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K-State Today

October 10, 2012

Designing change: Apparel and textile researchers use challenge grant to transform curriculum, adding climate change initiatives

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Students pursuing careers in fiber, textiles and clothing will be better prepared for a future with a changing climate thanks to a grant to Kansas State University and partner institutions.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant program awarded $713,847 to Kansas State University researchers and colleagues to support intensive research regarding climate change education within the textile and apparel discipline.

"The goal is to increase scientific understanding of climate change as a functioning thread in the baccalaureate curriculum and to encourage the transformation of fiber, textiles and clothing education," said Melody LeHew, the project's director and associate professor of apparel and textiles at Kansas State University.

Joining LeHew from the university's department of apparel, textiles and interior design are Kim Hiller, assistant professor; and Barbara Anderson, department head and associate professor. Their collaborators include Cosette Armstrong, assistant professor of design, housing and merchandising at Oklahoma State University, and Gwendolyn Hustvedt, associate professor of fashion merchandising at Texas State University-San Marcos.

According to LeHew, goals of the three-year program include quickly integrating climate change and other environmental science competencies into fiber, textiles and clothing education by preparing faculty to teach effectively; preparing graduates to work in a field transformed toward sustainability; and increasing the number and diversity of students who pursue a postsecondary program in the field.

"The need to address climate change realities is being recognized in the fiber, textile and clothing industry, and organizations are rethinking production and distribution processes as well as product specifications," LeHew said. "Outcomes from this project will equip future fashion, textiles and clothing professionals with knowledge and skills necessary to transform the industry.

"We are excited about this opportunity and look forward to enhancing the foundational science education at Kansas State University and the partnering institutions. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide a platform for infusing sustainability science into apparel and textile programs nationally," she said.

This is not the first time LeHew, Hiller and Armstrong have delved into the idea. In 2011 they received a National Institute of Food and Agriculture Higher Education Challenge planning grant to host a three day multidisciplinary and multi-institutional conference where the initial project idea was expanded and enriched by including the perspective of natural science and climate change educators. LeHew said the experience and feedback from participants helped strengthen their subsequent 2012 grant proposal application.