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TXA Faculty Spotlight: Deborah Sztejnberg

Deborah Sztejnberg, Assistant Professor of Practice, has been a faculty member of the Division of Textiles and Apparel for two years. Deborah was inspired to enter the academic arena to help students, particularly fashion students, create pathways to explore the fashion industry and help them with their career endeavors. ​Learn more about Deborah in this TXA faculty spotlight.

What is your role and how long have your worked at UT-Austin? 
I am thrilled to be part of the Textiles and Apparel (TXA) team as an Assistant Professor of Practice. I am currently the Merchandising Internship Director helping students acquire meaningful internships. I am developing course curriculum for The School of Human Ecology (SoHE) on professional development and student success, and I teach various fashion courses. This Fall will mark my second year teaching and advising students at UT. 

What is your background and what attracted you to this field? 
I believe colleges and universities are the bridges that connect the students to their career paths by spanning the gap between their academic worlds and their careers. My purpose for entering the academic arena is to help students, particularly fashion students, create opportunities to explore future career pathways. I have worked for top designers and retail companies such as: Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, and Macy's. The majority of my fashion career was based in New York City focusing on fabric research and design. I have a solid professional expertise in buying, developing, and sourcing fabrics. My personal mission is to use my 15+ years in the fashion industry along with my MA (and eventually my Ed.D as, this fall, I begin working on my doctorate in Leadership in Higher Education focusing on Career Development) to help students make meaningful and thoughtful career decisions. I am passionate about inspiring and empowering students to discover and fulfill their potential, and add greater meaning to their lives, by advising them on their career and education. Connecting academics to future careers means I will be able to help my students reach their own North Star. 

TXA 151 – Pre-Internship Seminar – This course is designed to help students prepare for internships and careers in the textiles and apparel industries. The course presents the foundations for executing a successful job search focusing on career management as a lifelong process. 

TXA 353 – Field Experience I (Reflecting on the Industry) - The purpose of this course is to provide students with a realistic view of the textile and apparel industry through first-hand work in a professional environment that focuses upon specific areas of the retail sector. 

TXA 352M – Field Experience II (Reflecting on Self) - This course guides students through reflective activities – reflecting both upon themselves and their internship sites. It aims to draw attention to the positives of what they are learning and what they can gain despite an absence of visible achievements. 

TXA 316Q -Sewn Product Analysis and Manufacturing - This course will provide a conceptual framework of the manufacturing process for future apparel professionals. It helps students understand the complex decision-making involved in marketing, merchandising, and producing apparel to meet the target customer's needs. 

The SoHE Professional Development Success Series (beginning Fall' 21): The SoHE Professional Development Success Series is a sequence of three one-credit courses designed to prepare students for a career or further education and adult life. The series consist of three courses: 101P The Individual, 102P Ethics Across Life , and 103P The Industry. I will be teaching 101P and 103P. 

Austin Ballet Guild, Intern. Textile and Apparel Assoc. (ITAA), The Fashion Group International (FGI), National Assoc. of Employers and College (NACE), National Career Development Assoc. (NCDA), Student Affairs Admin. in Higher Education (NASPA) 

What other UT departments are you associated with and how does this relate to your TXA work? 
This past year I have been able to work with a team of people outside of TXA in helping develop the SoHE Professional Success Series. This program supports our students as they navigate personal development, industry changes, and complex decisions as they transition to a career, professional school, or graduate school. We developed this program to foster the development of the whole student: a self-directed, motivated, ethical citizen who successfully pursues their degree and is prepared to embark on a fulfilling career. Earlier this year, we started a partnership with the McCombs School of Business. McCombs has a program for students going into investment banking called Wall Street for McCombs (WSFM). This was a cross-collaboration of two schools sharing industry knowledge and information to enable both groups of students to see how their worlds (finance and textiles & apparel) coincide academically and professionally. There are close to 50 WSFM students in the program each year. In the spring, the WFSM students did a complete financial and business analysis of The Gap, Inc. This involved learning about the company's background, prospects, and financial attractiveness to target a potential acquirer. My Sewn Product Analysis & Manufacturing students collaborated with WSFM by providing an in-depth analysis of The Gap from the textiles and apparel prism (supply chain, competition, brands, SWOT analysis, etc.) and provided their thoughts on who could buy The Gap. Surveys were sent to the WSFM students afterward, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. We've been asked by the Director of WSFM to participate again next year, and we are committed to doing that. 

When you're not working, what do you do? 
I am the mother of three boys (who will always be my greatest accomplishment), I am a member of the Austin Ballet Guild, and I love taking dance classes – give me some leg warmers and a headband and watch out! 

What moment at UT-Austin stands out as the most memorable? 
It's the small moments with my students that are the most memorable. Working in career development, you are placed in a position when you get to work with students looking for internships/jobs/opportunities. Looking for a job is filled with constant emotional highs and lows. Battling the fear of the unknown (will you ever find a job?) feeling frustrated, anxious, and downright bummed, then ricocheting to elation and excitement ("I made it to the 2nd round!", or better yet, "I got the job!"); it truly is a journey. No matter what stage of the journey a student is on, I get the honor of walking the path with them (if only for a little while), and I get to share those small moments (good and bad) with them.

"I believe colleges and universities are the bridges that connect the students to their career paths by spanning the gap between their academic worlds and their careers."

What is a hidden gem from one of your courses? 
Know your STRENGTHS! In all my courses, I encourage my students to understand and recognize the strengths that naturally come easy to them – are you a good communicator, empathetic, analytic or strategic thinker, etc. Once a student (really anyone) understands their own set of strengths, they approach a problem, class, presentation, career, etc., from the lens of leading with one's strengths– not thinking about their deficiencies. Research shows that a strength-based approach improves one's confidence, direction, hope, and kindness towards others. Most people are either unaware or unable to describe their own strengths, or the strengths of those around them. In my classes, I hope you walk away with knowing your strengths and that you "lean into them." 

What's the best advice you've ever received? 
Be Brave! About two years after I graduated from college, I wasn't thrilled with my job or what I was doing. I really wanted to see if I could "make it" in NYC – if only for a year. I had no money saved, no friends or family in NYC and, no job. When contemplating whether to make this move, my father said, "Deborah, do it now, because in 5, 10, 20 years you'll still be thinking about it – you never want to ask yourself 'what if' – be brave." My "one-year wish" in NYC turned into 15 years. I met my husband, had my three boys, was able to work with some of the most iconic designers of our time, and fell in love with NYC. I try to lead myself and live my life, never having to ask myself, "what if." 

What advice would you like to share with incoming or current students? 
You are the CEO of a company called YOU! Taking control of your life and ensuring that your actions reflect your vision is necessary in the fast-paced, distraction-filled world we live in. Become the CEO of your life, and create the life you dream of –Get involved, be a leader, apply for the internship, challenge yourself, meet new people, and always remember you have a TEAM of faculty and staff here to help you reach your goal.