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How NKU’s SOTA design and technology program is preparing students for lifelong careers in the arts

An inside look at the costume shop in SOTA

April 10, 2022

For many SOTA students, faculty and staff, room FA 203 is a place considered to be a home. Inside this room is SOTA’s costume shop, full of sewing machines, fabrics and other technology used to create costumes seen in the many shows NKU’s theater and dance department produces each year. 

Some students spend 20 hours a week working outside of class on upcoming shows SOTA is producing. 

Assisting these students in the design and creation of costumes is Ronnie Chamberlain, associate professor and area coordinator for costume design and technology. Chamberlain mentioned how she hopes she can help students gain practical experience and overall help students find their niche as a technician. 

“In our design technology program, we hope that students walk out with hands-on, job practical experience,” Chamberlain said. 

Chamberlain then went on to discuss what students can do post-graduation of the design technology program, adding how the program can prepare students for a career or even a graduate program.

“They built their resumes here so that when they are ready to walk out into that workforce, they have a resume that will get them those jobs, or they will have resumes that will get them full rides to school,” Chamberlain added. 

Chamberlain mentioned how the costume shop isn’t just for those who enjoy sewing. Many students that work in the costume shop come from lots of different backgrounds and skill sets, ranging from acting majors to even construction management majors. 

“Believe it or not, we get a lot of students that come over from construction management because they like to build houses and engineer stuff. Well, we build fake houses. We do all sorts of things, so just knowing that there are other options out there to take your creative path. If you’re a jack of all trades, there’s probably a place for you,” Chamberlain said. 

Fifth year acting and english major Haley Beggs decided she wanted to get involved as a way to get to know more people since she was a commuter. This led Beggs to take an introductory class where she learned more about sewing.

Prior to attending NKU, Beggs had some prior knowledge about sewing, but getting involved with the costume shop has allowed her to gain new skills. 

“It kind of just started as a way for me to get involved, to do things and do something I enjoy. It’s something I wanted to progress at and utilize later,” Beggs said. 

Ronnie Chamberlain, associate professor and area coordinator for costume design and technology, inside the costume staging room. (Emory Davis)

Although Beggs isn’t a costuming major, she talked about how getting involved with the costume shop has opened her up to many opportunities within the costuming field. She mentioned how her experience in the shop helped her get a summer stock opportunity. 

“There are a lot of things you can learn that are beneficial in real life that can get you jobs. I worked at the University of Virginia Heritage Theatre Festival and I was not even a costuming major,” Beggs said. 

Beggs mentioned how beneficial it has been for her to learn multiple skills while attending NKU. 

“I think that NKU, SOTA specifically, offers a really well-rounded education. They encourage you to get into other fields of theater, to learn different things and to see that tech side of it. I think that it is really important to learn as well,” Beggs said. 

Cat Schmeal, costume shop manager for the theatre and dance program at NKU, added how exciting it is for her to see students progress from when they first start working at the costume shop to when they leave.

“I think the best part of the job and helping students is seeing them come in from their first year and talking to them about what they want to accomplish. Then, building on that when they walk out the door with the skills they have learned,” Schmeal said. 

Overall, Schmeal hopes that students involved can learn life long skills to take to a career. Additionally, she hopes that students can take advantage of everything NKU has to offer in the program.

“We hope that students can learn skills that when they leave here they feel like they got everything out of NKU,” Schmeal added. 

For more information about the theater and design department, visit

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