25 students named semi-finalists for NRF Foundation’s 2019 Next Generation scholarship

"Each of our semi-finalists exhibit remarkable leadership skills, and will no doubt make their mark on the retail industry.”

Ellen Davis
NRF Foundation President

WASHINGTON – The NRF Foundation today announced 25 students as semi-finalists for its Next Generation Scholarship program, which provides financial support to college students pursuing careers or majors relevant to retail.

“True to its name, this scholarship identifies and rewards the retail industry’s brightest rising stars,” NRF Foundation President Ellen Davis said. “We adjusted the application process this year to attract a wider pool of qualified students and ended up with a truly talented group from schools across the country. Each of our semi-finalists exhibit remarkable leadership skills, and will no doubt make their mark on the retail industry.”

In a new phase of the competition this year, semi-finalists will be required to complete a case study created in partnership with BJ’s Wholesale Club and interview with an assigned retailer. The case study focuses on the digital investments the company has made in the past 12 months. Students will explore and research the company, conduct a competitive analysis and make recommendations for the future.

In the first phase of the competition, 103 applicants from 41 schools each submitted an essay, a personal brand video, two letters of recommendation, a resume and school transcripts. A panel of retail executives from 17 companies judged those materials to select the semi-finalists, and a second panel of retail experts will use the case studies and interviews to select five finalists. Of the finalists, four will each receive a $10,000 scholarship and one will receive a $25,000 scholarship.

The semi-finalists are:

  • Maryum Abdul-Hakeem, Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta
  • Caroline Barksdale, University of Georgia
  • Raquel Benjamin, Savannah College of Art and Design – Savannah
  • Mary Cayten Brakefield, University of Tennessee – Knoxville
  • Abigail Dolbeer, Indiana University
  • Rachel Duerksen, University of Minnesota
  • Mariel Emery, Florida State University
  • Manu Garikipati, Texas A&M University
  • Victoria Hunger, University of Iowa
  • Marie Johnson, Meredith College
  • Jessie Karagosian, LIM College
  • Faith Knox, Texas A&M University
  • Allison Lausch, University of South Carolina
  • Emily Leeson, Butler University
  • Olivia Mannion, Santa Clara University
  • Aine Mattera, Indiana University
  • Rebecca Olsen, East Carolina University
  • Grant Plotkin, Parsons School of Design
  • Charlotte Sandness, LIM College
  • Elizabeth Smith, FIDM
  • Lauryn-Ashley Solomon, Kent State University
  • Kimberly Spradley, FIDM
  • Tinka Weener, FIDM
  • Jorja West, Texas Woman’s University
  • Kelsey White, LIM College

The top recipient will be announced on stage in front of hundreds of retail CEOs and insiders at the NRF Foundation Gala, scheduled for January 13, 2019, during NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show.

All semi-finalists will attend the Foundation’s fifth annual Student Program, which will be held January 11-13 during NRF 2019. A total of 1,000 students are expected to attend the program, which they engage directly with retailers through an executive mentoring session and network with retail recruiters to advance their careers. The program is part of the Foundation’s larger initiative to share the story of the retail industry and celebrate the breadth and diversity of opportunities in an industry at the center of innovation.

To learn more about the scholarship, visit nrffoundation.org/nextgeneration.

About the NRF Foundation
The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail. The NRF Foundation is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of the National Retail Federation and is funded in part by generous donations from retail industry supporters. nrffoundation.org.