October 7, 2009

When University of Kentucky graduate student Laura Evans took on a class project to make recommendations for new uniforms at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, she never imagined the positive impact her presentation would have on the organization.

"Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was highly impressed with Laura's presentation," said Aimee Darnell, publicist for Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. "She presented a lot of research about the impact that professional and consistent uniforming has on customers, which helped us focus in the right direction. A big part of Laura's contribution was helping us realize the importance of taking control of our brand."

Evans, a native of Proctorville, Ohio, received the assignment in Kim Spillman's History of Costume Class in the UK Department of Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles during the 2009 spring semester. Spillman heard of the local, historical tourist destination's needs through a professional colleague who works at Shaker Village. The organization is going through a process of re-defining themselves as a tourist destination and asked Spillman for help with recommendations for more cohesive uniforms for their employees at the front desk, gift shop, wait staff, housekeeping, grounds and facilities.  

"I gave Laura the opportunity, made some introductions for her at Shaker Village and helped her identify the functional design process, but she took the project and ran with it," said Spillman, an associate professor in the UK School of Human Environmental Sciences.

Over the next few months, Evans researched the history of Shaker Village, reviewed current uniforms and researched similar locations, their uniforms and dress policies. She also interviewed front-line employees about their uniform needs and preferences during weekly visits to Shaker Village.

"It was nice to see the comparisons Laura made between uniforms at other high-end tourist destinations," Spillman said. 

Evans presented her recommendations to administrators at Shaker Village in May.  Recently, Spillman was contacted by Shaker Village about the impact Laura's presentation had on the organization. The organization has now implemented new uniforms for its front-line employees.

For Evans, the project has been a great real-world, learning experience.

"It's reinforced everything I've learned in the classroom," she said. "You can read textbooks, but this project allowed me to get out in the industry and apply my knowledge to a real-world situation. I hope most MAT students are able to have an experience like this while at UK."

Evans said she would love to help other companies if the opportunity ever arises.

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