New head of Design and Merchandising excited about department’s future

When Karen Hyllegard talks about her goals as the new head of CSU’s Department of Design and Merchandising, the conversation inevitably leads to the January 2019 opening of the new Richardson Design Center.

“This is a very exciting time for the department,” she said. “With the opening of the Richardson Design Center, we have the opportunity to continue what we’ve been doing well, but in a more enhanced manner. It will really raise the visibility of the department.”

Karen Hyllegard
Karen Hyllegard

Hyllegard described the highlights of the new facility under construction between the Gifford Building and Canvas Stadium, including “maker spaces” and other instructional areas equipped with new equipment and technologies such as virtual reality.

“The maker’s spaces will heighten the students’ learning experience and give them skills that will better position them for their careers,” she said.

A new color and light room will allow students to experiment with how different shades, hues and intensities in various settings affect people, whether it’s their moods or their migraines. Hyllegard also noted that the new building will include an interior architecture and design studio, classrooms, faculty offices, a computer lab and a space for students to interact with members of the industry remotely through videoconferencing.

“The Richardson Design Center will provide new and exciting opportunities for student learning, faculty research and interdisciplinary collaboration,” she said.

Succeeding Miller

Hyllegard, who has been at CSU for two decades, took the helm of the department on Aug. 1, succeeding Nancy Miller, who is returning to the faculty. Miller and Hyllegard have been sharing department head duties since March.

Hyllegard lauded Miller for her efforts to gain accreditation from the Textile and Apparel Programs Accreditation Commission, a new accrediting agency for the field. The department hopes to be one of the first units in the country to have its apparel and merchandising program accredited by the commission.

“Nancy was instrumental in the development of the application for this process,” Hyllegard said. “This is also an exciting time for the interior architecture and design program, because they have a new curriculum that will be introduced in the coming year.”

“Nancy Miller has demonstrated great dedication to CSU, the college and her department over the past seven years,” said College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Jeff McCubbin. “I know she is enthusiastic about returning to the faculty and fully engaging in her passion for community-based research. And I am thrilled that Karen Hyllegard has chosen to step up and lead this unit at a transformative time for the Department of Design and Merchandising, with all of the anticipation and elevated enthusiasm around design fields at CSU.”

Fashiion FUNdamentals participants
Fun at Fashion FUNdamentals

Fashion FUNdamentals

Reflecting on her time at CSU, Hyllegard said she’s most proud of Fashion FUNdamentals, a two-week summer program for middle-school girls that she created in 2015 with one of her colleagues in the department, Professor Jennifer Ogle.

Fashion FUNdamentals uses apparel to introduce girls to STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Among other activities, participants use microscopes, burn tests, and dye tests to learn about the physical structures and properties of natural and manufactured fibers and how to calculate the cost of materials, labor, shipping and taxes before determining markup and retail prices. They also use industry-leading Lectra software to design their own fabric prints, and then they actually create their own garments using a digital textile printer and sewing machines.

“Middle-school girls sometimes lose interest in the STEM disciplines due to a lack of confidence or self-esteem,” Hyllegard explained. “Our goal is to help these girls see their potential. And this generates more excitement than it might in an everyday school setting. It gives them something unique, and they really enjoy it.”


The program’s initial funding came from a competitive grant process offered by the American Honda Foundation. Hyllegard and Ogle secured a State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant for the program’s second year, and this year Fashion FUNdamentals was funded through private donations.

Hyllegard, a New York native, earned her Ph.D. in textiles and consumer economics from the University of Maryland. She holds a master’s degree in apparel, interiors and merchandising from Oregon State University and a B.A. in liberal arts from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Before coming to CSU, she spent several years as a faculty member in the Department of Textiles and Clothing at the University of Hawaii.

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