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Student Success

Exploring the Future of Retail at the NRF Student Program

Wilson College of Textiles students traveled to New York City to attend the National Retail Federation Student Program.

Five Wilson College of Textiles students pose in front of NRF Foundation New York Student Program sign.

Every year, the National Retail Federation Student Program brings together leaders, recruiters and future professionals from diverse backgrounds within the retail industry. The annual three-day program allows students to explore and engage with the latest trends, technologies and strategies shaping the future of retail. 

This January, 40 students from the Wilson College of Textiles traveled to New York City to attend the NRF Student Program to connect with some of the world’s biggest retail brands.

“It really just showed me how big of an industry it is,” B.S. Fashion and Textile Management student and Vice President of NRF at NC State Kendall Wisniewski says.

Kaylee Jacobs posing for photo in Times Square.
Kaylee Jacobs (FTM ’26) visiting Times Square.

The program was sponsored by 34 brands, including Nordstrom, AEO, lululemon, Target and Uniqlo. Students heard from and engaged with some of retail’s brightest leaders through store tours, a speaker series, an executive mentor experience and a career fair.

“It gave me a clear perspective of how to be a competitive student entering the industry,” B.S. Fashion and Textile Management student Meredith Gaskill says. 

Networking with retail’s biggest brands

Students started the weekend by attending tours and talks at brands such as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, Uniqlo and Dick’s Sporting Goods. During these tours, students had the chance to interact with industry professionals, ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities currently shaping the retail landscape. 

“It was really exciting because I worked for Macy’s this past summer as an intern in prestige skincare, and I got to reconnect with some of the recruiters and teams that I had previously been on and learn more about their upcoming programs,” Gaskill says.

Students also had the opportunity to network with recruiters at the career fair, with all 34 brands sponsoring the event in attendance.

“Being able to talk to recruiters in person really does make all the difference. Being able to hand them your physical resume and make that first impression is really crucial,” Wisniewski says.

Kaylee Jacobs, B.S. Fashion and Textile Management Student and recipient of the NRF Foundation Rising Stars Scholarship heard from Rick Jordan, Vice President of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation during a panel discussion. She was then able to speak with him at the career fair.

“I had a few questions for him because that’s the realm of the industry I’m interested in going into. I was able to connect with him on LinkedIn on the spot,” she says.

Students Alex Hutchens (FTM '24), Sarah Gruver (FTM '24), Maggie McCullough (FTM '24) and Meredith Gaskill (FTM '24) pose with alumna , Rosa Stancil (FTM '23) at the Wilson College of Textiles Alumni Reception.
Alex Hutchens (FTM ’24), Sarah Gruver (FTM ’24), Maggie McCullough (FTM ’24), Rosa Stancil (FTM ’23) and Meredith Gaskill (FTM ’24) at the Wilson College of Textiles Alumni Reception.

While students were in New York City for the program, the Wilson College of Textiles also hosted an alumni event.

“That was probably one of the highlights of the weekend because I got to network with alumni specifically from Wilson and people who went through degree programs like mine and are now working in the industry,” says Gaskill.

Industry insights from retail leaders

Students had the opportunity to gain valuable advice from some of the biggest leaders in the retail industry.

“I am about to start working on my thesis as I’m pursuing my master’s after undergraduate graduation. Thinking about the big things that are happening in retail is really going to shape what my thesis looks like over the next year,” Gaskill says.

NRF Foundation New York Student Program 2024 conference room with students waiting for the event to begin.

During the speaker series, Julie Averill, chief technology officer at lululemon, shared her expert opinion on how technology is transforming the retail landscape.

 Kristin Shane, PetSmart SVP and Chief Merchandising Officer, spoke on the importance of staying agile in successful merchandising.

Students also heard from a young professional panel of buyers, designers and merchandise managers with advice on how to accelerate your career.

Following the mainstage speaker series, American Express hosted an Executive Mentor Experience where students were able to meet in small groups with different industry leaders and ask questions.

“I really enjoyed the executive mentor experience because we got to hear from some of the executives in the industry who had spoken to us throughout the weekend, and they were able to speak with us on a smaller scale and answer our specific questions,” says Gaskill.

Interested in attending the NRF Student Program or getting involved in the NRF chapter at NC State? Any student interested in a career in retail can join! NRF at NC State is a great way to connect with fellow students, talk about NRF events, get updates on what is happening in the NRF and network with peers and professionals. Visit @ncstate_nrf on Instagram for more information.