Marva G. Ballard

Artist | Educator | Entrepreneur

"...Because Creativity is not Myopic"



Multi-talented professional possessing over three decades of academic experience at the post-secondary level and entrepreneurial experience as an artist and designer. Highly effective teacher, trainer and facilitator, curriculum and program developer. Skilled technical and creative writer.  

Experience working with students of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, especially non-traditional adult students. Proven ability to develop applied learning activities in the arts that help students better understand academic content in the areas of science, technology engineering and math. 

Strategic and critical thinker with the ability to carry a project from conceptualization through close-out. 


M.S. Degree, Tuskegee University | Tuskegee, AL

Extension and Technical Education

B.S. Degree (Magna Cum Laude), Tuskegee University | Tuskegee, AL

Fashion Merchandising

Studied at the University of Akron | Akron, OH

Additional course work in Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Secondary Education and Fine Arts

Professional Experience

Entrepreneurial Experience


I have over 37 years of professional experience as an artist and designer.  My specialty is wearable art leather apparel.

Academic Experience


I have over 32 years of academic experience, which includes teaching at the post-secondary level (traditional and online).

Non-Profit Experience


I have over 7 years working in the nonprofit sector for organizations that benefit women and children. 

Back Story

Early Inclinations

I grew up in Akron, Ohio, with my younger siblings - two sisters and one brother. Along with our parents, we lived in a modest family house in a neighborhood with other families with children our age. During that time Akron was known as the "Rubber Capital of the World" because it was headquarters for the three largest tire manufacturers. Because our parents all had good jobs, we were fortunate to have opportunities we did not even fully understand and appreciate until we were adults. I was shaped by the range of experiences I had in childhood, and the wonderfully creative environment I grew up in.

I started drawing fashions on little stick figures at the age of four.  I didn't have a sketch pad, but my mother, an avid reader, had bookshelves full of hard back books, each containing a few blank pages. Those blank pages became my sketch pads.  


From Sketching to Sewing

I started sewing at age 5. By age 12 I was making gowns for women at our church, and at age 13 had my first "job" interview. A cousin living in Cleveland believed in my talent enough to arranged for me to meet with the President of Bobby Brooks Sportswear.  The company executive, who was probably as amused as he was impressed, sat and smiled as he leafed though page after page of my still a little crude but very detailed fashion illustrations. He talked to me about his company and invited me to come back at the age of 17 and become a part of their teen design board. However, by then art had become my passion.  


Fashion to Art

I was fortunate to grow up during a period when arts education was valued and had its rightful place in school budgets. I had wonderful teachers who exposed us to a multitude of art mediums. 

At Buchtel High School I learned how to paint with acrylics, oils, watercolors and gouache, which I had never heard of. We used oil pastels, charcoals and inks, learned how to work with silver and how to do enameling. We sculpted from stone, wood and clay, and learned pottery which we glazed and fired in a kiln. We even learned printmaking using silk screens that we also had to construct, and created batiks using hot wax and dyes.     


The Professional Student

After graduating from high school, I enrolled at the University of Akron intending to major in fashion, but my mother felt it would be better to major in something "I could get a job in." So I majored in Child Psychology but having a morbid fear of math, changed majors to avoid taking the required courses in statistics. I moved on to Sociology, then to Political Science, and then Secondary Education, until finally majoring in Fine Art. 

I didn't know what a professional student was. However, I think the term pretty much described me.  


Indy Bound

My mother was just about ready to tear her hair out (and mine with it) when a cousin visiting from Indianapolis, Indiana, headed me in another direction. A close friend of his who worked for the Fort Benjamin Army Base was seeking to hire someone to do illustrations for training manuals.  My cousin arranged for us to do a phone interview and I was tentatively offered the position IF I would relocate. So one of my close friends and I decided we would strike out and move to Indianapolis.    


Back to Math

I thought I was moving to Indianapolis to launch my career as a professional illustrator.  However, because I didn't have a degree, they couldn't officially offer me the job.  I was mortified!  Suddenly I had rent, utilities - real bills - and no job!  

Another friend of my cousin directed me to speak to a teacher at Westlane Middle School who was looking for some assistance. She had received a three-year grant and was looking for someone to start and run a mathematics laboratory for students who had scored below the 25th percentile on their state testing. My fear of math took a back seat to my need to keep a roof over my head. I told her I could do it and she offered me the job. 


