CRS engages in a variety of activities including retail and sales education programs, conferences, seminars, student competitions, and conducting research in areas that affect the retail and sales industries.

Upcoming Activities

Walmart will sponsor the Fall 2024 CRS Collegiate Challenge.  Student teams will be tasked with solving a real-world problem for Walmart.  The event will be open to undergraduates at any 2-year or 4-year university.  Teams of 3 or 4 students will have a chance to compete for a 1st place prize of $1200 and a 2nd place prize of $400 provided by the sponsor.  The challenge will take place on the DeSales University campus in the fall of 2024. Follow CRS @thecrsorg on Facebook or check back here for more info.


Past Activities

Reading, Writing, & Retailing Symposium Showcases Renowned Speakers


April 19, 2024 - Center Valley. From screenplay writers, authors, script writers, journalists, and composers - there are all kinds of writers out there - and The Council for Retail and Sales gathered some of the best at their recent Reading, Writing & Retailing symposium which was held at DeSales University on Friday, April 19, 2024. Over 60 guests attended, ranging from aspiring writers, publishers, avid readers, students, and more. The symposium featured the very best from industries across the board.

The day opened with a “Conversation with the Dans,” featuring the talents of Dan Lauria and Dan Roebuck, renowned actors who are equally accomplished as writers. The “Dans” let us in on their creative processes, offering insights on transforming writing into marketable products, both on Broadway, television, and the big screen.

Dan Lauria is an actor, playwright, producer, and author, best known for his role as the dad on the highly acclaimed Emmy winning ABC television show, The Wonder Years. Dan’s most recent work, Just Another Day, is set to open Off Broadway in May. Roebuck is a Lehigh Valley native who is an author, producer, director and star of several films including Getting Grace, Lucky Louie, and Hail Mary. Both Dans are friends with James R. “Doc” Ogden, who chairs the Council for Retail and Sales.

“I’m grateful to have these two as longtime friends, and am obliged that they both joined us for this fun and educational day,” said Ogden.

Although the Dans didn’t personally know each other before the event, they run in the same circles and found plenty of friends and things in common to chat about. They spoke about the drastic changes to the audition process today versus the pre-Covid days, such as how auditions are no longer held in person and are now submitted via a pre-taped film. The Dans talked about the pros and cons of taking a play on-Broadway versus off-Broadway and let us in on the creative ways that writers use to fund their projects. The session was moderated by Dr. Denise Ogden, professor at Penn State Lehigh Valley and author of several marketing textbooks.

“It was a blast. I got to spend some time with the Dans and met some wonderful people. Hope you guys do it again,” said attendee and long-time author, Larry Deibert.

After hearing from the Dans, guests attended small interactive discussion groups where they chose between topics that interested them the most, including: “Using Social Media to Leverage Yourself” by Robin Gow; “Ideation Creation” by Dr. Nikki Gutgold; “In-Store Promotions: Author Signings and More” by Karen Rose; “Finding a Publisher: Through the Wringer” by Eric Hinrichs; “So you want to Compose?” by Barry Anderson; and “Writing Textbooks” by Dr. Denise Ogden.

Shelley Dennis joined via Zoom as the keynote speaker during lunch. Shelley brought a variety of experiences to the discussion, most notably her current role as television writer for ABC’s The Conners. Shelley’s in her third year as a writer for the show and is anxiously awaiting news if it’ll be picked up for another season. Channeling her time spent as a stand-up comedian, which started only as a way to get more comfortable in front of an audience, Shelley brought many stories and laughs to the room. Guests asked questions about the development of each episode and Shelley was gracious in letting the audience in on a piece of the process, giving examples of how certain story lines came to fruition.

The final discussion featured Maria Rodale (author and former CEO of Rodale Press), Dr. Katherine Ramsland (professor and author of over 72 books on criminology and serial killers), and Vicki Mayk, (long-time journalist and author). The three women brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the panel. Although all three are writers, each walked a slightly different path along their journey and the room of aspiring writers was at attention, asked questions, and were feverously taking notes. Rodale, Ramsland, and Mayk were full of tips for writers of all ages. The panel was moderated by Dr. Gaetan Giannini, Vice President of Graduate and Adult Education at Alvernia University and an author himself.

