Spotlight Series

Kiki Van Son

Kiki Van Son - Dissertation Excerpt

The following is excerpted from the Introduction to Kiki​’s Dissertation.

I am both a consumer who uses social media personally, and a marketer who uses social media professionally as a communications tool for businesses. In my experience, social media platforms benefit me the marketer more than they benefit me the consumer.

For my dissertation, I hypothesized that having an intent while using social media results in active engagement on the platform, and more positive influences on well-being as a result of one’s time being spent mindfully. Therefore, I suspect marketers or consumers who exhibit a similar level of awareness of social media as a marketing channel, such as consumers with a professional account rather than a personal profile, are the most likely to have positive associations with social media.

People who use Instagram for professional purposes configure their accounts and go about their activity similarly to the way a social media advertiser would—with clear objectives, a thoughtful plan of action, and measurement tactics to determine if their activities are working for them.

Alternatively, people who use Instagram strictly for checking in with friends are more likely to spend time on the app passively engaged. Without clearly defined reasons for being on the platform, they are more likely to get lost in the frictionless motions of the feeds, killing time scrolling through other people’s lives instead of doing things that matter to them.

Additionally, they are more likely to experience FOMO (fear of missing out) or poor self-esteem as a result of comparing their lives to others, leading to negative feelings associated with the platform and negative impacts on well-being, such as anxiety or depression.

For my research, I considered the distinct differences between social media and traditional marketing channels of the past, and caution, as the research suggests, that all users, including those who perceive social media platforms as marketing channels, are subject to some degree of worsened well-being as a result of using social media.

Please find a LINK HERE to Kiki’s Full Interview with Kerri Quinn, PhD, Director of Academic Engagement.

For more information on Kiki and her dissertation, please CLICK HERE.

Angela Rodriguez
Angela Rodriguez

About Angela Rodriguez

Angela Rodriguez is a recent graduate of the GCNYC Impact Focused Business and Investing program. She currently works at the New York State Assembly, 69th District, as the Director of Community Affairs, and is responsible for community outreach, constituent services, and stakeholder engagement. Angela loves hiking and has recently taken up meditation.

How did you land at GCNYC?

I first attended a master class at GCNYC. The guest speaker spoke about her career transitions, which was inspiring because she found a career that aligned with her passion. The fact that GCNYC’s curriculum included sustainability – I found it was an important topic to immerse myself in, the integrated approach with business interested me, as well. It was delightful to learn alongside professionals in different industries; I’ve learned a lot throughout the whole process and journey.

Tell us about your dissertation. 

My dissertation title is, Holistic Understanding of Urban Innovation Districts: Navy Yard, Brooklyn and Medellin, Colombia.

I knew that I was very interested in livable communities and finding out how to create a thriving environment. I started looking into urban innovation districts. It’s a new topic that has emerged from many broader trends and changes in urban population needs.  I wanted to research more about Medellin, Colombia, because my family is from Colombia, and I wanted to look at a closer location to home base, being Navy Yard, Brooklyn. I wanted to do a comparison of the conditions of both places to find out how to rebuild local urban resilience using urban innovation districts. I feel that communities, especially those in urban areas, need to have resilience in order to make sure quality of life is met for the local community.

Was there anything surprising you learned through your research?

The way local urban reliance manifested itself in Navy Yard, Brooklyn- repurposing the whole area and the function to modern use. The local economy is growing, and there is a lot of innovation coming from that area, evident of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.

Medellin, Colombia has drastically changed the quality of life for their citizens, through specific interventions with both small and large scale projects. The changes that occurred in these two places met the community’s needs.

Going forward, how do you plan to implement your research?

My research aligns with the kind of career I see myself having, which Is being able to make a positive change, while also making sure communities are being impacted and the end users’ needs are being met in a sustainable and just environment.

Nancy Rhodes

About Nancy Rhodes

Nancy Rhodes, a footwear designer with over fifteen years of experience in the industry, wants to rewrite the story of fashion- not just for the community of designers she is building now, but also for future generations. By day, she designs high volume footwear for several brands. By night, she attends GCNYC and is launching alternew, an on-demand alterations and repairs platform focused on providing accessibility, convenience, and affordability to the alterations experience. With an emphasis on increasing body positivity and inclusivity through customization, alternew strives to engender sustainable practices and re-invigorate a declining industry. Nancy wants to offer consumers the opportunity to take ownership of their personal style in a way that is authentic and current. In our interview we touch on Nancy’s leadership with the New York City Face Mask Initiative, her experience at GCNYC and the mission of her company, alternew.

