How Northeastern University Students Got Involved in the Fashion Revolution
By Patricia Goodman
Students at Northeastern University have a grounded value of engaging experiential learning through student projects with corporate partnerships. However, last Spring in the College of Professional Studies Graduate Programs, there was a new concept emerging for Corporate and Organizational (COC) and Nonprofit Management (NPM) to collaborate on capstone projects with one organizational partner. The International Fashion Revolution had a plan to expand into North America having units throughout Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, Europe, Oceania, and South America. However, there were several moving parts and ideally many needs were to be addressed within a short period of time. How could our students make a positive impact within the constraints provided?
If we start with the end in sight of making a positive impact, it might be helpful to hear this final comment from our key partner, “Again, thank you for your vision, insights, and research on this very important topic for our organization!” As a highlight of some of the deliverables, our graduate students developed a Student Ambassador Onboarding Plan, articulated Communication Objectives with Key Performance Indicators associated with organizational strategies and generated a Balanced Scorecard for the nonprofit organization. Knowing that we found successes in this venture, let’s share how we made it happen.
Through rich discussions and sharing of opportunities, a collaboration was born between Kathleen Grevers, Fashion Revolution USA Education Director; Monica Borgida, Principal Instructor for NPM Capstone and Patty Goodman, Principal Instructor for Cross-cultural Communication. We yielded six cross-disciplinary teams with six defined projects. The pseudo-consulting eight-week projects ranged from strategic planning to social media strategy. One of the challenging aspects of this endeavor was the coordination of all the stakeholders from the students, both individually and their assigned teams with Fashion Revolution contacts, along with the faculty in the three different capstone courses. Although there were moments of uncertainty and ambiguity across the various communication networks, the students demonstrated their ability to be agile and their commitment to formulating realistic recommendations.
There were common aspects grounding the projects across the courses. These included the students developing discovery reports, which incorporated the current state, situational analysis, stakeholder analysis, benchmarking, and research question or challenge. The NPM students integrated a balanced scorecard, operations review, and evaluation of the reporting system. While the COC students assimilated the communication objectives and key performance indicators to build the communication-related strategy.
In the final virtual meetings, the teams presented their research, analysis, and creative thinking for recommendations. It was especially significant to hear the closing discussions between the leaders of Fashion Revolution USA and our students illustrating the synergies gain through this collaboration. For the final meetings, the students had a chance to network with multiple stakeholders associated with Fashion Revolution USA, including Amy Dufault, sustainable fashion writer, consultant, event planner from NYC and Frances Nelson McSherry, CAMD Teaching Professor and a professional costume designer who has worked on shows which have appeared on stages from Boston to California and internationally.
Ultimately, this experiential project inspired by interdisciplinary collaboration and supported by a committed sponsor empowered the students on multiple levels. A true test of success could be illustrated by the enthusiasm of Kathleen Grevers’s team to offer more opportunities with Fashion Revolution USA this Fall. Finally, CPS has created a course specifically to support interdisciplinary graduate students to tackle an organizational need while practicing their field competencies and resiliency skills in Integrative Experiential Learning (INT6943).
Special appreciation and recognition to Fashion Revolution USA for Kathleen Grevers, Shannon Welch, Mackenzie Mock, Orsola de Castro, Carry Somers, Ashleyn Przedwiecki, also available on this link. In addition, we would like to recognize our graduates: Sophie Bolton, Lorna Campos, Lukas Dow, Siena Inocberia Handani, Celeste (Yihan) Huang, Vera Ivey, Edna Negron, Shriya Rijal, Ruhi Sharma, Yize Su, Erika Vaughn, Derek Van Voorhis, Genevieve Widner, and Thalia Saniya Zulnardy, along with our capstone course faculty Monica Borgida, Patty Goodman, and Lynn McNamara. In addition, Community-Engaged Teaching & Research supported the collaboration as a Service-Learning partnership.
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