Creating Global Community Through T-Shirts

What do friendship, academics and T-shirts have in common? For the students at the American Academy, Kent State University and the PUCPR’s undergraduate program in Brazil, a student-led T-shirt design contest created that missing piece of camaraderie during the pandemic between students and their two schools.

The American Academy is a dual-enrollment program offered jointly by Kent State and the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), located in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil, that allows students in Brazil to complete a two-year degree without traveling to America for college. Following their completion of an Associate of Science degree, students have the opportunity to come to Kent campus to earn their bachelor’s degree.

The T-shirt design concept competition began as a way to help American Academy students identify with Kent State by giving each student a Kent State shirt from the bookstore. Leslie Bowser, senior global programs advisor in the Office of Global Education and coordinator of the American Academy program, found that getting this T-shirt made the freshmen feel connected right from the start.

“When we started the tradition of giving all of the freshmen a T-shirt, we used the same T-shirt design for the next three fall semesters,” Bowser said. “Now that there are enough students, the students proposed to do it as a contest and have a unique T-shirt for each incoming class.”

Since the American Academy program’s launch in fall 2018, the student body has grown from 15 students to more than 100 students.

“It was kind of a student-led initiative,” Bowser said of the contest. “I loved the creativity of it and the enthusiasm they had for it. Giving the students a Kent State T-shirt was great, but they wanted a T-shirt that represented the dual program, so the concept required that students come up with a design that represented both universities and the joining of the two.”

By creating a T-shirt that blended aspects of both universities, American Academy students gained a new identity as Kent State students at the start of their program, even though they attend school in Brazil. They are fully enrolled in both universities as a dual enrollment program.

Bob Louis, assistant vice president of new media communications at University Communications and Marketing, served as one of the judges for the contest.

“I was very impressed with the effort the students put forth,” Louis said. “They put a lot into their presentations, and it was very evident they truly enjoyed working on the project.”

This semester’s finalists were Micaela Marigliano, Barbara Talah and Arthur Zablonsky. The students were asked to come up with a design concept and then deliver a short presentation to a panel of marketing professionals. In the end, Marigliano’s concept was chosen to be the fall 2021 T-shirt design.

Micaela Marigliano
“I chose the phrase Transição Suave because it means ‘Smooth Transition,’ which is the opportunity that the American Academy gives us to be able to study outside Brazil,” Margliano said. “The transition from one university to the other was a smooth transition.”

Louis expressed the difficulty in deciding a winner among the many impressive designs presented.

“All the designs had merit, and it really came down to which one we all could agree on,” Louis said. “Any one of the designs would have been a great choice.”

COVID-19 has changed how this semester will operate, but has not affected the feeling of community for the students.

“Because the students are studying remotely, the T-shirts were mailed to the homes of all American Academy freshmen, along with much affection from their peers who organized the activity,” Bowser said.

Students submitted photos of themselves wearing the shirts to show their school spirit. On the first day of classes, students were encouraged to wear them during virtual classes.

Marigliano is appreciative of the American Academy and Kent State for offering her the ability to share her design concept and is proud to help freshmen feel connected to Kent State through her shirt.

“Having my idea come true makes me happy and proud of myself,” Marigliano said. “I hope everyone who wears this shirt feels the same way as I do: happy and grateful.”
To learn more about the American Academy dual enrollment program, visit

POSTED: Thursday, April 1, 2021 09:03 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:41 PM
Hannah Gooch