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Meet Evonne Bowling of Mesa Community College

Today we’d like to introduce you to Evonne Bowling.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Evonne. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
This Mesa Community College is in Mesa, AZ. Fourteen years ago while looking for Fashion Merchandising higher education for my daughter I went to MCC to visit with the fashion program professors. What I discovered was there were a few sewing classes but no Fashion Merchandising or Fashion Design degrees being offered. I was “retired” and so had time to march myself up to the President’s office and wait to see him. After an hour he stuck his head out of the office and said: “you’re not going away are you!” After a great conversation about the opportunities for students in fashion, I came away with a handshake to teach and grow the program (growing the program was for free).

In 2005 I began a new Associates Degree in both Merchandising and Fashion Design and since then have graduated over 250 students. As the Fashion Program Director, I have worked to add two full-time faculty and numerous adjunct faculty–all teaching specialty areas of expertise within the fashion careers. Not only do we prepare students for transfer programs to major universities, including the UK, we also work to build foundational skills for the entrepreneur. We currently have 350 students in both programs. Because of our professors’ experience in the fashion industry, our students learn the career paths that offer excitement and also salary rewards.

If you haven’t worked in the industry you can’t tell students where the great jobs/careers are and how to get there after college. That is our specialty. Although Arizona is not a fashion design center we are beginning to see entrepreneurs coming together in maker spaces looking to bring a local sustainable fashion industry to our community.

Merchandising students have amazing opportunities including the buying offices here in the Valley.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
People often discount fashion as a profession–maybe because we all wear clothes and don’t think about the professional world of business and design that makes it possible.

MCC is here to show students and critics, alike, that the industry is still thriving and in need of new professionals with skills and training. Most often we hear that fashion is frivolous until we show how difficult it is to make a pattern, do production or even complete a value-added supply chain.

Marketing and merchandising of fashion are specialized and those that love it have the chemistry to sell it! This industry, including apparel, shoes and accessories, and the beauty markets, are the biggest supply chain in the global economy!

Truly, the population at large doesn’t even think about what goes into a garment and that the cotton farmer or the New Zealand sheep herds are part of the fashion supply chain.

Mesa Community College – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
At MCC Fashion Program we specialize in mentoring the student interested in fashion as a career. There are a “zillion” jobs within the industry. Textiles is science-based. Fashion design is artistic and innovative. Merchandising is about big and little businesses in a supply chain that is constantly changing through technology and marketing. Many fashion companies have greater openings for computer programmers than designers yet no one tells the computer majors that Neiman Marcus might have a position for them.

I specialize in advising our students to discover the area in fashion that they feel they fit best–and they can’t do that until they understand the real industry. My goal as a mentor to all our students is to take them to the next level. At the community college many students have not been exposed to the global economy or the real workings of the fashion industry so that is my goal to give students a foundation and then prepare them for the next level–be it university (a Bachelor’s degree is a must) or their own small business in design or a shop on Etsy.

What sets us apart from everyone else is that our only interest is the student as an individual. We don’t have to meet a quota or cost a ton of money. We are affordable being the least expensive of any higher education in our state. We are small enough to work with each student and care about where they are going. Many are first-time college attendees in their family. Some are Veterans. Most work full time and attend college for a better future. If they like fashion we can show them the way to become that next fashion professional needed as Baby Boomers finally retire!

That is what I am most proud of that MCC does–it changes lives for the better. Every student is an individual.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Every graduation ceremony is thrilling as I watch students that did not believe they could earn a degree find success–cross the platform and receive their Associate’s degree. It is even more exciting when they write to me and tell of their university graduation and their first job! I have students that have become buyers, teachers, managers and designers. I have saved every note and email!

Also every year we have our annual fashion show showcasing student designs, graduate fashion lines, and the merchandising fashion show production skills. It also raises money for our scholarships for fashion students through our foundation. To see what our students are capable of is beyond expectations. This is a real success story!


  • $88 per credit, most classes are 3 credits and are transferable to university due to high national accreditation

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Image Credit:

Ashish Savchand

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