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Q&A with a merchandising major

Maria Davenport at graduation 2014

Meet Maria Davenport, winner of the 2014 Outstanding Design Student Award.

1. Where are you from originally?

A. I’m originally from Virginia Beach

2. As a merchandising major, what's the most valuable element you have learned so far?

A. As a merchandising major, the most valuable element I believe we have learned is about the design process; learning how to gather information required for a certain project, evaluating all of your ideas, figuring out the most successful one and then actually rendering, drawing or designing your idea. After that, being able to step back and observe the things you've done positively and the things you can grow from in the future.

3. What would you say has been the most challenging aspect of you major?

A. One of the most challenging aspects of this major, more so in the beginning, was having such a wonderful idea in your head and then not being able to execute it exactly how it seemed in your mind. It is frustrating at first as a freshman, but through the four years, you learn to evaluate if your ideas really are going to be executed the way you think. It doesn't always work out, but it is a learning process.

4. What made you want to get an entrepreneurship minor in addition to your marketing minor?

A. Through the fashion merchandising major, there are classes that overlap and double dip into certain minors. For my entrepreneurship minor, I had to write a petition, and then only take an additional four classes. Since I've had the wonderful experiences of study abroad, I was ahead in my credits.

I don't really know 100 percent what path I want to take with my major, because there are so many different directions. I really thought about it, and felt that adding this minor could help lead me into a direction of understanding businesses, not only retail businesses, and that it would help me in my future. I am also really into taking every positive opportunity that is presented, if possible. So I did and I'll be returning to Radford for one final semester to complete my minor.

5. You mentioned that you had to produce a fashion show this semester for a class. What was the most exciting part of that experience?

A. The Spring Fashion Fete was really interesting to produce since I've never done anything along those lines. Our class was divided up into different tasks groups to get everything done most efficiently. I, along with two other girls, was in-charge of finding the models and making sure that they could walk confidently and safely in their high heels. Other classmates were responsible for the stage setup, the programming and seating of guests, the music, the lighting, and everything you could possibly think of. As a whole, we all had to work quickly and on our toes back stage making sure everything went smoothly.

The most exciting part about this fashion show was, hands down, the talent that was coming from our department. Because most of the fashion students work downstairs in McGuffey Hall, the merchandising students never really get to see the amazing work that is being created until the fashion show. I have attended Radford fashion shows in the past, but the pieces this year were absolutely incredible.

6. What was the most challenging part of producing the fashion show?

A. There are always bumps in the road when it comes to fashion shows, especially when there are awards being given out. As the senior merchandising students were working on the show, we too did not know what pieces were getting awards because they wanted it to be a secret. Our teachers worked closely with us, helping switch around models during the show so each award-winning piece had a model. While at the time it seemed like a huge bump in the road, it went very smoothly.

7. You had the opportunity to do an internship in Florida. What did your internship entail?

A. My internship was in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It was at a small boutique near the cruise ship port, but also in a large shopping center for locals. I learned a great deal on the importance of never treating one customer better than another. This idea seems very obvious, but you'd be very surprised even the slight differences in tone of voice, services offered, etc., between customers can turn someone away. South Florida is a much more fast paced place than Virginia Beach. The turn over rate for the boutique was incredible. We would get anywhere between 70-120 new styles in every single week. I really did love it down there, and the amazing internship opportunity I had opened my eyes to potentially moving down there one day.

8. What would you say was the most valuable knowledge that you learned from your internship experience?

A. The most valuable thing I learned from my internship was listening to customers. Although it may never be obvious, they will hint at you or even sometimes tell you what they want you to carry. Since it is such a fast turnover on merchandise in that boutique in particular, what customers say has such a very high value.

9. What would you say is your greatest strength?

A. I always hate this question because I find it so funny to talk about myself like this. Personally, I think that my greatest strength would be putting my whole heart into things. If I am asked to do something, I'm not going to beat around the bush and do a sub-par job. I will try my hardest and do the best that I can, and sometimes if what I do is not right, then I will learn from it.

10. Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

A. In five years, I don't necessarily have a set company or a set position that I hope to work for. At this point, I would like to work toward some type of buying job or being a representative for fashion brands. I love working with people and hearing their feedback on things, so I believe that these two paths would be a good fit. While getting your career jobs right out of college does not happen as often as it once did, I hope to be somewhere close to it after five years. Whatever the job is that I will be doing, I want to go to work loving what I do.

May 15, 2014
Sabrina Anderson

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