Colleena Peng ’18 and Maddy Rodriguez ’18

I recently met Colleena Peng and Maddy Rodriguez, co-founders of MSU’s newest student organization, the Corporate Retail Association (CRA), on a retail networking trip in New York. I found them to be incredibly genuine and inspiring people, so I sat down with them to find out more about the CRA and who they are as individuals.


Name: Colleena Peng

Year: Sophomore

Major: Supply Chain Management

Hometown: Rochester, Michigan


Name: Maddy Rodriguez

Year: Sophomore

Major: Supply Chain Management

Hometown: Saginaw, Michigan


How did the two of you meet?

Colleena: We both decided to go-in-blind freshmen year, and luckily wound up as roommates!


I heard you just started the Corporate Retail Association (CRA) here at MSU; tell us a little bit more about your organization and what you do?

Maddy: As an organization, we really strive to open up opportunities for students at Michigan State who are interested in retail. Our goal is to not only introduce countless opportunities for networking and scholarships, but also to expose members to some of the most influential companies in the industry. To name a few, Apple spoke at our opening meeting of the semester, is coming on February 16th, and we have a luncheon scheduled with Shinola for later that month!

Back row: (Left to Right) Kate Hurtig (External Vice President), Caroline Kelly (Fundraising Chair), Colleena Peng (Co-President & Co-Founder), Katie McIntyre (Secretary), and Maddy Rodriguez (Co-President & Co-Founder). Front row: (Left to Right) Melissa Maestas (Membership Chair), Olivia Schaefer (Publicity Chair), and Anna Waack (Internal Vice President).


How did the idea come about to start the CRA?

Maddy: This idea really sparked after we talked about companies that we would love to work for! I had recently gone on a trip through the Lear Center called Retail Connect in New York City. We were able to tour different retail companies (ex. Macy’s, Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors), and learn about different opportunities they offer. It really made me wish that there was an organization on campus that brought in companies like these. After the trip, we decided to start CRA to address this need.

Colleena: I didn’t get the chance to attend Retail Connect with Maddy that year, so I was really disappointed that I missed out on getting to meet such great people at great companies! Both Maddy and I knew that we weren’t the only ones who wished MSU had stronger relationships with the retail industry, so we took it upon ourselves to start the only retail-focused organization on campus. When the club launched, it was accompanied by the introduction of the Retail Management minor, so there couldn’t have been a better time to start CRA!


Who would say is your professional idol and why? What are they doing or what have they done that inspires you?

Maddy: After attending Martha Stewart’s “American Made” Conference in November. and hearing Arianna Huffington speak, Colleena and I both look up to her as a professional idol. As the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, she has really inspired us to follow our dreams and take advantage of every opportunity. One point she made in her speech that stuck with us was her emphasis on the importance of work-life balance. As such a successful businesswoman, she has taken a step back to realize that putting your entire life into your work is draining, and it is not worth it in the long-run. You need to make time for yourself and your family. At this event, she said that every morning, after her alarm goes off, she lays there for one minute without any distractions instead of immediately checking social media! It’s healthy to have that time; it’s only one minute, and it can make such a difference in your day. I’m personally learning to disconnect; it’s hard when social media is such a habit, but she has a great point… sometimes it takes over our lives.


What are your career goals post-graduation?

Colleena: Although my long-term goal is to pursue a career in fashion procurement, I’m also really interested in taking part in the exciting advancements happening in tech right now. Companies like Tesla and Cisco are really paving the way in terms of innovation, and I find their work fascinating.

Maddy: I would really like to end up working somewhere in the luxury fashion industry. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so I would also like to open a business someday. All in New York City, of course!


Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?

Maddy: In 10 years, I see myself living in a New York City penthouse with a family and like 5 dogs. I’ll be working at a job (hopefully my own business, even though I don’t know what that will be yet) that I love and that I am really good at. There are no set plans obviously; I’m ready for anything! Dream big, right?

