It’s tough job market out there, but at Stevens — The Institute of Business & Arts (Siba) in downtown St. Louis, students are receiving a college experience that translates to a career and provides tangible results from their education costs. Here, two graduates explain how Siba helped them get real-world experience and rewarding jobs in their fields.

Sarah Bross
Once St. Louis native Sarah Bross started her Retail/Fashion Merchandising degree at Siba in January 2015, she quickly learned she was in the right place.

“[Because Siba accepted so many transfer credits and I took the heaviest course load allowed each quarter], I was able to finish my bachelor’s degree in only two years,” she explains. “Being able to individualize my education for an accelerated timeline that best fit my life was very beneficial.”

Although academic studies are imperative, the work doesn’t stop there. “My advisors and teachers found me real-world experience in retail, product development, fashion design and, finally, event production,” she says. “For freelancers, it can be nerve-wracking to not know what your next gig will be and how much it will pay, but I haven’t had trouble finding work — quite the opposite.”

Bross says she absolutely loves working as a freelancer in the events industry. “I lived in New York for over half of 2017 working with 6UP Productions and KCD Worldwide,” she says. “At KCD, I worked on the collection team at the Fall/Winter 2017 Marc Jacobs show. With 6UP, a few events included: Baja East x Melissa Shoes, esmara by Heidi Klum x Lidl, Kate Spade Pop Up, Malaria No More Gala, and The Gap Press and Fit Events. Other work travels have included Austin, Nashville, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Cedar Rapids.”

Although Bross spends much of her time jet setting, she also works locally. “I love being able to toggle between major markets while still being able to come home,” she says, adding she freelances with Brainchild Events, for which she was production manager for the Pins and Needles Design Competition in August 2017 and Gent! Menswear Fashion Week in March 2018. A new chapter of her career is emerging with Mother Model Management, however.

“I work closely with Jeff and Mary Clarke, who have been responsible for the discovery of top stars Ashton Kutcher, Karlie Kloss, Grace Hartzel, Alanna Arrington, Jay Wright and Myla Dalbesio, to name a few,” she says. “At Mother Model, I am the production manager for Tribute Fashion Fest, a truly special event for the St. Louis community.”

For more information on Bross, visit

Lavander Ridgel
Arkansas native Lavander Ridgel began his degree at Siba in 2015 and graduated in December 2017 with a bachelor of arts in graphic design.

“Upon arrival at the school for a tour, the building alone caught my attention,” he says. “The atmosphere had a feel that was easy to be creative. The teachers were knowledgeable and skilled in their profession. The school took pride in the students and went above and beyond to get them exposed to real-world experiences. … The small classes made it easy to get the one-on-one attention that was needed.”

Ridgel says he came to Siba with 20 years of experience in the industry, but he needed to learn new software.

“I was working with a lot of the same clients that the school was introducing us to on my current job, but I still learned a lot about the graphic design part that I was lacking, such as proper file setup, sizes, placement, color, templates and many other things that now make my life a lot easier in the real world.”

Ridgel’s degree led to a promotion at the Fenton-based Graphics Factory, which creates graphics for malls, gas stations, vehicle wraps, retail stores, boats, wall murals and more.

“As a student, I was a lead installer for the company, and upon completion of my degree, I was offered my previous boss’s job of graphics installation manager,” he says. “I am in charge of scheduling the installers, training, meeting the clients, bidding the jobs and making sure all of the installations get done in a professional and timely manner. I design when needed, but mainly am the one that travels to meet the clients and help secure the deals.

“My income now has almost doubled since I graduated and may go higher. I may begin to get commission per job, plus my regular pay.”

For more information on Ridgel, visit

To learn more about how Siba can jump-start or reinvigorate your career, visit siba.eduM

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