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Exploring data, trends and technology for opportunities

Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies Degree

Going Beyond Statistics to Find Human Connections

Our students don’t just lean on data in their decision making. They leverage empathy and creativity. Housed in UW’s School of Human Ecology, the Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies curriculum and education use applied science to better understand the human experience.

Program Areas of Focus

icon of a person with radiating lines around their headCritical thinking to align business needs with the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit

icon of a group of peopleUsing authenticity, compassion, and creative thinking to balance opportunity and threats

icon of a target with arrow through centerDriving results through empathy, listening, and the ability to assume positive action

icon of a line graphIdentifying and gathering data to understand and design inclusive consumer experiences

icon of earthServing consumers and communities by leveraging analytics to uncover meaningful patterns

icon of a list in a notebookConverting astute observations into sound recommendations and solid action items

Professional Experiences

Real-world experience enhances education, from exploring the globe to some healthy competition. Working collaboratively and beyond the confines of a desk, Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students are able to advance their knowledge, passion, and innovation.

students at a National Retail Federation program
Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students at the NRF Student Program in January 2023


An affiliate of the National Retail Federation (NRF) and headed by Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies (CBMS) undergraduates, UW-Madison’s NRF organization exposes members to the industry through professional connections and experiential industry trips to Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis.

Each January, members travel to New York City to attend the NRF Student Program hosted by the larger federation. It’s a one-of-a-kind and is a one of a kind opportunity for students interested in buying, product development, merchandising, data analytics, supply chain.


Kohl’s Center for Retailing (KCR) mentors UW students through this prestigious national competition, helping them to earn scholarship funds, collaborate with other students, and explore the excitement of the fashion industry through top companies. For more than a decade, Badgers have consistently been awarded YMA Fashion Scholarship Funds, outshining hundreds of entries through creativity and problem solving.

YMA 2020 Semi-finalist Projects:

  • Abercrombie Kids & NASA; promoting female representation in science, math, and engineering through fashion.
  • Ulta Beauty & The National Park Service, spotlighting national parks via a makeup palette inspired by Earth tones.
  • Zara & LinkedIn; leveraging effective company supply chains to reach, and meet the needs of,  professional consumers.
Students at Gala in front of wall of colorful pendants
Winning students from UW-Madison were honored at the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala in 2020
team of 4 students
The NRF 2020 Student Challenge awarded a UW retail team second place in the final round of the competition


Each year, UW places nationally in student competitions like the Ray Greenly Scholarship, the NRF Student Challenge, the Next Generation Scholarship, the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, and challenges with retailers like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Lands’ End.

  • L’Oréal Brandstorm
    In 2019-20, UW’s Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students were top 10 finalists for a project to reduce plastic in the cosmetic industry. The annual competition explores the future of the beauty industry.
  • NRF Student Challenge
    2019-2020 brought home a top 3 student challenge award for the EmpowerHER, a Akola and Tory Burch collaboration promoting philanthropy and empowering women to live their dreams. KCR mentored a team made up of a diverse range of majors.
  • Adobe/Infegy
    Hosted by the Kohl’s Center for Retailing, Adobe, and Infegy Atlas, students use the digital platforms to identify and bring a “white space opportunity” to life.


CBMS Badgers are on the go, traveling throughout the state, country, and the world to immerse themselves in the industry. Corporate visits, conferences, and events like the Las Vegas various fashion and Chicago’s International Home & Housewares trade shows builds students’ professional networks and delivers exciting insights into their future careers. Study abroad, including the Trends in Europe summer trip and the Experience China semester, provides global perspectives.

students looking at a factory worker sewing clothing items
Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students visiting a clothing factory.
students in front of the eiffel tower
Students on the Trends in Europe trip organized by Professor Nancy Murray in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Three people walking and talking as they walk through a tradeshow.
Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students shadowing a buyer at a Las Vegas trade show.


For decades, work by Textiles and Fashion Design majors has been featured in a student-run fashion show. Over those years, CBMS students have played a key role in coordinating the live runway event and the 2020 online livestream.

4 models on stage
Threads Fashion Show 2019

"I value the design thinking method that many courses at the Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies Program at UW follows. The creative and collaborative group projects and case studies gave me the ability to navigate scenarios in my career."

Miranda H. (CBMS ’16), Loeffler Randall Office Manager

Alumni Connections

The power of UW–Madison’s Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies program (and its consistently high rankings) is fueled by our exceptional internship programs, coursework, and faculty. But students are our biggest points of pride. Year after year, they graduate as solution providers, seeing the questions and finding answers.

Effective analysis requires many abilities, only some of which are statistical. Our graduates are prepared to impact the business in meaningful ways through best serving the needs of all consumers in every community.

Our alumni lead and drive the retail industry. And, they invest in the future by supporting today’s UW students. Together, our alumni and students work to continuously evolve the retail industry for the betterment of individuals, communities, and the planet.

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Explore the Future of Analytics and Creativity


Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students can build desirable expertise in Infegy Atlas, a powerful online social listening tool used to understand consumer behavior. Support comes from School of Computer, Data, and Informative Sciences (CDIS).

Student and Instructor in classroomDESIGN THINKING RESOURCES

The next generation of creative problem solvers are coming up through UW–Madison’s Design Thinking Program. Students are immersed in collaboration, prototyping, group ideation, and other design thinking facets with the UW certificate in design strategy and a range of related courses. Opened in the School of Human Ecology in 2020, the Dorothy O’Brien Innovation Lab is a 1,700 square foot, multipurpose learning space dedicated to developing creative thinkers.