Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald

Degree:Textile Management ‘10 (also scheduled to graduate with a Ph.D. in Textile Technology Management in 2020)

Hometown: Greensboro North Carolina

Current City: Raleigh, North Carolina

Profession: Executive Director of the Sewn Products Equipment & Suppliers of the Americas (SPESA)

Council Position: Co-chair, Recruitment Committee

How did the Wilson College of Textiles prepare you for your career?

While the educational and academic aspect of the Wilson College of Textiles gave me the baseline knowledge and skill sets to succeed, I would argue that everything that the Wilson College of Textiles provided me outside of the classroom eclipsed anything that could be learned in the classroom. From being able to visit factories in El Salvador and Honduras with Doing Business International to connecting directly with companies like Cotton Inc. and VF Corporation on competitions. The network I was able to build as an undergraduate student is unlike anything you can get anywhere else.

I have my entire career thanks to the connections I made through the Wilson College of Textiles — first, meeting Matt Priest of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) on the TATM Industry Advisory board. He introduced me to the association side of the industry which lead to my career at the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). During my time at AAFA, Bill Harazin asked me to guest lecture on labeling; over the course of three years, I returned to the College every semester, giving up to seven different lectures. I realized then that it was probably time for me to return full time in pursuit of my Ph.D. After returning to the Wilson College of Textiles, I was introduced to SPESA by Dr. Trevor Little — which eventually lead to me becoming the executive director of this amazing association.

The opportunities outside of the classroom presented by the Wilson College of Textiles are numerous and invaluable for anyone who is willing to take advantage of them.

What does it mean to be a member of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council?

I have always been a staunch supporter of the Wilson College of Textiles throughout my career, both academically and professionally. One of my main drives is to continue to build the connections between the College and the industry. Those connections are never more stable than when built through alumni. Participating on the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council gives me the opportunity to help reconnect with Alumni in many different industries and lay the foundation for long term relationships between the College and those alumni and the companies they work for.

What do you see in the future for the Wilson College of Textiles?

The textiles industry is going through one of the most significant changes in recent history. Through automation, innovation and entrepreneurship, the industry itself will look significantly different 10 years from now and the Wilson College of Textiles must as well. The College must work with its industry partners to identify the most significant areas of need for employment and skill sets. From design to engineering to manufacturing, the jobs in the industry are rapidly evolving; in order to stay relevant to the companies looking to hire its graduates, the Wilson College of Textiles must work with them every step of the way to make sure they are training students in relevant skills and encouraging critical thinking abilities.