By Debbie Willmschen

Hanna Lee initially began her journey in higher education at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she started as a double major in accounting and marketing. “At first, I was interested in the business aspect of the textile industry,” Lee said. “But I found that I wanted to return to Korea, where I eventually went back to my initial interests in the fashion industry.”

While completing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in clothing and textiles at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea, Lee realized the power of innovative retail technologies in reshaping the consumer experience. And it was her interest in researching these new technologies that eventually led her to the Textile Technology Management (TTM) doctoral program at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles.

“I picked Wilson College specifically because of its connections to the industry and its focus on technology,” Lee said. 

After identifying the co-chairs for her committee, Professor Yingjiao Xu and Assistant Professor Anne Porterfield, Lee has been grateful for the unique backgrounds and experiences that each brought to her research.

“The combination of approaches from my advisers has made my research more innovative and creative,” Lee said. “Dr. Xu’s background and expertise is similar to my research, and she provided me with valuable insights to move my research forward. But Dr. Porterfield, with experience in design and 3D garment simulation, brought in technical expertise that allowed me to consider whether my ideas were realistic.”

Lee’s research focuses on virtual fitting room (VFR) technology and its impact on consumer behavior in fashion marketing. More specifically, her research examines the psychological reasons as to why consumers perceive value and adopt a VFR and provides insight as to who in this group is more likely to be an early adopter of this technology.

“Hanna’s willingness to think about the technological implications of her study showed her commitment to both the depth and breadth in her research,“ Porterfield added.

Lee credits the broad base and diverse experiences she received at Wilson College for opening doors to new opportunities.

For example, when Lee started her doctoral program at Wilson College, she used the required core courses to her benefit by quickly publishing papers related to her research. “During the first year, when you don’t yet have an adviser, publishing papers with the instructors of these core classes was definitely an advantage,” Lee said. “I think it’s good for students to take these classes and have these opportunities. All my professors were supportive of this process, and they helped me to be really productive during my first year.”

Lee also believes that the interdisciplinary approach of her research provided invaluable opportunities throughout her time at Wilson College. 

“I came here to study interactive technologies and how they affect consumers’ experiences in the shopping channel,” she said. “But Wilson College offered many other ways to enhance my educational experience.”

Lee earned several financial awards, including the Provost’s Fellowship and a Graduate School Summer Fellowship, but noted that the ability to connect with people in the industry was often as beneficial as the award itself.

“In this last year, I received an International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) Paper of Distinction award,” Lee said. “Participating in the conference provided me with the chance to interact with people about my research and receive realistic comments from an industry perspective. These opportunities have been valuable to my educational process.”

Lee has been productive during her tenure as a doctoral student, publishing seven manuscripts, with others under review, in highly-ranked academic journals as well as delivering nearly 20 presentations at regional, national and international conferences.

“Hanna has received many recognitions and awards for her excellent research activities, including paper of distinction, best poster awards and travel grants, and she definitely sets the bar high for future students in the TTM program,”  her co-advisor Xu said. “Her extensive dissertation research on virtual fitting rooms, an innovative retail technology, has laid a strong foundation for her to become an emerging expert in the field.”

Earning her doctorate in TTM in May 2021, Lee looks forward to beginning her next chapter. This fall, she will join Susquehanna University as an assistant professor in the Sigmund Weis School of Business.

“All these diverse interactions at Wilson College helped me to find a good job in a different field,” Lee said. “I developed the skills that I needed in my chosen field but also gained useful business perspectives in marketing and retail management as well. I’m looking forward to the opportunities in my new position this fall.”