Learners like Me

Stepping into uncharted territory, I began to see it as a challenge and a chance to provide a solution to a problem that had also been mine. For me, being a visual and kinesthetic learner, math was always too abstract to understand. Thinking I'd be working with students who were like me, I saw it as a chance to reach them using methods that would have helped me.

For three years I worked with 7th-9th graders helping them understand math concepts using applied methods.  Being in close proximity to the Home Economics kitchen came in handy. We cooked using recipes to reinforce concepts in ratios and baked actual pies to learn fractions. Even the kids who excelled in math wanted to come to the Math Lab.      

Entrepreneurial experience

Becoming M.G. Ballard


While running the Math Lab at Westlane, I launched my career as a fashion designer, designing under the label M.G. Ballard Designs.  I was coming into my own and gaining a level of confidence I never had as a child.  I enjoyed designing and making beautiful gowns for some of city's prominent women; however, my passion became working with leathers and creating art that could be worn. I had found a way to meld both of my passions - art and fashion.

Not only was I designing clothes, I was producing fashion shows. Four four years I produced the fashion show for the Indianapolis Black Expo which drew audiences in the thousands. I produced one for a product launch for a cosmetic company in Los Angeles, one in conjunction with the Indianapolis Ballet, and numerous other shows for organizations across the city.  One of the more unique shows was for a National Pork Producers Association convention held in Indianapolis. They wanted to highlight the potential of one of their byproducts - pigskin suede and contracted me to produce and show garments made from it. I was nominated for the More Fashion Awards in N.Y. and even landed a contract to design costumes for the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders for their first season in Indianapolis.

However, a trip to Tuskegee, AL to visit my sister changed the trajectory of my life in a way I never expected.     

Academic Experience

The Venture into Academics


I went to visit my sister who was attending Tuskegee University and was invited to meet with the two women who were instructors with a program called Clothing and Related Arts. They had heard about the work I was doing in Indianapolis and thought I could add value to the program. So they offered me an opportunity to join their faculty and not only teach, but help them transition the program to something more in line with current trends.  

I saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. So, I went back to Indianapolis, sublet my studio and moved to Tuskegee, AL. It was the best move I had ever made. I joined the faculty for the Fall Semester of 1987, teaching beginning and intermediate clothing construction. I loved it! At the annual Christmas party my Dean congratulated me on a job well done and casually mentioned that they needed to see my credentials. I had taught for a full semester thinking that they knew I did not have a degree. It also occurred to me that they never asked. As it turns out, when the Dean discovered that I did not have the required credentials, he proposed that I continue working with the program as the Industry Liaison helping them with the development of the new program. He also said I could continue to teach but that I would "technically" be a lab assistant in the program. However, the caveat was that I would return to school and finish my degree....which I did, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a B.S. degree in Fashion Merchandising. I became an "official" member of the faculty in the Fall of 1992. He then encouraged me to continue on and pursue my Masters degree...which I also did, graduating with a M.S. in Extension and Technical Education in 1995.  

I worked with my fellow instructors to develop an advisory board comprised of faculty from fashion programs at other institutions, people in the fashion and connecting industries. They brought resources to the program as well as guided the development of the Fashion Merchandising program. As part of that process, I helped craft a new curriculum which mandated that 25% of the coursework be in business with an emphasis on marketing developed marketing collateral for the new program and wrote the program descriptions that were used in the admissions office. Due to the fact that potential students recognized the name Fashion Merchandising as opposed to Clothing and Related Arts, there was a 70% increase in enrollment in the program the first year it was offered.  

We had been told that the program was being considered for termination and our efforts to change it were really efforts to keep it off of the chopping block.  However, in spite of our efforts and the positive results from it, the decision was made to terminate it. So we were told not to accept new students and we went into a teach out mode so that we could graduate the students already enrolled. The other two instructors moved on to other positions. I continued to teach with the program, and also served as the Program Coordinator, until we matriculated the last student and it closed in 1995.  During my years with the program I was honored with outstanding faculty awards for both teaching and service.

