Iowa State students receive YMA Fashion Scholarship honors in New York City

AMES, Iowa -- Four Iowa State students have returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City where they received $5,000 scholarships and were recognized at a gala fashion industry dinner.

The students -- all majors in apparel, merchandising, design and production -- are recipients of the prestigious Young Menswear Association (YMA) Fashion Scholarships for 2010-11. They are Kristin Geiger, a junior from Ames; Chelsea Volpe, a junior from Normal, Ill.; and Jaclyn Wernimont, a senior from Auburn. In addition, Dianna Walsted, a senior from Sioux City and a 2009-10 scholarship recipient, was honored at this year's dinner.

The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, a national non-profit association of leaders in the fashion community, promotes education of the fashion arts and business by granting scholarships to talented students, and facilitating internships, mentorships and career programs. Participating companies include Calvin Klein, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Nordstrom, Macy's, Tommy Hilfiger and others.

A total of 110 scholarships were awarded to students from the 28 YMA member schools. To be eligible, students must be entering their junior or senior year, have a minimum grade point average of 3.0, prepare a case study and write an essay about career goals in the apparel industry.

The honor includes an all-expense paid trip to attend the YMA Geoffrey Beene Fashion Scholarship Dinner, which was Wednesday, Jan. 13, in New York City.

"The entire evening was straight out of a fairy tale," Volpe said. "It was mind-blowing, knowing you were in the presence of the most accomplished and successful fashion industry executives. Throughout the evening's festivities, I couldn't help but think: 'How in the world did I get this lucky?'"

"It was said that this event is like the Super Bowl of the fashion industry, as there were people outside scalping tickets," Walsted said. "It was a great event that was solely directed to us, the YMA Scholars. It was so great to see how much they value young, intelligent individuals who are entering the fashion industry."

The trip to New York City was the first for Geiger, Volpe and Wernimont. They spent their three days seeing the sights and exploring favorite fashion landmarks, like Bryant Park.

"We spent most of the free time walking around the fashion district and Fifth and Sixth avenues," Wernimont said. "I was excited to buy fabric at MOOD, the fabric store where "Project Runway" contestants shop."

In addition to providing the scholarship and a three-day trip to New York, the YMA program recruits and nurtures the scholarship students to become the next generation of leaders in the fashion industry.

"The networking opportunities and mentoring provided by top industry executives is crucial," said Ann Thye, academic advisor for ISU's apparel merchandising, design and production major.

"The YMA offers to provide internship contacts and works with the student to secure an opportunity that is a good fit," Thye said. "The companies that partner with the YMA have wonderful mentors who really make an investment of their time supporting our students as future leaders."

Walsted, the 2009-10 scholar, said the scholarship has been invaluable in furthering her experience and job prospects.

"The week following the scholarship recipients announcement, I was bombarded with emails from big name companies in New York who were searching for summer interns," Walsted said. "The scholarship provided me with numerous contacts and a no-fail method of finding a great internship last summer at Fishman & Tobin, a children's wear company in New York."

Geiger looks forward to a similar career boost from the award.

"I certainly hope that an opportunity like this will continue to open doors and provide more options for experience in the apparel industry," Geiger said. "It has helped me make initial connections in a business that is all about just that -- connections."