Tech’s School of Human Ecology students get back to traveling and experiencing industry

COOKEVILLE – Students in Tennessee Tech University’s Fashion Merchandising Association and Housing and Design Association spent the first week of April in Asheville, North Carolina, where they received real-world experiences in merchandising, housing and design. 

These organizations allow students to cultivate their experiences in merchandising, housing and design through traveling, networking and events. 

“My goal was to see what it’s like deeper into the fashion world in a city that is more focused on design,” said Ansley Phifer, junior fashion merchandising and design major. “I wanted to see how things worked over there.” 

The students visited the most extensive art district in the United States and toured a fiber mill, thrift stores, bridal boutiques and the Biltmore Estate. 

“Being able to go on the trip and take a tour for just housing and then still do the merchandise stuff meant a lot to me, that I had that chance to see the architecture that Asheville has and learn about their buildings and everything they are working towards to have there,” said Mia Ward, senior housing and design major with a merchandising minor. “I want to bring that to wherever I go. The beauty that was there, it needs to be everywhere.”

This is the first opportunity since 2020 that Hannah Upole, assistant professor of merchandising and design program, has had to take students on study trips. 

“The goal is for them to see design life outside of Cookeville and Tennessee. I think design is very localized in our area with very similar styles, and that’s understandable; we know we have target consumers, but Ashville is very different in terms of their demographics from a location like Cookeville or even Nashville,” Upole said. “I wanted them to see that art culture thriving, that idea that you know, you can do something you love. I will tell them this all the time; you will be so much more successful at something you’re passionate about than something you think is more realistic.”

Students on the trip were also encouraged to explore and learn to see what they would be able to bring back to Tech and the Cookeville community. 

“Seeing infrastructure and seeing how the business structure works together in a different location that is relatively similar to Cookeville in terms of size and availability and things like that is good for the students to see,” Upole said.

For Lauren Jackson, a senior fashion merchandising and design student from Dickson, this trip reminded her why she is so passionate about the merchandising industry. 

“I think it reminded me why I’m so passionate about merchandising and art itself. I feel like if you aren’t in an art district, art can sometimes be underappreciated, so it reminds me why I work so much in it,” Jackson said. “Art is all around us, and we just don’t recognize it.”

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