Kent State Fashion Merchandising Student Wins Grand Prize at Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala in NYC

The Fashion Scholarship Fund’s (FSF) 83rd annual gala was held Jan. 7 at the New York Hilton in Manhattan and revealed the next generation of young talent in the fashion industry. Tyshaia Earnest, a senior at Kent State University’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, emerged as the standout of the evening and was awarded the first-place prize of a $35,000 scholarship.


Kent State University Fashion School student Tyshaia Earnest wins the top award at the 2020 Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala in New York City. (Photo courtesy of YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund)

Every year, FSF awards more than $1 million in scholarship funding. Throughout the past five years, the organization has helped place 1,500 scholars with more than 150 of its corporate partners, which includes Centric Brands Inc., Macy’s Inc., Dereck Lam, Rent the Runway, Gap Inc. and many more. This year, 211 scholarship candidates from 50 universities across the country attended the gala. During the event, eight scholarship finalists, including Earnest, were celebrated and gave acceptance speeches to the crowd of industry professionals and scholars. 

Earnest impressed the panel of industry expert judges with her dynamic presentation of her collaboration between Nordstrom and and emerged as the standout of nearly 650 applicants.

“This year was Tyshaia’s third as a Fashion Scholarship Fund recipient,” said Peter Arnold, executive director for the FSF. “She and her educator both mentioned that this year, she wanted to challenge and push herself even further in the process – she delivered! Tyshaia’s winning case study and her compelling presentation to the judges, during which she revealed a branded T-shirt under her blazer, produced product from her pockets and delivered an articulate, passionate pitch for her case study collaboration, making her, in the judge’s estimation, the Kent State rock star that she most definitely is! We were so happy to see Tyshaia on the stage with the finalists and so pleased that she was the ultimate winner!”

“The feeling I have is almost indescribable,” Earnest shared. “I never would’ve thought when coming into college as a first-generation student that I would place as a top scholar out of 648 applicants. Winning this award allows me to inspire others from my community to believe they can do anything, and I feel empowered that I get to set this example.”


Kent State Professor Catherine Leslie, Ph.D., served as a mentor to Earnest and affirmed the positive impact the FSF program has on students. 


“The entire FSF experience provides the most outstanding emerging professionals an opportunity like no other,” Leslie said. “From networking and recruitment to the excitement of the gala celebration, bright young people launch successful careers. More importantly, FSF Scholars find themselves in a forum with the best of the best talent from leading universities. As an educator, I greatly benefit from the entire FSF mentoring experience and was beyond thrilled to see our students shine!”


In addition to Earnest, two other Kent State merchandising students walked away with scholarships. Junior Jahnaye Chapman and senior Amelia Johnson were each awarded $5,000 scholarships for their merchandising and marketing presentations.


“Being an FSF Scholar has been an amazing experience that has connected me to so many great people and places!” Chapman said. “It’s definitely something I will treasure continually.”


Added Johnson, “Receiving the FSF Award for the past two years enabled me to live and intern in New York, which was an invaluable experience that helped me develop professionally and personally. After attending the awards gala and talent acquisition event, I am motivated to continue networking with other scholars and professionals that I had the opportunity to meet through FSF.”


Kent State Assistant Professor Rachel LoMonaco-Benzing, Ph.D., oversees the Kent State fashion merchandising applicants and emphasized how important it is for students to apply for the Fashion Scholarship Fund.


“Participating in the FSF case studies gives students an opportunity to stretch and grow beyond what they do in the classroom,” LoMonaco-Benzing said. “They can really dive deep into a topic, learn new skills, develop creative thinking strategies and gain valuable one-on-one feedback from a mentor. And if they have the chance to attend the gala, it’s an even more amazing experience to gain confidence and network with wonderful people from other schools and across the industry.”


For students like Earnest, the gala serves as a steppingstone to propel them into the next phase of their careers.


“Winning this award is confirmation that my purpose and passion for this industry is legitimate and valued,” Earnest said. “Overall, I’m so grateful for this award, and it has completely changed the trajectory of my career. Every goal I have set for postgraduate life has been intentional, with hopes that they will mold me into the person I dreamt of being when I was young.”


About the Fashion Scholarship Fund

The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund encourages gifted and enterprising young people to pursue careers in design, merchandising, retailing and business, seeking to create career opportunities for students worldwide. The scholarships are designed to support educational expenses and to provide an opportunity for students to network with industry executives. For more information, visit


About Kent State Universitys Fashion School

Established in 1983 as the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University, the school was named an Ohio Center of Excellence by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (formerly known as the Ohio Board of Regents) and is a member institution of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI). It also is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). For more information about Kent State’s Fashion School, visit




Photo Caption:

Kent State University Fashion School student Tyshaia Earnest wins the top award at the 2020 Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala in New York City. (Photo courtesy of YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund)



Media Contact: 

  • Brittani Peterson, Kent State University School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, marketing associate,
  • Rachel LoMonaco-Benzing, Kent State University School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, Assistant Professor (Merchandising),
POSTED: Thursday, January 16, 2020 02:30 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 10:06 AM