Inspiring Graduate: Ellise Little, B.S. Fashion & Retail

‘I trust my knowledge and aim every day to keep growing as a designer and, more importantly, to never stop learning.’
December 27, 2023

Inspiring Graduate: Ellise Little (’23)

  • Hometown: West Bend
  • Degree: B.S. Fashion & Retail
  • Concentrations: Fashion Marketing; Retail Analytics
  • Minor: Sales & Marketing

Ellise Little had a “unique education path” at UW-Stout. She began her path as a B.F.A. industrial and product design student but transferred after her first year to a B.S. in retail and fashion.

After navigating the challenges of learning virtually during the pandemic, adapting to several course changes in her new program and experiencing success in two internships, Little earned her fashion and retail degree from UW-Stout on Dec. 16, along with 526 graduates. 

Ellise Little
Inspiring graduate Ellise Little with Chancellor Katherine Frank at commencement / UW-Stout

“Ellise has always been a standout student in the classroom. She is inquisitive, thoughtful and highly motivated,” said lecturer and interim Program Director Sarah Eileen Smith. “She’s always been eager to learn and dig into every course, which will pay off in spades for her in her future career. We are so proud of Ellise and all that she has accomplished.”

Little was hired before graduation. In January, she will move to North Carolina to be the merchandiser for Forsyth Country Club, in Winston-Salem. 

How has your UW-Stout education changed you? 

I did not come to UW-Stout to complete courses on the checklist. I came to learn deeply and broadly. My professors and learning community helped me to succeed. 

I now am a designer. I am a merchandiser. I am a marketer. I am a team leader. I am a self-advocate. I am a communicator. I am a learner.

UW-Stout provided the learning to ensure success in my upcoming career. I have developed the skills necessary to excel in my field.

How did your internships prepare you to work in your field?

I had two internships in the golf industry and could not have had better and more different experiences. 

Ellise Little
Ellise Little was hired before graduation as a merchandiser for Forsyth Country Club, in Winston-Salem, N.C. / UW-Stout

My first internship was at Destination Kohler’s Whistling Straits Golf Course, in Sheboygan. In this position, I gained experience in all aspects of the retail cycle. I coordinated the special orders and exchange process. I coordinated, developed and implemented visual displays for all new products based on foot traffic and product sections to maximize product turnover. I executed multiple purchase orders based on sales reports and guest requests.

My second was at a private golf club – Baltusrol, in New Jersey. I learned the importance of the highest quality customer service and how to connect with a community of members. It provided me with experiences in problem-solving, conflict resolution and comprehensive communication planning and execution to ensure the most positive experiences for guests. After work each day, I reflected on what went well and what could have gone better. 

My goal is always to be at my best, so I may provide the best for guests.

I received an Outstanding Cooperative Education and Internship Program Student of the Year Award for my co-op at Whistling Straits.

What stands out about your UW-Stout experience?

As I prepare for graduation, I know I could not have gotten here without the support of my professors and their guidance in and outside of the classroom. 

Ellise Little
Ellise Little crosses the stage at commencement / UW-Stout

As a transfer student, it was difficult to jump in midprogram. Sarah Eileen Smith had the confidence in me to put me into higher level classes without the requisite background knowledge. Knowing I was a tenacious learner, she had the confidence and patience in me to bring me up to these classes. She has helped me navigate fashion design and construction classes I had no background in. She was excited and enthusiastic for me to expand on skills not specific to my concentration, but crucial to my field. This challenged my thinking and allowed me to perform at a higher level.

Dr. Jongeun Rhee has a reputation for being one of the most respected and intense professors in the program. Her expectations are high, and some find that intimidating. I found her to be incredibly knowledgeable and nurturing. She nurtured my intellectual curiosity, and she challenged me to produce at the highest possible level. Her expectations were sky-high, and I rose to them. She expanded the breadth of my learning when I needed more. Both Sarah Eileen Smith and Dr. Rhee supported me in taking the leap into the golf industry.

What challenges did you face in earning your degree and how did you overcome them? 

In the industrial design program, I learned the fundamentals of 2D and 3D design, how to work with color, and the skills needed for clear and concise design drawing. The path towards graduation was clear from day one. If I followed steps A, B and C, I would graduate with a vast and comprehensive education in industrial design in four years. 

When we were sent home in spring 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I lost the connection and drive towards my craft, when I lost access to the labs and studios on campus. The primary reason I chose Stout was its polytechnic teaching, so losing that hands-on learning was a big turning point for me. 

After much deliberation, I decided to shift towards a path that felt more attainable in the online world. In the spring of 2021, I transferred to the fashion and retail program. I found that my background in design prepared me more for my fashion courses than I could not have expected.

Ellise Little
Ellise Little hopes to never stop learning / UW-Stout

While it was frustrating and discouraging to be faced with hoops to jump through, like courses that were dropped, or what felt like the short end of the stick, being placed in higher level courses without previous background, I can reflect on my college career and say that I have changed for the best. 

I have built relationships with professors because of these hoops and enhanced my education’s breadth because of it. I have taken numerous courses outside of my direct concentration and know I am prepared for my career.

How did your involvement on campus impact your experience?

I was on the UW-Stout cheer and stunt team for four years and was a captain for two years. A team without a coach is a difficult thing to navigate, especially in a world recovering from the aftermath of COVID. I saw tremendous improvement in not only my physical strength and endurance but, even more so, mentally. I am so grateful for the opportunities we as a team were given.

What are you most proud of as you finish your degree?

I am most proud of the leader and risk-taker I have become. I trust my knowledge and aim every day to keep growing as a designer and, more importantly, to never stop learning.

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