Kent State Fashion School Makes Studying Away a Graduation Requirement for Students

The Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design & Merchandising

KENT, Ohio — Beginning in Fall 2016, The Kent State University Fashion School made it a mandatory graduation requirement for all incoming freshman to study away during their time in the program. In addition, all students must complete an industry related internship to supplement their in-classroom learning.

For more than half of the faculty and students, this decision was seen as a positive addition to the fashion program, making it more competitive and prestigious.

Currently, The Kent State University Fashion School is the only fashion school in the country that requires their students to complete a study away experience as a part of their degree. However, this decision does come with some concerns, the biggest concern being the financial aspect.

Overall, the response has been fairly positive and faculty and staff of The Fashion School strongly feel that this decision will have not only a positive impact on the program but also the student’s futures.

“Students who do study away come back with a confidence and a comfort about themselves that translates into the real world,” Director of The Fashion School, J.R. Campbell said in an interview. “The evidence we’ve seen is that students that are studying away are almost always the first ones to find jobs and feel fluent in those jobs post-graduation.”
Fashion School Director J.R. Campbell, who created and implemented this new requirement for fashion students

Julie Gabrisak, a sophomore fashion merchandising student, looks forward to studying abroad at Kent State Florence through the fashion program in Spring 2018. As Gabrisak’s parents both grew up in Slovakia, she looks forward to returning to Europe to further expand her knowledge of other cultures, this time with a focus on the global fashion industry.

“I was always planning on studying abroad and am looking forward to this unique experience that will enrich my education in fashion,” fashion student Julie Gabrisak said in an interview. “I do think it’s highly beneficial for a student’s learning experience although there is the factor of financial issues and not every student has the ability to study away.”
Julie Gabrisak visits Bratislava Castle in the capitol of Slovakia when visiting in 2015. She hopes to return to this site when she is studying abroad in Europe with The Fashion School next spring

Despite the financial concerns, The Fashion School still believes the positives of this decision far outweigh the negative aspects. They are aware of the possible financial burden that this may cause for students but are already taking steps to make studying away more financially doable for students that may not have the resources.

“We are trying to begin a campaign for this study away program to provide students with a resource if they need financial aid for studying away,” shared Kim Hahn, Associate Director of The Fashion School and Coordinator for the Study Away Program. “I am also exploring a new possible study away program in South Korea that would be much less expensive than the other study away programs.”
Associate Director of The Fashion School & Coordinator for the Study Away Program Kim Hahn shared here knowledge about this decision and her plans for creating more affordable study away trips during an interview.

There are lots of options for students when it comes to fulfilling this requirement. Though The Fashion School’s most common study away programs are the New York City Studio, Kent State Florence, the Paris American Academy and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the student’s have the option to study away anywhere they choose. In addition, students aren’t required to study in another country, and the programs don’t have to be an entire semester. Some study away trips last only three weeks and can be completed during the summer recess.

Students are also able to combine their study away experience with their internship. Many students, for instance, will study away at the New York City Studio for the summer and complete a prestigious internship at a fashion company while they’re there.

“Our study away program is very much about the student researching and planning and executing ideas or implementing a project,” Director J.R. Campbell said in an interview. “For example, our L.A. Study Tour, which would meet the requirement, we have it organized where students will work with a company like Bebe while they’re there.”
Fashion Merchandising student Julie Gabrisak searches for information for a project in the Fashion School Library. Gabrisak will be studying abroad in Spring 2018 at Kent State Florence.

Combining the study away program with an internship makes both experiences more enriching, as students are able to broaden their horizons while completing both requirements simultaneously. This also reduces costs for the student, as they don’t have to travel to another destination two separate times.

Currently, 80% of students who are eligible to study away are doing so already, so overall this new requirement has sparked excitement among students. Faculty and staff also believe that this requirement will set the Kent State University Fashion School apart from other fashion programs and will give their students an advantage when entering the workforce after graduation.

Students and parents can learn more about the fashion school and the graduation requirements on the Kent State University Fashion School website, or by speaking with one of the fashion school advisors, that will gladly answer any questions or concerns.

Fashion Design student Courtney Peterson working on a project in the Fashion School Library. Peterson is studying abroad in Spring 2018 at Kent State Florence and is looking forward to her first time out of the country.
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