Professor assists international community college system

Associate Professor John Jacob, back center, in Chennai.
Associate Professor John Jacob, back center, in Chennai.

A trip across the ocean led John Jacob, associate professor of design, to the southeastern side of India.

Jacob visited Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, from Nov. 12-20 to assist local community college professors with updating their fashion design curriculum. The community college system assisted by Jacob serves all of India and was started by the Jesuits through Loyola College in Chennai in 1999. The community college system accepts students who have at least a ninth-grade education. The fashion design program is a one-year certificate-based program that requires students to attend six days a week and prepares them for one of three different positions.

“There is a big emphasis on entrepreneurship because if a person can get two wedding contracts a month, they can support their family -  it covers everything,” Jacob said. “That’s really important and is equally important as industry training [in their program].”

The Indian Centre for research and Development of Community Education (IRCDCE) reached out to Jacob and Radford University as they were looking for a teaching-based American university to bolster their programming. The trip was sponsored by the United States Consulate in India.

The first step taken by Jacob involved breaking down components of their current curriculum.

We did a Post-it note exercise called ‘Rose, Bud, Thorn,’ which means Good, not so good and opportunities for improvement,” Jacob said. “We sorted through those and divided into four teams from the group of 30 people to tackle what they initially thought was important.”

The curriculum needed to focus on the broad goals of preparing students for one of three common career paths: export apparel, traditional dress and wedding work. Most men in Chennai dress in Western clothing, but the women usually wear traditional garments featuring intricate embroidery, something that Jacob took into account while updating the curriculum.

“We then identified the important components and broke those down into categories into student learning outcomes that could be applied across the curriculum,” Jacob said. “Instead of burrowing down into the individual classes, we looked at the curriculum as a whole and where the pieces fit together and where things are introduced, reinforced and assessed.”

Jacob is continuing to work with the community college to finalize the updates by requesting feedback from the teachers so that updates and changes are made in a teachable manner. Jacob and the ICRDCE are looking to continue the educational partnership.

Dec 14, 2017
Max Esterhuizen