worry that there’s going to be dumb questions asked, and there wasn’t a single question where you slapped yourself on the forehead and said that that shouldn’t even be brought up,” Maxon said.

The SABEW Conference will continue throughout tomorrow at Southern Methodist University, featuring speakers such as Container Store CEO Kip Tendell, Sean Carlson from Google, and James M. Monroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News.

Social Networking Sites Are More Important Than You Think

October 21, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Maggie Ashworth
mashworth@smu.edu

Five years ago, Facebook was popping up in high schools across the country and Twitter was practically unheard of. Today there is an entire facet of careers dedicated to the world of social networking.

Last night, as a part of the Hegi Career Center’s Social Media Week, five Dallas professionals gathered in the Hughes-Trigg Forum to discuss the importance of social media jobs with SMU students. The Careers in Social Media event featured panelists that log onto social networking sites on a regular basis- and get paid for it.

The panel included Laura Stillo, social media producer for YouPlusDallas, Mike Merrill, director of marketing at ReachLocal, Brian Conway, who handles the social and digital media for Weber Shandwick, Kendall Shiffler, social networking and marketing associate for Lower Oak Lawn, and Jessica Nunez, owner of Nunez PR Group.

Although the panelists work for businesses ranging from modern digital journalism to real estate and public relations companies, each receives large amounts of traffic and attention as a result of social media.

These social media professionals covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from appropriate subjects to post on Twitter and personal blogs, to knowing where to draw the line between personal and professional social media.

As black and white as it may seem, today’s college students are still posting unsuitable pictures and information about themselves across the World Wide Web, regardless of the fact that future bosses will have access to this information. Mike Merrill believes it’s best not to blur the lines.

“Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mom to see,” Merrill said.

Although Twitter might seem like an appropriate place to tell the world about your horrendous hangover, it’s better to tweet about what’s going on in the world, or topics that are relevant to your areas of interest.

Employers want to see your creative writing ability and input on current events, but spare them the details of your crazy nights out

“Brand yourself online well,” Stillo said.

The importance of “careful” blogging was strongly emphasized by each panelist.

Nunez, who own’s her own PR firm, clarified that blogging experience is important, but it means nothing unless the subject matter is relevant.

“We tell you to blog, and then you go out and blog about your life, and then I know too much,” Nunez said. “Blog about something that you care about and that interests you, just don’t tell us about your weekend on Knox-Henderson.”

The subject of a blog can be helpful or hurtful and the first step to understanding proper blogging is to look at your blog as a representation of yourself. Panelist Laura Stillo took this approach, and it helped her land her current job.

Stillo, who graduated from SMU in 2009, used her blog from an advertising class to demonstrate her writing ability and it got her a job interview at YouPlusDallas.

By showcasing her initiative to find interesting information, as well as her unique writing style throughout her blog, YouPlusDallas saw Stillo as an exceptional job candidate. Traits such as writing ability and experience can’t be explained on a resume, but a blog can convey that information.

According to the panelists, blogging and internships are the way to demonstrate one’s ability, and that’s what makes job applicants stand out. When it comes to blogging, the panelists told students that there are several ways to approach beginning a blog.

Merrill urged that WordPress.com is the ultimate domain site for those who are ready to become dedicated, serious bloggers. But, for beginner bloggers who want to start out slow, he recommends reading Problogger.com or Copyblogger.com for tips on better blogging.

As far as internships go, Nunez feels that experience as an intern is essential for resume building and will pay off in the long run.

“It’s like the accessory to your outfit,” Nunez said. “Your degree is your dress, accessorize it with your internships.”

The Daily Update: Wednesday, March 31

March 31, 2010 by · Comments Off 

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The Daily Update: Thursday, March 25

March 25, 2010 by · Comments Off 

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