On Teaching Fashion: From the Archives

Yesterday, I received news that the employer mandates for Obamacare have been delayed by one year.  These new healthcare laws have really changed how companies and schools are structuring their employees’ schedules.  Adjuncts at many colleges and universities have been greatly affected.  Most schools are on hiring freezes.  To accomodate growing student numbers, many professors are hired part-time.  Adjunct professors and instructors make up over 80% of the faculty pool at most American colleges.

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With the new guidlines for healthcare, schools have now capped how many classes part-time instructors may teach.  What does this mean?  First, schools will be hiring many instructors, but only allowing them to teach one or two classes.  Second, it means that finding a full-time position at a university or college is going to be even more difficult.  Adjuncts will have to work at many different schools to receive the same income, or work outside of acadamia.  With the deadline delayed by one year, adjuncts may be able to teach more classes.  Only time will tell.  Considering this news, this archive article on transitioning from adjunct to full-time professor is an interesting read:

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A new year calls for a new perspective.  This January marks my fourth year teaching fashion, and I’m always learning how to improve things in the classroom.  Teaching any subject can be challenging because so much of the preparation and delivery of content occurs in isolation from our peers.  Reaching out to other instructors is a great way to gain perspective.  One of my professional “New Year’s Resolutions” is to connect with other instructors more often.

This week, I was able to interview a colleague of mine, Allegra Ceci.  Allegra and I have a long-standing professional relationship.  Having collaborated on several projects with her, Allegra is someone I look to as a mentor and a friend.  She is disciplined, hardworking, knowledgeable, and very kind.  Allegra recently transitioned from teaching as an adjunct instructor to full-time status at Mercer County Community College.  I was eager to hear all about her experiences.  She was delighted to answer all of my questions and share her experience in this interview.

Mercer County Community College Fashion Design faculty member Allegra Ceci, in a class. Image courtesy of Michael Mancuso/The Times via NJ.com

Mercer County Community College Fashion Design faculty member Allegra Ceci, in a class. Image courtesy of Michael Mancuso/The Times via NJ.com

 

1) How long were you teaching as an adjunct and what else were you doing at this time? What were some of the challenges of juggling both of these jobs?
I taught as an adjunct for four years before becoming full time, which is not that long!  I worked part-time as a collection’s manager for Calvin Klein, and did some freelance wardrobe organization projects for private clients.  I also worked in food service, and on an organic farm.

Then, I started a fulltime position at Coach.  I continued to teach during this time, which was probably the biggest challenge.  I received lots of push back from them; they could not understand why I would want to teach if I had a “good” job.  My other employers were much more supportive, but I had to stay very organized and always be punctual. This was the other great challenge!

Allegra works with student Cory Flounoy on a design of his on a mannequin in a class. Image courtesy of Michael Mancuso/The Times via NJ.com

2) What is your current roll as a full time professor and where? Can you tell us about your experience transition from adjunct to full time professor?
My current role is Instructor of Fashion and Program Coordinator at Mercer County Community College. I teach full time, and also act as the program’s coordinator, which are more administrative duties. I am still transitioning, and adjusting to a challenging new role! The culture is very different in academia then it is in corporate, and the students add another dimension!

Student NyLea Rivers, right, seeks advice from instructor Allegra Ceci, standing at left, in a class. Image courtesy of Michael Mancuso/The Times via NJ.com

3) Bringing a new, full time professor onto the team often encourages innovation. What are some of the changes that happened in the program that you helped to create?
Innovation is the perfect word!  This program is part of a transformation in my community.  The program is housed in a newly (and custom designed for fashion!) building in downtown Trenton, which is a perfect place considering the cities and college’s history.  The college had the foresight to place the program in the Liberal Arts division, under Arts and Communication, which has allowed the students to experience fashion as artAnd, yes, our students took the initiative to start a fashion club, which will produce our first fashion show and work on local community service projects.

Student Pina Succi, left works putting one of her creations on a mannequin in a class. Image courtesy of Michael Mancuso/The Times via NJ.com

4) Can you give us any tips about transitioning from adjunct to full time professor?
Ah! Being flexible and brave is key. I try to let go of having control over anything but how I plan my classes!  A new role and new department will always have growing pains.  I try to not be intimidated by my amazing colleagues and admins, who have decades of experience and wisdom.  I try to be patient and forgiving of those who don’t see fashion as a viable career track or worthy of academic study, and try to share with them my inspiration.It has been the most challenging role I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding, so I’m inspired to keep working.

 

To read more about Allegra and the fashion program a Mercer County Community College, please visit this link.

Article originally was posted on January 4th, 2014

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