25 NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship semifinalists announced

Published Jun 2, 2020

Twenty-five undergraduates are moving on to the next phase of the competition for the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship.

The semifinalists will complete a case study created in collaboration with PetSmart, Inc. as they contend for a top award of $25,000 and recognition as a future leader in the retail industry.

"As our most prestigious award, the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship honors undergraduate students who have the drive, passion and desire to make a positive impact on the retail industry,” NRF Foundation Executive Director Bill Thorne says. “We are impressed by what our semifinalists have accomplished so far, and we are looking forward to supporting their professional growth throughout this competition.”

The semifinalists are:

  • Rachel Bennett (Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta)
  • Camille Brown (University of Tennessee)
  • Eugene Choi (Santa Clara University)
  • Laura Copen (Mississippi State University)
  • Jordan Davis (University of South Carolina)
  • Ansley Deaton (Belmont University)
  • Catherine Dinh (Santa Clara University)
  • Taylor Ford (University of Georgia)
  • Valerie Gilbert (Kent State University)
  • Cody Hutchison (University of Arizona)
  • Sid Kumar (Indiana University)
  • Dayjah Lee (Indiana University)
  • Jenna Mack (Savannah College of Art and Design – Savannah)
  • Seanna Naylon (High Point University)
  • Matthew Russell (Auburn University)     
  • Erin Sallee (LIM College)
  • Kaitlyn Sifford (University of North Texas)
  • Ines Silvestre Gracias Arrenega Soares (Marist College)
  • Amaiya Sims (Columbia College Chicago)
  • Olivia Smith (Auburn University)
  • Tatum Snelling (Auburn University)        
  • Parker Sylvester (University of Georgia)
  • Sophia Van Slyke (Butler University)
  • Madeline Wong (Santa Clara University)
  • Qiu Wu (University of Minnesota)

In the first phase of the competition, 97 applicants from 44 NRF University Member Schools submitted an essay, a personal brand video, two letters of recommendation, a resume and school transcripts.

They prepared their applications in unusual circumstances, with the coronavirus closing college campuses across the country this spring. The NRF Foundation extended the deadline to allow more time to apply and offered virtual resources that included tips on how to create personal brand videos amid social distancing.

A panel of 48 judges from 18 retail companies selected the semifinalists, who will each receive a $1,000 tuition scholarship. They will spend the next several weeks completing the case study for PetSmart, developing a drive-aisle strategy for the retailer that encompasses elements of research, general business strategy, merchandise planning, marketing and finance. They’ll also participate in two phone interviews with assigned retailers.

From there, 10 students will advance to quick-fire video interviews which will narrow down the applicants to five finalists, who will have final round interviews with members of the NRF Foundation Board of Directors. Of the finalists, four will each receive a $10,000 scholarship and one will receive a $25,000 scholarship.

The NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship is sponsored by SAS, a company that bridges merchandising, marketing and supply chain data and analytics processes across the entire retail enterprise.

“SAS has a long-standing commitment to education, and we’re proud to pair that commitment with our focus on the retail industry as a sponsor of the NRF Foundation,” SAS Vice President of Consumer and Communications and NRF Foundation Board Member James Vickers says.

Since its launch, more than $800,000 in funds have been awarded through the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship. 

In addition to the Next Generation Scholarship, the NRF Foundation also offers students a chance to get real-world experience with the NRF Foundation Student Challenge, a team business case competition that is open now to current sophomores, juniors and seniors. Submissions for that competition are due Oct. 15.

Scholarships are offered exclusively to undergraduates enrolled at NRF University Member Schools. Explore the benefits of joining as a university member here.

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