Red banner with large word: Leadership

Advancing industry for good


Do you get excited about the challenging, ever-changing world of retailing? We do! At, the Kohl’s Center for Retailing (KCR), we are Badgers in retailing who bring together students, faculty, alumni, professionals, and anyone else who is as excited as we are about the industry. We guide UW–Madison’s top-tier Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies major by promoting its career on campus and building strong professional partnerships in Wisconsin and beyond. And, our innovative research seeks answers for the betterment of all.

We continuously work to connect within the world of retailing to find the BIG solutions and the future of the industry.

The Fourth Wave of Retail

With the rapid industry changes of 2020, KCR has doubled down on understanding and meeting today’s top consumer demands:

Shield icon with check mark insideConvenience, comfort, and safety

icon of overlapping talking bubblesDemand for meaning and experience both through digital and in-store

icon of a greek columnSupporting social justice through purchasing retail goods

Icon of a checked boxProviding solutions for all consumer needs

Icon of hands shakingConsumers are looking for brands to join them in making the world a better place

Our Mission

Create a synergistic relationship between the retail industry, their partners, and the world-class faculty, staff, and students of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Build relationships on the highest ethical standards and be dedicated to improving the lives of consumers by fueling marketplace innovation and competition.

Exterior of Nancy Nicolas Hall, home of the School of Human Ecology at UW—Madison

School of Human Ecology at University of Wisconsin–Madison logo

The Kohl’s Center for Retailing is uniquely positioned to understand consumers. It is based in UW–Madison’s School of Human Ecology (SoHE), where applied science is used to study the questions of everyday life.

Through human ecology, we are able to better understand people, planet, and profit.

Centered in Human Empathy

The desire to make a difference is part of our DNA at the University of Wisconsin—Madison and we give students the tools to do it, emphasizing not only excellence in academics but also empathy and innovation.

Our broad Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies curriculum includes more than leading courses in consumer engagement and product development. Students expand their perspective with classes in community & nonprofit leadership, design thinking, sustainability, food insecurity and more. They learn just and sustainable business practices not just because it’s the right thing to do but also to grow profits.

Retail is a global industry that thrives on diverse ideas and points of view from people with different backgrounds and experiences. Many brands have embraced this, taking bold action and committing to sustained change. Forward-thinking School of Human Ecology alumni are prepared to enter the workforce with compassion and new ways of thinking on diversity, equity & inclusion, social justice and sustainability.


Together, we can all do better. The Kohl’s Center for Retailing (KCR) works closely with our business partners to address the imperative for diversity in retail and collaborate on innovative ways to transform the industry.


We’re invested in uplifting new voices and expanding opportunities among traditionally unrepresented students, faculty, and staff. This school-wide initiative informs everything we do, from hiring and course structure to student experiences and community partnerships.

Human Ecology Initiatives

Design Thinking is a creative process that uses design strategy, a diverse cross-functional team, and empathy for the human experience to develop and implement innovative practical solutions.

Wisconsin Food Security Project provides extensive data and research on local characteristics related to poverty, food security, and the food environment, in order to promote food security for all.

4W Initiative, or Women, Well-Being, Wisconsin, and the World, a convener in education, applied research, and engagement to promote global well-being and full participation of women in society.

"UW is without a doubt top of the line if you're interested in pursuing merchandising, buying, or related fields…the best part about the program is how much the faculty encourages you to pursue many other types of career fields utilizing skills from the major."

Katie S. (CBMS ’20), Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Assistant Merchant

The Kohl’s Connection

A major $3 million naming gift is the basis for the Kohl’s Center for Retailing. Designated in 2007, this generous donation provided the current space within SoHE’s Nancy Nicholas Hall as well as ongoing operational funding. For more than a decade, Kohl’s leadership has helped to drive and shape the future of retailing by providing expertise and financial resources for students, faculty, and staff.

The work began in in 2005, when a committee of retailing executives convened to propel SoHE’s retailing program with the goal to make it one of the nation’s best. The overarching feedback was that UW students must possess top-tier professional abilities, from real-world knowledge and communications to business etiquette and networking skills. Through this work, the center was created thanks to Kohl’s corporate gift, the largest in the school’s history.