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MSU alumnus shares fashion career path
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A passion for fashion led a Mississippi State University alumna back to campus to share her career path with students in the apparel, textiles and merchandising program.
Robin Cox, a 1998 MSU graduate and corporate merchandise planner for national retailer J.C. Penney Co., now known as jcpenney, spent a day talking with students and faculty as part of the Senior Showcase. This event celebrated 2012 graduates and the design work they completed while in MSU’s School of Human Sciences.
Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising instructor Charles Freeman applied for an MSU/ESPN grant to fund the event, but he said students did all of the work to plan and organize it.
In 2010, ESPN began giving funds to MSU for televising football games, which the athletic department shared among the colleges. Freeman said the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences set aside the funds to help student organizations defray the costs associated with attending professional conferences and other professional development opportunities.
“Students involved in ATM programs in fashion cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, are in constant contact with industry professionals,” Freeman said. “It is important for our students to have similar exposure to help them stay competitive and up-to-date on the ever-changing fashion industry.
“I wanted to bring an industry expert to campus, and my colleagues have kept up with what our students have been doing with their careers. Robin was the first graduate to come to mind. She has had the time and experience to give students perspective on the different careers available in this major,” he said.
Cox said when she was a senior at MSU, she wanted to be a buyer, but now she uses her analytical skills in the financial side of the fashion industry.
“As the corporate merchandise planner, I basically keep the checkbook for the buyer,” she said. “I help forecast sales, plan markdowns and serve as the buyer’s financial partner. I work with the buyer for jcpenney modern casual brands for petites and women.”
The ATM program has changed since Cox graduated.
“It’s special to be invited to come back and see how much the program has grown over the years. The students asked me what my specialization was, and I had to tell them we had only one: merchandising,” she said.
Seniors shared both their design displays and their dreams for the future with Cox.
Rylee Tomlinson, a senior from Starkville, said she enjoyed learning new skills, such as embroidery, in her degree program but also learned to value other aspects of the fashion world.
“I want to use my organizational skills to produce fashion shows,” she said. “I like to see all of the details of a project come together.”
Justin Phelps, a senior from Madison, wants to move to Dallas, the city Cox now calls home.
“I’m looking for an internship with a designer,” he said. “I want to have my own label and be the next Chanel. As a kid I drew dresses, not stick figures.”
Cox gave the students practical advice.
“Enjoy college while you’re here. Get as much industry experience as you can,” she said. “You are your own advocate -- you must sell yourself to that future company if you want them to hire you or offer you an internship.”