Right after University of Maine at Presque Isle Class of 2016 graduate Emma Ruff celebrated her Bachelor of Fine Art degree after this year’s Commencement Exercises, she went straight to work fulfilling a Lunder Fashion and Textile Arts Internship that she was awarded from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

UMPI Community Relations Director Rachel Rice says the internship in the David and Roberta Logie Department of Textile and Fashion Arts brings together the experience Ruff has earned through her degree in Fine Arts from UMPI and her passion for fashion.

During this internship, which runs through mid-August, Ruff is exploring potential museum careers that align with her education and interests. She's also getting workplace exposure, job readiness coaching, museum-specific skills, and professional development training. Rice says Ruff has assisted curators within the TFA department with the process of deaccessioning, has worked in-depth with the patterns and designs of the late fashion designer Mr. Arnold Scaasi, and is responsible for other various tasks such as analyzing and assessing 18th-19th century textiles.

Emma Ruff/UMPI

Ruff was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick and raised in Quispamsis. She says she's loved fashion since she was a little girl. While the University does not offer a degree focused on fashion, Ruff says she was able to find many ways to express her interest in the industry during her years on campus. She had the opportunity to organize the Trash to Fashion show in honor of Earth Day in April of this year.


The event challenged designers to use different materials to make fashion pieces. The outfits had to be made out of 75% recycled material. The items that could be used included: milk cartons and lids, plastic, used clothing, cereal and egg cartons, used toys, candy wrappers, tetra packs, household appliances, CD’s, cassettes, and VHS tapes. Around 20 budding designers took part in the show, showcasing entries that ranged from haute couture to ready to wear.

Ruff also brought the world of fashion and social justice into her Senior Thesis Exhibition, the capstone course for her BFA degree. She researched the news story from 2013 about Rana Plaza, an eight-story clothing factory in Savar Upazila, Dhaka, Bangladesh, that collapsed and killed 1,134 people. This tragedy, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters, prompted her to look deeper into the fashion industry. Her thesis was based around how people can become conscious consumerists. Ruff wanted to emphasize the importance of knowing where your clothes come from and the human aspect behind that process, bringing the harsh realities of sweatshops to the viewer’s mind. She contacted a photographer from the New York Times, Ismail Ferdous, and spoke to him about his experience as the photographer on site that fateful day. A few of his photos can be seen within one of her pieces, touching on the importance of artists coming together to speak about global issues.

Ismail Ferdous/Facebook

Ruff was also able to bring her education and love for fashion together with something else she is very passionate about: mental health. Ruff was recently featured as a Role Model with Wear Your Label. The creators of this fashion brand are on a mission to use fashion to end the stigma around mental illness. The Role Models wear a piece of this brand’s clothing that they feel represents their journey.

Wear Yor Label/Facebook

Ruff believes that human connection is very important in a battle with the mind. Her hope is to end the stigma around mental health so that people who are struggling are not afraid to speak up and tell their stories.


All of these experiences have helped Ruff to prepare for the internship she is completing now in Boston and a future that she hopes will connect in some way with the world of fashion. Ruff said she is very grateful to her alma mater for providing opportunities for her to pursue her passions while getting a degree.

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