I spent another ten years at the University, writing proposals and receiving grants to work on several projects.  I spent four years as Project Coordinator for a project that addressed the overall declining enrollment and low retention rates in the Food and Agricultural Sciences.  I served as the Communications Specialist for the Southern Food Systems Education Consortium (SOFSEC). Funded by the Kellogg Foundation with a $5,000,000.00 grant, the Consortium was comprised of six Land-Grant, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the Southern Black Belt. Additionally, I served on the grant-writing team that was awarded $150,000.00 from the Consortium to develop curricula and train the trainer programs to increase awareness of food systems in the local school district and community. Lastly, prior to moving to Memphis, Tennessee in 2005, I served as marketing director for a tour designed to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in the Black Belt. The Tour was a program of Project EXPORT, a CDC-funded project of Tuskegee University and the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB).  

I served on several committees and helped to coordinate many events during my time with the University. This including serving as chairperson for the exhibit as part of the 21st Century International Sweet Potato Convention that brought scientists and manufacturers of sweet potato products from across the globe.  I also served on the five-year strategic planning committee for our College as we transitioned from the School of Agriculture and Home Economics to the College of Agricultural, Environment and Natural Sciences. However, what I feel is one of my greatest achievement is the establishment of the George Washington Carver Society Endowment Fund. My overall 18 years at Tuskegee University expanded my horizons, aided immensely in my intellectual growth, and gave me the opportunity fully understand and appreciate the role that creativity plays in problem solving. 

I also served part-time on the faculty at Southern Community College in Tuskegee teaching courses in English grammar and composition. It was my first real experience teaching mostly non-traditional adult students.  

I had gained experience teaching in traditional classrooms; however, I really wanted to gain experience in online teaching. So, in 2009 I pursued and was given the opportunity to teach online for the University of Phoenix. I taught for both the online and the Memphis Campus for eight years. During those eight years I took advantage of the opportunity for professional development and additional training, which included creating course content that was compliant with regulations established by the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Courses Taught


  • Beginning and Intermediate Clothing Construction
  • Advanced Design and Construction
  • Fashion Illustration
  • Visual Merchandising
  • Psychology of Clothing
  • Fashion Presentation, Publicity and Promotion

Courses Taught


  • Electronic Publishing (VCT320)
  • Critical Thinking & Creative Problem Solving (HUM114)
  • Media Influences on American Culture (HUM186)
  • Introduction to Film Studies (HUM150)
  • Exploration of Western Classical Music (ARTS340)
  • Organizational Communications (COMM350)
  • Public Speaking for the IT Professional (COMM218)
  • Teamwork, Collaboration and Conflict (SOC110)
  • Cultural Diversity (SOC315)

George Washington Carver Society Endowment Fund

In 1995, I conceptualized, developed and launched The George Washington Carver Society.  

The Society, was established for the purpose of raising funds to create an endowment to be used to provide scholarships for students majoring in programs offered by Tuskegee University's College of Agricultural, Environmental and Natural Sciences (CAENS).   

The Society is a program of the CAENS Alumni Association. Current Endowment exceeds $500,000.00.


Non-Profit Experience

Working to Improve the Lives of Women and Children


I moved to Memphis, TN in November of 2005 to work as a Creative Consultant for a lifestyle television show that aired on the local ABC affiliate station. I was responsible for establishing the branding (developing logos in all formats for use on screen, on the web and in print) and designing the website, marketing collateral and sponsorship packages. 

I also worked with the producers to plan the show. In that capacity, I held planning meetings with the producers to map out shows by the quarter, selected the themes and topics, and assisted with selecting the guests. On the production side, I designed sets, planned wardrobes, created graphic billboards for show enhancement and sponsor ads, wrote scripts, and created detailed instructions for the post-production editing.   

Memphis is also where I gained my experience working with nonprofits.  I worked with two nonprofits, Dress for Success Memphis, and Women of Style Spirit and Success, Inc.  Both organizations aimed to improve the lives of women and subsequently their children.

Marketing and Communications Dir. (2006-2008)


In my position with Dress for Success Memphis, I was responsible for marketing the organization to stakeholder and stakeholder partners including potential funders, volunteers and the community-at-large. 

In addition, I created several fundraising initiatives for them and was also responsible for developing the images (logos) and marketing collateral (brochures, postcards, posters, etc.) used to promote the events, programs and initiatives.

