Reaffirming Purpose and Shared Values in Turbulent Times
Dear School of Fashion Community
This summer we have been working to reaffirm our purpose as a world leading School of Fashion, as well as ensuring we have the right plans in place for safely reopening in the Fall. Our work, as you would hope, is directly influenced by COVID-19 and embracing a cultural identity, with a focus on innovation, digitization, sustainability, and doing a much better job of renewing our efforts as a culture of inclusivity.
Why are we concerned with “purpose?” Well, it is what keeps an organization like our School grounded, irrespective of the competing priorities and demands that we have at any given time. It is what sets us apart and distinctly characterizes us: our uniqueness and, by association, each student’s individuality, and prospects for employability upon graduation. It communicates our shared values and value to those we service, such as industry, employers, and international educational collaborators. So, in our renewal efforts, we ask ourselves: ‘What is our purpose and how can we sustain it during these turbulent times?’
Our purpose continues to empower an ecosystem of socially responsible and inventive fashion thinkers.
How can we sustain this purpose during today’s turbulent times?
Our School is supported by different plans, such as strategic, operational, and communication. They are aligned with the College of the Arts and united with Kent State University. Each of these plans is a roadmap to achievement. They are important as they help to keep us on track. They show us the way and support us on that journey.
Our plans for re-opening in the Fall are a bridge, a means of helping us to cross over currently turbulent waters and allowing us to reach a solid ground of progress on the other side. These plans include a scrupulous review of classroom and studio spaces – traditional and non-traditional – and developing new digital teaching tools to teach remotely. We plan creative solutions for students to continue to have access to the valuable resources within Rockwell Hall, such as the KSU Museum, Fashion Library, TechStyleLAB, and KnitLabs, among other considerations that support the student experience. We plan to welcome our student organizations back to campus so they can continue with their many outstanding initiatives. We plan to offer engaging social activities and frank discussions that sheds a spotlight on the diversity and inclusivity of our School’s culture and fashion industry at large. We plan to create a community program of voluntary activities with safe social distancing guided by the “Flashes Safe Seven Principles.”
It is just as important to remember not to get solely bogged down in “plans” and “planning,” particularly in times of disruption. Because plans are just that – plans. And, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted. We learned that lesson during the spring semester, didn’t we?
Education is more than a means to the end. It is a journey in which we learn all the time. Think of how the fashion industry – everything from design, to supply chain, to selling channels – and how they are learning to adapt to the disruptors in their world. They have educated themselves on how to do business differently. New technologies emerge and ways of doing business are quickly becoming innovative solutions to problems never imagined at the start of this year. As a School, we are consulting with many of our fashion industry partners, international collaborators, alumni, and donors to learn and adopt the best practices on preparing our students for working in a new world that has been radically disrupted.
We are actively listening to the many concerns of students and parents that have been expressed during the past several weeks about the “plans” for the fall semester. We are very empathetic to the disruption that has occurred to the educational “norm.” We are appreciative of the many questions that students have about the quality of their educational experience in these turbulent times. We are cognizant of the difficult housing decision that students and families must make that is often central to a student’s total educational experience. We know this disruption is not easy for any of us. And, that it can be easy to get bogged down with the details, the plans, and forget our purpose and shared values of who we are as a School community.
Although how we operate as a School will change in the short term, let us never forget our purpose and shared values: to empower an ecosystem of socially responsible and inventive fashion thinkers.
In closing , a word especially for our students: whether a fashion design or fashion merchandising major, your purpose is grounded in your ability to impact the fashion industry with an eye toward social responsibility and being a community of inventive fashion thinkers. I encourage you to be resilient and bold in your future endeavors. Let this disorder of the norm educate yourself on how to incorporate the disruptors in your lives and seek innovative ways to solve problems. Let these turbulent times shape your skillset for any future employer to embrace. Go with the flow and allow today’s changes to further ignite your overall purpose and shared values.
Louise Valentine, Ph.D.
Director, School of Fashion