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The future of the Paris American Academy

An+active+classroom+discussion+at+the+American+Academy+in+Paris%2C+France.
Courtesy of Kent State University
An active classroom discussion at the American Academy in Paris, France.

The university is scheduled to take over operations for the Paris American Academy to create a new study abroad program in France. Vice President for Global Education Marcello Fantoni says Kent State will begin managing the academy in January 2025.

“We have one of the best fashion schools in the world, it makes sense that we continue the legacy of the Paris American Academy plus also expand the Kent State study abroad presence in France,” he said. “But we’ll take the opportunity to establish in Paris study abroad programs for students from other Kent State colleges such as architecture, business, et cetera.” 

According to the academy’s website, the Paris American Academy was founded in 1965 by American musician Richard Roy to create a place for international students to study art and fashion. Fantoni says the Paris American Academy has one of the world’s most prestigious fashion schools.

FashionSchools.org has ranked Kent State as having the #12 best fashion design program in the U.S., as well as the #9 best fashion merchandising program in the nation. 

“We have had a partnership with the Paris American Academy for over a decade and we have been regularly sending fashion students to study at the Paris American Academy for easily the past 10 to 12 years,” he said.

Fantoni hopes that the France program can one day run concurrent with the one in Florence.

“If a student goes to Paris, he or she can complete their 12 or 15 credits without falling behind when they return to Kent State,” he said.

The Paris American Academy was donated by the school’s president and owner Peter Carman to the Kent State University Foundation, which is where the university receives gifts from donors. 

According to Fantoni, Carman wants to retire and leave the academy with what he felt were the best hands possible. 

“We are one of the best assurances that we will continue on a very high academic standard,” he said.” He’s not picking a random university with a bad reputation.”

Fantoni claims Carman had been speaking to him about making the program more accessible to Kent State students around five years ago before it eventually turned into a complete donation of the academy to Kent State.

Carman is currently in the hospital recovering from injuries sustained by an explosion within the academy on June 21 that left one person dead, six hospitalized and 50 others with minor injuries. The explosion is believed to have been caused by a gas leak. There were nine fashion students from Kent State in Paris at the time, though all were unharmed and far away from the incident when it occurred.

Fantoni adds that Carman was conscious when he visited him in the hospital in October after he awoke from a coma and that the two were able to converse.

The destroyed academy portion was used by Kent State, forcing it and the university to send its students to other locations.

President Todd Diacon spoke about Kent State taking over management of the academy on his Oct. 17 edition of Talking with Todd, saying the university has a great partnership with it.

“We’re very happy to be taking that over,” he said. “We’ll have it back up and running in several months.”

Though all parties plan to continue with the operation, Fantoni says that Kent State has to become a legal entity in France before it can take over management of the academy.

At the Sept. 20 Board of Trustees meeting, the board approved a motion to create a limited liability company under French law, known as a société par actions simplefiée (SAS). The Office of the Provost will administer the SAS, with Fantoni having direct oversight. 

Provost Melody Tankersley is confident the university will be able to have the program running on schedule.

“We can’t operate a business in a foreign country without establishing that entity,” she said. “If we could establish the entity, that would allow us to operate in Paris with the idea that in 2025, we will be able to assume the work of the Paris American Academy through Kent State University.”

Tankersley described Paris as a “fashion mecca” and a place where architecture has always been critically important as well as art, creative writing and history.

Despite Kent State becoming its governing body, Tankersley is unsure how the academy will be marketed in the future.

“We would love to be able to honor the Paris American Academy and the work that’s come before us while also recognizing that this is a Kent State entity,” she said.

The academy would also become a source of revenue once it receives tuition from students attending the academy.

Fantoni claims that the university only needs to send 150 students a year to break even with the costs of running the academy.

“I think we can grow up to easily 200 to 250 a year because our plan is to offer a Fall semester, a Spring semester and a summer term,” he said. “Combining the three terms, it will not be that difficult to get 200 students a year.”

The School of Fashion sent 19 students to Paris in 2019. That number grew to 46 students in 2022 but decreased to 13 students in 2023 due to the explosion. Twenty-two students registered to study abroad in Paris during the spring 2024 semester.

Senior fashion merchandising major Jessica Duraj, who studied in Paris during the summer of 2022, said she enjoyed her time in the city but disliked how the school functioned.

“They just left us to our own devices, and no one knew what was going on,” she said. “They printed out this calendar that had the times of classes, but they would change stuff every day and we were just expected to know even though no one would tell us anything. They would have lectures run over by an hour and we’d have to be okay with it.”

Duraj said she would have had a better experience if the Education Abroad program in Paris was directly administered by the university.

“I think if it was more seamless and it felt more like Kent, it would have been perfect,” she said. “But there was a disconnect the whole time that we were there, and I think if Kent were the ones in charge, I think it’d be awesome.”

Duraj also studied in Florence during the Fall 2022 semester, saying she enjoyed its program more than the one in Paris.

“Florence felt so much more like Kent State,” she said. “It was just so much more put together and organized. And I felt like I always had someone that I could turn to if I needed help with anything.”

Fashion majors at Kent State are required to study away for at least one semester. 

Mourad Krifa, the director of the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, says students have the ability to choose overseas locations such as Paris, Florence, London, South Korea or Hong Kong.

“Students also have the option to go to New York or to LA where they can get an experience that is one of the major fashion global capitals,” he said.

Krifa hopes the curriculum in Paris will align with the university’s guidelines.

“We want to make sure our students get the chance to go to Paris and still continue to progress with our curriculum in the best conditions possible,” he said.

Another change the new management would bring is being able to hire locals to teach students their curriculum, which is how the university operates its program in Florence. The Paris American Academy currently has its own curriculum and hiring process that does not involve Kent State or its practices, according to Krifa.

Despite her complaints, Duraj says that she enjoyed her time at the academy and in Paris.

“Even though Paris was a little bit of a disaster at times, it definitely helped me grow and it taught me a lot,” she said. “I would recommend studying abroad to absolutely anybody.”

Michael Neenan is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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Michael Neenan, Reporter
Michael Neenan is a sophomore journalism major who enjoys two things: writing and sports. Contact him at [email protected]

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