Samantha Salib has always loved fashion since she was a little girl, but when it came time to decide where to attend college and what to study, Salib’s hometown of Sugar Land, Texas didn’t provide her with much opportunity to study fashion.
Salib was originally going to study journalism, which brought her attention to Arizona State University’s, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, though she soon discovered that she didn’t want to be writing all day in her career, but still wanted to pursue fashion in some way.
She then started searching “high and low” for a fashion program. Because Salib had looked at ASU for journalism, she also looked to see if they had a fashion degree, which she said they at the time were in the process of creating.
It wasn’t until she stumbled upon the degree later on while searching for a different major, that she jumped at the chance to apply for the school’s incoming Bachelors of Fashion degree, just in time for her freshman year.
“It makes coming to school more exciting [because] it’s like, it’s not going to school anymore,” Salib said of entering college as a fashion major this semester. “I always say, I spent the last four years (of high school) wishing I was somewhere else doing something that I actually wanted to do, and this is my four years to be somewhere else and do what I really want to do.”
Arizona State University’s new Bachelors of Fashion degree kicked off today after a highly anticipated and ongoing process of bringing a university fashion degree to Arizona. The degree will be the first to provide students from across the state and country with the opportunity to pursue fashion at a state university in Arizona.
As of August 11th, there were 99 students enrolled in the new fashion degree, which includes incoming freshman, incoming transfer students, and current ASU students who have changed their major to fashion, though Matt Ransom, an academic success coordinator at Arizona State University, said that number could shift within the first week of school for a variety of reasons.
The various fashion tracks that ASU has put together within the new fashion degree are business/entrepreneurship, costuming, fabric and fibers, and more, according to Ransom, and will feature a wide variety of electives in students’ junior and senior years, enabling them to have more flexibility in choosing a focus area for their career.
Internships are also required for both semesters of senior year and will enable students to sample what they want to do after college or give them tangible work experience, Ransom said.
Students will also have a capstone class during their senior year that enables them to pursue an open-ended idea of their choosing, wether that be designing a collection or writing a research thesis, among a plethora of possibilities, Ransom added.
“[…Something other than ‘Yup, check the box you’ve finished a class for your major,’ Ransom said of the capstone class. “This is actually something that we see students probably like putting their heart and soul into, this capstone experience, and then it’s something extra special that is then beneficial to them in launching them forward in the future.”
ASU previously had a liberal arts degree that was a Bachelor of Arts in The Arts which launched in 2014 with an available option for a concentration in fashion. The degree was made up of “related cousin topics,” according to Ransom, in order to create a semblance of a fashion track, such as taking a drawing for theatre class because it was the closest thing to fashion illustration.
“We didn’t have the exact fashion expert faculty to teach the class, so we were borrowing the most related skills set classes from other units,” Ransom added.
Over time, ASU started to develop and incorporate fashion industry specific classes into the The Arts major since they knew they weren’t offering the exact fashion class, Ransom said, though ASU will no longer offer a fashion concentration in that major due to the new degree taking over.
Ransom said he would recommend to some of the students that they switch over to the new fashion degree, though some were too far along to switch, but said it would ultimately be up to the student to make that decision based on their own personal factors.
“At the time, three years ago, what we were offering, it was okay. It was like a C. Nobody wants a C. So now the version we’re offering, I’d say is like a B+,” Ransom said. “We’re offering a much better program and as we continue to grow, hire new faculty, develop more classes, we’re going to get to a really good place in a couple of years.”
Dulce Douglas is a senior at ASU pursuing a Bachelors degree in The Arts with a concentration in fashion, who was a transfer student from Pima Community College’s West Campus in Tucson. Douglas was one of those students who, due to being too far along in her major, decided not to switch to the BA of Fashion degree.
“I think it’s going to be a great program,” Douglas said of the new degree. “Just looking at the criteria and the classes that they offered and everything else, It’s like, oh my god, I wish I could have, you know, transferred over, but since I’m so far along, I’d kind of be backtracking if I did.”
Though Douglas won’t be participating in the new BA of Fashion degree, she said she is confident that the degree she will be receiving has prepared her for the path she is looking to pursue and is excited for the students who will be a part of the new degree program in Phoenix.
“This is a great opportunity for these students or just even anybody who wants to go into it, to be able to know that they can do it locally and knowing that you don’t have to be in California, you don’t have to be in New York, to get that education.” Douglas said. “And a lot of people don’t realize that; that Phoenix is becoming a new hub for that.”
ASU has enabled transfer students like Douglas to be able to easily transition into the fashion degree through their Transfer Admissions Guarantee (TAG) program with select community colleges in Arizona.
Pima Community College, where Douglas attended previously, is one of those schools. PCC had three students transfer two years ago into what was the first iteration of the fashion degree at ASU, according to Nancy Spaulding, the lead faculty/program coordinator in the Fashion Design Department at Pima Community College’s West Campus in Tucson, Arizona.
Students won’t need to apply to ASU, they’ll just sign up for classes at the university and automatically be in the program, Spaulding added, due to the benefits of the TAG program.
For many students, ASU will be the place to explore and solidify their chosen track in the fashion industry.
“From my perspective, at Pima they will develop their self-discipline to work in the industry, but also their technical skills and solid foundational knowledge of how the industry works,” Spaulding said. “And when they go to ASU, they’ll be able to round out their education to focus their goals in a direction that they want to go.”
Though the journey to creating this degree has been long, it will still continue into the upcoming school year, since the degree is in now in place for the upcoming Fall 2017 semester.
“Students in our program at Pima are super excited about the BA program at ASU because it gives them an in-state alternative to get a bachelors degree in fashion where before, they didn’t really have an in-state university that supported a fashion degree,” Spaulding said. “So now they do.”
ASU will continue to evolve the degree’s offerings to fit student’s needs and interests since, Ransom said, “We don’t really know right now what a lot of our students are going to be interested in, so this is just some guesses.”
Though what was potentially the biggest hurdle in the getting the new degree in motion, was actually the easiest to pass.
Prior to implementing the degree at ASU, the Arizona Board of Regents had to review the major and its components before the degree was approved, which would dictate if the degree could be implemented in the Fall of 2017 as expected.
“We, from our perspective, flew right through [with] flying colors.” Ransom said. “Which is great because that helps us to know that, you know, the higher powers at be in state education thought we did a good job.”