The MCTC News Blog

Fashion Forward: Student Designer, Inspired by Her African Heritage, Launches Her Own Business

Posted on: July 28th, 2010 by insidemctc 37 Comments

Article originally published in the Spring 2010 issue of Minnesota State, courtesy of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.

Joyce Cooper

Joyce Cooper, apparel technologies student, with her fashions

Designing and sewing clothing have been Joyce Cooper’s passions since she was a child. So when the Liberian immigrant decided to seriously pursue fashion design, she enrolled in the Apparel Technologies program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College to hone her skills and launch her own business.

Her fashions – mostly dresses and evening wear for women – are inspired by traditional African prints, arts and her faith. She said she loves cutting out pieces of brightly colored, patterned fabrics and incorporating the shapes on top of organza, satin, lace and other solid-colored fabrics.

“Sometimes I sleep and designs come to me,” Cooper said. “I love everything about fashion – the inspiration, design, drawing, construction. But actually seeing it fit on a human figure the way I visualized it is my favorite part.”

Cooper’s style developed as she was growing up in Liberia, where her mother taught her to sew throw pillows and other small pieces. She remembers watching her mother mend and alter her clothes, and sew drapes in their home, all by hand.

Crystal Badio

Crystal Badio models a dress by Joyce

Cooper continued to design after moving to the United States in 2001, and in 2008 she decided to get formal training and become a full-time designer. Her husband, Jefferson Cooper, a childhood friend whom she married in 1998, suggested she look into the Apparel Technologies program. After reviewing the curriculum, Cooper enrolled.

Orionna Brisbois

Orionna Brisbois models a dress made by Joyce

Cooper, 37, said the tools and courses offered at the college, including industrial sewing methods and garment construction, make creating her fashions so much easier and faster than the hand-stitching methods she had first learned.

For years, her method had been to conceive an idea and immediately start sewing. In the program, she has learned about pattern making, draping, product development, manufacturing, alterations, textiles and more. She also learned to use computer-aided design called Tuka Tech that displays a garment design on a 3-D model.

She gains inspiration from her children, ages 15, 7 and 5. “They would say, ‘Wow, Mommy – that’s so cool. That’s tight!’ I didn’t even know what ‘tight’ meant,” she said. “I thought my outfit was too tight. Or, ‘Mommy, that is the bomb. How did you do that?’ So I kept sewing and sewing.”

In two months, she created 36 outfits. Several of these fashions were showcased in a January fashion show at MCTC. Cooper expects to complete her diploma in apparel technologies this summer and plans to begin studying toward a bachelor’s degree.

Joyce Cooper, center, and models from the apparel technologies program wearing Joyce's fashions

People have begun ordering custom designs from Cooper’s business, Joy4 Designs. At the college, Cooper also learned market research to better understand how to promote her clothing line. She moved her home sewing room to a studio in January and is working to add online purchasing to her website.

Her favorite piece is a green satin dress she made to wear in March at the Minnesota International Fashion Exposé, where her fashions were showcased along with several other designers’ work. The dress features an African print trimmed with gold detailing, a flowing train and short sleeves that look like wings when she extends her arms. “It’s inspired by what I believe,” she said. “The sky is my limit.”

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MCTC Students Compete and Win in National SkillsUSA Championships

Posted on: June 30th, 2010 by insidemctc No Comments

SkillsUSATwo MCTC students–Phil Patton and Dan Rogers–competed in the SkillsUSA Championships at the 46th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, June 20 – 25.

Quality career and technical education was the centerpiece of the conference. More than 14,000 students, teachers, education leaders, and representatives from more than 1,100 national corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions attended the event. Special highlighted events were the SkillsUSA Championships June 23 and 24 with 96 hands-on skill and leadership competitions.

The SkillsUSA Championships is the showcase for the best career and technical students in the nation. Working against the clock and each other, the participants proved their expertise in job skills for occupations such as electronics, technical drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts. There were also competitions in leadership skills, such as extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings by parliamentary procedures.

In order to qualify for the national competition, the students completed in local and state contests. The state gold metal winners advanced to the national SkillsUSA Championships. Patton and Rogers both took first place at the SkillsUSA Minnesota Conference in April.

Patton received the bronze metal in the High School Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration competition. Rogers placed 7th out of 23 in the Industrial Motor Controls contest. Minnesota received 38 medals overall, a record for Minnesota and one of the highest totals in the country.

All winners receive medallions and frequently receive tools of their trade and/or scholarships to further their careers and education. The SkillsUSA Championships is for high school and college-level students who are members of SkillsUSA. More than 5,600 students from every state and three territories completed in 96 contests in technical, skilled and service occuptionsk, including health occupations this year.

2010 HVACR Winners

2010 HVACR Winners: Phil Patton, far right

SkillsUSA is the national organization for students in trade, industrial, technical and health occupations education. It sponsors the SkillsUSA Championships annually to recognize the achievements of career and technical education students and to encourage them to strive for excellence and pride in their chosen occupations. SkillsUSA organizes this event, and it is considered the single greatest day of industry volunteerism in America every year at an estimated cost of more than $35 million. The philosophy of the Championships is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs.

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Nathan Johnson, MCTC Architectural Technology Faculty, Featured in Insight News

Posted on: June 9th, 2010 by insidemctc 1 Comment

Excerpted from “Innovative. Visionary. Attentive. Community.” in Insight on June 3, 2010.

By Maya Beecham

4RM+ULA - Photo: Suluki Fardan

4RM+ULA - Photo: Suluki Fardan

Members of the architecture industry and consumers of architecture and design use these descriptors when referring to the work of 4RM+ULA, a Black-owned full service architectural design firm established in 2002. 4RM+ULA, a phonetic acronym that stands for form + urban landscape articulation, is linked to high profile projects such as the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit, Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center, Selby Area CDC, and Juxtaposition Arts Center Textile Lab.

James Garrett, Jr., Nathan Johnson, and Erick Goodlow, are friends and partners of 4RM+ULA who balance design, technical expertise, theory, and urban planning. The three men have known each other since youth when architecture and business ventures were a dream. After pursuing years of education at prestigious post secondary institutions on the East Coast, West Coast and Midwest, they have joined forces to bring their expertise back to the Twin Cities and are expanding globally. Now the dream is realized.

Johnson, a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, participated in the initial development talks for 4RM+ULA and became partner in 2007. He is a LEED Accredited Professional, recipient of the AIA Minnesota 2009 Young Architect Award, and professor of Architectural Technology at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Johnson and fellow partners have assumed the stance of architectural stewards for their home community. “I think we’re very concerned about what impacts our city, and what specifically impacts the urban environment. We are all Twin Cities natives. All of our families go back here for years. We have a vested interest in this community. We are particularly concerned with forming long-term public and private partnerships; adding to and improving the building stock in urban communities; cultivating vacant and/or under-utilized properties in transitional urban neighborhoods; producing new housing and commercial opportunities by introducing mixed-use medium density, socially responsible designs that are fully environmentally responsive, economically viable, and transit-oriented. All tailored to fit at the neighborhood scale,” he said.

Johnson said 4RM+ULA “doesn’t have preconceived notions of what the outcome is going to be. Each project is its on individual thing and we work with the client/owner to come up with the best solution, and we spend a lot of time analyzing , thinking , trying to be creative and not trying to think within a box about how the end product is going to be. We want to give the owner, our client, the best solutions and give them all the information that they need to develop a great product, and especially since we work with a lot of community groups, I think that is an imperative.

For more information on 4RM+ULA Architectural Design Firm visit or call 651-292-0106.

For the full article, visit

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