Ashley Stewart, the plus-size chain, has launched the Ashley Stewart Leadership Scholarship in conjunction with North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University.

It’s a $10,000 scholarship that will be awarded to a female N.C. A&T student exemplifying leadership skills in the business and economics disciplines and stewardship in her community.

James Rhee, Ashley Stewart’s executive chairman and chief executive officer, said the scholarship reflects the retailer’s mission to empower women and support education. “Education is very near and dear to my heart,” Rhee said, noting that he is a former high school teacher and currently teaches a course at Duke Law School on “everything I wish I learned in college,” which covers such subjects as investing, networking, financial literacy and the cost of capital. “The scholarship is also one way the company gives back to communities that have long supported the brand,” he added.

From April 24 to May 26 students can apply for the scholarship by submitting an application and essay describing how they demonstrate leadership. N.C. A&T will narrow the applications down to 10 finalists based on their academics and financial need and each finalist will be asked to submit a one-minute video about herself, which will be reviewed by Ashley Stewart.

The scholarship winner will be invited to the “Finding Ashley Stewart 2017” contest finale Sept. 16, 2017 at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, N.Y. It’s a nationwide contest aimed at “encouraging women to love their curves and own their personal style with confidence” and finding a woman who most embodies the Ashley Stewart ideal. Top “Ashley Stewart divas” will get flown to the finale, which is being sponsored by hair-care brand Creme of Nature, and where the grand prize winner will be crowned and receive gifts including an Ashley Stewart makeover and wardrobe, along with a photo shoot.

In conjunction with the scholarship, the Big Ideas Conference for students will be held April 20 at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University covering a range of topics including private equity, personal branding and social media. Rhee will lead a private equity workshop and also conduct a fireside chat with Patricia Miller Zollar, managing director at Neuberger Berman, which will be moderated by Detavio Samuels, president of iOne Digital and One Solution. The chat will be broadcast on Facebook Live and YouTube Live by Ashley Stewart and N.C. A&T. Also, Ashley Stewart’s style expert Tamara Ivey and N.C. A&T alumna Erica Patrice will lead a seminar on defining your personal brand, which will be broadcast on YouTube Live.

The conference is free for N.C. A&T students majoring in finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, fashion merchandising, economics, communications or accounting, as well as for students from surrounding universities including UNCG, Greensboro College, Elon University and others.

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