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O’More president: Innovation, entrepreneurship critical for success

Melanie Balakit                                August 15, 2016.

O’More College of Design President David Rosen has spent the past year boosting the school’s ties with Nashville’s growing fashion industry.

What’s next? More emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.

Rosen became the school’s president last summer. He previously served as an education consultant with art and design schools and was president of Kendall College of Design in Michigan.

O’More’s core strength is in teaching and learning, Rosen said of the Franklin private college.

“It was doing amazing things, but it did not have the kind of organizational underpinnings to allow it to achieve its full potential,” Rosen said. “I’ve been creating relationships, trying to understand the nature of the region and how O’More can best serve its future.”

Organizational changes within the past year include the creation of a development and marketing division within the school’s upper-level management. With no provost, Rosen has assumed education leadership in conjunction with the school’s director of student affairs.

The college, founded in 1970, hopes to capitalize on its proximity to Nashville, a growing hotbed for designers and creative agencies, according to Rosen. Students and staff have increased their physical presence in Nashville.

In the past year, O’More students have collaborated with Belmont University students and Nashville Fashion Alliance members to redesign a student retail space at Belmont. Senior students boarded a tour bus to show their portfolios to design agencies across Nashville. And for the first time, the school hosted its annual fashion show in Nashville at the John C. Tune airport.

The school will continue its partnerships with professionals, Rosen said. This year, the school’s fashion students will get student memberships with the Nashville Fashion Alliance and graphic design students will get memberships in AIGA, a professional association for design.

Rosen said he also envisions establishing a committee of entrepreneurship and innovation for the school’s board of trustees.

“I don’t think there is a board that has that. That never stops me,” Rosen said.

The latest members on the board of trustees — Ginny Caldwell, an expert in interior design trends and planning; Rick DeVos, a national leader in the arts; Robert Hicks, a best-selling author and historic preservationist; Dianne Neal, a law professor and civic leader; Elizabeth Nichols, CEO of Taigan, an e-commerce marketplace that features the works of emerging designers; and Jonathan Savage, an acclaimed interior designer — represent diverse Nashville perspectives, Rosen said.

“What you really want are people who are embedded into the live situations,” he said. “Those people know what skills they need right now, right at this moment.”

In a room full of sewing machines, fashion design student Kristopher Kelley adjusts a suit on Rosen for the school’s annual seersucker party.

Kelley, a junior, has already interned for celebrity stylists, a Nashville clothing alteration shop and a former “Project Runway” designer. He said he likes the school’s small class sizes and hands-on training.

The school’s small size is an advantage, Rosen said.

“(The size) allows us a lot of agility. It allows us to be innovative in ways other schools can’t,” Rosen said. “We have very few layers between us and the industries we work for.”

Rosen added: “The size of the school allows us to have robust relationships with students. Design schools are not notoriously nice and I think here we are unremittingly nice.”

The school ranks in the country’s top 25 private fashion merchandising schools and 10th in fashion design schools and colleges in the South, according to FashionSchools.

Reach Melanie Balakit at 615-926-1638 and on Twitter @MelanieBalakit. 

By the numbers 

  • Current student enrollment: 186
  • Number of majors offered: 4
  • Number of full-time faculty: 10
  • Current tuition: $28,176
  • Percentage of out-of-state students: 19 percent
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