  • The Upscale Garage Sale

  • C.O.I.N.S. (Circle of Influence Networking Soirees)

  • Suited for Success – a program, initially funded by Goldstrike Casinos, that provided a mobile suiting program for welfare-to-work clients being served by agencies in Tunica, MS.

  • Fashioning your Future – a presentation used to teach women trying to enter the workforce how to dress and act appropriately for an interview.

I also developed and published a quarterly newsletter in both a printed and electronic form, designed and maintained the organization’s website, and wrote and distributed press releases, feature stories, etc.  

Founder/President/CEO (2007-2013)


Women of Style, Spirit and Success Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit I founded in 2004 while still living in Tuskegee, AL. We started operations with the organization in September of 2007 in Memphis,  TN. The organization’s mission was to help women learn and stay engaged with the technology that will help them gain and retain employment, have more success with their businesses, and prepare for the jobs of the future. 

The organization operated three major programs.  Successful Seeds, was a program that taught women operating small businesses how to use technology to market their products and services. We taught them how to use e-mail marketing and social marketing to expand their customer base and increase sales. 

Girls Getting Wired was a program in conjunction with local Best Buy stores that taught women how to use various technological devices. Under the Girls Getting Wired initiative we also conducted outreach programs to women served by various welfare-to-work agencies. 

Our youth program was The F.F.E.W. (The Future’s Fashion Entrepreneurial Women) which used fashion related activities to keep girls engaged in science, technology and math. Middle and high school girls in the program learned to design and draft patterns via computers and also how to sew and construct actual garments. Activities incorporated discussions and processes that connected to science, technology and math content. 

Curriculum Development


The Future's Fashion Entrepreneurial Women

The F.F.E.W. (Future’s Fashion Entrepreneurial Women) provided training targeted for middle school girls. Lessons engaged them in fashion related activities that provided applied learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The F.F.E.W. was a program of Women of Style, Spirit and Success.  


The Stitch Institute

The Stitch Institute offers classes in apparel design, construction, pattern making, fashion illustration and fashion entrepreneurship (operated under M.G. Ballard Designs). 

Find out more

Fashioning Their Future


The Fashioning Their Future is an initiative of The Stitch Institute. The program builds on youth's interest in fashion to:  

- Increase their interest in and knowledge of technology

- Further their positive personal development

- Increase their exposure to career opportunities

- Build their leadership skills   

- Help develop their positive self-image and esteem

- Strengthen their academic skills

- Help them understand smart consumerism

Find out more

Grantsmanship / Project Development

U.S. Department of Education $50,000.00

Talladega Connecting Up Project, Talladega College, Alabama Department of Education, $50,000.00, 2010

Corporation for Community and National Service $153,400.00

Women of Style, Spirit and Success Inc. Infrastructure Development Project / Corporation for Community and National Service, $153,400, 2009 - 2011

Gold Strike Casino Resort $60,000.00

Tunica County Suited for Success Project, $60,000.00, Dress for Success Memphis, Gold Strike Casino Resort, 2008.

Kellogg Foundation $160,000.00

K-12 Career Awareness in the Food and Environmental Systems, $160,000.00, Kellogg Foundation, 1996 –1999.

USDA Capacity Building Program $139,182.00

Strengthening Recruitment and Retention Activities in the Food and Agricultural Sciences, $139,182.00, USDA Capacity Building Program, Sept. 1995 – Aug. 1999

USDA Challenge Grant $75,568.00

Entrepreneurial Curriculum for the Restaurant and Apparel Industries, USDA Challenge Grant, $75,568.00, 1992 –1995. 

Training Development

Funding for Problem Solving

Funding for Problem Solving / Proposal Writing Workshop developed for Talladega College faculty, Oct. 2010

Marketing to Women

Developed for Rounds About Women (R.A.W.) a series of workshops for female entrepreneurs operated by S.C.O.R.E. Memphis.

Starting and Sustaining Businesses in a Slowing Economy

Starting and Sustaining Businesses in a Slowing Economy.  A workshop developed for the S.C.O.R.E. Memphis in 2009.

E-Marketing with Constant Contact®

Training in e-marketing using Constant Contact®. Developed for S.C.O.R.E.  Memphis and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

Creative Marketing

Developed and offered as part of the New Entrepreneurs Workshop for the Tuskegee-Macon County CDC, 1999-2000








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Marva G. Ballard

(901) 606-8014