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Phoenix Forward magazine

Scholarship helps business student dream big

A portrait of Stephanie Brovender, Bachelor of Science in Business student

It wasn’t an episode of “Sex and the City” or the bright lights of Manhattan that fueled Stephanie Brovender’s fantasies about one day living and working in New York City. It was her aunt.

“I watched her as a single mom, working and living in New York,” Brovender recalls. “She made partner at a large accounting firm in Manhattan, and was still able to balance everything. I wanted that.”

She’s on her way. Brovender, senior manager of talent resources at New York-based Ann Inc. — which represents retailers Ann Taylor and Loft — has taken her own next step toward balancing everything: She’s enrolled in the online business management program at University of Phoenix, thanks to the Dream BIG scholarship she won last year.

“I’ve completed five classes, and it’s been great,” Brovender says. “I’m still figuring out how to fit it all in — a full-time, demanding career and schoolwork— but I’ve been paired up with some great advisors who are always checking in [to] make sure I’m still on track with my studies.”

Each year, the National Retail Federation and University of Phoenix offer 20 full-tuition Dream BIG scholarships for promising students to use toward earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in a retail-related program.

Applicants must be current retail employees who plan to continue their careers in various disciplines, including technology, management, marketing, business, finance or criminal justice. Brovender works in human resources and wants to stay in that line of the retail field.

It’s important to be passionate and eager about what I’m doing.

Before moving to Ann Inc., she spent seven years working for executive search firms that specialized in the fashion, retail and restaurant industries. Seeking out and hiring the perfect candidate piqued her interest in furthering her own career in the field.

“I knew I needed to learn new approaches to keeping up with the fast-paced retail industry,” Brovender explains. “It’s important to be passionate and eager about what I’m doing, and going back to school is teaching me new ways to collaborate, enhance my team-building skills and find ways to adapt to the ever-changing business.”

She says she still is stunned that she was chosen for the scholarship. “I think I won because they liked my essay about my aunt,” she says. “I wrote about how she made me hopeful and about making the most of every opportunity you’re given.”

Once she completes her degree, Brovender says she hopes to work closely with the National Retail Federation to promote the retail industry and use herself as an example of someone who returned to school and advanced her career, and to inspire others in her field who might be considering furthering their education.

“A lot of people think of retail as something you do to put yourself through college,” she says. “I want students to think about getting business degrees and using them to move up in the retail industry.”

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