Adventures in Retailing
By Natasha Fly
Students from BGSU’s apparel merchandising and product development program (AMPD) recently traveled to New York City for the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Annual Convention & Expo, where two of them were honored with scholarships for their work with the NRF Student Association (NRFSA) on campus.
Juniors Nicole Rutschilling and Parker Calvin were among 20 AMPD students who traveled to the NRF “Big Show,” the retail industry’s flagship event, where they had to opportunity experience innovative technology and networking and be inspired by the industry's revolutionary leaders. More than 3,300 retail companies from around the world were represented at the event, including keynote speakers from companies including Rebecca Minkoff, Nemain Marcus, Disney, Nordstrom, West Elm, Belk, STORY, The Honest Co. and Levi Strauss, just to name a few – providing an unparalleled opportunity to hear from industry leaders first-hand.
But the most exciting part of the trip came when Rutschilling and Calvin learned they had won scholarships for their passion and leadership as members of NRFSA at BGSU. Both were nominated by AMPD instructor Daniela Jankovska.
“I nominated Nicole for the NRF Student Ambassador Scholarship because she is ambitious, resourceful and a highly-motivated student capable of leading the NRF student association on campus,” she said. “NRF student ambassadors serve as the liaison between NRF and their school. This was an enormous opportunity at which Nicole made a large impact and helped grow the NRF community on BGSU campus.”
“When I found out about the scholarship, I was overwhelmed with joy,” Rutschilling said. “Over the semester, I put in a lot of hours and hard work to build awareness of the NRFSA on BGSU's campus, and it was nice to know that my hard work was not going unnoticed.”
Calvin was awarded The Next Generation Scholarship, which “is the pinnacle achievement” for students at NRF university member schools who are currently pursuing retail careers or majors relevant to retail and who have demonstrated they’re prepared to be future leaders and make an impact in the retail industry, Jankovska said.
“This scholarship program is a perfect fit for Parker, who demonstrated the skills, insights and interest to be successful in the retail industry,” she added
“The scholarship meant a lot to me because my hard work wasn't just recognized by my professors and adviser, but by a nationally recognized organization like the NRF and professionals in the industry,” Calvin said. “This is the field that I want to go into after graduation, and knowing that my work was valued by them is promising for my career post-graduation.”
BGSU students first got involved with the NRF in 2015 and were invited to the annual convention and last year.
While at the conference, students had the opportunity to engage with industry leaders and build their knowledge of the business.
“At the conference, I was given the opportunity to listen to many inspirational speakers and learn more about what retail has to offer,” Rutschilling said.
As for her favorite part of the conference, she said the keynote speakers offered valuable advice that directly applied to her life.
“I have been to the NRF conference for the past two years, and I realized there is one thing I love most about attending: The keynote speakers at the conference never disappoint,” she said. “Their speeches leave an impact on both my professional and personal life.”
In addition to gaining insight from the speakers on stage, students have the opportunity to interact with them and other industry leaders throughout the conference.
“While at the conference, students have the opportunity to network with employers, industry professionals and students from other universities,” Calvin said. “Multiple students from BGSU have left New York with internship and even entry-level job offers. The connections made while at the convention are priceless. I have stayed in contact with people I met at the conference a year ago.”
While in New York, students had time to enjoy the sites and take in the one of the leading fashion cities in the world.
“A group of us visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it was simply breathtaking,” Rutschilling said. “Each exhibit I walked into I felt like I was taken to a different place. It was phenomenal.”
Another group visited the office of WGSN, a fashion trend forecasting site that the university subscribes to.
“Students in the AMPD program at BG use this site for many of their classes and research, so it was very exciting to see in person,” Calvin said.
The NRFSA chapter at BGSU was established in 2014 with a mission to provide students with opportunities to make connections with professionals in the retail industry and with their peers.
“The workshops that the NRFSA provides members are very beneficial in landing a job after graduation,” Rutschilling said.
BGSU’s chapter also holds workshops for resumes, LinkedIn profiles, mock interviews, elevator speeches, and what/what not to wear in different professional situations. They also offer opportunities for students to volunteer at the Glenwood Giving Store and Just Pancakes. Additionally, they organize Skype sessions with BGSU alumni and industry professionals.
“This allows students to not only gain an insight on different professions, but also make connections,” Calvin said. “Being a member of the NRF is also a huge resume builder. Almost any industry professional is aware of the NRF and it is definitely a conversation starter and is very impressive.”