Stephanie Wojdyla

Fashion Marketing & Management

The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago

 Stephanie Wojdyla

It is my goal to prepare my students to be tomorrow’s future leaders in a career they love – not just for them to a get a job. Stephanie Wojdyla , Instructor , The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

It’s not one single moment, but more a situation. I was able to take my first high school job working in a women’s clothing store and turned it into a rewarding career. I would watch the visual merchandisers and ask questions, offer to help, always looking to learn more. With a bachelor’s degree in Merchandise Management, I completed several internships with companies like Neiman Marcus, and the Chicago Sun Times.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

Lectures, field trips, assignments, even social media lets us look at what professionals are doing in the industry nearly 24/7. Through my personal experiences and those of my peers, I’m able to show my students both the positive and negative realities of the industry, preparing them for the real world. It is my goal to prepare my students to be tomorrow’s future leaders in a career they love – not just for them to a get a job.

How do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their perceived limits?

I say “No” a lot. My students and I work together to review and improve their concepts. I give them the opportunity to turn in their assignment for initial critique/ grade. From that point we discuss options and they are pushed to not only improve it for a better grade, but for an overall better product.   

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Students always ask if they can work by themselves. The truth is you will never work by yourself in the industry. Today’s workforce is all about communication and collaboration. One of the best examples of collaboration on campus is the yearly fashion show. Together, fashion marketing students work with fashion design students to create and produce the event. They learn first-hand the steps to prepare for a fashion show and come to understand that an event of that magnitude is a team effort.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Always keep learning. The industry can change overnight, so it is important to keep up to date with changing business, retail, technology, and fashion trends. Read everything you can get your hands on from newspapers, trade journals, and books – information can come from places other than the internet.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Be humble and kind, be the person you want to work with…start at the bottom and learn everything that you can! You will become a better leader when you can relate to and understand what your employees are feeling when you have been in their place.

It is also important to give back and support people in their career journey. In my career, many people have contributed to my success. It’s important to me to give that same amount back. One of my favorite quotes is from Kent. M Keith, author of the Paradoxical Commandments, a booklet written in 1968 for student leaders. Cited around the world by the likes of business leaders to military commanders, and rock stars to religious leaders, the Paradoxical Commandments challenge the audience to do what is right, even when others won’t appreciate it, because your change may be that only lasting impact. So as you start your career be kind to those around you, learn from them and respect the experience. 

“The fact is that some of the foundations for your own success were laid by your predecessors. That was their gift to you. The way to return that gift is to pass it on – to work hard so that you have a gift to give to the next person who will fill your shoes.” 
 – Kent. M Keith

Anything else?

I have worked in the past with organizations including, Gap Inc., The Avenue, and M.J Carroll which have provided me a strong foundation in the retail industry. I have completed specialty projects with prestigious clients such as the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office, The Chicago Sun Times, Neiman Marcus, and Barnes & Noble Booksellers. These projects ranged from million-dollar national research projects to seasonal special events.