Ann Mariko Walter, ’96

Ann Mariko Walter, ’96, M.Ed. ’19, creates a life by design as the director of Kent State NYC Fashion.

Flipping through Seventeen magazine as a teenager, Ann Mariko Walter, ’96, M.Ed. ’19, came across an article about studying fashion design that changed her life. It opened her mind to possibilities she had never considered. As an aspiring first-generation college student from a hard working, blue collar family, the Cleveland, Ohio, native knew Kent State would be an accessible and affordable option - so she enrolled. With a combined love of art and clothing, Ann thrived as a fashion design major and soon graduated with a bachelor's degree. She was determined to make a name for herself in the nation’s fashion center, so with $500 to her name, Ann hopped on a bus and headed to New York City. She began designing for major retailers, including Gap Inc., K-Mart, Sears Holdings Co. and Walmart, as well as fashion brands such as Dots, Bonobos and aden + anais, connecting with other Kent State alumni along the way. Soon, she was approached about an opportunity to be an adjunct faculty member for Kent State NYC Fashion, a study away location for the School of Fashion. This transformed the trajectory of her career as she fell in love with teaching. Five years ago, Ann took on her current role as director of the program, and she now spends much of her time helping young Kent State students chase their own dreams in the Big Apple.

Get to know Ann in her own words.

KSU: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
AW: Spending the day at the beach in Asbury Park, New Jersey, with my wife.

KSU: What is your favorite trait in others?
AW: Open-mindedness and the ability to keep learning at any age.

KSU: What trait about yourself do you like least?
AW: I like to think of them as “development opportunities!”

KSU: Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
AW: My parents - a truck driver and a secretary. They worked very hard and sacrificed so my sister and I could attend college and have access to things they did not.

KSU: What is your favorite Kent State memory?
AW: Seeing my senior collection come down the runway at the School of Fashion when I was an undergrad.

Ann Mariko Walter, ’96, dog

KSU: What is your favorite journey?
AW: The journey I’m on right now! From growing up in a blue-collar town in Ohio, to attending college at Kent State, to the hustle and bustle of living and working in New York City. From working in the fashion industry to transitioning to fashion education. The journey is the destination, and every moment is worth savoring.

KSU: What is your guilty pleasure?
AW: Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s usually on the agenda when I visit my family in Ohio!

KSU: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
AW: Being a first-generation, biracial, queer woman who is about to complete a doctorate. And, through my position as a Kent State faculty member, being able to positively impact other historically marginalized and underserved students.

KSU: If you could come back as one person, who would it be and why?
AW: Maybe not a person, but as Finn, my English bulldog. He is very loved and spoiled, and he sleeps all day!

KSU: What part of your college experience most formed who you are today?
AW: Access! Access to a university that offered a top-ranked fashion program and was within my financial and geographical reach. This in turn provided me with the knowledge, skills and resources to access the fashion industry, which can feel intimidating from the outside.


POSTED: Wednesday, March 27, 2024 03:42 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2024 10:49 AM