For those who love all things writing, this was an event not to be missed. The day was fun, informative, and inspirational. Thanks to sponsors NextEvo Naturals, Edward Jones, Poster Boy Productions, and Walmart, students were able to attend at no cost.

Giant Food Stores selects Penn State Lehigh Valley team as 1st place winners

Giant Food Stores sponsored the Fall 2021 CRS Collegiate Challenge.  Student teams were tasked with creating a marketing plan for Giant's prepared food line.  Ten teams competed for a 1st place prize of $1000 and a 2nd place prize of $400 provided by Giant.  Congrats to 1st place winners from Penn State Lehigh Valley: Alexis Matlack, Hemil Patel, Brianna Peters, and Bejamin Stratz.  Millersville students Ryan Eckert, Marquis Wright, and Kritsada Wongsa took 2nd place.


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PSU-LV wins CRS Collegiate Challenge for 2nd consecutive time

Center Valley – Oct 31.  The Council for Retail and Sales, housed at DeSales University, hosts two collegiate case competitions each year.  This semester’s competition was sponsored by the global powerhouse Brenntag Food & Nutrition.  In its 2nd consecutive win, Penn State Lehigh Valley team MakeConvenient Lions Consulting, led by faculty advisor Dr. Denise Ogden, took home 1st place.  The winning team consists of students Hemil Patel, Georgia Gonzalez, Ben Stratz, and Simon Tomaszewski.

Seven teams altogether competed in the competition and were tasked to solve a real business opportunity for the sponsor. The focus of the competition was to help Brenntag launch a new product line during the time of Covid-19 when typical face-to-face sales models will not work.  Many customer R&D and purchasing departments are working remotely, not accepting supplier visits, and industry tradeshows have been canceled.  Brenntag tasked the teams with finding creative solutions to get this new product out to market and quickly generate sales.

Shea Worman, Business Development Manager for Brenntag Food & Nutrition and one of five judges for the competition said, “It was so much fun!  It really was difficult to pick the best teams.  All the students were professional and did a great job.  The judges and I learned so much and have a lot of fresh ideas to share with our teams.  We loved the experience and cannot wait to sponsor the program again!”  Doc Ogden, Chair of the Council for Retail and Sales, said, “We were excited to have such high-profile judges who get to witness different perspectives and recruit some of the best students in the state.”

The 1st place winning prize was $1500 and 2nd place prize was $500.  The competition is judged on a written executive summary and recorded video presentation.  Nittany Consultants from Penn State Abington, comprised of Kyra Fripps, Tzuyin Su, Christopher Liston, and Aidan Pulli, took 2nd place.   Amnah Kahn, from PSU Lehigh Valley won the best presenter award.  Other colleges participating included Bloomsburg University, University of Lynchburg, and PSU Wilkes-Barre.

“We always look forward to this competition and it is becoming a high-profile event among our students. I can’t think of a better way to prepare our students for business careers.  I was very impressed with the Brenntag management team,” said Dr. Thomas Stone, faculty advisor from Penn State Abington.  The other faculty advisors from Abington included Peter Hornberger and Kevin Mayhew.

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Students await the announcement of the winning teams at the online CRS Collegiate Challenge.
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Business of Cannabis symposium is a success

The Business of Cannabis symposium, held at Penn State Lehigh Valley, was hosted by The Council for Retail and Sales (CRS) on March 11th.  Program sponsors included the Cleveland School of Cannabis, Milford Enterprises, Keystone Canna Remedies, and High Expectations Marketing.  The cannabis industry has seen significant growth in recent years as businesses and consumers are realizing the benefits of medical marijuana, CBD and industrial hemp.  The increasing level of demand has brought about opportunity and jobs for entrepreneurs and the CRS developed a lineup of industry experts who explored all aspects of the industry in the full-day educational symposium.

Topics included legal and human resources issues, marketing and branding, banking and financing, retail layout and more, all specific to the cannabis industry.

