Dr. LaPorchia Davis, a 2011 alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Department of Human Sciences Merchandising, Textiles and Design Program, uses the lessons she learned as a student in her career at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore, Maryland. As an assistant professor for the MSU Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, she aims to give students the kind of encouragement and support she received at UAPB.
“Many students are convinced they cannot accomplish their goals,” she said. “I too was in their shoes in college, but I eventually believed in myself and pushed myself to accomplish every goal I set for myself. One of the reasons I challenge students to think creatively inside the classroom is because I know they are capable of more that what they think.”
Davis, a native of Pine Bluff, said she learned this transformative power of self-confidence during her education at UAPB. She appreciated her professors’ tendency to provide support and honesty, while making sure the students took responsibility for their own success.
“Nothing was handed or given to me at UAPB, and I had to work hard in every one of my classes to get the grade I deserved,” she said. “I would not trade that experience for anything in world.”
At MSU, Davis teaches classes in fashion entrepreneurship and merchandising. She enjoys engaging with students and encourages them to pursue academic research in fashion topics, an interest she developed at UAPB that has turned into a major aspect of her career.
“As an assistant professor, it’s important for me to stay current,” she said. “I like to research the latest fashion trends and fads. Currently, the fashion and beauty industry is catering to millennials by engaging with influencer marketing and social media. Research allows me to bring these current ideas into classroom discussions or future projects.”
During her career, Davis has taught research-specific courses for the UAPB Department of Human Sciences. These classes emphasized the use of qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods specifically as they relate to the field of family and consumer sciences.
“Human sciences research is all about students understanding and analyzing formal research methodology and procedures used in all areas of the field,” she said. “During the classes at UAPB, each student had the chance to critique research studies and plan out their own research project.”
Davis said her emphasis in research began during her studies at UAPB when she participated in the McNair Scholars Program, a federal program designed to prepare first-generation or underrepresented undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. She said the experience not only introduced her to the concepts of formal research, but also paved the way for her future studies.
“As the first member of my family to pursue a doctoral degree, being a Ronald McNair Scholar prepared me for graduate school in so many ways,” she said. “I learned how to conduct doctoral studies through involvement in research and data collecting, as well as find an advisor, who was Dr. Edmund Buckner (then associate dean for research and Extension at UAPB). I also was able to prepare for the Graduate Record Exam and learn how to apply and get excepted into graduate school.”
Scholarly research became a part of Davis’ daily routine when she was accepted as a graduate student at Iowa State University (ISU), where she obtained both a master’s and doctorate degree. During her post-graduate studies, she conducted research on topics relating to social-psychological aspects of the appearance of African-American women, sustainability, entrepreneurship, social media and the product development of handbags.
Davis said the experience of graduate school was challenging and at times intense. Her ability to learn quickly and find professors and colleagues willing to help her on her academic journey ultimately helped her obtain her degrees.
“Each one of the faculty members and my major professor at Iowa State University truly wanted to see me grow as a professor,” she said. “Undergraduate students should be aware that graduate school is not for everyone – it’s a lot of work and you can’t go into a program playing around. However, I do recommend higher education for those who are truly interested in research and teaching in academia.”
During her education, Davis founded her own eco-conscious beauty brand, LC Beauty Extensions, and continues to run the company. The company’s vegan and toxin-free nail lacquer has been featured in Woman’s World Magazine.
“When I started the company, I visualized an affordable beauty line for the everyday woman on the go,” she said. “I was inspired to develop a beauty brand that empowers all women who want to look and feel fabulous when it comes to their hair and nails.”
In addition to starting her own company, Davis also wrote an e-book titled “Beauty with a purpose: Make your beauty business standout.” The book details how to be a successful entrepreneur, staying focused and the importance of writing down one’s thoughts.
“I hope to inspire and empower all girls and young women in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and around the world through beauty and business,” she said. “Journaling helps future entrepreneurs assess different motivations for starting a small business, as well as determine challenges, success factors and different ways to identify sources for prestart-ups and beyond.”
Davis credits Dr. Kaye Crippen, professor of the UAPB Department of Merchandising, Textiles and Design, with preparing her for her career. Thanks to her, she learned about the importance of textiles, international trade and woven materials, and received the encouragement to continue her education.
“Dr. Crippen influenced me to go to graduate school and helped with any questions I had about attending,” she said. “Dr. Syed Qadir, instructor for the department of business, sparked my interested for entrepreneurship and business management. During graduate school, my professors at the ISU Department of Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management, Dr. Mary Lynn Damhorst and Dr. Eulanda Sanders, humbly guided me with open arms to get me where I am today.”
Davis said fashion and beauty have been an important part of her life since, as a child, she watched her grandmother, mother and aunt knit clothing. Seeing the different generations of her family construct garments inspired her own creativity.
“When I started college, it was important that I find a major to fit my creativity,” she said. “My mother was very supportive of my decision to major in merchandising, textiles, and design at UAPB, and motivated me to pursue a professional career in fashion and entrepreneurship.”
Davis emphasizes the importance of completing one’s education to current students.
“Students have to remember to not give up on the process,” she said. “Sometimes the process might seem confusing, but you should always remember why you started. In the end, all your hard work will be worth it.”