By Cameron Walker
Sometimes the universe sends you a sign. In Jasmine Cox’s case, that sign was literal. The Wilson College of Textiles alumna was driving down I-85 South near Charlotte when she saw an informational sign for the North Carolina Center for Applied Textile Technology (more commonly known as the Textile Technology Center, or TTC). When she got to her destination, she Googled the center…and changed the course of her career.
Cox graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Textile Technology from NC State. She enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2014, pursuing a master’s degree in engineering management — but in the spring of her first year, she made that fateful drive past the Textile Technology Center. She was curious and called the center to find out more about their mission. Director Sam Buff invited her for a tour, which ended with the offer of an internship.
“She told me that she was interested in getting textile experience and would work for free to get it,” said Buff. “I was sold immediately and knew that her drive would be welcomed in our labs…and it was.”
She interned as a testing specialist in TTC’s physical testing lab and then took on several positions with increasing responsibilities.
“I loved what I was able to learn here at the center; being around textiles day in and day out, not just writing a paper on it or doing a project on it, but actually getting a hands-on experience was a great learning lesson for me,” she said. “I always asked a ton of questions, and I always wanted to know more. Whether it was weaving, spinning, yarn extrusion… I tried a little bit of everything.”
That’s my next step — just continuing to inspire other people to get involved in textiles and learning more myself.
Cox’s hard work and eagerness to learn impressed the center’s leadership, who recently created a position just for her.
“She has distinguished herself to the point that I trust her managing several of our largest customers,” said Buff. “She was promoted to special projects coordinator and has done a masterful job. Not only does she manage special projects but she helps with all of our marketing efforts, pricing, sales, training, community outreach, trade shows and more.”
She is now the initial contact for all projects, and her role depends on an exceptional combination of technical and customer service skills.
“My average day begins with me checking my email, seeing what projects I have to work on, putting out any fires if anything has gone wrong,” she said. “It can go from several conference calls with customers to go over project timelines, taking new customers on a tour around the center to see what we have to offer them, speaking to high school or college students who come to learn more about textiles…I even do material sourcing.”
Cox is also tasked with recruitment. In that capacity, she travels to elementary, middle and high schools to speak about the TTC and the field of textiles. She helped plan one of the center’s first summer camps for teens last year; about 15 students attended, and she hopes to increase enrollment this year.
“When (young people) hear my perspective about textiles, they think it’s pretty cool and it sparks some interest,” she said. “That’s my next step — just continuing to inspire other people to get involved in textiles and learning more myself.”
Textile Technology Center
The TTC is located in Gaston County in the small town of Belmont, NC, about 15 miles west of uptown Charlotte. It was established in 1943 as a trade school, which people from the area attended to learn skills like spinning, weaving or loom repair.
“As the industry changed, so did the center,” said Cox. “Now we do research and testing and product development to help support the textile industry.” The TTC offers a range of services from fabric formation and melt extrusion to flammability testing and defect analysis, and serves startups and smaller companies as well as entities including VF Corporation, Nike and the Department of Defense.
“Some of the companies that you learn about at NC State and you dream about working with…here, I interact with them on a daily basis,” she said.
Cox initially planned to study chemical engineering at NC State, but wanted to change majors after her second semester. Her father, a Wilson College of Textiles alumnus with a degree in textile management, suggested she look into textiles.
“In my head I was thinking, I’m not a designer, but my dad said, ‘No — they make artificial arteries and other really cool stuff!”
Intrigued, she attended an open house with her father — and decided to follow in his footsteps to study textiles. She graduated with her B.S. in Textile Technology in 2013, took graduate courses at UNC Charlotte and is currently pursuing her Master of Textiles online through the Wilson College of Textiles.
“Working here, I’m able to see a different side of textiles,” she said. “I was used to reading a study guide or textbook or writing a paper, but after working here, it got me excited. Being in Gaston County, I see all of the textile companies that are in need of young talent and that just made me want to learn even more.”
She plans to one day earn her Ph.D., which she says would be “a dream come true.”