What was your journey of coming to GCNYC?

I got laid off from my last company three years ago. After that, I went on a retreat by myself to Tulum for yoga and fitness and when I got back I started a new job. My first day I walk in there and the light had gone out. About 3 or 4 month later I am in Penn Station, traveling to Newark airport, and I run into an old colleague. She was working for GCNYC and told me she had never been more fulfilled than when she started working there. This prompted me to want more information about GCNYC.

A week later, I was in the office, and two weeks later I started. It was one of those times where I had no doubt that these were breadcrumbs being put in front of me to follow; one hundred percent I walked in there and said yes this is what I’m doing. From day one I felt so passionate and so fulfilled and so eager for the next step for myself- I knew it was right.

How did you decide on your dissertation topic?

My background is in volume and I did product for Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Burlington, Target, Payless etc.  I understood scale; I understood the need to have scale in order to make impact but, I didn’t know how I was going to do that personally. Through my Values Based Leadership course, I had the opportunity to do a case study on Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. Her process really resonated with me, as she was constantly journaling and searching; asking the question “Is this my big idea?” to each potential business that she considered. This resonated with me and I thought how could I, in that same way, find something that truly fulfills me and something that I am passionate about?

So, I was taking different classes, trying to figure out what my next steps were. One day I was sitting with a classmate and we were talking over sustainability. The topic came up about how when she was in college she did alterations as a way to make money. The idea of “Well, is there an uber for alterations?” or “Is there an on demand for alterations?”, came up.  I then started doing a bunch of research and realized that there was a huge white space in the market where alterations was something that was such a hassle for people. Everyone had alterations to be done and that became such a passion for me.

For every class I would find a way to use that case as my project; whether it was a marketing project, or an entrepreneurship project etc.

When it came to my dissertation, it was a super easy decision- “Democratizing Fashion Customization Accessible Alterations Sustainable Practices and Consumer Needs”. My dissertation was actually the green light to start my business.

What has been a highlight of your career thus far?

The highlight of my life so far has been being able to make fabric masks for the New York City Face Mask Initiative; and there are several reasons why: First and foremost, there is nothing more fulfilling than being able to help people in need and doing so in such a tangible way. In addition, my whole career I’ve wanted to step up and be a leader and I’ve always worked for companies where there were a lot of glass ceilings in my way. There was no opportunity to build out a team and practice so many leadership skills we learn about. So being able to flex those leadership muscles by providing opportunity for so many sewers and making masks for people who need it has been exciting for me personally, but, from a business perspective, has really put me in a unique position to be able to show my what I am capable of doing as a startup earlier on than most startups would be able to. We now have over 170 sewers, volunteers, and partners, over 10,000 fulfillment requests from hospitals and other health care providers and essential services needs. The number grows each day.

How did the word get out initially about your work and production of NYCFMI?

My goal was to put pieces into place so we could very easily recruit. I had just recently joined the New York Fair Trade Coalition and I sent out a call to action along with the designer I was working with, Isabel Varela. We used word of mouth and social media including Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn connecting with individuals and groups, spreading our message far and wide. We created a Whatsapp group to build our community and now have included a Facebook group. We grew from a small shared google doc, to more detailed sewer forms, mask request forms, and even hold a weekly zoom to answer any questions our volunteers, donors, and partners may have. My web designer, the incredibly talented Beverley Delay, volunteered her time to make a web page to aggregate all of our information. Our volunteers have been posting their pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #NYCFMI and it’s been awe inspiring to see the dedication and passion going into making fabric masks.

What’s next for you?

Continue to grow alternew slowly while I work full-time, especially considering the climate we will be in after this crisis. There are incredible opportunities to position alternew by maintaining and upcycling the wardrobe you already have during a recession and making that more affordable and transparent, which will be really important. Being able to update your interview looks because there will be a lot of people going on interviews or make small changes to what you already have. I.E. taking sleeves off a blazer and making it a vest or taking the buttons out on something and replacing it with something neon, so you feel fresh and vibrant, without having to spend a lot of money.

Especially right now, with companies showing their true colors, there’s going to be a lot of backlash that sees itself in fashion. I’d like to take that opportunity to engender sustainable practices through accessibility and convenience for alterations.

