As a fashion designer, entrepreneur and educator, I know the importance of learning by doing. Sometimes, the only way to learn a new design tool is to dive right in and start using it. But nothing beats the rich experiential learning that comes from industry and software experts teaming up to help educators prepare the next generation of creative thinkers and professionals.
That’s why I’m excited about the unique partnership between the University of Texas at Austin and Austin-based jewelry designer Kendra Scott—and the Autodesk technology and support that brings my students’ designs to life.
In spring 2020, I launched the Kendra Scott Accessory Design Course to give all students across campus and those minoring in Entrepreneurship a hands-on experiential learning opportunity that walks them through the steps of designing a jewelry collection. Teams of students from majors as varied as dance and geology collaborate with design students and are taught by faculty from the Textile and Apparel Program and Kendra Scott leaders. A series of projects leads students through research, design, product development and merchandising for a jewelry collection suitable for the Kendra Scott brand, targeting the Generation Z demographic.
The best part? Each semester, Kendra Scott employees and the general public vote on the students’ designs, selecting one to be produced and sold in the Austin-headquartered company’s stores. Proceeds go to support the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at UT-Austin.
While we wait to announce the winning design from this semester, you can watch students present their hard work and creative visions in the fall semester 2022 virtual exhibition.
This is experiential learning at its finest, with students working across job functions and expertise and using Autodesk , a powerful design-and-make tool used by industry professionals, to render a 3D model of their jewelry. Most students have never worked with computer-aided design (CAD) software before enrolling in my class. So, Autodesk’s Jared Vanscoder stepped in to teach them terminology and workflows and offer support. Vanscoder told me that students’ innovative designs tested his many years of experience.
“I began to learn alongside them,” he says. “After just a 90-minute workshop covering the basics, I was blown away by how far they had come. Not only had they embraced the power of the platform to design beautiful creations, but they had 3D printed full-scale mock-ups.”
Experiential learning instills in students career readiness and an entrepreneurial mindset. In fact, some of my students have gone on to work at Kendra Scott. They include Maddy Ailes, a 2022 graduate of the Textile and Apparel Program, whose team won the fall semester 2020 design competition. The team took our class topic of diversity, equity and inclusion and ran with it, designing a multi-functional pair of earrings that can be detached and worn separately as rings. Kendra Scott hired Ailes to work in product development after graduation.
“I grew up wearing Kendra Scott,” Ailes says. “My whole path to product development started with this course. The way the course is laid out—moving from consumer research to design, merchandising and marketing gave me a great understanding of real-world processes. I learned that you have to be able to communicate with people with different skills and backgrounds to be successful.”
Learning from professionals. Collaborating with a team. Getting hands-on experience with the tools and software used in industry. Developing the knowledge and skillsets that employers demand. Experiential learning offers all of this and more. And Ailes’ successful move from student to professional exemplifies what’s possible when we open young minds to new opportunities and build a school-to-career pipeline.
Read more about how we’re helping students discover their potential here.
- Generative AI can enhance equity of access and attainment - December 7, 2023
- The academic implications of AI in student writing - December 5, 2023
- New program aims to train more male educators of color - December 4, 2023