The University of Oregon is well known for its rich history of footwear.
The Ducks have helped spark the start of Nike dating back to the days of Bill Bowerman and Steve Prefontaine, only to see proud alum Phil Knight send blessings from Beaverton in the form of state-of-the-art facilities, uniforms and player exclusives.
While Eugene serves as home base for the school, UO also has a satellite campus in Portland – the metropolitan area that Nike, adidas and Under Armour all call home in the West. The Portland campus fittingly plays host to the Lundquist College of Business’ Sports Product Management Master’s degree program which is prepping the next generation of sneaker designers, developers and marketers.
Allowing students to learn from the best of the best, enrollees are given the chance to work hands-on with adidas, Nike, Columbia Sportswear, and Under Armour. In fact, this very Master’s Program is offered to the future of footwear in a full-time program in Portland and also online. You can make the move out West or look into making moves on your laptop. Enroll and learn more about the program here.
Lucky for us, we were given special access for a day as Nice Kicks got to be a part of this prized program.
Pulling up in Portland, it was only right to snap a #TodaysKicks shot on the famed PDX Carpet. While wearing the famed Flyknits, we were ready to see what the city and the school had to offer.
Though the Pacific Northwest is well known for its precipitation, it was blue skies and clear water as we arrived ready to sit-in on the future of footwear.
Inside the classroom, students have the top tools needed to develop sneakers from scratch and prototype their renderings.
Needless to say, the resources are second to none.
While the focus is on footwear, problem-solving in the product space for athletics as a whole drives both ideas and the program.
The first class we attended was a lab that exemplified exactly that. Students work on product ranging from a utility bag for climbing to creating a basketball with a slippery surface to try to help one master their dribbling skills. Other products prepped in the space included a GORE-TEX jacket and a specialized yoga mat.
When it comes to kicks, the students get busy but they also approach work from a business standpoint.
Later we met with a student project team that created an array of customizable sneakers. Over time, this project evolved into a business plan for a DIY shoe service. Sitting down with that team for an hour, it was enlightening to hear about each student and their involvement in the project.
Calling creatives from all walks of life, it was impressive to see that the student base was made up of dedicated sneakerheads.
Not only does this prove the program is dedicated to the culture, it gives us hope that the industry will be run in the future by talent who approach product and storytelling like any avid member of the Nice Kicks nation.
However, for these sneakerheads the goal is not so much to acquire every coveted kick on the web but rather to define the future classics themselves.
Starting from scratch, the students are working up their own prototypes that range in inspiration, style and function. As you can see below, they’re just getting started.
Big thanks to the University of Oregon for letting us sit-in on the program! Peep the students and the shoes they are working on in the photos below.
To enroll in this very Master’s Program — offered to the future of footwear both in Portland and online — click here.