New leadership expands Merch Inc.

New leadership expands Merch Inc.

New leadership expands Merch Inc.
September 23
00:24 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

Before opening the doors to student members, Merchandising Inc. officers discuss the meeting itinerary. One half of the schedule is filled with announcements and the other is divided into a set of activities. Although this is the way the organization’s meetings have always run, President Subrina Hossain is determined to shake things up.

With a new president and an updated constitution, Merchandising Inc. is constantly evolving. Founded in 1988, it has become one of the most recognized student organizations at UNT, hosting more than 100 members this semester alone. Students come from a variety of majors, including biology and business, with a common interest in fashion, home furnishing and retailing.

One of Merchandising Inc.’s main goals is to give members a learning experience that taps into each of their creative talents to prepare them for the real world.

“During my freshman year, I was one of those kids who sat in the corner. I wasn’t confident in my abilities to go into the fashion industry,” Hossain said. “Merchandising Inc. was what helped me get that confidence, so I feel it’s my mission to make sure that I’m able to help other students get that same kind of growth and development.”

The organization accomplishes this through involvement in industry events, attending trend seminars and participating in activities that give back to the community.

“Merchandising Inc. acts as the middleman between UNT students and the fashion industry, allowing us exclusive access into the industry itself,” fashion show producer and fashion merchandising sophomore Ashley Nudge said. “The organization has truly been instrumental in guiding not only myself, but also many of my peers, in the direction of our dreams.”

Making new opportunities

Merchandising Inc. hosts annual events where students have the opportunity to not only gain professional experience, but also interact with members who have similar career goals.

“Since this is my first year at UNT, I figured this would be the perfect way to meet friends that share the same passion for the fashion industry as I do,” member and fashion freshman Lindsey Lotze said.

Fashion merchandising students express this passion through the Spring Fashion Show, which is held on campus at the end of the academic year and showcases the talents of potential stylists and models at the university. Fall fashion shows are also organized, albeit irregularly, and are typically hosted in businesses around Denton, including last year’s event at Barefoot Athletics off the Square.

On the other hand, retailing students can practice the business side of merchandising through a sample sale held every semester at the Onstead Promenade. All proceeds go to study tour scholarships and supplies for other activities.

Students are also given volunteering opportunities through the Dallas nonprofit organization Attitudes and Attire, a group that helps style women for job interviews and meetings, and local philanthropic efforts at the Denton Animal Shelter.

“We aren’t one-dimensional,” Nudge said. “We have members who enjoy exploring many different aspects of the industry, so we try to present them with opportunities that allow them to sample many different career paths.”

On top of volunteering, Merchandising Inc. engages in job shadowing for members who are looking for hands-on experience with some of the industry’s biggest names. For this fall semester, Hossain and officers set up four job shadowing events that include visiting Dillard’s for visual merchandising students and Ethan Allen, the organization’s newest addition, for home furnishing students.

Another one of the Merchandising Inc.’s ventures is a monthly newsletter, NuView, which functions as a creative outlet for students with a concentration in journalism or public relations.

“The newsletter provides the members who are involved to either be writers, photographers or graphic designers – opportunities that are rarely given in our curriculum,” NuView creative director and fashion merchandising senior Elvyn Guevara said. “I was able to utilize my love for writing and styling skills with this platform.”

Merchandising Inc. is also known for its renowned guest speakers, including fashion model-turned-fashion show producer Jan Strimple and Susan Huston, one of the leading fashion experts in North Texas.

“I always joke around and say that we literally place opportunities in our members’ laps, but it’s true,” Nudge said. “We give them the chance to shake hands with top industry executives, encourage them to ask guests any questions they’d like and even advocate that they pursue internships with them.”

23_merch_web1

Officers of Merchandising Inc, before a meeting. The group helps College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism students network.

Taking it to the next level

Gathering her officers 30 minutes before Merchandising Inc.’s Monday meeting, Hossain prepares for another two hours discussing the organization’s next moves. Her plans for the meeting include a vote that will lead to the launch of an official Merchandising Inc. website and preparations for the upcoming fall sample sale.

Hossain said that she also hopes to introduce the addition of philanthropic activities, such as knitting for the children’s orphanage. She said this will allow members to get out of their comfort zones through community giving.

“She is a great role model,” Merchandising Inc. adviser Marissa Zorola said. “Subrina cares about the students, and she works hard to make certain they are benefitting from being a member.”

Serving as vice president last year, Hossain was faced with challenges that pushed her to solutions. After several meetings into the semester, she noticed that her role did not have any specific duties, only aiming to support the president when necessary. Hossain then appointed herself as Merchandising Inc.’s career adviser, initiating the newsletter and job shadowing opportunities to encourage diversity in the organization.

In addition to this, Hossain launched the #ILoveMerchInc campaign over the summer, effectively increasing member involvement on social media and at bimonthly meetings.

Her commitment to the organization also helped her introduce the “keep it, kill it or correct it” method. Officers decide whether they should pursue, eliminate or tweak a program or campaign to ensure that students are getting the most out of their membership.

“I’ve been telling them I don’t want them to do things just because it’s easy or because that’s what past officers have done,” Hossain said. “I really want to take it to a new level. We should always be trying to improve the organization.”

What’s next?

Hossain and officers are currently working on building the website and hope to set up an office where they can conduct their weekly meetings. One of their upcoming projects is centered on Merchandising Inc. alumni and their present careers. The campaign, called “Where Are They Now,” will showcase how the organization and the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism helped former students become leaders in their fields.

“We have a lot of successful students who came out of this program, and I want to show our current and future members that this is how we can help them,” Hossain said.

Another plan in motion is a spring mixer that will give merchandising faculty and students a chance to get to know one another in a less formal environment. Hossain said that interacting with professors is essential to understanding more about the industry in which students are hoping to work.

Another networking event Hossain is hoping to establish next semester is a round-table discussion where industry professionals are invited to Merchandising Inc. meetings for Q&A sessions. Members will be divided into smaller groups to encourage participation with the moderators and establish connections with other members they would otherwise not be able to meet due to the size of the organization.

With all these ideas in the works, Hossain proves that she is determined to carry Merchandising Inc. to new heights. Her leadership has given her opportunities to develop the organization, and she hopes that her successor will meet, or even exceed, the goals she had set in motion for Merchandising Inc.

“I just want to make sure that I can leave the organization in a really great place, on a high pedestal, so people continue to keep it that way,” Hossain said. “I feel like we’ve been here for so many years that we have a great reputation, and I don’t want anything to happen to that.”

Featured Image: Student members of Merchandising Inc. vote on the launch of its new website on Monday night in Curry Hall. The organization meets every other Monday in Curry 104 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Photos by Samantha McDonald – Staff Writer

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