Julia Irene Szkiba

Fashion Instructor Julia Irene Szkiba

My students are passionate about their future, and I'm happy to be a part of the journey. Julia Irene Szkiba , Fashion Instructor , The Art Institute of California—Hollywood, a campus of Argosy University

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

I’d always loved fashion—working with textiles, drawing, and painting. I had a great high school art teacher who suggested fashion design. With his help, I pulled together a portfolio so I could get into a fashion program. It was a great "light bulb" moment. I gained some great experience during my internship with a children’s wear company, and from there was I able to work with some great firms, picking up more skills and experience, and here I am!

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

I try my best to give the students a real-world sense of the industry. I share how I started out, how I’ve worked to keep my skills and experience relevant. I’m able to give them a realistic view of the industry. It’s very competitive, and you have to be creative and also have a great sense of the business side.

How would you describe your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I go beyond using the textbook to create handouts, power points, etc. that relate more closely to what they’ll likely encounter on the job. I want them to think about where they’ll be when they’re done with school—while they’re still in school. I encourage them to look at their class assignments as potential portfolio pieces that could impress employers.

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

I think of the instructors who went above and beyond for me, and I try to do the same for my students.

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

Down the road they may work with someone with a different skill set, and what better place to learn to network than here on campus? In my Event & Fashion Show Production class, Fashion students work with students in Photography, Set Design, etc. It’s great to see them working in teams, as well as finding their own individual strengths.

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

I tell them not to get discouraged, to learn everything they can from instructors and classmates, and to network. I also tell them to be flexible and open to unexpected possibilities, using my own experience as an example. I got into this industry wanting to be a costume designer for films and TV, and I veered off into children’s wear. I’ve found I actually love this category.

Anything else you’d like to share?

My students are passionate about their future, and I’m happy to be a part of the journey.