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The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail.

The NRF Foundation shapes retail’s future by building awareness of the industry through statistics and stories; developing talent through education, experiences and scholarships; and fostering career growth among people who work in retail.

Dream Big 2017 Winner

Class of 2017

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Dream Big Scholarship 2017


This year we have the honor of celebrating the 5th year of our Dream BIG Scholarship by awarding 20 more retail employees with a full-tuition scholarship to University of Phoenix.

This year's recipients come from over a dozen companies and have worked a combined 246 years in retail! Read the press release and meet the Class of 2017.

Dream BIG 2017: Scholarship Recipients Get a Big Surprise at Work
In 2017, 20 recipients were chosen to receive a full-tuition scholarship to University of Phoenix. Watch as we surprise employees from Brooks Brothers, maurices, Nordstrom, and The Container Store with the exciting news at work.
Ana Baron Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Ana Baron

Company: Kroger
Position: Production Administrative Support Personnel

Years in Retail: 9

Biggest inspiration: Mom & dad

"My biggest inspirations are my mom and dad. They have done everything in their power to support me through schooling. They've always inspired me to never stop learning."

Michael Billett Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Michael Billett

Company: Mattress Firm
Position: Area manager

Years in retail: 5

What he loves about retail: "There is never a dull moment. Each and every guest that walks through is looking for that personal connection and I am able to create that connection while guiding them to the best product/service they are in need of. I find myself making new friends and family each and every day."

Varinia Boyd Dream Big 2017 Finalist

Varinia Boyd

Company: Brooks Brothers
Position: District manager

Years in retail: 28

Dream career: Senior Professional in Human Resources 


Kelly Corcoran Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Kelly Corcoran

Company: Mattel (American Girl)
Position: Visual Merchandising Lead

Dream career: Human Resources Trainer, Quality & Service

"Working in retail is more demanding than what it would appear to be. You must learn to have patience and tolerance to deal with the ups and downs of each day. But most importantly, you must have fun!  Each day is a new adventure; and if you are not having fun or like what you do, you can’t be afraid to change it and follow your passions."

Leslie Courtney Dream Big 2017 Finalist

Leslie Courtney

Company: The Kroger Co.
Position: Sr. Director, Shared Services

Years in retail: 20

What she loves about retail: "It is an environment of constant change and constant learning. Just when you think you understand your role, you see another side of the coin and find out there is a whole world of processes that you know nothing about."

Natalie Harkness Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Natalie Harkness

Company: Maurices
Position: Associate Buyer

Years in retail: 9

"What I love about retail, specifically my field of retail, is that what I do can directly influence and impact a complete stranger’s life, and that no two days in my job are exactly alike."


Aundrea Hyde Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Aundrea Hyde

Company: Macy's
Position: Jewelry Sales Supervisor

Years in retail: 7

What she wants people to know about working in retail: "Although retail is always changing, it's not going away. It's an industry filled with hard working, passionate people who care about the consumer experience and love what they do."

Korinne Jones Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Korinne Jones

Company: IKEA
Position: Commercial Manager

Years in retail: 20

Dream career: Store Manager for IKEA

"I did not know if it would ever be within my reach to continue my education as a single mom supporting my son on my own. This scholarship will give me the opportunity to earn my degree and take the next steps in my career." 

Alexis Katsafanas Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Alexis Katsafanas

Company: Nordstrom
Position: Assistant Buy Planner

Years in retail: 8

"When I think about my retail career dreams, one title in particular comes to mind: CEO. I applied for the Dream BIG Scholarship because I know that the knowledge and skills that work in my current job will not be sufficient for a CEO. The Dream BIG Scholarship allows me the opportunity to gain the additional tools I need to further my career while simultaneously applying what I am learning at work! When Pete Nordstrom surprised me with the good news I told him that I’m after his job."


