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Tailoring fashion education for the digital age

CMU offers fashion merchandising and design major online


Central Michigan University has stitched together a new program that offers flexibility for students: an online degree in fashion merchandising and design.

CMU has one of the top 50 fashion programs nationwide and is the largest fashion program in Michigan, according to Michael Mamp, associate professor of human environmental studies.

“The achievement can be attributed to our focus on a curriculum that mimics industry scenarios,” Mamp said. “Students are not just learning the theory of merchandising and design. Our curriculum is very project-based and a lot of times those projects are connected to industry.”

The online program offers concentrations in visual merchandising and product development. Two other concentrations — fashion design and fashion merchandising — are offered to on-campus students.

Women's shoe prototypes created by Michael Mamp using 3-D printers in CMU's Makerbot Innovation Lab

The new online concentrations were selected based on market analysis and industry employment opportunities.

“We’ve tooled the online degree to be slightly different than the on-campus program,” Mamp said. “The core courses, which prepare students for a broad education in fashion as a global industry, are the same.”

Over the past decade, the fashion merchandising and design major has boasted a 90 percent postgraduate employment rate. Alumni have chosen to stay in Michigan at organizations like Carhartt and Meijer, whereas others have been hired at internationally known companies such as Nordstrom, Kohl’s, The Limited and Calvin Klein.

Window display developed by CMU student Elizabeth Van Alst

“Retailers have discovered that in order for their brick-and-mortar stores to remain viable, they have to really create environments that are enticing to the consumer,” Mamp said. “Visual merchandising is tied into the idea of creating experiential shopping experiences for the consumer.”

Technology and innovation are a part of the fabric of the program and has boosted the success and the employability of its students, Mamp said.

“We’re very nimble, and we’re very scrappy,” Mamp said “Our adoption of technology — such as computer-aided design, 3-D printing, laser-cutting and digital textile printing — puts us at the forefront of fashion education. We’re always like ‘What’s next?’ That’s what keeps us vibrant and competitive.”


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