From humble beginnings to a nationally recognized program, the Department of Apparel Merchandising & Management has come a long way in 25 years.
The department will celebrate its quarter-century anniversary. with a special “Silver Jubilee” event on Saturday, April 9, from noon to 2:30 p.m., at the Kellogg West Conference Center.
“We invite our alumni, current students, faculty, staff, and advisory board members to attend,” said Professor Muditha Senanayake, who has served as department chair since 2017. “We have quite a lot to celebrate, because we have accomplished so much in 25 years.”
The event follows the department open house, which will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. that day in Building 45 and where visitors can see the facilities and listen to various student presentations.
The apparel merchandising and management baccalaureate program was created in 1995 and saw the first 39 students enroll the following year. The program’s roots were found in the Department of Foods and Nutrition, which originally had a home economics program.
But that department began phasing out home economics during the early 1990s as high schools eliminated similar programs and enrollment declined.
“The traditional home economics positions at the utility and appliance companies disappeared as well,” recalled Professor Emerita Jean Gipe, who began teaching home economics at Cal Poly Pomona in 1975. “The general interest in home economics was replaced with specific interest in the fashion industry, interior design and product development at food companies.”
Gipe and Professor Emerita Betty Tracy left the foods and nutrition department to create the apparel merchandising and management program.
The program later became the Department of Apparel Merchandising & Management in 2001, with Tracy serving as the first department chair.
Since then, the program has grown to more than 430 undergraduate and graduate students and become one of the best textile and apparel programs in the United States.
Today, AMM offers undergraduates a baccalaureate with options in apparel production, fashion retailing, and textiles. In addition, they can take minors in fashion merchandising and footwear design and merchandising.
Graduate students can earn their master’s degree in international apparel management (IAM), which trains them to solve complex problems relating to global marketing, supply chain management and technological innovation.
AMM is one of only 13 programs nationwide to earn affiliate status with the American Apparel & Footwear Association, which represents more than 1,000 world-famous name brands, retailers, and manufacturers.
It has produced several students who were recipients of the prestigious YMA Fashion Scholarship.
“The keys to our success have been the compelling curriculum designed by the founders and then building a strong tenure-track and adjunct faculty team to take it to new heights,” said Professor Peter Kilduff, who served as department chair from 2006-17, succeeding Tracy and Gipe.
Closer to home, AMM students have aided their Cal Poly Pomona classmates by serving as interns at the Clothes Closet, an on-campus program that provides donated professional clothing to students who can’t afford it so they can attend job interviews, conferences, work, or career fairs. The Clothes Closet fulfills a mandatory internship requirement for the students.
The student interns manage inventory, provide student clients with styling sessions, and help promote and market the Clothes Closet program on social media.
The production and retail students run two micro businesses as their capstone experience by wholesale manufacturing or retail sourcing operations to sell their products on campus in their brick and motor, e-commerce or Bronco Bookstore venues.
Meanwhile, AMM faculty don’t limit themselves to teaching; they also engage in research.
For example, one faculty collaborated with civil engineering colleagues to earn a $241,000 USDA grant to explore low-cost solutions for treating wastewater used to clean and process wool. The grant also provides learn-by-doing research experiences for undergraduate students.
“We have much to be proud of,” Senanayake said. “And the future is very bright.”
If you have questions, please contact Senanayake at email@example.com.