Belk College introduces first cohort of Niblock Scholars

Monday, February 14, 2022
Meet the five students who are part of a unique new scholarship program.

Five UNC Charlotte Belk College of Business students are already engaged in unique opportunities on campus as the first cohort for a new scholarship program. 

The students are part of the first cohort of Niblock Scholars, a scholarship program that was established in May through a $2.5 million gift from Belk College alumni Robert and Melanie Niblock.

The first cohort, selected through an application process, is composed of four freshmen and a transfer student. All graduated from high schools in North Carolina and started their journey at UNC Charlotte in August.


"Our first Niblock Scholars are a remarkable group of students and are already involved on campus,” said Pat Mynatt, associate dean for Belk College’s undergraduate programs. “We looked for students who not only demonstrate financial need and intellectual curiosity but also have the drive to invest in the enhanced professional development training that will be provided. We’re elated with this first cohort of students, who are eager to learn from opportunities within and outside the classroom.” 

The program is designed to help incoming freshmen or transfer students – especially those who are first-generation students like Robert Niblock – grow into academically high achievers who are involved and committed to their professional development. It’s the first scholarship program of its size in the Belk College that is available to all students who intend to enroll in majors within the college.

The Niblock scholarship awards $5,000 to each student annually to help with the cost of attending UNC Charlotte and is renewable for up to four years, a total of $20,000 for each student.  

In addition to financial support, the students receive enhanced professional development opportunities.

“The Niblock Scholars are already participating in a variety of professional development activities, including lunch and learns, career meetups, networking events and business etiquette workshops,” said Lesley Harris, director of academic and career coaching for the Belk College’s Niblock Student Center.

The gift brings the Niblocks’ total support to the Belk College to $5 million. In 2015, a $2.5 million gift established the Niblock Student Center, which provides a one-stop experience for the college’s more than 4,000 undergraduate students. 

The Niblocks, both 1984 accounting alumni, met the five students during a luncheon in December. Robert Niblock – chairman of the board and CEO of Lowe’s Companies from 2005 to 2018 and president from 2011 until 2018 – spoke about his time as a first-generation college student and the strong foundation for success he received at the Belk College. 

Meet the Niblock Scholars

Natalie Auwn was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Cary High School in Wake County. A strategic marketing course in high school intrigued her, and she now plans to pursue management and accounting. She wants to work in a role that allows her to be analytical and detail oriented, while regularly interacting with people. In her free time, she enjoys baking, reading and spending time with her friends and family. She is also in the Business Honors Program.

Ellie Boger hails from Winston-Salem, where she served as editor in chief of the yearbook program at Oak Grove High School. She aspires to major in marketing. Her ideal job upon graduation would lead her back to yearbooks, as a traveling sales representative for Jostens, or perhaps a role in strategic planning or digital marketing. In her free time, she enjoys exercise classes, exploring new coffee shops and dabbling in different handwriting styles. In addition to the Niblock Scholars program, she is a member of the Business Learning Community.

Ellie Esterline, a native of Somerset, Pennsylvania, graduated from Fuquay-Varina High School in Wake County. She was part of her high school’s inaugural lacrosse team, eventually becoming captain. She attended a women’s leadership conference in high school that inspired her to pursue a degree in management. She plans to one day accept a management role at a large corporation. She remains involved in sports by participating in various activities and clubs at UNC Charlotte, including the women’s lacrosse club and coed soccer team. 

Jaleah Ladson, a native of Indian Trail, is a graduate of Sun Valley High School. She became a manager of the IHOP in University City at just 18 years old, which has motivated her to study marketing, management and human resources. She plans to continue climbing the ranks at IHOP, with hopes of becoming a general manager after graduation. Outside of work and school, she enjoys watching Netflix and walking on UNC Charlotte’s main campus.

Bryan Ramirez-Padilla transferred to UNC Charlotte after earning an associate degree from Guilford Technical Community College and earning credits at UNC Greensboro. A first-generation college student from a family of farmers, he is pursuing degrees in accounting and finance. After landing an accounting internship, he plans to gain experience in industries like information technology, investing, and real estate, with hopes of reaching CFO status later in his career. When he’s not at school, he enjoys studying financial literacy and investing, working out, spending time with family and friends, and visiting new places.

Incoming students who are interested in the Niblock Scholars Program should visit the program webpage.

About the Belk College of Business
Established in 1970, the Belk College of Business offers business education programs at the undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and executive levels. The Belk College is one of the Carolinas’ largest business schools, with more than 5,000 students, more than 100 full-time faculty, and more than 34,000 alumni. Accredited by AACSB International, the college is committed to building strong partnerships in the greater Charlotte region and beyond as North Carolina's urban research business school. Learn more about how the Belk College is driving business at, and on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The first cohort of Niblock Scholars, Ellie Esterline and Ellie Boger (left), and Natalie Auwn, Bryan Ramirez-Padilla, and Jaleah Ladson (right), with Robert and Melanie Niblock '84 (center) outside the Friday building.