Students Reimagine School Uniforms

Nov 17, 2015 | All School, Impact, Inquiry, Upper School News

uniform2Keeping in mind one of Mount Vernon’s mantras to “start with questions”, Upper School Transformational Leadership students recently wrestled with one intriguing question…How might we innovate Mount Vernon’s school uniforms?
After spending several weeks entrenched in observational research, conducting student surveys, interviewing students and faculty, as well as taking a cue from design thinking–empathizing with their users, these rising leaders came to a couple of different and surprising conclusions.
Demonstrating the real-world skill of effective communication, each group presented their findings to a room full of curious administrators, including Head of School Dr. Brett Jacobsen.
The first group showed photos of what employees wear at innovative companies like Google, Facebook and Apple. Pointing out that while their creative clothing might not be the norm in the corporate world, each of these companies maintain a level of professionalism. Through their research they examined: How Mount Vernon might reimagine its uniform to be both comfortable and professional while promoting the School’s innovative atmosphere? In the end the group recommended more freedom of choice when it comes to accessorizing the School uniform. Striving for comfort, the boys could wear their letterman jackets or quarter-zip sweaters instead of  blazers on formal dress days. Girls could add a gray scarf or a gray cardigan, and both girls and boys could elect to wear jeans on regular dress days with polo shirts or a MVPS sport polo.
The second group examined the issue from a slightly different angle by answering the question: How might we design a dress code that celebrates a student’s uniqueness while supporting the brand of the School. First they interviewed a variety of different students and faculty about Mount Vernon’s current uniforms. From these interviews, students then embarked on an experiment by each wearing clothing that represented their individuality AND supported the School’s brand. On the days they wore their “dress code prototype clothing”, the group surveyed their classmates. Through the survey, 92% reported the dress code prototypes brought out a student’s individuality, and 63% of the students surveyed believed these prototypes represented the School’s innovative brand.
At the conclusion of their presentations administrators asked tough questions and inquired why students weren’t bolder in suggesting a new uniform or dress code. Their response: “Mount Vernon’s current uniforms may not be particularly innovative, they make us feel like we belong, and they provide a sense of community.”
Reflecting on the experience, many students admitted they appreciated their Head of School’s thoughtful feedback, particularly when Dr. Jacobsen said, ”We appreciate the time you put into your design challenge, and we want you to know we take what you presented seriously.”
To learn more about the students’ work, check out their presentations by clicking on these links: Presentation 1 & Presentation 2
The students taking Mount Vernon’s Transformational Leadership course this semester are Peyton Evertson, Sydney Garde, Ryan Hackett, Ahmir Lee, Ben Martin, Grace McCarthy, James McGuire, Allison Peterka, Alyssa Sherman, Parker Smith, Gabriella Thompson, and Griffin Westbrook.
For more information about Mount Vernon’s Transformational Leadership class, an elective in the Upper School, contact Trey Boden, [email protected].