“I am more confident because of my incredibly unique and rewarding experience at Florida State.”
Florida State University retail entrepreneurship honor student Brooke Garringer has distinguished herself as an exceptional student, creative laboratory researcher, leader in the FSU Flying High Circus and acrobatics coach for children.
Fresh off graduation in summer 2019, Garringer is looking ahead to grad school and a career in the retail industry, but she’s also reflecting on her four years at FSU and the many unexpected lessons and opportunities that changed the direction of her life.
Garringer arrived at FSU as a freshman with a solid plan: major in exercise physiology with a goal of getting a job in the athletics retail industry. Then, as a sophomore, she learned about the retail entrepreneurship program at FSU’s new Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship, and she was confronted with a tough choice: Should she switch majors halfway through college?
“Finding out about the retail entrepreneurship major was definitely very unexpected, and I felt like I had an early life crisis,” Garringer said with a laugh. “But when I met with the dean of the College of Human Sciences to map out my courses after my sophomore year, he said to me, ‘You’re in the wrong major.’ So, I switched into retail entrepreneurship at the Jim Moran School.”
Assistant Professor Meredith McQuerry, an expert in textile testing, was one of the first faculty members Garringer met in her new major. Garringer vividly remembers McQuerry describing her ongoing research at FSU’s Textile Testing Laboratory.
Garringer, a four-year member of FSU’s Honors Program, had never considered doing lab research, but this opportunity sounded different. Something clicked.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this sounds so cool,’ and I really wanted to get involved,” Garringer said. “So immediately after class, I went to Dr. McQuerry’s office and asked if I could help with her research. She said if I did well in class, then we’d talk about it again. After a couple of months in her class and going to her office hours, she hired me at the lab.”
That opportunity changed everything.
Garringer dove into the work at the Textile Testing Lab and soon found herself helping with significant research. One project focused on developing better firefighting suits. Another tested the durability of T-shirts designed with cooling technology.
Those research efforts opened the door for Garringer to present the findings at conferences around the country, a rare opportunity for an undergraduate student. She and student Reannan Riedy, who collaborated on the project, were invited to present research results to members of the National Fire Protection Association in Las Vegas in 2018.
“That was an amazing experience to attend different seminars and get to present our research,” Garringer said. “It was super interesting because the firefighters were very invested in the research, and they told us they were glad we were focusing on it.”
Garringer and Riedy also presented their research at the International Textile and Apparel Association conference last year. They went on to write a paper about their work, and it was published in a research journal — another unusual and exceptional accomplishment for an undergraduate student at any university.
Now, Garringer has developed expertise on how to analyze the structural design of fabrics and imagine new ways to make improvements that benefit customers, whether they are firefighters or everyday consumers.
“I am fascinated by innovation, and I realize that is what I want to focus my career on,” Garringer said. “I love to think of new ways to do things, and Florida State has given me the opportunities to explore those ideas in the lab, thanks to Dr. McQuerry. She has put me on a lot of projects focusing on innovation.”
McQuerry nominated Garringer as a Student Star because she has excelled inside and outside the classroom.
“Brooke earned a spot on the President’s List multiple semesters, and she shined in her research endeavors,” McQuerry said. “In addition to her hard work on campus, Brooke has worked as an acrobatics coach for children and adults. She is the epitome of a Student Star in research and leadership roles.”
Garringer led the FSU Flying High Circus as its president for the 2018-2019 academic year and previously served as treasurer. She participated in the program, which is one of only two collegiate circuses in the country, each of her four years at Florida State.
In her leadership roles, she worked to bring more stability to the student-operated program by developing a new handbook detailing specific duties of the executive board. The goal of the manual was to create an operational foundation for the group because every year it loses a lot of seniors who leave with lots of institutional knowledge.
Garringer, a recipient of the Elaine Tully Woodward and Bob Woodward Scholarship for members of the program, also became a role model in the Circus family. She served as a mentor to freshmen and others as they joined the program.
“People joining the Circus are usually pretty uncertain about everything, so I wanted to be a role model showing how they can enjoy extracurricular activities and still be serious about their studies,” Garringer said. “I enjoyed talking with them and also encouraging them to keep an open mind about pursuing different paths.”
That attitude changed Garringer’s life. She found a new major, a path to a new career and a new sense of confidence and peace that she’s heading in the right direction.
“I’ve always had a couple of core attributes, such as being outgoing and hardworking, but I used to be more scared of trying new things, even though I was outgoing,” Garringer said. “Now, I am more confident because of my incredibly unique and rewarding experience at Florida State. Without it, I definitely would not be the same person I am now.”