Vignette: Tameka Ellington

Tyler Haughn

Tameka Ellington is an associate professor in the fashion school at Kent State and has taught there since 2005 when she became the first African-American professor to teach in the fashion school. Throughout her time working as an associate professor at Kent State, Ellington has taught fashion design classes. She is currently in the process of stepping down from teaching and looking forward to starting her new role as the full-time associate dean for the college of the arts in Spring 2020, where she will also be recognized as the first African-American dean in the history of the college.

Ellington said she is looking forward to the new administrative responsibilities she will assume while serving as the new associate dean but will also miss teaching and interacting with her students.

“This is my last semester teaching so it’s very bittersweet,” Ellington said. “I know I’m going to be crying because I’m going to miss my students so much.”

Prior to beginning her career as a Kent State professor, Ellington received her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in fashion design from Kent State and her Master’s of Arts degree in apparel and textile design from Michigan State University. Ellington also earned a Doctor of Philosophy in curriculum and instruction in 2011 from Kent State.

Ellington said being the first African-American to serve as an associate dean of the college of the arts allows her to use the opportunity to represent other women who want to forge their own distinguished careers. 

“It’s a deeper sentiment because I feel like I’m blazing a trail for other people coming behind me,” Ellington said.

Ellington said being the first African-American professor in the department has made it more difficult for her to overcome gender and racial barriers that had been in place long before she arrived at Kent State.

 “It was hard for me to get the position and when I got the position, there were instances where I didn’t feel very welcome,” Ellington said. “In the grand scheme of things, everything worked out exactly how it was supposed to work. I allow my work to speak for itself.”

Ellington has gone on to have a successful career where she created designs influenced by African culture and African American folklore that have been shown internationally during two exhibitions in Beijing, China, and had had her work featured in a solo show entitled RETOLD: African culture and fables reinterpreted into fashion Fall 2016.

Ellington said that while there is a growing contingent of women in fashion and similar industries achieving successful careers, there are still many obstacles women must overcome to gain equal recognition in the workplace as their male counterparts.

“It is still very gender biased,” Ellington said. “Women are still looked at as the workers and men are thought of as the thinkers. We have a lot of very creative, successful women who are designers. However, they don’t necessarily get the same recognition for their work as men. It’s very difficult for women, especially women of color, to break into those high roles and to get those positions.”

Ellington said there are many inspirational women who work in different roles all across Kent State who are serving as leading examples for young women to look up to and emulate.

“Academia overall is still very male-dominated,” Ellington said. “However, the women on this campus that have been able to rise into those administrative roles are very dynamic individuals and they deserve to be celebrated.”