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PROGRAMMING SUCCESS: Fashion merchandising and retail studies program blends creativity with business acumen

This is the fourth article in a six-part series highlighting academic programs at Louisiana Tech University that are having significant impacts on the region and whose graduates are contributing to the growth of the economies, communities and competitiveness of north Louisiana.

RUSTON, La. – Graduates from Louisiana Tech University are doing their part to keep north Louisiana looking good and in style.

Designed for students interested in careers in merchandising, buying, sales, promotions, visual display and retail management, Louisiana Tech’s fashion merchandising and retail studies program prepares students to pursue careers in retail and wholesale sectors of the fashion industry.

Housed in the School of Human Ecology, fashion merchandising and retail studies provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to work in both the manufacturing and retail areas of business. The field requires both creative expression and business expertise and those who possess solid organizational skills, high personal motivation, a people-oriented focus, good problem solving and analytical abilities, and excellent written and oral communication skills.

Students in Louisiana Tech’s fashion merchandising and retail studies program are challenged to blend creativity and business acumen in their studies.

Students in Louisiana Tech’s fashion merchandising and retail studies program are challenged to blend creativity and business acumen in their studies.

“Fashion merchandising and retail studies provides opportunities for many different careers,” said Dr. Kathleen Heiden, assistant professor of merchandising and consumer studies and head of Louisiana Tech’s fashion merchandising and retail studies program. “Because the field offers so many career opportunities, the program is designed to provide students with a broad knowledge of fashion merchandising and retail studies content, focusing on transferable skills that can be applied to any of the career opportunities.”

Heiden says at least 95 percent of students successfully completing the fashion merchandising and retail studies program are employed in the field before graduation. “Louisiana Tech is one of only two fashion merchandising programs in the state, the other being at LSU,” Heiden said. “The programs each have a different focus. LSU’s program focuses more on product development and working in the manufacturing industry while ours focuses on the retail and wholesale areas of the field.”

Louisiana Tech fashion merchandising and retail studies alums are working in sales, marketing and creative management positions for some of the world’s most recognized retailers including Victoria’s Secret, Dillard’s and Nordstrom’s. “Some of our newer alums hold positions such as visual merchandiser for Antropologie, wholesale sales representative for Running Wild Jewelry, operations manager for SavoirLuxe, an online designer resale store, and visual merchandiser for Forever 21,” said Heiden.

Creativity-based courses in the fashion merchandising and retail studies program focus on areas such as textiles, product quality, consumer selections, buying, promotions, event planning, multi-channel retailing and visual merchandising. Students are provided opportunities for creative expression and development in merchandising, product development and communication skills.

One example of this creative process is a product development class where students design a wearable garment using only duct tape and magazines. The garments are designed on a dress form, but have to come off the form and be worn by a person. The students work in teams and are given just a few hours to complete the design.

The curriculum regularly incorporates these hands-on practical experiences through class assignments and service learning that incorporates the MCS Computer Design Lab and Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop. Heiden said the program also requires students to complete two internships.

“Our students complete two internships: one as a sophomore and one as they prepare to graduate,” Heiden said. “The internships provide students with structured, supervised experiences in fashion merchandising and retail studies field to enhance employment prospects and opportunities.”

The program also includes two field study tours for students to identify internship and career opportunities within the field. “Students participate in the three-day Dallas study tour as sophomores and the six-day New York study tour as juniors or seniors,” Heiden said.

Heiden says students are encouraged to minor in a supporting field of study. The minor is designed to provide additional educational knowledge for students depending on which area of the fashion merchandising and retail studies field the student would like to pursue a career.

Written by T. Scott Boatright – boat@latech.edu