A degree in Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles (MAT) prepares students for a career in the textile industry, apparel manufacturing, wholesaling, and other areas of the retail business. But it also prepares students to work in the nonprofit sector, where a current graduate student helped a living history museum create a more cohesive look for its employees.

Laura Evans presenting uniform changesShaker Village of Pleasant Hill is a historical museum which encompasses 3,000 acres of preserved farmland, houses 34 restored buildings, and holds a museum collection that explains and describes the Shaker lifestyle, religion, and history. Shaker Village is in the process of re-defining themselves, shifting from a living history museum to a destination location, and wanted help with uniforms to make that transition visible to visitors. The administration of Shaker Village, which also houses a popular Inn, restaurant, and gift shops, decided they needed a more cohesive look to their uniforms and asked Professor Kimberly Miller-Spillman for help.

Miller-Spillman is an associate professor who teaches the History of Costume (MAT-533). During the 2009 spring semester, Laura Evans, a graduate student in MAT, was enrolled in Dr. Spillman's class. Evans’ class project was to recommend and present a uniform look for all front-line Shaker Village employees.

"This experience was a great one because it allowed me to gain industry experience in Kentucky, “said Evans. “I hope other students in the MAT department can gain similar experiences during their academic career. Without this project I would have never known about the Shaker Village and what they have to offer. "

Evans suggestions were well received by the administration of Shaker Village, and her initial work will lead to a class project in the fall in MAT-559 (Retail Entrepreneurship), taught by Professor Min-Young Lee. “I am excited about the real world application that this opportunity presents for our students,” said Miller-Spillman. “Perceptions of employees at locations similar to Shaker Village have more of an impact than we might think. A visitor may get the impression from an employee's appearance that could hurt their chances of a return visit or telling others to visit the same location.”

The Department of Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles prepares students for careers in the global retail industry. Graduates of this program find careers in which they apply the business and professional skills developed in the program. The major is designed for students who want to pursue careers in merchandising and retailing. For more information on MAT-533, contact Professor Miller-Spillman at kspill@uky.edu.