October 1996 // Volume 34 // Number 5 // Ideas at Work // 5IAW2

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Campus Encounters of the Clothing Kind

Campus Encounters of the Clothing Kind brings 4-H youth to the University of Nebraska East Campus for three days to explore the areas of textiles, clothing and design. Youth gain computer experience in creating a T-shirt design, use a serger sewing machine to expand their sewing skills, explore fibers through textile experiments, increase their insight into historical clothing, and learn about careers. Impact of this program was measured through a survey of 34 past participants. Youth indicated the experience was very positive, very worthwhile, a good investment, and were enlightened about clothing, textiles and design.

Rose Marie Tondl
Extension Clothing Specialist
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska
Internet address: txcd005@unlvm.unl.edu

Young teens often experience a lack of self-confidence and may even experience a decline in self-esteem as they enter their adolescent years (Bower, 1991). Clothing is a significant force in the enhancement of the self, and when used positively, contributes to one's feelings of self-acceptance, self-respect, and self-esteem (Horn, 1968).

There are a wide variety of career opportunities in textiles, clothing and design. Given the opportunity, young people can explore how their talents and interests fit in a variety of fields. Sometimes the process of finding out about jobs and careers matching one's skills and interest can be a bit overwhelming. (Weber, 1990).

Campus Encounters

During the past two years, a three-day campus encounter event was held for 4-H youth on the University of Nebraska campus planned by a team of county Extension educators and the Extension clothing specialist. The goals were to create an awareness and encourage an interest in clothing and textiles by nurturing ways to develop self-esteem, providing an overview of the field of clothing and textiles, and improving clothing construction and design skills.

The three-day program gave 4-H members an opportunity to interact with college faculty who taught a variety of sessions. Youth explored chemical and physical properties of fibers through textile experiments, gained computer experience by creating a design for a T-shirt, expanded their sewing skills using a serger sewing machine, and increased their insight into historical clothing. The group toured places in the community involved with textiles, clothing and design, and heard from graduates now employed in the field. Youth reported that they made and gained new friends who had similar interests. On the last day, the youth presented a public showing of their accomplishments.

Insight into personal improvement allowed youth to gain a better understanding of themselves, expand their responsibilities by staying in a college dormitory on campus, and eating in the campus union.

Program participants included 34 young women, no younger than 14 nor older than 18. A prerequsite, completion of the 4-H Clothing Level 2 project, insured they would come with some basic sewing skills.

Assessing Impact

To determine the impact of this program, a survey was mailed to the thirty-four participants in January of 1996. They responded to this survey after one year or after seven months since attending this event. A total of 26, or 76%, was returned. To assess how helpful the different experiences were in developing their interests and awareness in clothing and textiles, the participants indicated the following were most helpful: between 65 and 88% said sewing on a serger, sewing stirrup pants, and making a glitz bag; between 72 and 82% said designing on the computer, and screening their computer design on T-shirts; going on field trips and listening to a career panel; 92% said their interaction with faculty and 84 percent said making new friends.

Considering the time and money spent for this event, the majority of participants rated their experience as very positive. Approximately 90% felt the experience was very worthwhile, that it was a good investment, and they learned a lot.

To assess the youths' increased knowledge about textiles, clothing and design and the influence of the department to continue on to higher education, they indicated the following: 100% increased their awareness about clothing, textiles and design; between 84 and 92% learned about the field of textiles, clothing and design; a desire was created to enter a career in this area; clothing construction skills were improved; and between 69 and 81% felt it strengthened their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Attending Campus Encounters of the Clothing Kind was really liked by 80% of the participants; while the remainder said it was ok. After participating in Campus Encounters, one-third of the participants changed their impression about the department; 60% noted there was some change.

Selecting a college and choosing a major in textiles, clothing and design are big decisions for youth. How likely would the choice of enrolling at the University in the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design be influenced by their campus experience? Forty-eight percent said they were to likely enroll, while 51% said they were unlikely to enroll.

The participants were also asked to reflect and indicate before they came to campus whether they would consider enrolling at the University in the Department of Textiles, Clothing and Design. Twenty-three percent said likely, while 72% said unlikely. This change reflects a significant difference that their campus experience would encourage them to enroll at the University. (t = p.<.05)

This successful campus event was offered again this year. Youth summed up their experiences by making these comments: "I enjoyed my experiences at the camp. I was enlightened greatly about your clothing, textiles and design department. I would recommend this camp to anyone who is interested in clothing, textiles and design." "...After the camp I made the decision to major in clothing design. ...We were able to meet with professors from the University and see first hand of what their job entails." "Campus Encounters was the best camp I've been at! I believe it was a very good use of my money and would recommend Campus Encounters to ANYONE. I am now considering going into the field of clothing!" A parent summed it up by saying that the days her daughter spent on campus was a hugh boost to her self confidence, the special attention she got from quality people, and the time spent in getting to know girls her age made her feel very special.


Bower, B. (1991). Teenage turning point. Science News, 139 (12), pp. 184-186.

Horn, M.J. (1968). The second skin. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Weber, J. (1990). Clothing fashion-fabrics-construction. Lake Forest, IL: Glencoe.