Apparel and merchandising students awarded scholarships, trip to NYC, in national competition

A group of students and staff at the FSF Gala
Pictured left to right: Kevin Kissell, design and merchandising instructor, Jemma Jackman, Bee Pettner, Alexis Davis, Michaela Knollmann, Natalie Schluter, Annie Sautel, and Nick Hoff.

For eight exemplary students in the Colorado State University Department of Design and Merchandising, a trip to New York has jumpstarted their careers. After working to perfect a case study on the current trends in the apparel and merchandising industry, winning students are awarded a scholarship and a trip to the Fashion Scholarship Fund annual gala in New York City. CSU has sent students to the FSF annual gala for the past four years with a fantastic success rate among applicants.

Fashion Scholarship Fund

The FSF has been around for more than 80 years with the goal of seeking out talented, young professionals who are looking to join the fashion industry after graduation. Students take months out of the year to develop, build, and refine an elaborate case study with a focus in either Design and Product Development or Merchandising and Marketing.

Rachel Gonzales, one of CSU’s recipients in last year’s competition, was one of only 10 students to win a new FSF scholarship supported by fashion designer and guest judge on Project Runway, Brandon Maxwell. Her case study focused on how La Perla, a luxury lingerie company, can expand into an international market and appeal to millennials. Throughout the process, Gonzales had to use recent trends to design a full collection with accompanying textile prints, fabrics, and a color story. She also recommended marketing strategies for the collection.

“As a designer, any new challenge is good to take on because that’s how you grow,” said Gonzales. “This is one of the more serious projects that we have the opportunity to be involved in while in college. It is going to professionals in the industry and the ideas have to be viable for the market. It challenges you to really engage with the professional sector.”

For Michaela Knollmann, a four-time winner of an FSF scholarship, writing the in-depth case studies has been an opportunity to develop and evolve.

“Every year I’ve been able to look back at my previous case studies to learn from them and see how I’ve grown as a professional,” said Knollmann. “This process really helped me figure out my career path. You learn so much more outside the classroom, and this experience is special because you are able to look at something that is happening in the industry’s real-world trends.”

Two female students stand in front of college banners.
Michaela Knollmann (left) and Natalie Schluter (right)

Impacting student careers

The FSF stresses the importance of networking by pairing winners of FSF with a mentor within the industry for career advice and support. The mentors follow these students through their whole career, making this an important connection to the fashion industry and to New York. The opportunity for these students to tap into this resource and see another person’s perspective on how to achieve their goals is one of the biggest forms of support that FSF offers their scholarship recipients.

“The FSF has a huge effect on the scholarship recipients’ career path. We’ve had students in the past find internships, mentorships, and even jobs through the annual gala,” explained Kevin Kissell, an assistant professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising and the chaperone for the trip to the FSF annual gala for the past two years.

This goal to enhance student success in practical ways extends to the scholarships that FSF provides. Students are encouraged to do anything from taking a trip abroad, buying supplies, or paying for their education. It’s an opportunity for these students to engage in autonomous career development in whatever way they see as the most beneficial to their professional trajectory.

Speaker stands at podium. Screen behind him reads, "Fashion Scholarship Fund."
Fashion designer and guest judge on Project Runway, Brandon Maxwell, speaks at the FSF Gala.

Excellence in education

CSU has always had a fantastic ratio of applicants to scholarship recipients for the FSF. As one of 62 member institutions, CSU was selected by FSF as an accredited university. With so many amazing schools working alongside FSF, the students from CSU still shine.

Kissell said, “Last year I was at the cocktail reception and Peter Arnold, the director of  FSF, came up to me and said that, ‘the CSU students were the most poised, humble, and gracious students in the whole entire group of universities. Just know that whatever you’re doing at the university, you are doing a good job.’”

The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

2020 scholarship winners

Alexis Davis, Senior, apparel design and production concentration, winner in Design and Product Development

Nicholas Hoff, Junior, merchandising concentration, winner in Design and Product Development

Jemma Jackman, Junior, apparel design and production concentration, winner in Design and Product Development

Michaela Knollmann, Senior, product development concentration, winner in Design and Product Development

Isabella Pettner, Junior, apparel design and production concentration, winner in Design and Product Development

Annie Sautel, Senior, business major with a minor in merchandising, winner in Merchandising and Marketing

Natalie Schluter, Senior, apparel design and production concentration, winner in Design and Product Development

Danielle Urban, Senior, apparel design and production concentration, winner in Design and Product Development