As the vice president of Product Quality and Responsible Sourcing, Irene Quarshie, B.A. ’98 serves as a senior leader in Target's global sourcing organization.
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Vice President of Product Quality and Responsible Sourcing at the Target Corporation
Favorite Professors: Hugh Wilson, Sal Primeggia
Advice for new graduates who are starting their careers: “Adelphi prepared you well for the world. The networks and friendships that you built and the professors will be there for you during your journey. Don’t forget to lean on them and try to find ways to give back.”
A first generation American, Irene Quarshie, B.A. ’98, grew up with “one foot in Ghanaian culture and one foot in American culture.” Her parents who emigrated from Ghana in the 1960s raised her and her four siblings in Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. “Growing up in the D.C. area, politics are always in your face. Most people say, ‘I want to be a doctor or a lawyer.’ Well, I wanted to be a lobbyist,” Quarshie recalled with a laugh.
She had always wanted to come to New York. However, her parents were nervous about her living in the city. “When we checked out Adelphi, my parents thought the Garden City area was lovely,” she said. “They felt like I’d be safe and it wasn’t a long drive.” Quarshie also fell in love with the area and Adelphi’s campus. “One of my fondest memories of Adelphi is how beautiful and easy to navigate the campus was. My advice to current students is just to appreciate how beautiful it is. Take the time to sit on the lawn and do your work,” she said.
In the fall of 1994, Quarshie enrolled at Adelphi as a political science major. While at the University, Quarshie was on the dance team. “It was a great experience,” she said. Also, while at Adelphi, she evolved from a decent student into a strong one. “Adelphi taught me independence and how to thrive on my own,” she said. “In high school, I was an average student. Adelphi made me a strong student. I developed some routines and discipline. That served me well in my career. The discipline I established in college helped me not only survive graduate school but my early years in consulting. And I built lifelong friendships at Adelphi that definitely changed my life.” Among the many friends she made, was her roommate who she lived with for all four years. “We are still best friends,” she said. “All of my dearest friends are Adelphi people.”
Quarshie also has many fond memories of her professors at Adelphi. “Hugh Wilson I believe was the first black instructor I ever had in my life. I was impressed with that. There’s a black man who is clearly accomplished and demands a lot out of his students. Personally, I was inspired by him. He had the most interesting and thought provoking classes. He did a great job facilitating dialogue. I learned how to listen, how to ask questions, how to be open to being persuaded and I learned how to justify my point of view. It was a big part of why I’m so inquisitive today,” said Quarshie. “The other teacher that comes to mind is Sal Primeggia. He was just so animated. He loved what he did and you had no choice but to respond to that energy. He inspired us. You looked forward to his class.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree from Adelphi in 1998, Quarshie immediately enrolled at American University and began working towards her master’s degree in public policy. While in graduate school, she interned at several prominent lobbying firms. After graduation, she went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton as a strategy and management consultant.
Five years later, her boss at Booz Allen Hamilton left for Minnesota to work at the headquarters of the Target Corporation, which today is the second-largest discount store retailer in the United States. When her former boss asked if she’d be willing to join him there, Quarshie wasn’t so sure. “I didn’t know if I wanted to move to Minnesota, and at the time I had never even stepped foot in a Target store,” she said. “But, I believed in my boss as a leader. I decided to take a trip there. At the time, Target was just starting to grow on the east coast. After visiting, I fell in love with the brand and the energy. So, I took a leap of faith and came to Target in 2005.” Quarshie accepted the role of manager of Government and Community Partnerships. In this position, she directed partnerships with government, law enforcement, legal, and community agencies. During this time, she spearheaded the very successful law enforcement outreach program Target in Blue.
She then transitioned into a role in Target’s procurement area as the group manager of Planning and Partnerships where in addition to many other tasks she directed strategic planning initiatives, progress tracking, and metrics reporting. Just a year later, she shifted her focus to supplier diversity as the group manager of Minority and Women Business Development. “In that position, I was essentially doing business development work with women and minority-owned businesses looking to grow with Target,” she said. Quarshie then went on to work in environmental sustainability for Target as the senior group manager of Corporate Risk and Responsibility where she led the development and execution of corporate sustainability programs and related initiatives. “Then I went back home to government affairs at Target,” she said.
In 2011, she became the director of Government Affairs at Target. In this role, Quarshie oversaw all public affairs activities at the state and local level nationwide. “I was responsible for representing Targets interests at state capitals nationwide. That was exciting and I got to fulfill my desire to be a lobbyist and do it for an amazing brand like Target,” she said. But then, she had a revelation about her career. “I am a political junkie but I decided I’d rather be on the sidelines than doing it as my profession. I’m a solution-oriented person and so at times it was hard for me to be engaged with some elected officials who were not as interested in solutions. I started to think about where I could add value to the company and grow. That led me to my current role in our merchandising area.”
As the vice president of Product Quality and Responsible Sourcing, Quarshie serves as a senior leader in Target’s global sourcing organization. “I have an amazing job,” she said. “I lead a nearly 400 person global team that is responsible for bringing Target’s product design visions to life through total quality management. I help ensure that those products being made all around the world are done in conditions that are consistent with our values. I run a complex business and it’s an amazing challenge. And, I get to travel all around the world.”
In addition to her demanding job, Quarshie is also the chairwoman of the board of directors at the YWCA of Minneapolis. She is on advisory board of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, the board of the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, and the board of Meet Minneapolis. “I keep myself busy,” she said with her infectious laugh.
Although she is nowhere near the end of her impressive career, Quarshie said her greatest professional accomplishment thus far is, “leading Target to establish its first ever public facing environmental sustainability goals. There has always been a lot of public debate around climate change and the role of the private sector in advancing those issues and there was a ton of internal influencing that needed to happen to make it possible. Also, the work we are doing today, insuring that our supply chain is responsible and sustainable not only from a business resiliency perspective but in the number of lives we are going to impact. We are the second largest importer in the U.S. in terms of consumer volume. We have millions of people in our supply chain that touch our products and we have a very strong commitment to elevating the well-being of those workers. I am extremely proud of that work and the fact that I’m helping to drive that for the company.”
Quarshie credits Adelphi for helping her to achieve much of her success. “I’m forever grateful to Adelphi,” she said. “The University is the right size where you don’t feel like you can’t breathe or escape, but you have your own space. You get to know people in your classes and build relationships.” Her advice to new graduates is, “Adelphi prepared you well for the world. The networks and friendships that you built and the professors will be there for you during your journey. Don’t forget to lean on them and try to find ways to give back.”
Published May 2017
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