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Student Success

See which Retail Industry Leaders NC State Students Connected with During NRF’s Student Program

A group of Wilson College of Textiles students pose in front of a career fair sign at the National Retail Federation program in New York City.

By Sarah Stone

From luxury brands like Saks 5th Avenue and Ralph Lauren to household names like Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon, just about every major company in the retail industry counts itself a member of the National Retail Federation (NRF). Students from the Wilson College of Textiles had the opportunity to network with and learn from senior executives of these companies during the NRF Foundation Student Program in New York City in early January. 

“We had the opportunity to to listen to their thoughts, their insights and advice, as well as ask questions, and that’s such a valuable experience as a student to be networking at such a high level,” Maya Mitchall, a junior in the Wilson College’s brand management and marketing (BMM) program, says.

Wilson College of Textiles student, Maya Mitchall poses wearing her NRF lanyard, with a glass building and New York City in the background.
Maya Mitchall in New York City for the NRF Foundation’s Student Program.

Mitchall is just one of 31 students in the college’s BMM, fashion development and product management (FDPM), and textile design programs who attended the event.

Three days, endless resume builders

The NRF Foundation holds the Student Program for three days each year ahead of its annual conference and expo for industry members. As the self-proclaimed largest trade organization in the world, the possibilities for students to make the first step towards an internship or job are endless. A career fair gives students the chance to share their resumes, learn more about potential employers and get their foot in the door for design, merchandising and marketing positions. 

“I talked to a few members of the design team at Kohl’s which was really interesting and helpful,” Charlotte Antry, a sophomore in FDPM, says. “So you really have the chance to talk to everyone and see what’s available to you.” 

Antry earned a waiver for the cost of registration, as well as a stipend for her weekend in NYC, through the NRF Rising Star Scholarship. The college’s Office of Career Services also funded the program’s registration fee for any December 2022 or May 2023 graduates who wanted to go. 

The program isn’t just about exchanging resumes. It also provides students with the industry insights they need to get a leg up in their careers through speakers and company tours. This year’s speaker lineup featured entrepreneur Steve Madden as well as executives from Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Savage x Fenty. 

Steve Madden (right) sits in a chair on stage in conversation with a moderator during the NRF Foundation Student Program. Both sit in front of a monitor with a decorative graphic design projected.
Entrepreneur Steve Madden was one of many industry leaders who spoke to students during the NRF Foundation Program.

“The DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] talk was also a highlight,” Mitchall says. “I think the speakers there were just very profound and conveyed their knowledge in such an empowering way.” 

Mitchall also participated in the NRF Executive Mentorship Experience, where small groups of students had two hours to connect with six retail executives. 

Maya’s three takeaways

She summed up her three-day experience with three big takeaways:

  1. The retail industry is a lot bigger than you may think.
    There’s more companies in it, who are involved than you might realize. There are more aspects of the businessthan just marketing and design. There are many, many, many ways to get involved with retail. Be open minded. 
  2. Networking is very important.
    Always stay in touch with the people you meet. I got to meet so many cool industry leaders, and simply following up and maintaining those connections will help me later down the line.
  3. I definitely learned that the fashion industry is where I want to be.
    During this event, I also learned about and got exposed to a lot of new brands that I wasn’t aware of before. I got to actually experience and have a touch point with them, which helps grow my options in terms of where I want to apply for jobs and internships.

What you need to know about the NRF (Foundation) NC State chapter

This marks the second semester of the NRF Foundation chapter at NC State. President Maya Mitchall first launched the chapter in fall of 2022 when she noticed her FTM classmates were seeking out community and career development opportunities. 

“A lot of students are looking for ways to really connect with people from the industry and hear from them, especially since they are aiming for the fashion industry, where it’s a little harder to get your foot in the door without those connections,” she says. 

Mitchall shared answers to some of her most common questions classmates ask her about the club. 

How often do you meet?

We meet once a month, you get all of the updates from their NRF and all of their programming for the entire month.

What will I get to do as part of the NRF Chapter?

In our first semester, we set up a lot of career development opportunities. For example, we did a resume roulette session where we peer-reviewed resumes. We did a service event this past fall semester where we all went to Note in the Pocket and helped sort clothing there. We’re also planning to bring in even more guest speakers from the industry this semester.

What if I’m not a fashion and textile management student? Can I still join?

Yes! It is open to all students in and out of the college. One of the big things I learned during the NRF Foundation Student Program was how big retail is and how much it encompasses.When NRF speakers participate in programming it’s not always the fashion executives. I’ve met site leaders at Amazon. I’ve met lots of people in the tech space because of software that retail companies use. 

How can I find out more?

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