Columbia Students Win Scholarships and Take on New York During NRF Foundation Student Program

NRF Foundation scholarship recipients from Columbia place second in Student Challenge and enjoy three days of fashion industry events and networking opportunities.

A whirlwind series of events for Columbia College Chicago students who traveled to New York City to participate in the 2023 NRF Foundation Student Program culminated in the NRF Foundation Honors on January 15. At the gala event, the NRF Foundation recognized scholarship recipients including Columbia’s own Team Boise (Ivonne Malagon [Marketing], Alexis Norris [Fashion Studies Merchandising], Juan Osorio [Advertising], and Aleesa Wright [Advertising]). The team placed second in the Student Challenge Competition, which earned each member a $5,000 scholarship for a team total of $20,000.

These Columbia students also participated in the long weekend’s celebrations: The NRF Foundation’s Rising Star Scholarship recipient Mollie Baker, a sophomore at Columbia; Bright Star Scholarship recipients Haylie Juricic and Melissa Maciel, both seniors; and Next Generation semifinalist Miranda Prater, a senior (Malagon was also a semifinalist).

The three-day NRF Foundation Student Program experience included tours, talks featuring inspirational industry speakers, interactive breakout sessions, and mentoring and career recruiting opportunities.

Team Boise walked away feeling extremely happy about their experiences. “We put so much hard work into the project. I definitely feel like a winner regardless,” says Norris, a senior. Her teammate Juan Osorio, also a senior, agrees. “It’s still an amazing opportunity to just be here. We learned so much.” 

The Columbia students along with Dana Connell, director of scholarship initiatives and associate professor in Fashion Studies, and Peg Murphy, associate chair and associate professor in Communication, were among 1,057 students, 124 educators, 41 speakers, and 150 recruiters who gathered at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for this year’s program. Twenty-nine companies sponsored the event in New York City.

The program kicked off on Friday with speakers Tony Spring, NRF Foundation board chair and Bloomingdales' chair and CEO and keynote speaker Mark Irvin, Best Buy’s chief supply chain officer. Other highlights of the weekend: the NRF Foundation Young Professionals Panel, which featured Columbia alums and past NRF Foundation Next Generation winners Amaiya Sims and Robert Davison-Long; a career fair; and a talk by Steven Madden, creative and design chief at Steve Madden.

The networking opportunities were especially meaningful, says Ivonne Malagon, a senior. And the students particularly enjoyed meeting and interacting with the other Student Challenge finalist teams and seeing their success.  

The program also gave the students time to step back and celebrate their own work for the Student Challenge, which entailed teams researching markets for a new concept store from Dick’s Sporting Goods called Public Lands.

As Aleesa Wright says: “Just to see the growth in our work come to this, is amazing.”

See the video from the NRF Foundation featuring the Student Challenge finalist teams and look for more in the coming days about this exciting industry opportunity for Columbia students.