Columbia College Chicago Students Earn National Awards for Fashion and Retail Marketing

Columbia students awarded a combined $40,000 in scholarships from National Retail Federation Foundation and YMA Fashion Scholarship Foundation for exceptional professionalism and creativity

CHICAGO—(Feb. 2, 2018). Columbia College Chicago students recently won scholarship awards for their fashion and marketing skills. The participating Columbia teams earned the top two positions in the National Retail Federation Foundation’s (NRF's) 2018 Student Challenge Competition, while the YMA/Fashion Scholarship Foundation (FSF) presented two Columbia students, one of whom is now an alum, with scholarships for their respective fashion case studies. Combined, current and former Columbia students have garnered a total of $40,000 in national scholarships.

“The NRF judges were blown away by our students’ creativity, multi-media know-how, innovative approach to collaboration, and professionalism,” said Department of Fashion Studies Chair Colbey Emmerson Reid, PhD. “These accomplishments are made possible because our faculty coach students in workshop-style settings where everyone has high stakes in the game. It’s truly gratifying to see how this kind of teamwork allows our students to take on other competitors from the top fashion and business programs in the country and win!”

In the NRF Student Challenge competition, the college’s teams were among 30 competing teams from fashion, media, and arts schools across the country. Students were required to work with retail matchmaker STORY and a KPMG mentor to pitch ideas on behalf of STORY to potential sponsors Staples, CVS, and 3M. Students were judged on their ability to connect fashion design, retail, marketing, management, social media, profitability, advertising, graphic design, and other related skills.

Columbia’s “Passion Project” team, which presented to Staples, won first place. Fashion Business student Ashley Cairns, Cinema and Television Arts student Blake Fortin, and Advertising student Kendall McDermott received $5,000 scholarships each. Columbia’s team “Micro,” which presented to 3M, won second place, with Fashion Studies students Allison Coppedge and Sara Diaz de Villegas, Cinema and Television Arts student Nathan Procell, and Design student Lane Hedler receiving $2,500 each. Students accepted the award at the Foundation’s gala on Jan. 14 in New York City. Watch the NRF's feature on the 2018 winners and finalists.

“Our teachers, Peg Murphy and Dana Connell, were with us every step of the way—for every late-night deadline, phone call, and frantic text we sent, they shared their years of industry experience with us,” said McDermott. “This grind taught us to pitch a big, real-world, idea effectively, through the hands-on, collaborative, and supportive learning experience that is so unique to Columbia.”

Columbia’s Fashion Studies students, including a recent graduate, also earned scholarships from the YMA/Fashion Scholarship Foundation (FSF) for their respective case studies. The fund encourages “gifted and enterprising young people to pursue careers in design, merchandising, retailing and business–ensuring the industry will continue to attract dedicated, capable, and creative individuals.” This year, applicants were asked to “explore how the weaving together of digital technology with offline shopping can improve the performance of a fashion retailer of your choice.” Fashion Business alum Ashley Woosley ’17 received a $10,000 National Merit Scholarship for a Levi’s Case Study, just one year after winning a $5,000 YMA/FSF scholarship for her Macy's X Etsy Case Study, and Fashion Design student Rachel Hentrich won $5,000 for her JCPenney Case Study.

“YMA challenged me intellectually and creatively,” said Hentrich, a senior. “I feel very fortunate to have had amazing teachers who invested their time into mentoring me.”




Columbia College Chicago;is a private, nonprofit college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business for nearly 7,500 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging, and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens. For more information, visit


Anjali Julka