LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 22, 2019) — In the more than 10 years since its inception, the UK Plaid Project continues to morph and evolve, and University of Kentucky students continue to play an integral role in it.
A new vendor partnership with Lexington-based Henry Dry Goods has taken the project to a new level with internships and part-time employment for UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment students majoring in merchandising, apparel and textiles.
The connection began when UK Associate Professor Scarlett Wesley’s senior-level Merchandising Strategy Analysis class worked on a semester-long project that was unrelated to the UK Plaid Project for the company. At the same time, Sherri Henry Wolf, owner of Henry Dry Goods, maker of small-batch handbags, was working with the UK Plaid Advisory Committee on developing UK Plaid products.
After meeting Wolf at the company's headquarters in Lexington, several students in the class pursued internship possibilities with her. This past fall, she took on three to work on various aspects of her UK Plaid product line. Henry Dry Goods released its first UK Plaid products this winter, which gave the interns valuable experience being on the ground floor of the product launch.
Megan Stevenson, a senior from Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the interns. She hopes to one day be a buyer or stylist and eventually own her own business.
“This is not an experience that you get anywhere else,” she said. “Most internships are like a sales associate-type job, but here you get to see everything from the idea to the design. You get to give your input, give changes and see the whole process through selling it to the customer.”
For Emily Stugan, a senior from Somerset, Kentucky, her internship has morphed into a part-time position at Henry Dry Goods as its social media coordinator. She is now thinking of social media as a potential career path. The internship has given her significant experience.
“I’m looking firsthand at the social media, production, branding, design, finances and logistics sides of here. How many other students get to sit down every day with the CEO and designer and talk about what she wants to do with her brand and bounce ideas off her? It’s more than I ever thought I would get to do in a college internship,” she said.
For Wolf, the interns have brought fresh ideas to the business.
“When you design and have a business, it’s amazing the energy you need to keep going and bringing in new ideas. They have brought that to the table for us,” Wolf said. “They have helped us with open houses. They have helped us with feedback on the design and the things they would like to see in a bag as a college student. It’s been a win-win for all of us.”
Internships are required for all merchandising, apparel and textile students before they graduate. The internship with Henry Dry Goods was a great opportunity for students to get experience they would not typically receive locally.
“It’s not very common that students have the opportunity to experience product development in an internship setting in Lexington,” said Wesley, a faculty member of Department of Retailing and Tourism Management. “That’s more common when you go to the bigger cities like New York or Chicago. We’re thrilled to be working with them and excited about the opportunities that our future students are going to have.”
Both parties plan to continue the partnership.
“It’s been great having them here,” Wolf said. “They developed the list of stores to call, and we’re going to get them in on calling stores and getting the products out there. I would love to eventually have trunk shows with the plaid and bring the interns.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,” and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.