My hair’s a mess. Over spring break, I tried to snag an appointment with Allyson, the girl who had been cutting my hair for almost 15 years, but she was booked and I moved back to school before she could fit me in. Two weeks later, it’s getting ridiculous. My hair’s too heavy for my gel to make it stick the way I want it. I consider growing my hair out again until I remember the mishaps of ’03 and ’06. So, that’s not an option. Finally, as my deadline is rapidly approaching and my hair is rapidly approaching disgusting, I realize I’m writing a story on Douglas J this month. Duh, Jordan, schedule a haircut (and your interviews) with MSU’s closest neighbor.

The Douglas J Aveda Institute sits in the heart of downtown East Lansing on Grand River Avenue facing the Human Ecology Building and the new parking ramp. The institute is as much a part of MSU life as it is a part of East Lansing. “In the East Lansing institute, because it’s across from campus, we try to target the student community,” said Pablo Tourn, Douglas J’s guest service’s floor manager and a music composition and conducting junior. “A lot of our clientele is Michigan State students and a lot of the people that work there are students at Michigan State like I am.”

The guest services at Douglas J range from opening the door to taking your coat to offering clients water or coffee while they wait for their appointments. “It’s a lot of little things,” Tourn said. “But it all adds up.” Tourn said these courtesy services offered at the institute’s salon aren’t offered in cities similar to East Lansing.

The institute is different from other Aveda salons because the prices are cheaper, but the work is being done by students who have yet to obtain their beauty licenses. However, because each service is critiqued by a licensed instructor, the quality isn’t lost. “Some of our educators work at the exchange as well and take their own guests when they aren’t working at the institute,” said Heather McCorry, Douglas J’s admissions coordinator and institute coach.

MSU students are certainly a large demographic of the clientele at the school’s salon, where those obtaining their beauty licenses practice everything from massages to pedicures to coloring and styling hair. “It’s the only place that’s legit and close,” advertising junior Crystal Rosinki said. “I’ve gone there since freshman year. People there are pretty modern and stylish and know what the trends are and what aren’t.”

While employees’ expertise does fall in the realm of styling, their knowledge is far from complete, so most students don’t fret over minor mistakes. Many of Douglas J’s customers are the same age as their Douglas J student stylists. “It works out fantastic. We have a lot of traffic volume from Michigan State,” McCorry said. “Yes, they are the same age group, but they’re different trends to accommodate. In this city there are so many varieties of changes and people. We have everyone from students to older people to young children. It gives our students a good sense of the real world.”

The beauty students get a lot out of the program – a first-rate education in beauty services. “You learn about the body from head to toe,” Douglas J graduate Alexandria Carlin said. “You take tests, and it’s not easy. It was nothing like I expected. But it was a great learning experience.” The schedule is a bit more stringent than MSU. Douglas J students have a little more than a week off for winter break and their schedule is year round. For a cosmetology license students generally take from 10 and a half to 14 months, while an esthiology license (which is a license for spa treatments, waxing, makeup artistry, and other wellness things) can take from four and a half to six months. After graduating from the program in the winter of 2006, Carlin attended the advanced academy for a semester and now works in a local salon in her hometown, Novi.

Many of the students who attend the Aveda Institute live in the Landings at Chandler Crossings, according to Carlin. She lived with MSU students she knew from high school in that complex. “One of the big draws was that it was in East Lansing and all my friends went to State,” Carlin said. “I checked out every beauty school within an hour of [my hometown]. I knew the second I walked in. That was it.” She finished all her beauty schooling in what would be the equivalent of four semesters.

Douglas J’s appearance is modern and fresh, much like an upscale salon. “Other beauty schools are a drag. They’re not updated and they’re not as welcoming. Douglas J is not like that,” Carlin said. “It’s unexplainable; you just feel really good about yourself. People always ask me why I chose it. I’m not sure. I just knew, I really can’t describe why.” Many clients enjoy the teaching salon for the same reasons.

But Douglas J is more than cool haircuts and a slick atmosphere. The Aveda brand has a holistic side to beauty. “I’m really into natural medicine and looking for ways to naturally heal your body. At Douglas J, we don’t just offer you haircuts. We have a spa too,” Tourn said. “I think that a facial or spa has a lot of healing qualities. They try to use products that are organically grown and environmentally friendly.” This is another reason for Aveda’s popularity with the college student population, which generally cares about the state of the environment.

At their East Lansing and Ann Arbor locations, the institute immerses their students with the college town population. “What’s cool about having the school in a campus like that is that most cosmetology schools are looked down upon, because you go right out of high school and then you’re done and you go right into your career,” Carlin said. “But all your friends are in a four-year program. I got to experience college life. I went out to parties. I met new people. I was able to go to class with my girl friends when I could. I even met my boyfriend.” The students who attend class in the institute and who are clients of the institute live, work and even play together.

The environment creates a community of various types of students who all share a large part of their lives. While being a part of the “typical” college experience isn’t necessarily encouraged by Douglas J, it definitely isn’t discouraged either, according to McCorry. “Our location gives them the opportunity to experience everything out there,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a tighter schedule than Michigan State, but if they want, they can really be a part of the college experience. But we also have a variety of students – they tend to be a little younger, but there are also young moms, for example.” Douglas J students, if they wish, can really be a part of MSU without actually attending the university.

One young mom has made the transition from elementary school teacher to beauty school student. Becky Newcombe and her family left their life in California and moved back to Lansing to be close to family. “I had been here for a year and I started to feel like I was losing it. I just needed to be somewhere with some edge and being my age, I can’t just go to the local bar,” the 32-year-old said. “Young professionals need a place, and I know that they are changing Lansing to make it a place for young professionals. I think it’s hard at my age to feel cool.” Newcombe enrolled at Douglas J and came back to school in East Lansing nearly ten years after graduating from MSU. Although she didn’t go to Douglas J in college, her husband and many of her friends did, at its old location in the Marriott. Now Newcombe has rekindled a different bond with MSU. “I think the relationship is really good,” she said. “I feel like a lot of traffic, a lot of clients, are based on the university. You can really tell, especially when it’s time for back-to-school.” After graduating, Newcombe plans to use her teaching experience and join the instructor program at Douglas J.

As for me, I scheduled the appointment. I loved the scalp massage and hot wash they gave my greasy hair. And as for the end result? Well, my stylist Carly may have just found herself a new regular client after giving me a perfect cut. “Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with the service and the outcome,” Rosinksi said. Yeah. So was I.

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