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NRF Foundation Next Generation competition narrows to 10 students

By Lottie Watts
Published Aug 31, 2020

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

They were selected from a pool of 25 semifinalists, who spent this summer completing a case study the NRF Foundation created in collaboration with PetSmart, Inc.

“PetSmart believes in providing continued opportunities for students to learn more about the retail industry,” PetSmart Manager of Emerging Talent Lauren Givens says. “With the Next Generation case study, the scholars have been continuing to grow and set themselves up for success in the retail space.”

The students were tasked with researching and developing a drive-aisle strategy for the retailer, outlining everything from the merchandise offered to financial projections and how their program creates a memorable shopping experience.

Judges from PetSmart and a dozen other retail companies evaluated the case studies, and students also participated in phone interviews to determine the top 10.

The NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship, which is sponsored by SAS, awards $10,000 scholarships to four finalists, while the top recipient will get a $25,000 scholarship.

"Throughout the competition, we have been impressed by the tremendous work of our Next Generation scholars,” NRF Foundation Executive Director Bill Thorne says. “They’re showing they have what it takes to make a positive impact on the retail industry and earn the recognition of our most prestigious award.” 

The top 10 Next Generation scholars are:

  • Rachel Bennett (Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta)
  • Eugene Choi (Santa Clara University)
  • Jordan Davis (University of South Carolina)
  • Taylor Ford (University of Georgia)
  • Sid Kumar (Indiana University)
  • Matthew Russell (Auburn University)
  • Ines Silvestre Gracias Arrenega Soares (Marist College)
  • Amaiya Sims (Columbia College Chicago)
  • Sophia Van Slyke (Butler University)
  • Madeline Wong (Santa Clara University)

The students will advance to 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. An announcement of the top five will come in mid-September.

In the first phase of the competition for 2021, 97 applicants from 44 NRF University Member Schools applied, preparing applications in unusual circumstances, with the coronavirus closing college campuses across the country this spring. 

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.

As NRF’s nonprofit 501(c)(3), everything the NRF Foundation does helps people do better for themselves, their families and their communities. This fall, we’re expanding opportunities to learn about retail from the people who power the industry with NRF Foundation All Access. Register now for our free program.


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