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New Face of Fashion? Kent Student Wins Top Award

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KENT, Ohio— A Kent State student nabs a top award and a $30,000 prize.

Kate Ruque, 22, is one of four winners of the Geoffrey Beene National Scholarship.

"It's great. It hasn't even hit me yet," said Ruque, a fashion merchandising student from Mentor.

Ruque is among 1,300 enrolled in Kent State's elite school of fashion.

The school nominated her for the scholarship.

"I think we also have some of the strongest students in the nation," said J.R. Campbell, director of the fashion school at Kent. "There isn't any reason why they can't compete at the top level. Kate's a good example of that."

Ruque started prepping for the contest in May. She was among 30 competing for the award, believed to be one of the largest of its kind. Contestants were given the challenge to research and create business plans for failing fashion companies.

"I couldn't even tell you how many hours I put into it," she said. "It was a lot of research. A lot of reading."

Later, Ruque advanced to the top eight. She had to present her case study in New York City. The day after, in front of a crowd of 2,000, Ruque was named a winner.

"It definitely was really nerve-wrecking," she said. "Pretty much right after I won the competition, I was receiving calls or e-mails or people were giving me their business cards, especially after the event. That's been really great."

Though Ruque doesn't exactly know what she'll do with the prize money, she plans to spend it on furthering her career.

She plans on finishing her fashion-merchandising degree and MBA in May, and now has her eye on a bigger prize.

"I really would like to work in buying for a big department store, something like Bergdorf Goodman or Saks Fifth Avenue. That's the ultimate goal," Ruque said. "I've had such a great education here at Kent, both in fashion and in business. So it was such an honor for me to represent the university in New York."