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Words of Wisdom: Beauty Execs on Their Favorite College Courses

Beauty executives share their favorite college classes.

“My favorite class didn’t start well as the professor literally asked me three times if I was in the right place. It was Chemical Engineering 301. I guess he didn’t expect women to be there since there were only two of us in the class. It ended fabulously though: I aced the final when very few of my classmates did, and he apologized for underestimating me. I think he likely never did that to another female student again.” — Alex Keith, CEO, P&G Beauty

Graduate of University of Arizona

Alex Keith, P&G Beauty
Alex Keith Stephen Leek/WWD


“Though I majored in chemistry and biology, my favorite class was sociology. Sociology is the study of society, human social behavior, relationships and the culture that surrounds everyday life. This course helped me understand and appreciate the similarities and differences of all types of people. Little did I know that my studies would later help me better navigate working in big corporations as well as to help me lead my own beauty brand.” — Ron Robinson, founder and CEO,

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Graduate of Adelphi University

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Ron Robinson
Ron Robin

“My favorite class was textile design. I loved learning how to dye and weave, decoding the tactile elements of fabrics, creating beautiful colors and patterns and seeing how texture played into the feel and the look. Making things has always been my passion. And today, I’m still seriously into developing colors and textures….I just do this with makeup and skin care formulas instead of fabrics.” — Jenn Kapahi, cofounder and CEO, Trestique

Graduate of Skidmore College


Jenn Kapahi
Jenn Kapahi

“For me, it’s a tie between psychology and branding. I liked psychology more than I could possibly describe — people are the most fascinating subject to study. I really liked the depth of psychoanalysis, the specificity of Myers-Briggs and would often find myself buried in the results of some new longitudinal research with much unexpected results. Branding, which was a part of the marketing track, was another favorite. I loved learning about how brands come together and all the hard work that goes into building out the brand voice, pillars and mission in a way that tells a cohesive story and resonates with the consumer. We got a chance to dissect some of the most popular brand campaigns in history and were able to get a behind the scenes look into their creation. I’ve loved the magic and science of brand building ever since.” — Mariya Nurislamova, CEO and cofounder, Scentbird

Graduate of Baruch College


Mariya Nurislamova
Mariya Nurislamova Aurelie Graillot Studio


“At first blush, ‘Corporate Culture and Organizational Climate’ doesn’t sound very exciting, but it was easily my favorite and most inspirational class. What I learned about culture as a foundation to create an environment where teams can perform at their individual and collective best was transformational. I go back to the core fundamentals of this class in my work each and every day.” — Kecia Steelman, chief operating officer, Ulta Beauty

Graduate of Kennedy Western University

Kecia Steelman
Kecia Steelman


“My favorite class has always been chemistry. I’ve always been fascinated by science — while my friends were reading comics, I was reading scientific journals. There was one article I read that I thought was so amazing – I called the author until I received a response and asked for a job. I didn’t realize I was calling the president at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Long story short, he gave me a job which is how I got my start in skin cancer research. I am continuously inspired by science and the breakthroughs we have achieved as a community in dermatology and beyond.” — Dr. Dennis Gross, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare

Graduate of Wesleyan University and New York University medical school

Dr. Dennis Gross
Dr. Dennis Gross


“Social anthropology immediately comes to mind –– I loved learning about people and their behavioral patterns. This also proves that everything in life really does come full circle, because people — along with product, passion, purpose and our planet — are core to my Supergoop journey.” — Holly Thaggard, founder, Supergoop

Graduate of Louisiana State University

Holly Thaggard
Holly Thaggard


“My favorite class was ‘Engineering for Non-Engineering Majors.’ No, it was not an engineering class. It was a way to train your brain to take practical, linear approaches when looking at complex or unclear situations. It was taught by the brilliant and jovial John Truxal who could pretty much simplify any situation in a fun and engaging way. He showed that brilliance is showing the simplicity in a complex situation rather than the complexities in a simple situation.” — Mike Indursky, founder and CEO, Hear Me Raw

Graduate of Stony Brook

Mike Indursky
Mike Indursky


“My favorite class in college was an intro to financial analysis. I was always curious about business and thought I might want to explore a career in the finance and investing industry. This class provided my first exposure to this area. Getting a good grade reaffirmed my interests.” — Rich Gersten, founder and managing partner, True Beauty Capital

Graduate of Union College

Rich Gersten
Rich Gersten