Fashion Students Get Real-World Experience With PUMA Project

Scott Saltzman speaks to a fashion class
Scott Saltzman ’86 talks to students about the fundamentals of marketing in this November 2019 file photo

Twenty-six fashion students at SUNY Oneonta are acquiring real-world industry knowledge thanks to an experiential learning project with leading sportswear brand PUMA. SUNY Oneonta alumnus Scott Saltzman ’86, PUMA’s national sales manager, has reconnected with his alma mater to inspire fashion and textile majors by assisting with a class project based on PUMA’s Fall 2021 product release.

Hands-On Fashion Promotion Experience

Juniors and seniors enrolled in Assistant Professor Sarah Portway’s Fashion Promotion course have been engaged in a semester-long exercise to develop creative promotional strategies to launch a new product for PUMA. For the students, the end product is a detailed promotional pitch that would be suitable for presentation inside a PUMA boardroom.

Students began by preparing a one- to two-page mini-pitch outlining their promotional ideas. Portway then divided the students into small groups. Members of each group met in person and via Microsoft Teams to develop and flesh out their group strategy, collaborating on budgets, scheduling and production of mock-ups, as well as project reports, peer evaluations and group assignments. Along the way, the students conferred regularly with Saltzman, Portway and a teaching assistant.

The effort has been invaluable in helping students learn long-term project management skills such as setting and meeting goals and understanding how to work successfully with others, Portway says. Equally important, she says, is having a guest lecturer like Saltzman, a professional who has “walked the walk” and is able to share his experiences and insights.

“Scott brings not only his knowledge and savvy but also his enthusiasm in working with the students,” Portway said. “This is so important. Our students need to be exposed to as many careers and as many networking opportunities as possible.”

Learning Goes Both Ways

Saltzman says working with the students is mutually beneficial: They learn from him, but he also learns from them. “Their feedback is priceless. They are the ultimate end consumer that PUMA wants to reach, especially in my area—the fashion world,” Saltzman said. “We have malls and soccer stores, but it’s that fashion-conscious young kid 16 to 21 who we want to attract because that’s how companies like ours grow—you interest them when they’re young and then keep engaging them with different products.

“I don’t know why it took me so long (to get involved),” he said. “I would love to have done this 15-20 years ago, earlier in my career, knowing how students like to interact with alumni in fields they want to get into.”

About the Fashion Major

SUNY Oneonta's Fashion and Textiles program focuses on the relationship of textiles and clothing to the physical, aesthetic, psychological, cultural, economic and social needs of people and their families. Fashion and textiles majors specialize in either fashion merchandising or fashion design. Fashion merchandising courses focus on marketing, merchandising, retailing, promotions, economic analysis and fashion journalism. Fashion design courses include apparel construction, apparel design, illustration, pattern making, computer-assisted design and wearable art.

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