Italy's fashion world beckons Seton Hill student
A 2010 Greater Latrobe Senior High School graduate is getting a firsthand look at the center of the fashion world this spring.
Michelle Dickson, 20, who studies business at Seton Hill University in Greensburg with concentrations in marketing and human resources, will travel to Italy for an internship.
“I liked the creative side of fashion, but I feel that I work better on the business side,” she said.
After winning a design contest, Dickson was selected to participate in Teen Vogue Fashion University, in addition to a summer internship with a design firm and work as volunteer at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.
“I really didn't expect it. I knew there were goals I wanted to achieve, but I didn't expect (the opportunities) to go as well as they have,” she said.
Beginning today, Dickson is going to Florence to take classes through London-based Richmond University through May.
“She's very focused and very self-motivated,” said Dr. Catherine Giunta, Dickson's adviser. “She really has a strong sense of what she would like her career to look like in the future.”
Last autumn, Dickson entered a public relations challenge in which she had to submit an idea online for a client from Ketchum, the firm sponsoring the contest.
Dickson's idea for retailer Ikea to attract new customers — offering a special discount for customers who bring friends — won her a desk lamp and accolades.
“That was pretty much the first real hands-on experience I got,” she said.
Following that, she applied for an internship with DC Design International in New York City, in which she saw how each department worked.
“Even though I was more business-focused, I was able to see the creative process,” Dickson said.
During her last week as an intern, she applied to volunteer for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in September.
Chosen to help prepare for different shows from designers such as Rebecca Minkoff and Jill Stuart, Dickson said she could feel the energy and adrenaline from the crowd excited to see new designs.
“It was pretty crazy, everyone running around,” she said of her first fashion show.
Her mother, Joanne Dickson, said she's glad Seton Hill University has allowed her daughter such opportunities.
“She just excelled there. I think it was the right fit for her, and she's just embraced it,” Joanne Dickson said.
The university encourages merging practical and academic pursuits, said Giunta, a professor of business who has taught Michelle Dickson in marketing and human resources classes.
“It's a perfect blending of her marketing curriculum with her interests,” Giunta said, adding that alumni speakers visit classrooms and students are able to participate in online marketing simulations.
Dickson returned to New York City for Teen Vogue Fashion University, a weekend program at Teen Vogue's offices, including classes led by fashion designers.
“They gave us a lot of advice,” Dickson said. “I am always interested to see how people made it to where they are, so that was really neat to see.”
The student said so far she has learned that the fashion industry is less cut-throat than it is portrayed, such as in the 2006 movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“At the end of the day, if you treat people with respect and have a strong work ethic, that's what helps you get ahead,” Dickson said.
Her mother said she and her husband, Michael, and 18-year-old son, John, will miss Michelle while she's across the Atlantic Ocean, but they're learning to video chat.
Joanne Dickson knows this trip will lend to even more opportunities as her daughter finishes college and begins her professional career.
“She's very mature, and she has a good head on her shoulders,” she said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-836-6660.