Two Senior IMC Students Present at Whalen Symposium

By MAGGIE HAEFNER ’22, May 30, 2022

Nile Gossa-Tsegaye and Sophia Toledo discuss their research on clothing brand Forever 21.

2022 Whalen Academic Symposium

From left, seniors Sophia Toledo and Nile Gossa-Tsegaye hold certificates of participation at the 2022 Whalen Academic Symposium held April 11-12.

Each year, Ithaca College hosts the James J. Whalen Academic Symposium in honor of former President

James J. Whalen. The symposium is an opportunity for students to present research and creative

projects. The 2022 symposium was held April 11-12.

This year, the IMC major was well represented with seniors Nile Gossa-Tsegaye and Sophia Toledo presenting their project, “The Decline and Revival of Forever 21: What’s in Store for a Fast-Fashion Icon Post-Bankruptcy,” on April 11. The project was based on a case study the pair worked on as an independent project from their senior capstone course, PR Lab, which they took in fall 2021.

Nile said: “Sophia and I had an added advantage in our preparation for the Whalen Symposium because we had already submitted the case study to the Arthur W. Page Society Case Study competition. Part of the requirements for the submission to Arthur W. Page was to make a presentation, so we edited and molded the presentation to be Whalen-specific.”

Sophia spoke about the decision to focus on Forever 21 for the case study competition. “We had full control in selecting the topic, so we both explored subject matters that we're interested in, and then we agreed on the fast fashion topic,” Sophia said. “The case study had to highlight a specific event over the past three years, so that is how we narrowed the topic down to Forever 21's bankruptcy. Forever 21 was a pioneer, like the ‘mother’ of modern-day fast fashion, so that is why we chose the company specifically and the event.”

The pair was one of three groups to present on fashion at the Whalen Symposium this year. Two other presentations centered on the fashion industry in the same session.

“The combination of presentations on fashion-related topics helped bring a crowd to our presentation. It was also just fun to present because there was a good turnout,” said Nile. It was interesting to hear other presenters on topics related to fast fashion in our time slot. It was really cool to realize that our research wasn’t in a silo; people actually do have a connection or interest in what we're talking about.”

Sophia said: “I viewed the opportunity to present as a rewarding experience that added value to my overall experience at college. I felt that presenting at Whalen was more than presenting in your class; it was for a broader purpose with a wider audience.’

The Whalen Symposium presents students at the college with the ability to speak on and delve deeper into the topics their passionate about outside the typical class experience.

“I feel that presenting at Whalen is a really effective way to just synthesize all of your interests and be able to showcase that,” Nile said. “Because I think that sometimes it can be difficult to do that for group projects because you have to consider what the group wants to do. Whalen is a good opportunity to focus on your specific topics of interest.”