To complement an outstanding classroom curriculum, the Colorado State University of Department of Design and Merchandising is connecting students directly to industry professionals for hands-on learning. Faculty and students attended Outdoor Retailer, the world’s leading outdoor sports show for gear, apparel, footwear, and accessories, on January 30 in Denver. Thirty-seven students were able to attend this amazing tradeshow, many for the first time, thanks to the generous support of the Esparza Family Merchandising Partnership Fund.
Attendees heard presentations directly from representatives of Smartwool and The North Face. The day culminated with a wonderful alumni and friends networking event that was well-attended by representatives from prestigious companies like Volcom, Smartwool, The North Face, Spyder, and more.
“We hope the Esparzas are proud to see their support of our students and department yield such rich learning and networking experiences,” said Jennifer Worrell, an instructor and internship coordinator in the Department of Design and Merchandising.
Guiding student goals
Outdoor Retailer was one of many events that the department hosts to enable students to achieve their long-term and short-term goals. The support and encouragement of faculty and alumni inspire students
“When I get opportunities to observe and learn through real-life experience, I become increasingly eager to dive into the apparel industry and begin my career,” said Katherine Ruddy, a junior in the apparel and merchandising major.
Being able to visualize the culture and environment of the workplaces they will soon be entering empowers students to better prepare for their future career path.
“These events make me feel confident and comfortable about the field I am going into,” said Shelby Stevens, a senior in apparel and merchandising. “I have a better idea of what retail shows are like, what new technologies are being adopted in the industry, and what to anticipate going into my career.”
Connecting to the industry
Students who attended Outdoor Retailer met with alumna Gina Lundby, a 2010 graduate, who now works for Smartwool. She explained that her time at CSU prepared her for a diverse career path that spanned everything from textile development to product line management.
Lundby advised students to capitalize on the connections they make. “Stay connected to fellow students and faculty as you advance in your career,” she said. “You’ll need connections out in the industry and starting with your fellow students and professors is a great first step. You never know who can introduce you to the right person for that next job or a new connection.”
Alumni Sarah Herring (’10), and Andrea Lewis (’12), who work as product developers and merchandisers at Smartwool along with Lundby, gave a talk on the strategies and processes that go into the development of the Smartwool sock assortment to address growing costs and to ensure maximize sales and customer satisfaction. Sam Silver (’12), talked about the application of advanced technologies in the development of outerwear during the group visit to The North Face booth.
Michelle House, a senior in apparel and merchandising, said, “This event was a great opportunity to network with professionals in the outdoor retail industry. I was able to exercise my interpersonal skills while learning more about products and companies at Outdoor Retailer.”
Funding hands-on experiences
Karen and Andy Esparza created the Esparza Family Merchandising Partnership Fund in honor of their daughter Sarah, who graduated from CSU in 2015 with a degree in apparel and merchandising. Sarah had an incredible experience in the department and took full advantage of everything the department had to offer. She was also named the College of Health and Human Sciences Outstanding Senior during her time at CSU.
The Esparzas created this fund so that the program can continue to partner with the fashion industry in a variety of ways and provide current and future students with similar opportunities to those that Sarah had in her college career. The fund provides key financial support to encourage industry connections and industry intersections for CSU apparel and merchandising students. Through this fund, students have gained hands-on experiences such as study tours, field trips, industry tours, and trade shows. Additionally, industry leaders have been brought into the classroom to share information about up to date best practices in the field of apparel and merchandising.