OPINION: Fashion media major should be offered at Kent State


Courtesy of Rachel Chapuis

A spreadsheet shows classes one would take as a fashion media major, compared to the tracks for journalism majors and fashion merchandising majors.

Rachel Chapuis, Opinion Writer

I remember when I first toured Kent State University, specifically the College of Communication and Information and the School of Fashion. I was so excited and overwhelmed by the upcoming decision of which college I wanted to attend. I knew I wanted to study magazine journalism and work for a fashion or lifestyle magazine. I was aware of KSU’s great journalism program and fantastic fashion school. I also really wanted to study abroad, and KSU had a lot of opportunities.

During my tour of Franklin Hall, I spoke with CCI professors and asked questions about the journalism program. They were so welcoming and encouraged students to get involved, and I was so impressed with all the opportunities the college offered.

We went to the fashion school to tour Rockwell Hall and spoke with a panel of fashion students and faculty from the fashion school. I loved hearing about their Florence program and the opportunities with fashion clubs and the annual fashion show. They split us into several groups to tour the building.

We went to a fashion design classroom where they explained how rigorous the fashion design major is and the fashion school’s expectations. Parents asked questions about some of their concerns and then we moved on to a lecture classroom where I asked about the fashion media minor, which connected my love for fashion and journalism into one minor.

I asked if fashion media was offered as a major and they told me that it was only a minor. When I asked why and if there was any way I could make that my major, they mentioned the university had a “make your own major” major. I was instantly convinced I was going to KSU.

I thought, “Perfect, I’ll just make fashion media my major because I can make my own major.”

In the fall semester of 2020, I had no idea how to request the fashion media minor as my major with the “make your own major” they told me about. I started by researching the “Bachelor of Integrated Studies.”

According to the Kent State website, “The Bachelor of Integrative Studies Degree (BIS) is a College of Arts and Sciences non-major degree that provides freedom for the student who wishes to take a multidisciplinary, individualized approach to the design of a degree program while maintaining a focus on career and professional goals.”

The website goes on to say, “The structure of the BIS program allows the student to design their own degree and pursue a personally-selected research topic. This flexibility both enhances the career/education alignment and creates maximum scheduling flexibility. The degree can be completed online or in a hybrid fashion with some work done in a classroom and some via remote access.”

Reading this page on Kent State’s website made me feel like I was finally on the path I wanted to be on.

The path I thought would be best in my circumstance is the integrative studies – two minors path. This path allows students to earn their degree by completing the requirements for two minors. I thought it would work the best in my circumstance because the fashion media major has two “tracks”- the media track and the fashion track.

The media track is for students declared as a fashion merchandising major and the fashion track is made for students declared in a major in the School of Media and Journalism. The two tracks offer different classes.

If I put the two tracks together and took the classes required for both tracks, wouldn’t that make one major?

I was wrong. Instead, I was met with a lot of red tape from the administration. My proposal was rejected by the colleges, so I tried to pivot and change my major to fashion merchandising but the classes didn’t excite me and I wasn’t passionate about merchandising, so I decided to do journalism with a fashion media minor.

The fashion media minor requires students to take two classes that are only offered at the Kent State Fashion Studio in New York City. This requirement frustrates me for many reasons. Because I found this out halfway through my degree, my schedule was not able to fit this requirement in either the fall or spring semester, so I would have to fulfill this requirement in the summer semester. I would be paying additional money for tuition, food and housing, which is not provided by Kent State, but I can only take those two courses because all of the other classes offered at the NYC Studio are only offered to fashion students.

The requirement could be very educational and helpful for students’ future careers. However, I think there is an improvement to be made. I went to the pre-orientation for the program a few months ago and not once in the entire presentation did the director of the program mention fashion media minors. It wasn’t until I went up to her to ask her about one of the required classes that she acknowledged there are also fashion media minors in this program.

One of the required classes is a “study tour,” which is described on their website as “Guided site visits each week to domestic or foreign fashion markets, including design and fabric houses or showrooms, retail stores, buying offices and other areas of the fashion industry.”

Since there are two tracks to the minor, the fashion track that journalism students take is for students “to learn about the fashion publishing industry to better prepare them for work in this business,” so students should be taken to visit fashion publications and publishers and speak with stylists, photographers, writers, editors, etc. This is possible using the many Kent State alumni working in the fashion journalism industry.

I think there is a lot of room for improvement. There should be a better relationship between all the colleges, especially the School of Media and Journalism and the School of Fashion. Media and journalism have a strong relationship with fashion, and I think there should be flexibility and exceptions with courses that are only available to certain colleges.

Fashion media is the middle ground between fashion and journalism. My dream is to work for a fashion or lifestyle magazine and the fashion media minor including both tracks would put anyone looking for a degree in fashion journalism and media in the best position to pursue and succeed in that field.

Kent State would not have to create new courses or a curriculum from scratch. The fashion media major could consist of all courses from both tracks of the minor which would add up to 36 credit hours. In addition, the courses for the Kent Core requirement add up to 50 credits which would create a total of 86 credit hours.

The minimum required amount of credits to receive a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University is 120 credit hours; therefore, there are at least 34 additional credit hours needed in order to receive a fashion media bachelor’s degree. KSU could use those additional credit hours to create a solid foundation consisting of courses that instill essential information outside of just fashion media. For example, communication grammar review, editing, business of publishing, writing across platforms, etc. to create a well-rounded degree.

KSU would not be the first college to create a fashion/magazine journalism-focused major. Drake University in Iowa has a Magazine and Brand Journalism major which has required courses like media editing, brand media principles, magazine staff writing, web page design, magazine freelance writing and more. Syracuse University has a Magazine, News and Digital Journalism major which has three secondary tracks: magazine, news and digital with electives like beauty and fashion journalism, web and mobile story production and more. London College of Communication has a Magazine Journalism and Publishing degree with courses like essential journalism skills, art, design and production, the business of magazines, multiplatform magazine publishing and more.

College students want to study their passions, and for many students, that’s difficult to find. Creating more options and specific degrees could help with dropout rates, decrease stress and raise attendance rates. Offering degrees that have courses that truly interest and inspire students will ultimately increase student productivity and the desire to get involved with student activities like student media. The fashion media major could be the first step in creating a better college experience and more passionate students.

Rachel Chapuis is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].