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photo of studentUNCG’s Consumer, Apparel and Retail Studies (CARS) program is small, but mighty, according to Dr. Nancy Hodges, CARS Burlington Industries Professor and department head – and it’s been going strong for 100 years.

CARS kicked off its centennial year on Aug. 28 with a 100th birthday party for students and a panel discussion featuring alumni who landed careers at one of the biggest jeans makers in the world: VF Corporation. The Alumni Industry Speaker Series will take place monthly and highlight alumni who are working in a variety of apparel and textile-related positions across the country and abroad. The series is free and open to the public.

“The point of the speaker series is role modeling,” Hodges said. “To show students, this is what you can do with your career.”

The celebration continues Friday, Sept. 29, with a two-day research symposium at 10 a.m. in the Alumni House and a Gala Alumni Celebration at Revolution Mill Events Center in the evening.

At the symposium, a panel of invited CARS PhD alumni will discuss the future of higher education in apparel and textiles, alongside 30 peer-reviewed research presentations given by current students and alumni of the CARS PhD program. As part of the centennial, the CARS doctoral program is celebrating a 50-year history as one of the earliest PhD programs established at UNCG.

The gala includes dinner, silent auction and a fashion show featuring designs by current students, faculty, and alumni.

The fashion show features designs inspired by 10 decades of history of the program and will be salon-style, Hodges said, with professional models walking around the tables of guests rather than a runway. The 25 styles were chosen by faculty out of 45 submissions.

CARS is one of the oldest academic programs on campus and consistently ranks among the nation’s top fashion programs. In 2017, CARS was No. 4 in Fashion-Schools.org’s Top 10 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in the South.

Hodges said many of the program’s students seek out UNCG for CARS.

“Most of our students have been interested in a career in fashion since junior high,” Hodges said.

The clothing and textiles program at UNCG was officially named the Department of Clothing and Textiles and Housing in 1917. Later the department changed to a simpler designation, Clothing and Textiles, until the early 1990s, when it became the Department of Textile Products Design and Marketing. The department name was changed to Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies in 2005 and has been a part of the Bryan School of Business & Economics since 2011.

Now, with just eight faculty, CARS offers bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. This fall, the program enrolled 300 students across the three program levels. The BS and MS programs produce graduates who understand designing, manufacturing, marketing, and retailing fashion and apparel-related products. PhD graduates go on to hold faculty positions in similar programs at universities all over the country.

All undergraduate students complete an internship to gain hands-on professional experience in the industry. Close partnerships with industry leaders through the CARS Industry Advisory Board allow students to snag internships from North Carolina to New York with brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Saks, Inc., Belk Stores, JC Penney and VF Corporation (The North Face, Wrangler, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica). CARS majors also have a chance to interact with industry professionals through the Internship Poster Competition and the annual CARS Industry Summit.

The student-run THREADS gives CARS students an opportunity for leadership through organizing guest speakers and field trips. The organization also produces an annual fashion show showcasing student design work and a retailing case study competition.

“This year, we are pulling out all the stops to celebrate the CARS department’s legacy as an integral part of UNCG’s history,” said Hodges. “We are proud of the accomplishments of our department and alumni over the past 100 years, and we look forward to an even more impactful future.”

To learn more about the CARS Centennial, upcoming events and how you can participate, visit bryan.uncg.edu/cars/centennial.

By Elizabeth L. Harrison

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