Head to www.alternew.com to learn more about Nancy’s company and the NYCFMI.

Diana Purcell

About Diana Purcell

Diana Purcell is a current student at GCNYC in the International Fashion Marketing Program. She first discovered GCNYC when she was invited through Eileen Fisher to listen in on guest lecturer Helen Crowley (Head of Sustainable Sourcing Innovation at Kering). “Everyone here [at GCNYC] was casually brilliant and also trying to save the world,” Purcell told us. She knew from that masterclass that she wanted to be a part of the GCNYC community.

When asked why she wanted to pursue a Master’s at this point in her career, Diana said that after 12 years in the fashion industry she was still in her learning phase and wanted to get her hands dirty, digging in to the areas of the fashion industry that are often out of sight and out of mind.

We asked Diana what drove her get out of bed every morning – or in other words, “what’s your purpose?” – she answered simply and perfectly, “The status quo. The fact that there are people out there that think we can’t do any better than we’re doing right now.” She’s here to prove those people wrong: build things, gather knowledge and then give them away.

Earlier this year, Diana ventured out of the brand world and started her own business, leading sustainability consulting for fashion start-ups. You can read all about her new ventures on her website, here.

In addition to her consulting business, Diana recently co-founded a sustainability book club with Megan Meiklejohn, the head of Sustainable Materials and Transparency Manager at Eileen Fisher. They are still in the early stages but growing rapidly and excited to gain new members. Be sure to get in touch via her website if you are interested in joining!

Jessie Brenner

About Jessie Brenner

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Jessie Brenner and I am the Associate Manager, Yarn & Fabric for Women’s Sweaters at Ralph Lauren. I am 26 and from Norfolk, Virginia.

Can you give us the highlights of your career thus far?

I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2014 and started an internship at Spanx on the raw materials team. While I studied Industrial Design and Design for Sustainability, what drew me to Spanx was Sara Blakely’s mission to empower women and her philanthropic work. It was important to me to work for a company whose values were in line with my own. I ended up staying on fulltime for 3 ½ years. This past February I moved here to pursue sustainable fashion. Currently, I’m working for Ralph Lauren in yarn and fabric for the women’s luxury sweaters team.

What made you want to pursue a Master’s degree at this point in your career?

Out of college I knew I wanted to pursue a career in sustainability I just didn’t expect to end up in the fashion industry. My time at Spanx really opened my eyes to the opportunities for sustainability within the industry. I never imagined I’d go back to school, but after speaking with some of the students in the first cohort I was convinced this Master’s would be valuable to me by providing the tools needed to prove the business case for sustainability in fashion.

Why GCNYC specifically?

I didn’t consider any alternative programs when I decided to pursue my Master’s. The students from the first cohort were incredibly enthusiastic about their experience and that was all it took for me to be convinced!

What makes you get out of bed in the morning – driving you to affect change? What’s your purpose?

I think it’s an incredibly exciting time to be working on sustainability in fashion, and I feel confident this investment in myself will help shape my career to positively impact the world around me. Every day I progress closer towards this goal.

Amanda Moretz

About Amanda Moretz

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Amanda Moretz, I am the Manufacturing and Sustainability Administrator at Theory. I grew up in a ranch outside of Kerville, TX, but have lived in Brooklyn for ten years now.

Can you give us the highlights of your career thus far?

Before Theory, I worked at Tiffany and Co for 2 years which was incredible, as part of the visual merchandising team who makes those famous windows come to life. I’ve been with Theory now for around 5 years, and it’s been fascinating. Every year my job changes just enough to stay vibrant.

What made you want to pursue a Master’s degree at this point in your career?

I wanted to learn. I didn’t take my undergrad very seriously, and waited quite a long time to start a Master’s program because I wanted to make sure it was a really dynamic and educational experience.

Why GCNYC specifically? Did the mission have an influence on your decision to come here?

One hundred percent. My goal is to be a leader in driving the fashion and textile industry to being less harmful, and I felt like this program and this organization align perfectly with that goal. Plus, I wanted a program where I could go to class on campus and interact with my fellow students. I really lucked out because my cohort is 100% composed of amazing, intelligent, insightful people.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning – driving you to affect change? What’s your purpose?

There’s so much potential right now to create change, and I love that through my daily work and through my studies at GCNYC I’m at the forefront of this change. It’s FUN!