Colleena: Ditto on the five dogs! Although ending up in California long-term is the goal, I think I’ll be able to make the most out of wherever my career takes me. My personal and career goals are constantly changing, so I try to remain as flexible as possible. The only thing I can say for sure right now is that I will be in a field that I truly enjoy and will be pursuing my interests at the same time.


What else are you involved in on campus?

Colleena: I am working as a Student Assistant for the Masters of Science in Marketing Research Program, and I am the Risk Management Chairman for my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. In addition, I recently became a Campus Ambassador for Nestlé. My role is to promote the company’s leadership program, culture, and internship and full-time opportunities here at Michigan State.

Maddy: I am currently working in the Marketing and Supply Chain Department as a Student Office Assistant. This summer, I also worked directly with a supply chain professor (Dr. Brian Jacobs) on a summer research project. I began my college career very involved with the Multicultural Business Programs, and I am very thankful for that. Through MBP, I was selected for the Summer Business Institute Program (a week-long program the summer before freshman year to learn about professional development, MSU and to meet people), and this is what started off my college career so strong.


What is something you each admire about the other person?

Colleena: Although I’m not usually a sentimental person, I could go on and on about the things I value most about my friendship with Maddy. I think one of Maddy’s best qualities is that she doesn’t seek validation. She has a really strong sense of who she is, and what she aims to accomplish in life and doesn’t let other people get in the way of that. I’m so lucky that our rooming situation turned out the way that it did because I know Maddy will always be one of my best friends. There’s no one else I’d rather have as my counterpart in CRA!

Maddy: I admire that she’s a really great friend AND she’s really great to work with. We work very well together, and when we disagree on things or run into problems, we resolve it really efficiently and move on. It’s like we have the exact same vision for this organization, so that makes it really easy! She’s one of my best friends, and I’m so happy that we are able to do this together.


What advice would you give to freshmen?

Colleena: Given that the decision to start CRA turned out so great, I would encourage freshmen to be spontaneous and to try something new. College is all about trial and error, and there won’t be a better time than right now to pursue your interests. With that being said, I highly recommend utilizing MSU’s resources. Whether it’s the Lear Center, Multicultural Business Students’ tutoring program, Spartan Innovations, etc., there will always be someone eager and willing to help.

Maddy: Get involved! I’m so happy that I got involved as soon as I got to MSU because I was able to meet so many new people. There is a club on campus for absolutely anything you could want, so find something that interests you and try for a leadership position! Getting involved is one thing, but being on the board is even more beneficial and rewarding. Don’t be afraid to take a risk; college is the best time for this! I didn’t really know how to start an organization or how to manage an executive board, but we did it, and we figured it out as we went. It’s all a learning process! Overall, always put academics first. Take advantage of tutoring and office hours as much as possible, and you should be off to a good start.


What quote or motto do you try your best to live by or follow?

Colleena: “Eulogies aren’t résumés.” -David Brooks

I think that people, especially college students, often forget that a person is much more than his or her academic and professional achievements. More than anything, I want my legacy to reflect the way that I interacted with and impacted people. I’m really thankful that the entire CRA E-board shares this same value because it’s the reason why we are working so hard to plan future scholarship opportunities and trips to participate in local community service projects.

Maddy: “You need to associate with people that inspire you, people that challenge you to rise higher, people that make you better. Don’t waste your valuable time with people who are not adding to your growth; your destiny is too important.” -Joel Olsteen

I’ve had this quote in my notes on my phone for years. It just makes you think; you have the ability to choose who you surround yourself with. Are these people adding to my growth, or are they holding me back? It’s a really important question to ask, especially in college. Surround yourself with people who have similar interests and goals as you. It will make you better, and It makes life a lot more enjoyable!


Tell me something interesting about yourselves that most people might not know?

Colleena: When the opportunity arises, I choose to travel to new places. I’ve been fortunate enough to live in Yokohama, Japan for three years and Shanghai, China for another three years. My experiences abroad sparked my passion for exploring.

Maddy: I actually started my own blog this year and have a newfound love for photography. Still learning, but I love having this as a way to express myself outside of my busy life!


Check out Maddy’s blog, here.