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Kent State University’s J.R. Campbell Discusses a Fashion School that Prepares Aspiring Fashionistas for a Successful Career, and.... Spans the Globe

Written by FS StaffJuly 2, 2013
Kent State

“The fashion industry these days is really tough,” said fashion design icon Dana Buchman on a  recent visit to Kent State University.  She adds optimistically, “but, women will always have to get dressed, so there will be jobs out there for designers who are creative, imaginative and have a lot of perseverance”.  The Fashion School at Kent State University is well equipped to educate and inspire the next generation of designers.  Students have a wealth of resources right on campus, including top-notch faculty,  a fashion library,  state of the art technology, and an opportunity to display their own designs at an annual fashion show.  And, the classroom expands beyond the Kent, Ohio campus with opportunities to further the learning experience in New York City, Florence and beyond.

We talked to J.R. Campbell, professor and director of The Fashion School at Kent State University.

(This interview was conducted via email & edited for length & clarity)

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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FS:   Please begin by telling us about the strengths of your program

KSU: The Fashion School now has 40 (20 full-time and 20 part-time) active faculty/researchers across  our three program locations (Kent, New York City  and Florence, Italy), each of which are known for  achievements in their field. We will be adding two new tenured/tenure-track faculty to our group in  the Fall 2013 Semester! Fashion School faculty have garnered a number of national and international awards for their work, are actively publishing in  multiple academic and public venues and are incredibly dedicated to supporting student learning. They truly are the key to inspiring students to become creative and resourceful fashion leaders. You can learn more about each of our faculty members on the ‘profiles’ page of our Fashion School website.

We have fabulous facilities, all located in Rockwell Hall on the Kent Campus; we are partnered with the incredible KSU Museum, housing almost 40,000 pieces in their collection of mostly fashion items; we have our own Fashion Library in the building, which is tied into the university library system; we have the Fashion School Store, which is a live-learning retail environment in downtown Kent, OH; we have our TechStyleLAB research/commercial laboratory which includes a full range of digital output technologies that are accessible to all of our students and faculty (as well as commercially through our TechStyleLAB website); and we have fantastic facilities in both NYC and Florence, as well as partnership programs in Paris, France, London and Hong Kong.

FS:  What do students in your program cite as the "best" parts of the fashion program at Kent State?

KSU:  Our study away programs, and our strong internship/company relations

FS:  What are the most common misconceptions incoming students have  about pursuing a career in fashion?

KSU:  Some students don't immediately realize how intense and demanding a career in fashion might be; it's a tough industry that requires a great deal of learning vocabulary, context, process and skills.

FS:  What are the common career paths for graduates of your program?    Where do you see the strongest demand in the job market now?

KSU:  Fashion Design: The primary goal of the Fashion Design curriculum is to facilitate learning opportunities that support students’ abilities to be ‘ready to work’ in positions related to apparel design and production. Entry-level positions most often include that of Design Assistant (Assistant Designer) in creative or technical design divisions of a company.  Positions may also include opportunities in CAD, apparel production, or the design and production of textiles, accessories or related fashion goods. Entry-level positions most often require the individual to work as part of a team under the direction of an experienced designer.

Students who successfully complete the degree requirements of the Bachelor of Arts degree in Fashion Design are expected to be competent in supervising the creation of ready-to-wear apparel from conceptual design to finished product. Student learning objectives have been defined with the intent of developing the skills and knowledge necessary for competence as well as obtaining and succeeding in entry-level positions. The curriculum “capstone” experience has senior design students working closely with industry professionals for feedback and supervision in creating and producing a collection of garments.  This interaction
hones the students’ skills and provides a strategic advantage in competing for entry-level positions.  It also provides the opportunity to add valuable industry connections to the students’ professional network.

Fashion Merchandising:  
The goal of a professional in a fashion merchandising career is to make fashion relatable to the consumer.  In order to do this, fashion merchandising careers involve the following:

  • Buying products
  • Negotiating with suppliers and manufacturers
  • Conducting fashion marketing using research methodology
  • Developing new products and brand management
  • Selling and distributing brands as a vendor and wholesaler
  • Analyzing, planning, and allocating of inventory to retail outlets
  • Conducting promotional and public relations campaigns for product
  • Managing retail operations in a single and multi-store environment

The Fashion Merchandising curriculum is designed to help students develop a core set of portable skills and competencies that are relevant for the industries in which they would likely be employed.  These include technical and knowledge-based, research and discovery, problem-solving, analytical, and decision-making, communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills.  These skills are developed within each of the functional areas of the curriculum and are reflected in the various goals and objectives.

Students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Fashion Merchandising should be competent in the areas of Retail Operations, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Research, and Industry and Product Knowledge. These four areas are the student learning goals of the program. Student learning objectives have been defined with the intent of developing the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in entry-level positions.  

FS:   Tell us about your career placement services or any on-campus recruiting efforts for fashion students.

KSU:  Kent State University has an extensive career placement service on campus that conducts recruiting fairs, etc, but we predominantly manage direct industry relations for our students.  We have a very large alumni base that are employed across the US (over 2500 alumni) who are very welcoming to our graduating students and interns.  This year I created a new Industry Liaison/Internship Manager position, that is now occupied by Hillary Stone.  Hillary meets with each of our students who request support on resume development, interview prep and to look for employment opportunities.  We also have a required Professional Seminar course in which our students work on resume, presentation, interview and communication skills and engage in mock interviews both online and in person with our alumni from various companies.

FS:   What type of internship or study abroad programs do you have and how important is participation?

KSU:  See above.  I am shooting for 100% student participation in our study away programs (we are currently at about 80%); and we require ALL of our students to engage in a professional approved internship for credit as part of our curriculum.

FS:   What are some highlights for you as an educator?

KSU:  I am amazed at what some of our students achieve; at how motivated they are.  It is fantastic to guide a student who has high aspirations, listens well, takes advice and then shines.

FS:   What advice do you have for students considering fashion as  their academic major?

KSU:  Be prepared to work hard, be scrutinized for your performance (sometimes not in the most professional of ways), but to also take advantage of that fact that you will be meeting with a bunch of people who are completely passionate about what they do. We work in this industry because we love it, otherwise, it could be a nightmare.

Check out more interviews at the Fashion-Schools.org Fashion School Interview Series.