$1M gift creates fashion industry-focused media initiative at UNC School of Media and Journalism

UNC School of Media and Journalism alumni Bill and Leigh Goodwyn are expanding the school’s advertising and public relations reach into fashion media and product development with a $1 million gift.

The gift creates the “Workroom: FashionMash” initiative — launching in Fall 2016 — that includes fashion-specific courses in the MJ-school, a fashion industry internship program, travel experiences and project funding for students building a portfolio of fashion- and lifestyle-focused work. Advertising students throughout the school will look at the wide reach of fashion’s media landscape as part of the initiative’s first year.

“Fashion and lifestyle media are major players in the global marketplace,” said Susan King, dean of the school. “Bill and Leigh Goodwyn are investing in a future for our students as leaders in the industry, and I think that is a great investment.”

The initiative is led by MJ-school Professor of the Practice Dana McMahan, founder and director of the school’s Workroom initiative — a classroom-based creative incubator where undergraduate students prototype and launch retail products, branded experiences and lifestyle businesses.

“We’ve been connected to entertainment and fashion throughout our careers and have also remained engaged with the University,” said Leigh Goodwyn. “We’ve seen the passion students have for this work and want to help build a new foundation for them. Workroom is already deeply entrenched in this space, and we are thrilled to find a mechanism to grow the initiative.”

McMahan said the gift makes it possible to connect the UNC campus more directly to the industry. “We are forming a strong advisory panel for the project made up of some of the most prominent members of the fashion media community,” she said.

McMahan’s career began with fashion and beauty advertising and expanded to include retail ventures and product development. She established Workroom in the MJ-school’s advertising and public relations specializations in 2009, creating a platform for incorporating fashion, lifestyle and product design content into the school’s curriculum.

The initiative has brought global brands — such as American Eagle Outfitters and Burt’s Bees — into the classroom to provide students with hands-on experiences. It has also created partnerships with schools and departments across the University, including Kenan-Flagler Business School and Innovate Carolina network. In 2014, Workroom began providing the design track course for the University-wide entrepreneurship minor.

“There is tremendous energy in the School of Media and Journalism — and a lot of entrepreneurial activity across the campus — around the fashion and lifestyle categories,” said McMahan. “This generous gift catalyzes what we already know is a very popular area of study with students, and it also gives us the opportunity to connect our students to the network of North Carolina universities with fashion and retail initiatives.”

“I am very thankful to Bill and Leigh Goodwyn for creating this tremendous opportunity for our students,” said Distinguished Professor John Sweeney, who leads the school’s advertising specialization. “And for giving Dana McMahan, one of our star faculty members, the chance to create a truly innovative program.”

Leigh Goodwyn is a 1988 graduate of the MJ-school with 20 years of marketing experience with major television networks including Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Networks, where she worked in affiliate marketing, advertising sales/marketing and eventually rose to head of international marketing. She also served as vice president of marketing for Discovery Place, a science and natural history museum based in Charlotte. In 2013, she co-founded LeighDeux, a textile design, linen and home decor company. She serves on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Board of Visitors, Women’s Leadership Council and the Entrepreneurship Minor working group. She also serves on the Chancellor’s Philanthropic Council along with Bill.

Bill Goodwyn is a 33-year veteran of the media and television industry and is currently the president and CEO of Discovery Education, the education division of Discovery Communications, where he has held senior leadership positions for 29 years.  Under Goodwyn, Discovery Education pioneered the development of digital textbooks designed to replace traditional print textbooks as the primary resource for K-12 classroom instruction. He launched the company’s efforts to forge strategic alliances with Fortune 500 companies and foundations supporting public education initiatives in the fields of STEM, health, financial literacy and more. Previously, he served as president of global content distribution for Discovery Networks, where he was responsible for sales and marketing in more than 200 countries; and president of domestic content distribution, where he oversaw all content distribution strategy, sales and marketing for Discovery's digital content and portfolio of 13 U.S. networks, including Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Oprah Winfrey Network and Science Channel.

He is a trustee for the Committee for Economic Development and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. He also serves on the board for the Central Piedmont Community College Foundation, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Education Foundation and T. Howard Foundation. He is a 1982 graduate of the MJ-school, where he serves on the Board of Advisers. He received the Visionary Award from the American Association of Publishers (AAP) in 2015, was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2013 and into the Cable Pioneers Class of 2004.

In the latest episode of the Start Here / Never Stop Podcast, alumna Leigh Goodwyn '88 discusses how her experiences at Carolina have influenced her varied career.