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ASU expands fashion program, embraces legacy of Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

April 21, 2023

ASU FIDM will have more programs, students, employees in downtown LA

Arizona State University has announced that the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles will be part of the expansion of fashion education at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

ASU’s fashion program will now be named ASU FIDM, incorporating both the FIDM community and campus, and it will operate in both Los Angeles and Phoenix.

ASU FIDM and the Herberger Institute will offer students pursuing degrees in creative industries enhanced educational opportunities by embedding world-class fashion education within a public research university with global reach.

The transition will provide students with access to a renowned faculty with extensive industry experience, and the school will offer career-focused programs and experiences that enable students to have a sustainable and creative impact on the world.

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising will continue to operate as a separate educational institution from ASU with a more intentional focus on academic programs related to business in the creative industries.

“Leveraging FIDM’s and ASU’s expertise and innovation around fashion and the creative industries will create significantly enhanced opportunities for students,” said Steven Tepper, dean and director of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Giving aspiring creative professionals the chance to study at a global research university vastly expands their choices and their ability to contribute to a fast-growing industry. I am confident that ASU FIDM can lead the world in educating for the future of an inclusive, sustainable and socially responsible fashion industry.”

ASU has already begun working with FIDM students to share ASU degree offerings that are available as a result of the expansion. Current FIDM fashion and design program students will be advised on opportunities to either complete their programs at FIDM or continue at ASU.

“We are so proud of the FIDM history and legacy,” said Barbara Bundy, vice president of education at FIDM. “What began as a dream five decades ago turned into a globally recognized creative institution that has served more than 70,000 graduates. Our tradition of excellence and inspiration will continue to thrive as a part of Arizona State University with students having expanded access to world-class facilities, faculty and programs to ensure they are prepared for a highly demanding, increasingly competitive and ever-evolving industry.”

Bookshelves full of cones of thread stand behind mannequins holding knitwear

Founded in 1969, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising offers cutting-edge fashion, design and business degree programs and has helped students build a vibrant network and launch successful careers including costume design for film and TV shows, art direction, marketing and more. Photo by Armand Saavedra/ASU

FIDM legacy

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising was founded in 1969 by Chief Executive Officer and President Toni Hohberg. In its more than 50-year history, FIDM has developed and evolved cutting-edge fashion, design and business degree programs. Alumni include world-renowned designer Monique Lhuillier; Rea Ann Silva, founder of Beautyblender; Sarah Truly Beers, Marvel’s vice president of franchise creative and marketing; Kia Ragland, director of global product development at Smashbox Cosmetics; and costume designer Trish Summerville (“Red Sparrow,” “Westworld,” “Gone Girl,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”).

FIDM has partnered and collaborated with some of the world’s most recognizable and influential brands such as Disney, Nike, Nars, Victoria’s Secret, PacSun, Converse, Levi’s, Pixar and more. Part-time work and internships partnerships have existed with companies like J Brand Jeans, L’Oréal, ColourPop Cosmetics, NBC Universal, Nordstrom and Anthropologie.

ASU’s fashion program

ASU's Bachelor of Arts in fashion is a professional, hands-on degree, providing students with a multidisciplinary foundation that enables them to work across many segments of the fashion industry and beyond. Course offerings emphasize key skills such as patternmaking, apparel construction, merchandising, supply chain management, retail management and branding. The principles of sustainability are embedded within all the courses, with an eye to producing the next generation of conscientious industry leaders.

The university’s fashion program — launched in 2017 and led by Dennita Sewell — has partnerships with industry and local collaborators across interdisciplinary fields, including Optitex, Dress for Success, the Arizona Humane Society and Phoenix Children’s. As of spring 2023, ASU has more than 500 students either majoring or minoring in fashion, with hundreds more from disciplines across the university who take individual classes to gain skills that complement their major or personal interests.

The ASU fashion program offers state-of-the-art technology at Fusion on First in downtown Phoenix. This high-tech innovation hub features a suite of industry-standard studio spaces and recording studios, digital media labs, performances spaces and an interdisciplinary maker’s space with laser cutters, 3D printers, felting and industrial knitting machines, and more. 

"Building upon ASU's longstanding success operating as one institution across many locations, ASU FIDM will offer students pursuing a career in fashion meaningful connections and practical experience within the industry while learning from a cutting-edge and multidisciplinary faculty in fashion, design and the arts,” Sewell said.

A professor works with fashion design students in a room with angled desks

Students in Clinical Assistant Professor Irina Tevzadze's Fashion Illustration II course explore advanced concepts about the promotion and documentation of nonbinary eveningwear on a variety of bodies. Photo by Ken Howie

ASU FIDM students will continue to benefit from FIDM’s strong relationships with leading companies and brands from around the globe. ASU's expansion will also sustain what has made FIDM special for many years, including the world-class FIDM Museum and other assets.

ASU students have embraced its expanding offerings in Los Angeles in recent years as the university has become a hub for educational opportunities in Southern California centered on its home at the historic Herald Examiner Building. The university’s presence includes its Cronkite News Los Angeles bureau, where digital and broadcast students create award-winning news and sports content; The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, which inspires the next generation of diverse filmmakers and storytellers; and the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, which provides students with unique experiential-learning offerings and networking in the entertainment capital of the United States.. ASU has more than 62,000 alumni living in California and 20,000 California residents as degree-seeking students, and 13% of its graduates work in California.