Speakers Tyrone Russell, Kevin Greene, and Austin Briggs of the Cleveland School of Cannabis provided an overview of the industry and job outlook.  Corbett Hefner, Vice President of R&D, Formation Ag (Colorado) discussed innovations in the cultivation of hemp.  Victor Guadagnino of Keystone Canna Remedies reviewed the successes and challenges of running a medical marijuana dispensary.  Jeff Adkins and Alex Fetterman of Milford Enterprises presented on various retail layouts for dispensaries and other businesses in the industry.  Lunch featured a discussion of the “The State of the State” with State Senator Judy Schwank and State Representative Mike Schlossberg. Special guest Jack Maxwell, from Travel Channel’s “Booze Traveler” show, shared his inspiring experience with cancer and how cannabis products helped ease his pain. These experiences led to the filming of “The High Road with Jack Maxwell,” an uplifting, adventure-packed series that explores the cannabis culture and industry.

Numerous breakout sessions were held throughout the day including supply chain and manufacturing, an industry outlook on CBD in Pennsylvania, the importance of corporate social responsibility and more. Batch Microcreamery was onsite to provide ice cream samples and 12 vendors participated in a Cannabis Marketplace to discuss their businesses with attendees.

“The Council for Retail and Sales at Penn State Lehigh Valley did a great job putting this together… an educational and well attended event. In an industry with so much confusion and deception, CRS put together a lineup of respected and super knowledgeable speakers,” said Benjamin Davies of Wildfox Provisions.

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Kevin Green speaks at Business of Cannabis Symposium on March 11, 2020. Photo credit: Penn State
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Meet the Experts: The Changing Landscape of the Retail Industry

Bethlehem, PA – The Council for Retail and Sales (CRS) held its second Meet the Experts event at Walmart’s eCommerce facility in Bethlehem on September 25, 2019.  Walmart was the main sponsor of the event which drew over 70 attendees.  The event focused on the Changing Landscape of the Retail Industry and featured a panel of experts who discussed the future of shopping, consumer trends, and the need for constant innovation.


The panel of experts included Ellen Deyoc (Regional eCommerce Director, Walmart), Wayne Packer (Regional HR Director, Walmart), Dr. Denise Ogden (Professor of Marketing, PSU-LV & Vice-Chair CRS) and Jeremy Schmoyer (Financial Manager, Sherwin-Williams).  The program was moderated by Doug Nay (Associate Professor of Business, East Stroudsburg University).


The panelists discussed the shift from traditional brick-and-mortar to online business along with environmental implications, the evolution of the consumer, sustainability, and the need to fulfill the demands of an ever-changing workforce.  Walmart offered guided warehouse tours following the discussion as well as provided swag bags for each guest.  Many students were among the 70 attendees.  Sherwin-Williams also sponsored the event.



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Pictured from left to right: Doc Ogden, Doug Nay, Jeremy Schmoyer, Wayne Packer, Dr. Denise Ogden, Ellen Deyoc. Photo credit: Elaine Thode

Meet the Experts: The Changing Landscape of the Food Industry

Bethlehem, PA – The Council for Retail and Sales (CRS) held its first Meet the Experts event at Factory in Bethlehem on April 25, 2019.  This first event focused on the Changing Landscape of the Food Industry and featured a panel of experts from various companies who have a vested interested in the food business.  The April event is the first in a series of Meet the Experts speaking engagements, each of which will focus on the changing landscape of a specific industry.

The panel of experts included Larry Davis (vice president of Food & Nutrition North America, Brenntag, Dallas, Texas), Keith Caldwell (operating partner, Factory LLC, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), and Kiersten Hafer (vice president, Marketing & Innovation, Clemens Food Group, Hatfield, Pennsylvania).  The program was moderated by Shea Worman (food industry manager – Northeast Region, Brenntag, Reading, Pennsylvania).

Some topics of interest discussed by the panelists were the evolution of the consumer and the need for innovation, sustainability and social awareness. Approximately 70 guests attended the event including 10 students from various local colleges.

For Susan Sundaram, former QA Product Evaluation & Development and Sensory Analysis manager for AholdUSA, the event was of significant interest.

“The entire presentation was incredibly informative...the different backgrounds of the three speakers were well selected and complimentary to the focus of the presentation: a food manufacturer, an ingredient supplier, and a finance professional - all of whom have to adapt to the ever-changing consumer market,” Sundaram said.

The next event in the Meet the Experts series will be held on September 25 and will focus on the Changing Landscape of the Retail Industry.



