Jennifer Johnson Jorgensen - Excellence in Teaching
It takes passion to stay on mission
Working in the fashion merchandising industry is no walk in the park. It demands knowledge, creativity, energy, long hours and persistence. Because she worked in the industry for many years, Jennifer Johnson Jorgensen knows the expectations. As an assistant professor in Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design, she has developed the right mix of passion, reality, innovation and understanding to prepare her students for the rigors of a career in fashion merchandising.
The industry is more challenging every day. Students need to bring their ‘A’ game everyday. They don’t get an off day in the industry. They have to do their best every single day, because these are not easy jobs.
Modeling the correct attitude with students is Jorgensen’s way of instilling values that will help students be successful when they enter the world of work. She has a passion for the industry and for her role of teaching her students the merchandising profession.
“Being passionate about teaching is key,” Jorgensen says. “I love what I teach and I go at it with a positive attitude. Students pick up on that enthusiasm, and they get excited about the subject as well.”
That’s important, says Jorgensen, because “In this business, you have to love what you do or you won’t survive.”
Expectations are high for Jorgensen’s students, and she continues to raise the bar each year. She wonders when students will hit a wall, but so far, they have met or exceeded her expectations each school year.
Considering many of her students are working full-time and going to school full-time, it’s remarkable that they continue to achieve at high levels. Students are pressed for time, and they tell Jorgensen that they’d like to devote more time to their coursework. Somehow, they find the resilience to keep hitting the mark. It’s a trait that will serve them well as they find jobs in the industry.
“I’m always impressed by that,” said Jorgensen. “The industry is changing all the time and they need to be on top of it. Continually raising the bar is just training them for what they will encounter.”
Staying on top of industry trends is important for Jorgensen, too. Innovation is part of the mix that keeps her students sharp and engaged. They love being exposed to the technology that Jorgensen makes an important part of her classes. From virtual reality “mock shops” to product life cycle management systems, Jorgensen’s students are hands-on with the innovation that they will find in their careers.
I really tap into my network in the industry,” says Jorgensen. “I talk to them a lot about what they see happening in the future, the research that their companies are doing, and I try to get their insights into what they’re finding in the field.
She also takes her students to “The Big Show,” the annual conference of the National Retail Federation. Jorgensen and her students talk to company presidents and CEOs and vice presidents of marketing. The networking and sharing are invaluable. A collaboration with Target each year brings educators across the country to company headquarters in Minneapolis for an exchange that communicates both Target’s industry challenges and the needs of educators, as they prepare students to meet those challenges.
Like the industry’s demands on its professionals, Jorgensen’s classes are no walk in the park. But through Jorgensen’s passion to prepare her students for the realities of a fashion merchandising career and her students’ persistence in meeting expectations, they’ll still get their day in the sun.
“I’m honored that my students enjoy learning from me,” Jorgensen shared. “But I learn from them, too. They’re always showing me new things from social media and that
piques my interest. I’ll then research it and bring that new knowledge back to the classroom.”