Sean Lenahan Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Sean Lenahan

Company: Brooks Brothers
Position: Store Manager

Dream career: Regional Made-to-Measure Manager for Brooks Brothers

Biggest inspiration: "My father is a huge inspiration in my life. He has such an incredible work ethic that I truly try to emulate in my life. He is the type who will show up to meetings 15 minutes early, work a 15 hour day, and then still find a way to come home and spend quality time with my brother and I in the evening. I hope I can be known to be half as reliable and hard working as he is during my life. "

Justin Martin Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Justin Martin

Company: Saks Fifth Avenue
Position: Area Sales Manager

Years in retail: 7

What he loves about retail: "I love working in retail because there are so many disciplines involved that you can take your career in many different directions. Retail is an ever changing business that allows you to branch out try new things that other careers don’t allow you to do."​

Katherine Mather Dream Big 2017 Finalist

Kati Mather

Company: The Container Store
Position: Customer Solutions Department Point Person

Years in retail: 13

What she wants people to know about working in retail: "Working in retail is more rewarding than most people realize. A career can start from anywhere—I’ve worked with amazing managers and leaders who started their retail career at 16. Helping a customer find a perfect solution is always rewarding, and it’s an amazing feeling once your career grows and you can help those who’ve been where you started."

Hailey McLean Dream Big 2017 Finalist

Hailey McLean

Company: The Container Store
Position: Customer Solutions Training and Quality Assurance Sales Trainer 

Years in retail: 9

Dream career: Training manager

How recieving this scholarship will impact her career & life: "Receiving this scholarship will give me the confidence to go for things I previously thought I could never do, both in my career and my personal life. If I can do this, I can do anything!"

Kenny Rogers Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Kenny Rogers

Company: Steak'n Shake
Position: HR Business Partner

Years in retail: 18

What he loves about retail: "In one simple word, people. I love the retail/restaurant industry because of the growth possibilities for people. I started my career as an entry level individual, and I have had great leaders and mentors along the way who have helped me grow and develop. The industry is like a family with so many connections. I couldn’t see myself working in any other industry."

Kristen Turner Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Kristen Turner

Company: Burlington Stores
Position: Assistant Buyer

Years in retail: 6

Dream career: Divisional Merchandise Manager

Why she applied for the Dream BIG Scholarship: "I never thought my dream of furthering my education was even a possibility. When the opportunity to apply for the Dream BIG Scholarship presented itself, I knew I needed to take advantage of it. I never imagined I would be in this position, but I am so grateful!"

Emily Villatoro Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Emily Villatoro

Company: Nordstrom
Position: Assistant Department Manager

Years in retail: 3

"This scholarship means I’ll be the first in my family to finish college. This means just as much to me as it does my parents."


Alison Wallace Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Alison Wallace

Company: Burlington Stores
Position: Assortment Planner

Years in retail: 7

Biggest inspiration: "My family. My dad, mom, and sister are three of the hardest working people I know and I have been very fortunate to have them as role models in my life.  They are a big part of where I am today.  Seeing their hard work inspires me to strive for the same kind of success they have experienced."

Katherine Watt Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Katherine Watt

Company: Red Robin
Position: General Manager

Years in retail: 18

Why she applied for the Dream BIG Scholarship: "I applied for the Dream BIG Scholarship to fulfill my purpose of being the very best version of myself. Being a college graduate has been a dream of mine that has been put on the back burner as I have worked towards my professional goals. I have achieved many goals and have been very successful in my career and I know that now is that time for me to move forward with my education."

Shannon White Dream Big 2017 Finalist

Shannon White

Company: Lane Bryant
Position: Store Manager

Years in retail: 20

Dream career: Regional Human Resources Manager for Ascena Brands - Lane Bryant

What she loves about retail: "Retail is all about connection, connecting us every day, to every aspect of the human condition. In my current role, I am able to wardrobe and style women and girls for all the events in their lives. These connections are priceless, I encounter customers for happy occasions like weddings and also for sad occasions like funerals. And for each of these occasions, I have the opportunity to positively impact their day, week, month, and life. Where else can I do that and wear fashionable trends at the same time? Retail offers me the chance to give back to our world in my own way each day."

Hannah Wong Dream Big 2017 Recipient

Hannah Wong

Company: Whole Foods Market
Position: AP Operations Coordinator

Years in retail: 11

How recieving this scholarship will impact her career & life: "This scholarship will allow me to apply what I’ve seen and learned in my career so far in an academic setting, and further deepen my knowledge base, which I can then use in my professional life. The flexible nature of the program will help me juggle my drive and desire for knowledge with my family and personal life"

Dream BIG: How to Apply

To apply for Dream BIG, you will need to submit three short essays, a current resume and a letter of recommendation per the application instructions, and meet all eligibility and selection criteria.