Graduating ASU senior to launch sustainable fashion brand

April 27, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Her study abroad session may have been cut short due to the pandemic, but Macey Sierka will never forget the four weeks she spent in Paris and how it further fueled her passion to start her own clothing business upon graduation. Download Full Image

Sierka will graduate this May with a degree in supply chain management from the W. P. Carey School of Business with a minor in fashion from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

During her study abroad experience, she took a course called “Business and Fashion in France” where she learned about the business aspect of the fashion industry from the perspective of luxury fashion brands. She gained several perspectives about fashion from her professors who were knowledgeable in areas including design, marketing and forecasting.

“I have always loved clothes, but really fell in love with the industry after this course,” said Sierka. “I spent countless hours window shopping and visiting fashion museums in Paris to try and absorb as much knowledge and inspiration as possible. To be able to learn about the industry in one of the world’s fashion capitals was a dream, and it made me realize what I wanted to pursue as a career.”

When applying to colleges, the Chandler, Arizona, native focused heavily on applying to schools in California as it had been a dream of hers to live there. However, once she began comparing large public universities and smaller private schools, she realized ASU had it all.

“What I loved about ASU was that I could experience all of the opportunities that came with attending a large public research university, but still have a smaller community to call home with Barrett, The Honors College,” said Sierka.

In addition to finding her community, she appreciated ASU’s charter and authentic commitment to diversity.

“During high school, I attended so many information sessions and tours of colleges that claimed they valued diversity, but had acceptance rates in the single digits,” said Sierka.  “Many of these schools admitted that they were able to hand-select students in a way which they felt would make them look ‘most diverse.’  What I have always loved about ASU, especially as I have been able to meet such incredible people throughout my college career, is that the university accepts each student for who they are – no one is excluded. To me, that is true diversity.”

Sierka started at W. P. Carey as a business entrepreneurship major envisioning that would give her holistic business knowledge. However, after her first course, she found it wasn’t exactly what she was expecting. In January 2020, she changed her major to supply chain management as it is a highly ranked program.

“I not only ended up loving all of my courses, but was able to study something that is more relevant than ever,” said Sierka. “It has been so exciting to discuss the timely supply chain news with my professors who can provide such valuable insight on the topic.”

Sierka acknowledges that she has been fortunate to have many amazing professors throughout her time at ASU, but one course she will not forget was her first supply chain course taught by Professor Craig Carter.

“Prior to his course, I admittedly thought of sustainability to be the antithesis of capitalism,” Sierka said. “I always believed efforts to protect people and the planet to be at the sake of profit. His expertise in sustainability and the concept of the triple bottom lineThat is, focusing not just on financial performance but on social and environmental impact as well. completely changed my perspective, and made me realize that firms can actually improve their profitability by acting ethically.”

Sierka spent a lot of time developing her thesis for Barrett, The Honors College, where she wrote a business plan for her sustainable and luxury pajama and loungewear brand. The inspiration for her thesis stemmed from Carter’s lesson on sustainability. She plans to make the concept of the triple bottom line a focus in building her sustainable business.

As she begins taking this next step to launching her brand, she looks back at her time at ASU and believes she would not be prepared for this next venture if it weren’t for her experiences learning about business and fashion and the people she met.

“Starting a business can be scary, but all of the professors I have worked with on my business plan, particularly professors Katy Keane and Cindie Blackmer, have encouraged me to follow my dream,” said Sierka. “I feel so proud to be graduating from a university which values entrepreneurship and has encouraged me to pursue my passion, despite my postgraduate plans being somewhat unique.”

In her time at ASU, Sierka received the New American University Scholar – President’s Award, Steve Brabec Scholarship, William Feldhorn Family Scholarship and the Study Abroad Office Scholarship.

Morgan Harrison

Vice President, ASU Alumni Association


3 ASU faculty members awarded course redesign grants

April 27, 2022

Earlier this semester, three School of International Letters and Cultures faculty members at Arizona State University were selected as winners of the school’s course redesign grant competition. They were each provided with funding to update the curriculum of an existing course to give it a new focus.

Spanish Instructor Sean McKinnon, one of the three recipients, is currently teaching the revised version of SPA 194: Language in the U.S. The course examines why only about 20% of the United States population is bilingual despite it being a nation of immigrants and Indigenous peoples. McKinnon said he plans to revise the course again over the summer based on student feedback before teaching it again in fall 2022.  Illustration of hands holding speech balloons that say "hello" in several languages. Download Full Image

“I am enjoying teaching this general education course because I get to teach students to think critically about language and how it’s used in society,” he said.  

