Tori Joray

Fashion Merchandising (BA)

Public Relations Minor

What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia?
Although I enjoy learning, I doubted what four more years of academics could teach me that the real world could not. Now I can confidently say that my academic education was just as insightful as my various jobs and internships throughout the years. The fashion merchandising program encouraged community learning and implemented real-world partnerships to illustrate classroom concepts in action. I was amongst some of Chicago's most interesting intellectuals. Ultimately, I was surprised to find that being in a classroom is not always stifling and that people have a lot to teach us if we are willing to listen.

What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial?
During J-Term of my first year at Columbia, I went on the Fashion in the Field: New York City trip with a handful of students from both fashion design and merchandising majors. Only knowing 1 or 2 of these students, I was hesitant of my rash decision to go on the trip. Yet, it ended up being one of the best decisions I made at Columbia. Not only did I get to explore New York City for a week with a fashion-focused itinerary that included the likes of National Retail Federation's Big Show, touring wholesale showrooms for big-name brands, and having exclusive access to stores and museums, but I made friendships that lasted my entire college career. Being a third-year transfer student that commuted, I'm not sure I would have been as close to my peers had I not attended the trip.

Another beneficial experience was my participation in the Fashion Department's Fashion Lab practicum. I was involved with the first two semesters of this program's inception, each time working with Cintas Corporation to help solve a pressing company issue. Although these projects were often challenging, each critically prepared me to take on problems in which solutions were not always clear and help not always available.

What are your plans for after graduation?
Through the Fashion Department's Fashion Lab practicum, I was offered a position at Cintas with the company's Management Trainee program. This is a two-year program where trainees rotate across various departments within Cintas' direct sale headquarters, trying out roles to see where their talents align best. I also hope to travel more and enjoy newfound downtime with loved ones.

Do you have any advice for current students?
Coming from someone who has experienced colleges with high and low levels of involvement, get involved! Join a club, volunteer or seek to challenge yourself further when interacting with professors and colleagues. It can be awkward and uncomfortable to put yourself out there, especially when the payoff may not seem clear. Keep in mind, however, that being involved looks different for everyone. If you choose to be involved, I promise that it will help create a much deeper appreciation for your education - something that we all know is not inexpensive.