By Rachel Bedinger '15 | Vol. I Issue 2
Texas A&M University’s Retail Certificate students have a bright future in the fashion industry. Five Aggies from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University were recently rewarded by the 2014 Young Menswear Association (YMA) Fashion Scholarship Fund for their innovative, fashion-forward marketing plans. Universities competed nationwide in the YMA competition, and each school was allowed only five entries. All five Texas A&M students that competed won, besting students from Harvard, the Fashion Institute of Technology and the University of Texas.
Holly Vogel, Kailie Flores, Christina Tharp, Krystin Sessions and Shelby Zamzow each won a trip to New York City to attend an awards ceremony and were awarded a $5,000 scholarship. A few were even offered internships and full-time positions upon graduating.
Students selected to compete for Texas A&M first had to apply to be in a specific Retailing Studies class, taught by executive professor of marketing Mrs. Cheryl Bridges, which only accepts ten students each fall. All 10 prepared a project and the top five projects were selected for submission to the YMA competition.
"This competition gives them real-world experience similar to what they would have in their first job," said Bridges, who, besides having over 25 years of experience in the retailing industry as an assistant buyer all the way up to a senior executive, was also the recipient of the Association of Former Students’ Distinguished Teaching Award in 2012.
"Competitions like this challenge students to explore on-trend business issues. They can create fashion brands, develop social media campaigns and envision shopping experiences that excite millennials," said Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies. "Learning isn’t from a book; competitions push you to engage. YMA is national in scope with over 30 top universities competing. These wins demonstrate to the fashion and retail industries that Aggies are the best in the country and can be future leaders in this competitive business."
Each year YMA selects a different prompt for entries. This year’s prompt, in summary, was to create a product line and marketing strategy to bring millennials back into JCPenney.
"We had to do a lot of research," junior marketing major Shelby Zamzow said. Projects included a women’s career and kids’ design apparel line, an active wear line called JPhitness, a kitchen line called Sauté and a denim bar where men could get fashion advice while shopping.
In addition to designing new products, the women had to create an extensive marketing plan. Projects included details like what part of the store they wanted to be in, lighting effects, flooring and even wall color. As unique as each project was, Texas A&M students all had one common denominator: Mrs. Bridges.
"She’s the most amazing person," gushed Christina Tharp, senior marketing major.
"Our secret weapon was our advisor, Mrs. Bridges," said senior marketing major Holly Vogel confidently. "I owe this career to [her]," she commented about her recent hire as an assistant buyer for JCPenney.
Vogel was not the only student that gained new opportunities after the competition. "This project was something tangible to take to interviews," Zamzow commented. She explained that she would talk through her project paper with potential employers. It really impressed recruiters that Zamzow had already completed some real-world research and a product line.
Of her Retailing Studies students Bridges says she most enjoys, "seeing them bloom, seeing their creativity."
She said, "What is really exciting is that the student may have a creative layer that they didn’t realize they had. A competition like this one stretches a student to reach in and spark creativity. I love it at the end of the semester, whether they’ve won the competition or not, they say 'I didn’t know that I could ever do something like this.'"