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The Comfort Zone: How to get out

Updated: May 10, 2023

In Zoom Class with my students

Comfort Zone

To level up, you must challenge yourself. Going the extra mile, an extra flex, working harder than you have before, and most importantly …trying something new. That's what I did this year when I accepted a position as a college professor.

They say that if you want a different result, do something different. Evolution is an important part of life’s journey.

I always endeavor to push myself, learn, and expand. Last year I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Brand and Business Management from Politecnico Di Milano . Less than 1 year after graduation I became a college professor at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in the Textiles Merchandising and Design Department (TXMD).

Our Window Display Group Project, executed by the finance group.

Outside of the box

It was tough. I taught the class Fashion Promotion/ TXMD 4100 which offers an overview of the sales promotion process in relation to the fashion industry; emphasis on advertising, visual merchandising, special events, and fashion show production. It is an exit course, a lab, and an in-seat class.

With Covid-19 social distancing guidelines still in place, MTSU my alma mater from undergrad had to think outside the box for students to graduate on time. I was tasked with the unique challenge of taking this in-seat lab online for the very first time…. Yes, a lab…online! If you know me, then you know I love a challenge. Here we go!

A newbie professor

It was quite a wild ride. My class consisted of 22 students, half of which were Fashion Merchandisers, and half were Fashion Designers. As a newbie professor, I wanted to challenge myself, make a good impression, and inspire the students. I certainly had to step out of my comfort zone and be the authority, leader, delegator, mentor, guidance counselor, hype man, innovator, all rolled into one pleasant, well dressed, well informed, powerhouse of a college professor.

Yup, Professor Ayana Ife saving the day and making it all perfect! Yeah, that is a joke! There were many hiccups and a major the learning curve to get through. I was overwhelmed and in over my head so I buckled down, bounced ideas off my mentors and students, and kept on moving. It's what you do when things get tough that matters the most.

Moving Parts

Our class had many moving parts. A traditional lecture, quizzes, group assignments and projects, field work and so much more. Somewhere between zoom meeting glitches, textbooks from when I was an undergrad, departmental exchanges for securing sponsorships, and filming our fashion show etc. etc. I managed to make it through my first semester as a professor!

Lessons Learned

They say success is measured from where you started vs where you are now. I feel growth, I learned a lot and hopefully I left my students with some great nuggets for the road ahead after graduation. It was a success!

This biggest lesson I imparted to my students is that you will never work alone. In life, and especially in the fashion industry. For example, as a fashion designer you may need to work with models, or fabric sourcing companies which requires collaboration, as fashion merchandiser you may work with brands as a buyer, or crafting communication strategies, which also requires collaboration.

The first time we met in person as a class, It was great! I flew from Pennsylvania to Tennessee to produce our departmental fashion show.

All in all, this journey we call life is about being flexible, thinking outside of the box, and pivoting when things do not go as planned. It is about how you treat those around you and how well you work with others to build relationships. Understand that this journey is about constant growth and getting out of your comfort zone. That is what I did this year as a college professor, and what I will continue to do. I hope you will too.

How often do you step out of your comfort zone?

Follow my students page @mtsu_txmd #ayanaife #professorayanaife #mtsutxmd


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