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Danforth Scholarship Winner Eyes Career in Sustainable Fashion

While it’s hard to break into the fashion industry, Maggie Maichel is determined to do just that.

Maggie Maichel“I’ve always enjoyed art and making things with my hands,” she said. “My grandma taught me how to knit. Later, I picked up crochet. In middle school, I began sewing. I love creating things and giving old things new life. That’s why I want to pursue a career in sustainable fashion.”

To prepare for her career, Maichel turned to St. Louis Community College at Wildwood. After two years of classes, she’ll graduate with an associate degree in general transfer studies this month. 

“I chose STLCC-Wildwood because the campus is close to my home and I wanted to explore my interests,” she explained. “The experience has allowed me to earn transfer credits while building my art skills.”

As Maichel looks toward the future, she’s preparing to leverage her associate degree toward a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. Thanks to the credits she eared at STLCC, she’s not only gained admission to Washington University in St. Louis, but she’s also earned a full-tuition scholarship. 

The Women’s Society of Washington University annually selects a small number of STLCC students to receive the Elizabeth Gray Danforth Scholarship.

“This year, Maggie is the only STLCC student selected to receive this scholarship,” said Kimberlee Vaughn, associate professor of psychology at honors program coordinator at STLCC-Wildwood. She’s also the first-ever Wildwood student chosen for this award.”

Adding to this, Maichel is receiving a $2,000 Ida H. Early Start-Up Grant to help cover the cost of her textbooks and course materials once she transfers. 

“I’m so excited to have this opportunity,” she said. “I can’t wait to start my art program (as a student in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts) at WashU.” 

According to Sean Frye, art instructor at STLCC-Wildwood, Maichel is deserving of these scholarships and is well-positioned for career success. 

“Maggie's art is wiser than her years,” Frye said. “She’s a natural artist with a gift for seeing things that others can’t and a unique ability to make the boring stuff look interesting.”

Sustainable ball gownOne example of this is how she transformed a curtain into a ball gown. 

“When I stumbled upon the curtain at a thrift store, I knew I could give it a new life,” she said. “After designing the pattern, I got to work sewing the dress. And now, my family affectionately calls it my ‘curtain dress.’ This project has been a great learning opportunity for me.”

To advance her skills, Maichel consistently watches online sewing and crafting videos. She has also strived to gain industry experience as an intern at Evolution St. Louis, a high-tech knitting facility located downtown St. Louis. 

“When I came across a job posting last fall for a full-time position, I decided to inquire about the possibility of an internship. From there, things fell into place,” she said. “It’s been a great avenue for me to learn and grow, and it’s influenced to my decision to pursue a career in fashion.”

Ultimately, Maichel aspires to launch a career in sustainable fashion, working to curtail the trend of fast fashion by creating lasting pieces people want to wear repeatedly. 

“We all wear clothes, so I know there’s a future in this field,” she said.

Scholarship History
This scholarship program came into existence in response to Chancellor Thomas H. Eliot’s request to fund an annual scholarship for STLCC transfer students.

It is named in honor of Elizabeth Gray Danforth as an expression of gratitude and admiration for her service as first lady of Washington University for 24 years. She was a wife, mother, community volunteer and valued partner of William H. Danforth, the university’s chancellor emeritus. Mrs. Danforth was an enthusiastic supporter of Washington University until her death in 2005.

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