Like many campus newcomers, Lynna Russo was 18 years old when she joined the RIT community. But unlike most of her peers, she didn’t come seeking a degree.
Russo’s arrival marked the beginning of more than two decades serving as a stylist at the former Hair Techniques salon in the Student Alumni Union. During that time she built a dedicated client base of faculty, staff and students. So when Howard Ward, assistant vice president for finance and administration, approached her with the idea for a new career opportunity, it seemed like a logical next step.
“He said they were looking for an owner/operator for a salon to go into the new Global Village,” Russo explains. “He gave me the opportunity to put in a proposal.”
The result is Shear Global, which is now a focal point of the university’s new residential and retail complex. While offering many of the traditional services found in a full-service salon, Shear Global operates under a mission consistent with the university’s growing focus on international outreach.
“We needed a hair styling place that serviced all of our students,” states Ward, “people of color—not just African American and Hispanic—but people from other regions because we have a sizable number of international students here.”
That focus is reflected in the salon’s personnel. Among several new stylists brought on board, Russo hired David Cooper to share his knowledge and expertise with the staff related to ethnic styles—which include wigs, makeup and hair relaxers—while also helping diversify the salon’s clientele.
“It’s been a really good mix with the clients he’s brought from off campus,” says Russo. “And some of our other clients will go over to David, and he’ll show us what he’s doing. It’s been great.”
The lively interpersonal dynamics inside Shear Global are enhanced by its bright, Mediterranean-style décor. The combination of these factors is why customers, like Howard Ward, say visiting the salon is always an experience.
“It’s just an uplifting, fun, sort of funky, exciting place.”
But above all, Russo wants customers to feel welcome—particularly students who, like herself, arrived on campus as mere teenagers.
“You’re going to be part of the conversation, especially as freshmen. You’re away from home and I don’t want you to feel scared. I’m going to treat you as if I’ve known you for years.”