When most people think of fashionistas, they don't usually think of professors. However, two professors, Koyah Alston and Stephanie Freeman, not only consider themselves fashionistas, but they are also educators who have found a unique way to discuss difficult subjects like emerging technologies. These two "nerd beauties" as they call themselves, found that when they combine fashion and education, they get something quite beautiful--enthusiastic students who want to engage in learning.
Alston and Freeman, who both have doctorates, loved the many facets of the fashion industry. Freeman says, "Growing up, I wanted to be a model and wear fabulous clothes. Instead, I became an English professor who still wanted to where great clothes." Being an English professor, Freeman says, helped her to tap into one of her other passions, reading, but what didn't sit well with her was the stereotypical image of English teachers. "When I thought of English teachers, I thought of the images I had seen--images of frumpy-looking women with horn-rimmed glasses and stiff buns in their hair," she said. "I wanted to run away from that image as quickly as I could," Freeman continues.
Later, Freeman found another fashion enthusiast, Alston, who is also an English professor. Together, they formed Nerd Beauty (for female academics) and Nerd Suave (for male academics) and decided to make their primary goal to give fashion a purpose---to educate. Armed with their mutual love of fashion and education, these two doctors decided to tackle difficult subject matter using fashion and the arts.
They used fashion, for example, to explain how blockchains and cryptocurrencies work. "We believe these two technologies are going to be really important for our students to understand," Alston said. "That's why we want to partner with New York Fashion Week and author Eric Guthrie, an expert on these technologies, to develop a curriculum that makes learning these difficult concepts easier and more more fun," she said.
Freeman says she came up with the idea for the fashion/art-centered curriculum after trying to understand these technologies herself. "I was having a difficult time grasping these concepts, so I looked for ways to make them easier to explain and learn. I decided to have a fashion photo shoot with a blockchain and cryptocurrency theme because I wanted something visual to assist me in learning."
She pitched the idea to representatives at NYFW.com, telling them how she planned to develop a curriculum from this photo shoot experience. "The reps at NYFW were so friendly and encouraging. They told me to go for it," Freeman said. "The pictures will start with basic depictions of a block and a chain to show how learning sometimes starts at the most rudimentary levels. Then, the pictures will get more complicated as we use fashion to show more intricate details about these technologies," Freeman continued.
Alston and Freeman want to take their style of learning and their curriculum on the road. Alston says, "Dr. Freeman and I want to speak all over the world and help other educators to break out of their molds and experiment with the arts and difficult subjects." When asked if they want to start a movement, they both smile and respond "Oh yes." "We plan to form Nerd Beauty and Nerd Suave organizations to reach like-minded academics," Freeman says. "After all," she and Alston say, "who wouldn't feel better teaching and learning while looking fabulous!"