McKinnon's proposal was to reframe the course around social justice and equity issues through critical perspectives. He used the pedagogical framework of critical language awareness to teach students about how language is embedded in social meaning and power dynamics. Some of their assignments include examining social media posts for their messages about language ideology. Students get to create a meme or TikTok video demonstrating what they have learned; McKinnon said this helps teach students that linguistic messages are present in their everyday lives.

“I think it is important for educators to think critically about what they’re teaching, how they’re teaching it and why, especially since ASU is known for being a center of innovation,” McKinnon said. “I’ve found that revamping my courses around social justice/equity issues has increased student engagement and enrollment, which hasn’t surprised me, since Gen ZGeneration Z (or Gen Z for short), colloquially also known as zoomers, is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years. Most members of Generation Z are children of Generation X. is so in tune with social justice and equity issues.” 

Portrait of ASU German Lecturer .

Sara Lee

German Lecturer Sara Lee had a similar social justice-minded approach to updating her class, GER 494: Language and Disability. The course already engaged deeply with social justice and equity topics, so the redesign enabled Lee to add more opportunities for students to participate in community outreach, learn about career and internship options in the field, and complete projects applying their knowledge to real-life situations. 

For example, students will develop material for after-school language classes that focus on the needs of learners with disabilities. Barrett, The Honors College students will be encouraged to complete an honors enrichment contract diving deeper into the course material, or even consider focusing their honors thesis on disabilities, inclusion and equity in different cultures. 

Spanish Lecturer Dulce Estévez was one of five members of the award committee tasked with selecting which faculty members’ proposals should receive the funding to support their curriculum redesign projects. 

"We were especially interested in courses that aimed at connecting students to their local community and challenged them to complete projects that enhanced their portfolios for their professional careers or future academic pursuits,” Estévez said. “Updating course content and adjusting course objectives to align with evolving students' interests and the job market requirements is essential.”

Portrait of ASU Senior Lecturer in Italian .

Enrico Minardi

Senior Lecturer in Italian Enrico Minardi was the final recipient of the course redesign grants. His class, ITA 319: Italian for the Professions, will be taught in fall 2022 with newly added career-specific material and assignments. Minardi said that while many of the assignments and readings of the previous version of the course have been kept, “this class represents a profound revisitation and reworking of Italian for the Professions as it used to be.” 

Reflecting a broader trend across the school, the revamped course will focus on sustainability and how this concept affects the economy and Italian job market.  

“It is the most popular economic sector among youth nowadays,” Minardi explained. “Italy is one of the leading countries in the sector, having started working on environmental protection legislation by the end of the 70s and 80s as the early implementation of recycling and the victory at the referendum to abolish nuclear energy in 1987 show.” 

Students will receive training in the differences between Italian and U.S. business etiquette, the most important trends of the Italian economy, how to build a resume and apply for jobs, how to be successful in a job interview and how to apply for a work visa.  

Their semester-long project will be an analysis – from the standpoint of sustainability – of socioeconomic organizations in Italy. They will prepare a multimedia exhibit documenting their findings that will be open to the public on campus and could be presented to other students or community members. 

Portrait of ASU Spanish Instructor .

Sean McKinnon

For each of these three updated classes, students will be learning not just their course subject matter, but also how to apply it in the personal and professional worlds they hope to inhabit after graduation. McKinnon said he wants students to take what they learn and use it beyond the classroom. 

“For my bilingual students, I hope that the class teaches them how to linguistically advocate for themselves and for their community, as well providing them with ideas and strategies for how to pass down their language to the next generation, if they decide to have children,” he said. 

“And for my monolingual English students, I hope that they become better linguistic allies for bilinguals in the U.S. and also consider becoming bilingual themselves. … Knowing two languages promotes better cognitive flexibility, delays the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and exposes you to new cultures and ways of being/thinking.” 

This is in line with the principles that Estévez and the other members of the award committee were guided by as they reviewed applications for the funding. The school's mission is to prepare ASU students to become global citizens, which extends beyond linguistic proficiency to also include cultural awareness and lifelong curiosity about the world around them. 

“At (the school), we aim to make the world more equitable and just by equipping students with a worldview that values the contributions and knowledge of diverse people groups to the field of study and profession students choose to pursue,” she said.

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures