Fashion looks to the future in new expansion plans at Rockwell Hall


Liquid crystal design student Tanya Lopatkina sews a jacket design that can convert into a bag for Fashion Tech Hackathon in Rockwell Hall Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. With little time for eating and sleeping, Fashion Tech Hackathon is a weekend long competition in which students from different schools team up as fashion designers and engineers to create wearable technology.

Laina Yost

Increasing enrollment in the Fashion School has brought a need for expansion at Rockwell Hall.

The Facilities Master Plan, which will be proposed to the Board of Trustees in March, plans to expand the building and add a design and innovation studio to front campus.

Fashion merchandising has seen consistent growth since 2009. The program had 378 graduates in the Spring 2017 commencement. The school has just over 1,800 students currently enrolled.

J.R. Campbell, the director of the Fashion School, said enrollment will start to level off, but the school’s reputation continues to strengthen. The program holds one of the top spots in the nation.

Campbell said the program has outgrown Rockwell Hall for about five years and expanded into Terrace Hall last fall in order to create more spaces for students. It also holds classes in the Schwartz Center, MACC Annex and the Center for Performing Arts.

“Right now, we can’t hold most of our freshmen-level required lecture courses in our own building because they’re just too large,” Campbell said.

In the proposed Master Plan, Rockwell would be given an expansion, possibly creating room for a 500-seat lecture hall that could also function as a fashion runway for shows.

Catherine Amoroso Leslie, the graduate studies coordinator at the Fashion School, said the program brings a sense of community, and the expansion would enhance it.

“Having all school operations in a single location would foster this community and further build the identity of fashion education at Kent State University,” Leslie said.

Terrace Hall would be torn down in the Master Plan, taking away the temporary spaces given to Rockwell last semester. That space would be made up for in the design and innovation building planned for front campus.

The two schools that have increasing enrollment — architecture and fashion — would be given more studio spaces in the new center proposed in the Master Plan.

Campbell said there is also a heavy demand for studio and learning environments. The design and innovation building would allow students to spend time in studios outside of class time, which Campbell said is difficult now with the full class schedule.

“An environment affects how we learn so I do believe having more space and newer technology could truly advance the program,” said Erin Miller, a junior fashion merchandising major.

Campbell called the proposal for the fashion building in the Master Plan a forward-thinking renovation.

“It’s not just that it’s meeting the existing needs for our students today, but we’re actually thinking about where it’ll go,” Campbell said.

The expansion to Rockwell is planned for Phase 1 of the Master Plan.

Campbell said the expansion would allow for more growth in the strength of the program while it continues to evolve in fashion.

“In fashion education, there’s been a lot of evolution in the last eight to 10 years,” Campbell said.  “We’re definitely sort of ahead of that curve, but there’s still a lot that we could be doing.”

Laina Yost is an administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]