The right stuff

By Thomas Pardee

Misha Beverly knows how to work.

In fact, it’s a big part of why the 23-year-old Port Huron, Mich., native transferred to Columbia last fall. She said she was looking for an environment that would challenge and stimulate her.

“I’ve never seen it before,” said Beverly, now an interdisciplinary senior in the Fashion Retail and Fashion Design programs. “The students here are really ambitious. I really love Columbia.”

Since her arrival in Chicago from Central Michigan State University in August 2007, Beverly has earned a reputation as one of the savviest and hardest-working students in the Fashion Design and Fashion Retail departments. Her achievements have led to a coveted internship with one of Chicago’s hottest designers, Maria Pinto, as well as a potential first sale of one of her signature garments to actor/musician Billy Bob Thornton, lead singer of the band The Boxmasters.

Beverly, who is also active in the Columbia group Campus Crusade for Christ, said her career, her faith and her education are her top priorities.

“I came to Columbia to work, and I’m hard on myself,” Beverly said. “I always feel like I can do better, and I probably always will.”

Beverly said she is shaped by experiences in her childhood, both good and bad. With her family making little money, Beverly said she had a bumpy and often solitary childhood.

“I had to survive growing up, just like a lot of people,” Beverly said. “I choose to say, ‘OK, that happened. It’s over. Use it. Get over it.’ And that’s what I’ve done.”

Beverly said she has been a hard worker throughout her education. Her work ethic and focus on the business end of fashion has made an impression on her instructors.

Jerry Svec, an adjunct faculty member who taught Beverly’s Fashion Production and Evaluation class, said he was continually impressed by her creativity and practicality.

“She’s the perfect type of student you want as an employee,” Svec said. “Each project she did in my class was progressively more incredible. She’s savvy enough to figure out what she needs to get into business and also how to stay there.”

Since she started working for Maria Pinto at the designer’s West Loop boutique, Beverly has been a catch-all for odd jobs and sometimes tedious projects.

She just finished recording many of Pinto’s early-career garments, including photographing and describing them for Pinto’s archives.

But Allison Bishop, director of marketing and Beverly’s supervisor at Maria Pinto Boutique, 135 N. Jefferson St., said Beverly’s workload is all-encompassing.

“It’s a little of everything,” Bishop said. “She’s been especially helpful with marketing and updating our database.”

Laura Verdugo, vice president of sales at the boutique, said Beverly can tackle any task she’s given.

“You don’t have to worry about what she’s doing, because you know she’ll get it done,” Verdugo said.

Beverly has also caught the attention of California-based rock group The Boxmasters. After meeting several members of the group at a concert near her hometown in Michigan, she was invited to one of their Chicago shows a few months later. Beverly wore a dress she made from collected guitar picks, which caught Thornton’s attention.

“He said, ‘I would really like to have one [of those]-let’s do business,'” Beverly said of the Bad Santa and Monster’s Ball star.

She said she’s been invited to the band’s next Chicago-area show on Dec. 6, when The Boxmasters will open for Willie Nelson. She said she’s hoping to take Thornton up on his offer to be her first buyer.

In the meantime, Beverly said she’s planning on staying busy with her class work and internships. Over winter break, she’ll head to Indianapolis for a Campus Crusade conference, and then to London for a J-term class with Svec.

Beverly said when she wants to resist the urge to slow down, she looks to her faith for strength.

“Sometimes, as a fashion student, you just want to sit behind your sewing machine and not talk to anybody for a while,” Beverly said. “But I need to be out there and doing things. I’m doing it for a bigger purpose, I think … for somebody greater than me.”

She said though her life is busy now, it’s paying off in the form of a promising future career-and that’s something she’s happy to keep working for.

“I have no problem depending on other people,” she said. “But when it comes to my own dreams and goals, that’s my responsibility.”