Outstanding Design and Merchandising grad fashions her future en-route to graduation

Born and raised in Fort Collins, Colorado, Isabella “Bee” Pettner didn’t need to go far to find her State. She is graduating Fall 2020 from the Colorado State University Department of Design and Merchandising with a 3.9 GPA, earning a degree in apparel and merchandising with a concentration in apparel design and production. Very few students know exactly where and what they want to study, but Pettner isn’t an average student.

“In addition to CSU being such a big part of my childhood with homecoming parades and the occasional football game, I chose CSU because of the program and culture,” Pettner said. “CSU has an amazing design program that I knew I was looking for while still having the full collegiate experience that most design schools with similar caliber programs don’t have.”

Isabella "Bee" Pettner works in her home studio on garment designs. She is sketching on a wooden table.
Bee Pettner quickly turned her childhood passion into her college major, and is now beginning a career in fashion.

Excelling early

Pettner, who would spend her childhood free time crafting handmade clothing for her dolls, always dreamed of a career in fashion. While she wasn’t producing designs for her then-imaginary line, she was shining in the classroom.

At only 15-years-old, Pettner began her academic journey at CSU after earning her associate’s degree at Front Range Community College.

“I can only imagine the excitement and frustration of this achievement, with her former classmates still in high school and her new classmates much older,” Department of Design and Merchandising assistant professor Kevin Kissell said. “I am sure she felt the stress of not immediately fitting in – despite this, she was embraced by her DM family and was considered serious competition by her classmates.”

Pettner took on her new, challenging adventure in stride, effortlessly adapting to the college environment and its rigorous course-load. On her path to graduation, Pettner was no stranger to going above and beyond.

Bee Pettner smiles in her CSU Marching Band attire while holding her saxophone among a crowd of her marching band colleagues.
Bee Petter, middle, cheered alongside her marching band teammates for the entirety of her college career at CSU.

She won the prestigious Fashion Scholarship Fund award twice and immersed herself in the highly competitive fashion industry by securing an internship with Kohl’s, all while designing garments for her course of study. Pettner also managed to find time to play saxophone in the CSU Marching Band, Basketball Pep Band, and Presidential Pep Band.

Pettner not only rose to the occasion as one of the youngest individuals in her graduating class, but she also prevailed in the face of internal obstacles.

Tailoring triumph

Towards the end of her high school career, Pettner was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Though it is often mistakenly used as an umbrella term for being highly organized or particular, OCD, for Pettner, caused moments of debilitating anxiety. This anxiety is prompted by obsessions that come in many forms, such as jiggling a door handle.

“It is a neurologically traceable condition where your brain doesn’t cycle through thoughts normally, and you’re just stuck on an obsession for what feels like forever,” Pettner said.

Pettner faced moments of extreme difficulty due to her condition, but she refused to let them prohibit her from succeeding or helping others succeed, either. Despite the hurdles in her path, Pettner always made an effort to give back.

When her classes in the Gifford Building design labs concluded for the day, Pettner taught math to local Poudre School District students as a Mathnasium tutor.

“I got to teach students everything from how to add for the first time, to doing their first Taylor series problem,” Pettner said. “It was the absolute best job, and I loved every minute of getting to teach kids math!”

Pettner also contributed to mentorship programs, volunteered to feed and aid the Fort Collins homeless population, and participated in Habitat for Humanity projects.

“Bee is always bright and beaming with a smile on her face,” Kissell said. “And her volunteerism and community outreach is profound.”

A bright future awaits

As the young Ram’s time at CSU comes to a close, Pettner will embark on another journey that she is already poised to conquer. After graduation, she will make Wisconsin her new home and become an assistant designer at Kohl’s.

As she approaches her next chapter, Pettner will hearken back to the lessons she learned at CSU during trying times – especially the trials that the COVID-19 pandemic dealt.

“One of the biggest things that I’ve taken away from going through this pandemic is, if a situation isn’t ideal, that doesn’t mean I can’t make the best of it,” Pettner said. “Nearly everything that I planned this year didn’t happen, and while it’s important to grieve losses and change, it’s equally important to spring forward and discover new ways to make it the best possible situation.”

Bee Pettner smiles in a "started as an intern" shirt courtesy of her new employer, Kohl's. She holds a decorative white board.Needless to say, Pettner is a woman of her word. While quickly adapting to the changing landscape around her by reorganizing her home studio and upending her routines, her work ethic remained impeccable. As a reflection of her hard work, positivity, and pride as a CSU Ram, Pettner was selected to speak in the Fall 2020 Commencement video for the College of Health and Human Sciences.

“I am so grateful to CSU for so many things, and I am touched to be able to share my gratitude with my fellow graduates at commencement,” Pettner said. “CSU has been the most wonderful place to call home the last few years, and I’ll look back with the happiest memories and most grateful heart.”

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