KSU graduate fashion degree will be a trailblazerSRit

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

Kent State University's School of Fashion and Merchandising Design is well on its way to launching a new Master of Fashion graduate program.

The program, touted by KSU as the first of its kind in the United States, cleared the last hurdle at the university level when the Board of Trustees signed off on it March 13. Now, the fashion school is awaiting feedback on the proposal from other state universities before sending it to the Ohio Board of Regents for final approval.

J.R. Campbell, director of the fashion school, said the proposed 30-credit program is industry-aligned and grounded in workplace practice compared with other Master of Fashion degrees.

"Our aspiration is to have all the students who come through really think about how they're informing, synthesizing and really generating some new and novel insights through practice within the industry," Campbell said. "That can be through design, product development, branding, production, business models the range of things that we know we can do well within the school."

KSU's Master in Fashion degree is also geared toward growth in entrepreneurship in small- to medium-sized businesses and manufacturing locally or within the U.S.

Although the program will have students engaging in creative practices and techniques, it won't address a fine art context in the way that a traditional Master of Fine Arts degree might, Campbell said.

"Our hope is to really investigate some of new best practices and the things that we can suggest as new best practices for producing locally, thinking about how we engage customers and creating products in a more sustainable and economically appropriate way," he said.

If the proposal stays on track, Campbell said it will likely be approved by the Board of Regents around mid to late summer, but the school's first set of fashion graduate students won't begin until fall 2014.

"We really want to get the word out, both nationally and internationally,Campbell said. "We want to get a really strong set of students to apply, and we want to be able to select the best 10 to 15 from that group and start with a bang. We want to have good students to come and help build the reputation of the program."

The fashion school now offers a Fashion Design major with the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, as well as a Fashion Merchandising major within the Bachelor of Science degree. In 30 years, it has grown from less than 200 students to more than 1,300 undergraduate students.

Campbell said the school has already seen significant demand for a master's degree program from undergraduates and graduate students at other institutions.

"We've received a large number of inquiries and interest to at least find out more and, in some cases, it's students both nationally and internationally who are wanting to sign up as soon as they can," he said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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