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High school senior Piper Ingram knew where she would go to college and what she would study, until she attended Project Design summer camp at Auburn University and learned about career opportunities in interior design, apparel design and apparel merchandising.
"I've always been interested in design, but I wasn't sure what field and so I was like, if I go to this camp, maybe it will help me figure it out and it really did," explained the senior from Beulah, Ala. "I wanted to do interior (design) and then when I got here, I was like no, I've got to do apparel (design)."
This summer marked only the second year rising freshmen through senior high school students from across the country have had the chance to visit the Plains for a weeklong experience with the Department of Consumer Affairs in the College of Human Sciences.
"We exposed them to all kinds of hands-on opportunities with respect to interior design, apparel design and apparel merchandising," said department head Carol Warfield. "… We tried to give them a lot of content in a way that was fun and they would learn."
For Ingram, the camp confirmed her feelings for Auburn, changed her major and broadened her horizons.
"I learned a lot about everything (they offer)," she said. "I didn't even know what sustainability and corporate responsibility was and it turned out to be my favorite class in the entire camp."
Erin Maher, a senior from Nashville, Tenn., said the camp was a fun-filled week with exercises in areas such as draping, textile design, interior design, window displays and body scanning.
Maher said she wants to be able to pick a college in the next year that best meets her many interests which include interior design, fashion design, fashion merchandising and fashion journalism. She said Auburn is a definite possibility not because her parents are alumni and her brother is a student, but rather because she now knows more about what the Department of Consumer Affairs has to offer.
If she opts to study interior design, she'll likely come to the Plains. Auburn's interior design program is number one in the country, according to DesignIntelligence magazine.
"Why not go to the best for what you love to do," she said.
Montanna Mungal, a senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., may be strongly considering New York University, but Auburn's appeal increased when she learned more about it, especially its top ranking. The ranking is for the interior design program only and she favors apparel merchandising, but Warfield explained that although there isn't a comparable national ranking for apparel programs, peer institutions see Auburn's apparel program as top level, particularly because it requires its students to get a foundation in the whole supply chain.
"They (our students) are often viewed as more valuable members of a team because they can understand the role that the designer plays even if they themselves are working in the merchandising area or vice versa because it is a team effort," she said.
Mungal is interested in apparel merchandising because she has a background in it as a store manager of a local boutique, but she attended camp to experience other aspects of design. She said it was also helpful to meet and get to know the Auburn faculty.
"I know where I belong and being here kind of just confirmed it," she said.
Project Design 2011 had a similar effect on some of its participants. Although mostly underclassmen attended last year, Warfield said three of last year's five seniors have enrolled in Auburn's College of Human Sciences for this fall, with two headed into the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Since the majority of the 26 students who attend this year were high school seniors, Warfield said she believes "several from this camp will be here (at Auburn) next year." On the last day of camp, she said she learned that a student from Birmingham and a student from Tampa, Fla., plan to join the department in the fall of 2013 – and be roommates.
"We're helping them to build friendships, expand relationships, and hopefully develop a better idea of where their passions are," she said.
Mungal said she would recommend the camp, "if you're looking for a future in design, merchandising or anywhere in the whole field, this is definitely the place to go."
Last Updated: Aug. 13, 2012