The School of Family and Consumer Sciences was recently awarded a grant to tailor fashion merchandising curriculum to the new demands of the apparel industry, among other goals.
The Higher Education Challenge Grant, worth $714,300, was awarded to improve the quality of students’ education in fashion merchandising, said Gwendolyn Hustvedt, associate professor in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. Hustvedt said the American apparel and agriculture industries are closely connected, so the United States Department of Agriculture sets out to fund education related to the clothes industry.
The grant will be split relatively evenly between Hustvedt and four other researchers from Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University. Texas State will receive a fifth of the funds in a month, which is about $142,860, Hustvedt said.
The award is a “team grant,” meaning it had to be proposed by at least three different universities within a region. Texas State was included partly because many major apparel companies are based in Texas, Hustvedt said. Texas State was also approached to be part of the team grant because of its Hispanic Serving Institution status, she said.
One of the grant’s focuses is to help students understand the impact of climate change on the agricultural system, she said. Hustvedt said a proposal had to be submitted to the USDA that would address climate change in order to receive the grant.
Texas State will use the grant to recruit students from different high schools to Texas State for a one-day fashion merchandising career event, Hustvedt said. Speakers will talk about the need for math and science in the apparel industry, she said.
Hustvedt said she hopes the event will attract math and science students who may not have been interested in the apparel industry before.
“Fashion as an industry is about selling a fantasy, and we made that fantasy by using serious math and science to create really excellent products,” Hustvedt said.
Hustvedt said it is important for students interested in going into the apparel industry to understand the issues being experienced by cotton producers in the country, such as the drought in Texas.
Hustvedt said the fashion merchandising curriculum needs to be updated because the science surrounding the production of textiles and fibers has changed.
“Keeping up to date with current things you need to learn is important so we can be more ready for a career when we graduate,” said Garrett Monkress, fashion merchandising freshman.
Duy Le, international studies graduate student, believes many Texas State departments, not just the School of Family and Consumer Sciences, can benefit from a sustainability education curriculum.
“I hope this grant educates people on how every little detail matters whenever we are thinking about building a more sustainable future,” Le said. “We just have to reconsider what we do from here on.”
The grant will also be beneficial for high school teachers, who will be able to use the updated curriculum. Hustvedt is planning to make the curriculum viewable on a website in the future.
“My main hope is that more people will wake up and realize they actually really like science,” Hustvedt said. “If working on this project can encourage even a few more students in science to pay more attention, I will be over the moon.”