Turning Dreams into Reality
Just before her final semester at Kent State, Tyshaia Earnest, BS ’20 stood on a stage in New York City alongside seven other finalists at the Fashion Scholarship Fund Gala. That evening, she emerged as the top scholar out of nearly 650 applicants, taking home the $35,000 first-place scholarship prize.
The Fashion Scholarship Foundation (FSF) awards more than $1.2 million each year to foster the success of students in design, merchandising, analytics, marketing and supply chain management. The organization also provides access to networking, mentorships, internships and career opportunities among influential industry leaders.
Earnest pursued a fashion merchandising degree with dual minors in marketing and visual journalism. Though she achieved remarkable success, her college experience came with challenges. As a first-generation student, she says “it’s hard to be what you can’t see.” Without a family member to provide guidance, she found it difficult to navigate college and tap into available resources.
However, in the spring of her freshman year she was looking for a challenge, and she found a valuable mentor in Catherine Leslie, PhD, assistant professor in Kent State’s School of Fashion. “She guided me to seek involvement with this amazing organization (FSF) and created other opportunities for me.”
Peter Arnold, executive director for the FSF, refers to Earnest as a “Kent State rock star” when describing her dynamic and compelling presentation, which left a strong impression on the judges. Earnest arrived for the presentation of her case study—a collaboration between Nordstrom and Period.org—in a blazer and branded T-shirt. As she spoke, she pulled products from her pocket to support her case. Her unique approach and impassioned pitch made her a clear standout in the competition.
But this scholarship has a value far beyond the dollar amount for Earnest. She hopes her success will encourage others in her community to pursue their dreams, as well.
“Winning this award is confirmation that my purpose and passion for this industry is legitimate and valued,” she says. “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 dreamed of being when I was young.”
"Every goal I have set for postgraduate life has been intentional.”
Earnest has crafted her skill set and leveraged opportunities to enhance her education throughout her Kent State experience. In fall 2019, she and Kylah Carter, a fellow fashion merchandising major, won first place in the 2nd annual FlashLab Innovation Pitch Contest for their proposal to train non-JMC majors about how to get involved with student media. She also worked as a marketing and promotions assistant at Kent State Student Media.
In addition to the FSF program, she engaged in a study abroad experience in Florence and a study away opportunity in New York City. She graduated this spring and recently accepted an offer to work for Nordstrom Corporate in Seattle, Washington. —Bethany Sava, BS ’12