Ambitious students from NRF University member schools are competing to represent the next generation of retail leaders.
Retail executives from 17 companies selected 25 semifinalists who rose to the top after submitting an essay, a personal brand video and two letters of recommendation from their employers and educators. These students will complete an exclusive case study created in collaboration with Meijer and two phone interviews with retail partners for the chance to advance to the final round of competition. The 25 semifinalists also receive a $1,000 travel stipend award for their achievements to attend the 2022 Student Program in New York City.
The top recipient for the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship will receive a $25,000 scholarship; four finalists will each receive $10,000 scholarships.
Columbia College Chicago
Meaningful customer relationships are at the core of Robert Davison Long's career in retail where he leverages individuality and expressiveness in fashion with each customer. From working for companies like the Frye Company to Express and Coach, the human quotient of retail has always been at the core of his endeavors in retail. Currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago completing his bachelor's degree in fashion studies with a concentration in merchandising, he is most enamored with the bravery his customers and team members have shown through the pandemic and marvels at their capacity for forward thinking even during difficult times. His dream job is to become a creative director for a major fashion brand and in doing so hopes to inspire future generations of retail enthusiasts to follow their dreams.
Sabrina Leibowitz’s love for fashion and retail stems from her passion for product and the impact retailer’s can make. As a junior design and merchandising major at Drexel University, she has explored the multifaceted retail industry. Leibowitz’s love for retail has grown through her diverse experiences within the industry such as being an A+ Brand Specialist at Anthropologie, promoting body inclusivity in retailers’ assortments and interning at Fashion Snoops, creating womenswear reports that communicated cultural shifts that impacted how consumers view products. Leibowitz continues to diversify her knowledge in the industry by recently becoming a research assistant for All Together Now PA: Clothing & Textile Coalition to help facilitate a local apparel supply chain in Pennsylvania. Leibowitz’s ultimate career goal is to become an advocate for the importance of retail and the impact it has in today’s world through the work she does in the industry.
Growing up in a small, rural community in Southeastern Indiana, Sarah May's unique background fostered behaviors such as empathy, an entrepreneurial spirit and an innate sense of curiosity. Her experiences with DICK'S Sporting Goods, Bath & Body Works and Style Encore, paired with her upbringing at a family-owned restaurant, have deepened her passion for all facets of the retail industry. Currently a senior at Indiana University studying apparel merchandising with minors in entrepreneurship and fashion design, May is driven by the dynamic nature of the retail sector, where the consumer's ever-changing needs must be met with a whole-hearted dose of empathy.
Marcel Smith since his childhood has always been an avid purveyor of art, fashion and culture. Coupling that with a passion for business strategy and consumer behavior, merchandising became a clear path for him to apply his talents. Smith’s aim is to help bring about greater transparency and inclusion within the retail and fashion industries through both sustainable and profitable initiatives. In his senior year at LIM College, Smith continues to be the president of the campus’s Sustainability Club and has worked with companies such as The Neiman Marcus Group, Trader Joe’s, Fashiondex and Equinox Group to implement ESG strategies, initiatives and awareness. Smith currently resides in the sunny coast of Southern California where he aspires to become a merchandise manager and help companies within the luxury sector ethically source and inclusively promote high quality consumer goods.
Ohio State University
A first-generation student, Brooke Williams will graduate in May 2022 with her degree in business economics and fashion and retail studies. She is passionate about helping to build the future of retail by elevating the customer experience to the next level and finding innovative, sustainable solutions within supply chains. A born leader, Williams currently serves as president for Ohio State University's NRFSA, chapters leads as the director of production for OSU's Fashion Production Association, assists as a teaching assistant for an apparel manufacturing class and helps to promote both the local Columbus fashion scene and OSU's FRS program. Williams is ecstatic about launching her career into the retail industry and is incredibly grateful for the opportunities afforded to her from the NRF Foundation.