Kent State opens Big Apple satellite campus for design

By Carol Biliczky MCT

For years, Kent State fashion students spent a few whirlwind days each spring ogling designs and scooping up exotic fabrics in New York City.

Now KSU has taken that a step forward with a satellite campus in the Big Apple. It is believed to be one of the few programs of its kind nationwide, KSU Fashion School director Elizabeth Rhodes said.

“New York is like a textbook,” she said. “Students don’t have to live in New York forever, but they need to read the book thoroughly.”

Fashion is one of the hot programs at Kent State. Enrollment has tripled to 950 students since Rhodes became director in 1994.

“These are high-profile programs,” said Tim Chandler, dean of the KSU College of the Arts. “You need to keep ahead of the game.”

He believes the semester in New York – formally called the NYC Studio Experience – will further boost enrollment while improving the quality and breadth of instruction.

But it wasn’t easy to get off the ground.

Administrators spent five years developing the program and coming up with funding to help bankroll it. KSU alumna Linda Allard, the retired design director for Ellen Tracy fashions, gave $1 million for an endowment and $300,000 in cash to get it operating. Other benefactors also contributed.

The program launched softly last spring with 25 junior fashion students who volunteered for the inaugural semester. It was a rocky start, given that chairs and lighting didn’t get there on time and computers didn’t work at first.

Now all the pieces are in place for another semester of 35 to 40 students next spring. Kent is on semesters, so “spring” means January to May.

The university is renting a renovated building at 315 W. 39th St. in the heart of the Garment District, or Fashion Center, as it’s called now.

The 3,000 square feet has a computer lab, lecture room and workroom with sewing machines, model forms and the like.