Picture: 1:  Panel of experts (from left to right): Larry Davis, Keith Caldwell, Kiersten Hafer, Shea Worman. Photo credit: Elaine Thode
Picture: 1: Panel of experts (from left to right): Larry Davis, Keith Caldwell, Kiersten Hafer, Shea Worman. Photo credit: Elaine Thode
Photo credit: Tim Mattson
Photo credit: Tim Mattson

The CRS 2018 Collegiate Challenge

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The Management of Sherwin-Williams, The Americus Group, Eastern Division, took the concept of “The Apprentice” television series and applied it to a collegiate competition in retailing. The competition involved regional college students. The challenge was for the teams to create a plan that focused on increasing sales in the residential repaint segment. The teams were judged based on the written plan, a store visit, and the presentation of the plan. Students prepared the project during the fall and/or spring semesters and presented their plans at the competition held Nov. 6, 2018 at Penn State Lehigh Valley. The competition was co-sponsored by The Council for Retail and Sales (CRS), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring together retail academicians, students and practitioners.

“Student involvement in these competitions prepare them for the exciting world of retail,” said James R. (Doc) Ogden, chair of the CRS, noting the talent and determination of the participants.

The judges of the competition were from Sherwin-Williams: Mike Williams, Northeast PA district manager, Chris Crocker, Northeast PA district sales manager, Jeremy Schmoyer, Eastern Division collection manager, Monica Schwab, Eastern Division marketing specialist and Jessica Furtado, area human resources generalist

“Involvement in student competitions allow us to see a different perspective to opportunities that we think about on a daily basis,” Williams said.

Five teams competed in the competition. The first place winners were from Penn State Scranton. The team took home a traveling trophy to be housed at their campus until next year’s challenge. These winners also each received a $250 scholarship from Sherwin-Williams.  Sweet Briar College took a close second place and each team member received $100 from Sherwin-Williams.

“This was a good experience that taught me a lot about how to present and research and figure out solutions to a problem I may not fully understand at first,” said Angelica Kalsi, first-year student at Penn State Lehigh Valley. “I think it was a good experience in leadership and in working with a group.”

While the judges deliberated, Elly Martin, North Area recruiter for Sherwin-Williams, spoke to students about career opportunities at the company and how to develop their resumes and prepare for an interview.

Previous sponsors of the competition have included:  Walmart, Z-CoiL, Sorrelli, Target, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, and Stuff’n Mallows.

If you have any questions, please contact Denise T. Ogden , Ph.D., from the Council for Retail and Sales at Penn State (


The Business of Entertainment Symposium

The VIP All-Access Business of Entertainment Symposium proved to be full of edutainment (education + entertainment) on the business aspects of the unpredictable entertainment industry, including Broadway and cinema. The event was held October 12, 2018 at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus and hosted by the Council for Retail and Sales, a division of LaunchBox. Student from various colleges and people from the area as well as six states were present for the event.

Susie Krajsa, President of Broadway Across America (BAA) provided a behind the scenes look at how the subscription part of BAA operates. The theatre show, Hamilton, led to the “Hamilton Effect.” Krajsa explained that subscriptions to BAA rise considerably when Hamilton is part of a season’s line up.

Angela Shelton, movie actor, director and producer, spoke about her feature film, Heart, Baby! which brings light to an untold, historical true story. The film is premiering in New York City on November 16.

Pat Addiss, a theatre producer who is currently producing the off-Broadway hit, Desperate Measures, was interviewed by Liz Keptner, the Multi-media Innovation Center Director at PSULV. Addiss spoke about the struggles and successes of being a producer. She stated that producing live theatre is addicting.

Jack Maxwell, host and professional actor, made the audience laugh and cry when he shared the story of how a poor kid from Boston became an actor. Despite having had a chemo therapy treatment a few days before, Maxwell was in full energy mode and finished to a standing ovation.

Three breakout sessions were conducted by Frank Megna, director, actor and writer from Los Angeles who spoke about how directors work with the “suits” or business people. Lauren Yarger, a critic who reviews Broadway and Off-Broadway theater in New York and professional theater in Connecticut, discussed the changes in the profession. Bryan Tuk, an entertainment industry attorney, spoke about copyright laws and how important it is for entertainment professionals to hire a lawyer.