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RMU Dance Team Wows rue21

The RMU Dance Team with rue21 CFO Keith A. McDonough

Gabriella Gasparich and Kayla Sample are used to performing in front of large crowds as part of RMU’s Dance Team. As co-captains, along with team captain Amanda Stricek, they entertain crowds at home basketball games and other campus and community activities, and they compete at national tournaments and camps.

This past June, they got an inside look at the retail fashion industry when the Dance Team performed at rue21, a specialty discount retailer of young men and women’s casual apparel and accessories, headquartered in nearby Warrendale.

Kayla’s cousin works for corporate rue21, and she asked Kayla if she and the team would be willing to take part in the company’s back-to-school district managers meeting at the Marriot in Cranberry Township.

“Of course I jumped at the offer, because I thought it would be a great way to get the RMU Dance Team out to the public,” says Kayla, a communication major at RMU. She also serves as a RueInsider and visits the corporate office at least once a month to discuss new fashion trends.

On the day of the managers meeting, the hotel conference room was decorated with banners and signs typical of a high school football game setting. The 95 district managers and other corporate employees in attendance even wore “West Side” and “East Side” shirts, to represent a friendly rivalry.

“Basically, we helped kick-off the meeting by waving our pom-poms and reciting cheers that we created specific to rue21,” says Gabriella, a communication and public relations major at RMU and president of MOSAIC, a student group that promotes the acceptance and appreciation of different people and cultures.

“Overall, it was a great experience,” says Kayla. “It was a lot of fun, the new girls were able to bond with the veterans of the team, and we got to meet some important people.”

As it turns out, rue21 has a special connection to RMU. Keith A. McDonough ’83, the company’s chief financial officer and senior vice president, is a graduate of Robert Morris’ accounting program and serves on the advisory board for accounting and taxation. McDonough was actually unaware that the team was going to perform at the meeting.

“It was a total surprise,” he says. “They did a great job, and it really made the meeting lively. What a great bunch of educated, professional young women doing what they love! It really made me proud to be part of the RMU family.”

Erin McDonough BSBA ’11, Keith’s daughter, is a health and wellness program coordinator at Scott Medical Health Center.  While at RMU, she took part in the Study Abroad program, spending time in Rome, Italy. Her brother, Graham McDonough ’03, is a senior accountant for Liberty Tire Recycling in Braddock, and, like his father, is a graduate of RMU’s accounting program.

Besides the cheers, Gabriella says the team also performed one of their basketball season halftime routines for all of the executives. “The crowd was very lively and responsive, and all of the girls on the team that attended that day enjoyed the environment.”

The team also got a sneak peek at all of the new back-to-school fashions as they waited off-stage during the presentation.

Gabriella says it turned out to be a great learning experience for all the girls. “Our experience with rue21 was great because, regardless of our majors, we were all able to gain insights into how a company like theirs operates and how they work to spread enthusiasm among their management team and other employees across the country. It was also a great chance for the girls new to the team to get experience and practice performing with the team.

“We hope to collaborate with them again in the future.”

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

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