Current and prospective students interested in learning more about the ASU FIDM transition should visit

Top photo: The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (pictured) is just a few blocks from the historic Herald Examiner Building in downtown Los Angeles, where ASU offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs. Photo by Armand Saavedra/ASU

Hackathon gathers global students to tackle social, environmental issues

Participants’ work built on ASU faculty research to address United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

April 21, 2023

Nearly 150 students from around the world convened in person and virtually in March to take part in the Interplanetary Initiative pilot project SpaceHACK for Sustainability Hackathon at Arizona State University.

Participants worked in teams to explore how satellite Earth observations and remote sensing technology from space can be used to better understand and address social inequities, sustainable development and environmental justice issues. The student teams were highly interdisciplinary and frequently consisted of both undergraduate and graduate students working together. These teams could choose to focus on one of three tracks, all grounded in ongoing ASU faculty research:  Students gathered around a table with laptops mid-discussion. Participants worked in teams to explore how satellite Earth observations and remote sensing technology from space can be used to better understand and address social inequities, sustainable development and environmental justice issues. The student teams were highly interdisciplinary and frequently consisted of both undergraduate and graduate students working together. Photo courtesy Interplanetary Initiative/ASU Download Full Image

  • Climate Impacts on Brazilian Favelas: Leveraging space satellite data to assess worsening natural disasters disproportionately impacting marginalized communities in Brazil.

  • Sustainable Groundwater Usage in Nepal: Seeking to understand if groundwater can be accurately measured using space assets, providing the opportunity for enacting public policy around governance of clean water access.

  • Wildfire Risk and Social Disparity at the Wildland Urban Interface: Monitoring wildfires from space to help better understand fire risk inequities and social disparity on Earth.

Participants came from nine countries and seven other universities, including Harvard, Yale, Northern Arizona University, University of Nepal and Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja -UTPL in Ecuador. Seventy-one percent of participants were undergraduate students, and 29% were graduate students. While hackathons are often associated with computer science or engineering fields, nearly 20% of participants were enrolled in non-STEM majors.

One of the winning teams in the Nepal track conducted a ground data analysis comparing plant water, soil moisture and vegetation data to actual measurements of groundwater levels. 

“Using Google Earth Engine and space-based data to inform sustainable development research was a novel concept for us,” said team member Prashamsa Thapa, PhD student in innovation in global development.  

Their hackathon submission found a positive correlation between the measured groundwater data and a satellite-derived index, using IR frequency bands. The group then validated those findings for two different districts in Nepal, suggesting the replicability of the algorithm. Their group finally proposed a governance model for sustainable groundwater access that included satellite data measurements, but also socioeconomic factors, migratory patterns and demographics.

Thapa explained how her group plans to continue the research they started during the hackathon: “Specifically, we aim to develop a research paper that can provide a comprehensive understanding of the issue and contribute to the existing literature on sustainable agriculture and groundwater management.”

The winning team in the Brazil track identified a strong correlation between previous landslide locations, precipitation and land slope. These high-risk regions were shown to coincide with high population density. The team then proposed using Facebook and Whatsapp as platforms for an early-warning system and public outreach to nongovernmental organizations for the creation of emergency shelters in lower-risk areas for use during extreme weather.

Tasha Coelho, a sophomore earth and space exploration major and ASU Space Ambassador, joined the hackathon to better understand the workflow of how satellite data can benefit communities on Earth. She was part of the winning team in the Brazil track.

“We learned how to import satellite data and manipulate code on Google Earth Engine, allowing us to layer satellite data, train an AI model to categorize land types, etc. We found several compatible, valuable datasets online that could be superimposed onto the satellite data, revealing correlations. Additional research led us to understand the social issues involved, and, having witnessed the positive impact of social-media groups in other scenarios, we proposed that as part of our solution as well,” she said.

“My group had such a fun time throughout the hackathon. I truly believe our amazing group cohesion was directly responsible for our successes. There were these moments of being collectively mind blown upon discovering what was possible with Google Earth Engine,” Coelho added.

“The space hackathon was such an amazing opportunity to work with students of all majors on real-world problems. This work is the embodiment of what developing solutions should be: bringing together individuals of all backgrounds to solve problems. The hackathon was very beginner-friendly. I didn't come in with much experience with satellite data, but the tutorials and my peers were very helpful. Overall, I had a lot of fun learning more about GIS (geographic information systems) and how I can use it to solve problems in communities around the world,” said Kennedy Gourdine, a sophomore in sustainability, whose team worked in the wildfire track.

The students’ projects were judged by a panel of academic and industry leaders, with deep knowledge and experience dealing with their track. The climate and Brazil track was judged by Mary Jane Parmentier from ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and Luciano Oliveira, corporate strategy senior principal at Boeing. The sustainable groundwater and Nepal track was judged by Nalini Chhetri from the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and Kerri Rittschof, director of data science and analytics at ASU Library. The fire and poverty track was judged by Genevieve Biggs, program director of the Wildfire Resilience Initiative for the Moore Foundation, and Ann Kapusta, executive director of The Space Frontier Foundation.

The event was hosted by the ASU Interplanetary Initiative, in partnership with the Unit for Data Science at Hayden Library, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and Planet Labs. Planet Labs and ASU have recently expanded their partnership to focus on building global-scale solutions for sustainability.

Sally Young

Senior Communications Specialist, Interplanetary Initiative