Two Columbia College Chicago Fashion Students Win Fashion Scholarship Fund Awards

Fashion Merchandising Junior Calista DSouza and Fashion Merchandising Senior Ben Sill have been awarded highly competitive scholarships from the Fashion Scholarship Fund, launching their emerging careers to new heights.

For Fashion Merchandising Junior Calista DSouza and Fashion Merchandising Senior Ben Sill, seeking merchandising and retail solutions for consumers in a post-Covid world were no match for their creative ideation and case studies with fresh ideas for some of the biggest names in Fashion. Both case studies were successes; DSouza and Sill were recently awarded highly competitive scholarships from the Fashion Scholarship Fund, launching their emerging careers to new heights.

The Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) is an industry-shaping non-profit dedicated to supporting workforce development and fashion-oriented education in the United States. Each year, the nation’s most promising young students from diverse backgrounds come together to compete for FSF scholarships dedicated to supporting talent development in various sectors of the industry including design, merchandising, supply chain, and marketing analytics. Aside from monetary support, the FSF also provides scholars with mentoring, internship and career opportunities, and, as the organization says, “unprecedented access to the industry’s most influential leaders and companies.”

DSouza and Sill are two FSF Class of 2022 scholarship awardees whose pathbreaking work has been recognized by the organization and who are striving to make important changes in the Fashion industry through their research-driven interventions. Both students produced innovative case studies for major retailers and created marketing, allocation, and six-month sales plans to support their work. 

DSouza, whose case study was called “Levis: A Circular Economy Rethinking Sustainability in Fashion Through Recycled Denim for All,” supports industry investment in sustainable development. Her plan, which analyzes the behaviors of the Gen Z target market, included an omnichannel launch, a Levis x Michaels marketing campaign, a six-month sales plan, and a scale-up plan to ensure that there were market opportunities for increased awareness regarding the campaign. DSouza credits Associate Chair of Fashion Studies Dana Connell for her support and engagement in the process. She also noted that “all the classes taken at Columbia up to this point have helped me complete my FSF case.”

Sill, who is considering an MBA and potential career as a professor, echoed DSouza in his appreciation for Connell. He said, “My success would not have been possible without the dedicated mentorship from Dana Connell. She led the 5-week course, which consisted of 5-hour work sessions on Fridays and Saturdays, then over the summer, made every effort to be available via Zoom and email for feedback. She is an indispensable resource that every student should look to for guidance.” 

Sill, whose case study for Bonobos was titled “Redefining Workwear in the Post-COVID Workplace,” took a technological tack in supporting the addition of A.I in-store, and investment into important omnichannel infrastructure. The goal: for “Bonobos’ Redefining Workwear campaign [to] effectively expand the brand’s reach to new customers as well as enhance the experience of returning ones.” He understands that his success with FSF will be lifechanging. He says, “To me being in the FSF class of 2022 is a landmark achievement for my career. I think that it shows that this group of scholars has been prepared to the fullest by their education to enter the workforce in a challenging career path. It shows dedication, effort, and prowess in the many disciplines required for this industry.”

For future students considering pursuing FSF scholarships, Sill and DSouza have some advice. From DSouza: “Keep pushing through and challenge yourself…I enjoyed this experience and would advise others to try things they didn't know they could do!” Sill agrees, stating that “the payoff [of being named an FSF Scholar] is too great not to try.” But he also notes, “You will need to practice thinking beyond your own creative vision. This project, while of your own creation, is not about you. It is about creating a fool-proof game plan for the future of a real business and being able to effectively describe and persuade business professionals to get on board with it.” Finally, he says, “Taking Dana's 5-week course is essential. It will give you a head start on the project and unbeatable mentorship.” Take it from two unbeatable scholars: the journey starts here, in Fashion Studies at Columbia.