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The First Four Textile Pioneer Scholars Have Graduated: Here’s What’s Next for Them

With support from generous donors, the four inaugural Textile Pioneer Scholars to graduate from the Wilson College of Textiles — Jeana Grace Bowker, Alex Hutchens, Emma Myer-Medina and Leah Reid — now have their eyes set on bright futures.

Textile Pioneer scholars standing in front of a college sign
Leah Reid, Alex Hutchens, Jeana Grace Bowker and Emma Myer-Medina — the college’s inaugural Textile Pioneer Scholars — pose in front of their alma mater.

With caps, gowns and a thread of ambition, the first four Textile Pioneer Scholars are ready to weave their futures as new graduates of the Wilson College of Textiles.

On May 4, 2024, Jeana Grace Bowker, Alex Hutchens, Emma Myer-Medina and Leah Reid proudly crossed NC State’s commencement stage, marking the culmination of four years filled with unforgettable college experiences. Each of the four Textile Pioneer Scholars thrived during their time at NC State thanks to the support and opportunities provided by visionary donors.

Established in 2018, the Textile Pioneer Scholarship Program awards financial support to exceptional students from non-metropolitan areas of North Carolina, some of whom are first-generation college attendees, who have a strong interest in the textile industry. Serving as the Wilson College of Textiles’ first need-based scholarship, the Textile Pioneer Scholarship Program not only aligns with NC State’s land-grant mission, it also contributes to diversifying the college’s student body.

Every year, Textile Pioneer Scholars are awarded a minimum of $14,000 and up to $4,000 in enrichment funds for transformative experiences like studying abroad and participating in leadership activities. This unique scholarship program is made possible through generous donations to the North Carolina Textile Foundation (NCTF), the philanthropic arm of the Wilson College of Textiles. In turn, these scholars are exposed to endless opportunities.

The Founding Benefactors of the Textile Pioneer Scholarship Program

Catalyst investments from the following individuals and organizations led to the creation of the Textile Pioneer Scholarship Program at the Wilson College of Textiles in 2018.

  • The Edward M. Armfield Sr. Foundation
  • Dean Emeritus Robert Barnhardt
  • Bill Chandler ’72 and his wife Janice Chandler
  • Cone Mills Charitable Fund
  • Robert Fleming ’50
  • Chuck Flynt ’62
  • Lyle Gardner ’67 and his wife Rhonda Gardner
  • Glen Raven Inc.
  • Chuck Horne ’73 and his son Wesley Horne ’04
  • Brian McMurray ’86 and his wife Konni McMurray
  • Steven Wilson
  • Zeno Windley ’68 and his wife Ann Windley
  • Steve Zeis ’61 and his wife Frosene Zeis
Textile Pioneer scholars standing in front of the Wilson College of Textiles

“The unwavering support of our donors has been instrumental in shaping the future of these exceptional students,” says Michael Ward, the executive director of the NCTF. “Their contributions have not only laid the foundation for countless opportunities but also allowed our students to pursue their dreams and reach their fullest potential.”

Then and Now: The Class of 2024 Textile Pioneer Scholars

Photo of Jeana Grace Bowker in her graduation cap and gown

Jeana Grace Bowker
Windley Family Textile Pioneer Scholarship
B.S. Fashion and Textile Design: Fashion Design Concentration

Hailing from Clinton, North Carolina, Jeana Grace Bowker fell in love with fashion as a child when her grandfather taught her how to sew. What started with making simple pillows evolved into designing full-fledged fashion collections. Her latest work, which was shown this spring at the college’s Fashion and Textile Design (FTD) Emerging Designers Showcase, is entitled “The Craft.” This six-look collection drew inspiration from her love of arts, crafts and maximalist fashion while being created entirely of secondhand and scrap fabrics. Today, Bowker is the founder and owner of ZIG Designs and an intern at Lands’ End in their women’s sweaters and knits fashion design department.

Photo of Alex Hutchens in her graduation cap and gown

Alex Hutchens
Textile Pioneer Scholarship
B.S. Fashion and Textile Management: Brand Management and Marketing Concentration; Minor in Business Administration and Economics

Alex Hutchens first learned about the Wilson College of Textiles through the illustrious Summer Textile Exploration Program, commonly called STEP. During that one-of-a-kind experience, she upcycled old apparel into a new garment through a fashion design project. That was the moment when the New Bern, North Carolina native knew she belonged at the college. As a student, Hutchens’ expertise in brand management and marketing landed her coveted internships at Madewell, Macy’s and J. Crew. Since graduating, she has hit the ground running as a production intern at Peter Millar.

Photo of Emma Myer-Medina in her graduation cap and gown

Emma Myer-Medina
Glen Raven Textile Pioneer Scholarship
B.S. Polymer and Color Chemistry

Fascinated with chemistry and its applications to textiles, Emma Myer-Medina quickly fell in love with the college’s polymer and color chemistry program. With a passion for volunteerism, Myer-Medina became the volunteer coordinator for NC State’s Feed the Pack Food Pantry — a student-led food pantry that is open to all members of the campus community. Today, the Belhaven, North Carolina native is applying for graduate school programs that will allow her to pursue her research interests. As a first-generation college graduate, Myer-Medina proudly credits her scholarship for giving her the confidence to continue her education.

Photo of Leah Reid in her graduation cap and gown

Leah Reid
Textile Pioneer Scholarship
B.S. Fashion and Textile Management: Fashion Development and Product Management Concentration; Minor in Business Administration

As a natural-born leader, Leah Reid knew attending the Wilson College would allow her to thrive in every aspect of her education. She became one of the college’s most well-known faces through her roles as the head dean’s page, president of the Tompkins Textile Student Council and a frequent student speaker at well-attended events, including the 2024 Scholarship and Endowment Dinner. Her work as a product management intern at Sunbrella and the college’s Packapalooza representative further cultivated her leadership skills. Today, Reid, who is originally from Asheboro, North Carolina, is interviewing with prominent corporations in search of a rewarding position in marketing, merchandising or sales.

Members of the Wilson College of Textiles community aren’t alone in supporting the four graduating Textile Pioneer Scholars. To congratulate Reid, Hutchens, Bowker and Myer-Medina on this milestone achievement, the NC State Wolfpack Outfitters team gifted them with complimentary graduation regalia to wear during their commencement ceremony.

Support the next generation of Textile Pioneers

Make a gift to support the Textile Pioneer Student Enrichment Fund today.