Women in Technology: Dr. Barbara Stewart

Professor of Retailing and Consumer Science and Global Retailing; Coordinator of Retailing and Consumer Science Undergraduate Program

Choose a career field that excites you.
The joy of life is getting up in the morning and loving what you do.

Dr. Barbara Stewart has had a prolific and multi-faceted academic career that has included teaching consumer science and merchandising, fashion promotion, industrial technology, nutrition science, business, and home economics. Dr. Stewart joined the University of Houston faculty in 1986, and within three years became an associate dean and associate professor. She has also served as department chair in addition to program coordinator. Stewart has been a full professor at UH for thirteen years. An active participant in shaping the curriculum, through the years Dr. Stewart has been distinguished by awards for her leadership in mentoring, teaching excellence, research, and publishing and presentation of more than 260 scholarly works.

Q: What influenced your focus on retailing and consumer science?
A: In my professional search, I began with all the specific fields that excited me and found that retailing was integral to each.

Q: What trends have you seen over the course of your career in retailing?
A: Retail, while once referring only to in-store shopping, is now available anywhere the consumer is. Hand-held devices, including smartphones, allow shoppers to purchase where, when, and how it fits their lifestyle. “Bricks-and-mortar” stores now offer online options while online sites are rapidly moving to incorporate physical stores. Retail today has progressed from “multi-channel” to “omni-channel,” and now to distributed retailing with shopping options are available anywhere and at any time that suits the consumer.

Q: How will your work impact the future?
A: In my teaching and program coordination, I like to think that I’m changing the world “one student at a time” by providing the preparation for students to achieve well in their personal and professional lives. Currently, retailing is engaged in both evolutionary and revolutionary change. We’re preparing to enable retail professionals to meet the changing needs of consumers.

Q: Who has inspired you and why?
A: Long ago I had a friend whose age lines were deeply etched in her face. While not the face of a fashion model, her deep wrinkles told the story of a life well-lived in helping others. Her smile was permanently affixed in her face through years of smiling.

Text edited and condensed by Marilyn Howard Jones.