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Monday, September 20, 2021

Amid plans to restructure, textiles and clothing department flourishes

UC Davis is famous for its large agricultural and animal science departments, but one of the lesser-known departments on campus is also one of California’s most unique.

With just five faculty members and approximately 100 students, the UC Davis Division of Textiles and Clothing (TXC) is one of only two such programs in the California public university system and the only program in the UC system.

Though it is a small program, it is significant in terms of the opportunities it provides to its students, said You-Lo Hsieh, department chair for the TXC program.

“California has the largest apparel and textile industry in the country, and our program is really one of a kind within the state,” she said.

Earlier in the school year, there was talk that the division may close as a result of budget cuts made to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, a decision that Hsieh said would be detrimental to the textile industry in the state.

“The United States is a leader in functional textiles, but other countries are starting to invest in this area a lot,” she said. “If California does not keep up, it will not take long for us to fall behind.”

The CAES College Planning Committee will submit their report on the department by Feb. 15. The dean will then make a decision on the future organization of the program.

Anne Dieu, a 1987 UCD graduate and TXC major said that programs like the one at Davis are essential to ensuring progression in the field of textiles.

“There is such a growth in the textile field in terms of technology and a lot of the big [textile] companies are based here [in the U.S.] because we have the money and the resources,” she said. “There are so many opportunities in the field right now, but we need the educated people to work for and run these companies.”

Dieu is currently working towards a master’s degree in apparel and textile manufacturing and marketing. She previously worked as an instructor in the fashion department at Sacramento City College and said she often steered her students towards the UC system.

“My education at Davis really prepared me for the paths I took after graduation whether it was working for a multimillion dollar company or starting my own business,” she said. “The [TXC] program at Davis is so superior to many private schools. There is no reason that the university should want to discourage it.”

Boasting both undergraduate and graduate level programs, the division offers undergraduate majors in TXC and in fiber and polymer science.

“The TXC major emphasizes the fibers and materials as a commodity and students can choose to focus on either TXC science or economics and marketing,” Hsieh said. “The fiber and polymer science major emphasizes material science and is a complement to the chemical engineering major here on campus.”

Depending on the emphasis they choose, TXC students take a wide variety of courses, which can include studies in chemistry, math, economics and engineering.

Many TXC students said that the program’s variety is what drew them to UC Davis over other well-known schools like the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), which has four schools in California.

“Schools like FIDM really don’t offer a well-rounded education,” said Ashley Carros, a senior TXC economics and marketing major and peer advisor for the division. “With those schools it is strictly fashion, you don’t get the marketing or science aspect. Davis gave me the chance to do it all.”

TXC majors can even prove useful for students who are not sure that fashion is their passion.

“I have a friend who is majoring in business at Pepperdine and the classes I take are very comparable to hers,” Carros said. “The TXC major is really one of the closer things we have to a business major on campus. I know that if one day I decide to leave fashion, my degree will have prepared me for a lot of other careers.”

Though the country’s economic troubles have resulted in a bleak job market, TXC majors shouldn’t have a lot of difficulty finding jobs, Hsieh said.

“Many of our students go on to work for big companies like Levi’s Jeans and Nike and use their science background to work on protective and high performance clothing,” she said. “In addition, our graduates are in high demand not only in the textile industry, but also in areas like pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.”

Carros said she isn’t worried about finding a job after graduation.

“Our major is really close and tight-knit so I know a lot of alumni, especially in the Bay Area, who would provide me with connections and information about job opportunities,” Carros said. “I also know that a lot of companies in the area look at UCD graduates first before FIDM.”

Junior TXC major and peer advisor Van Nguyen said that the division prepares its students for life after graduation by giving them work experience and keeping them in contact with professionals in the field.

“Our program maintains a website which we update weekly with internship opportunities and students are really encouraged to take advantage of them,” she said. “We also maintain really good communication with alumni – they come and speak in some of our classes and we invite them to a lot of our events.”

ERICA LEE can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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