NRF Foundation awards 2017 Ray Greenly Scholarships

"The Ray Greenly Scholarship was established to cultivate the next generation of digital retail talent as they embark on their careers."

Ellen Davis
NRF Foundation Executive Director

WASHINGTON – The NRF Foundation announced today that Tess Burns, a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design, is the top recipient of its 2017 Ray Greenly Scholarship.

“The Ray Greenly Scholarship was established to cultivate the next generation of digital retail talent as they embark on their careers,” NRF Foundation Executive Director Ellen Davis said. “The students were challenged with a real-world, in-store retail application of their skills and talents — and they didn’t disappoint. Our five winners blew us away with their innovative solutions using technology to connect customers to brands and products. We are excited to watch them continue to do great things in the future.”

“Technology and in-store experience are areas we are constantly looking to improve, so we selfishly built the challenge around both of those opportunities,” West Elm Vice President of Innovation Luke Chatelain said. “Switching the application requirement from paper submission to prototype for the first time may have been asking a lot, but ultimately we believed it paid off for everyone. The submissions were ambitious and inspiring, which is exactly why we wanted to participate in the Ray Greenly Scholarship Competition.”

Burns, a student at her school’s main campus in Savannah, Ga., and the top finalist of five, was awarded the $25,000 scholarship at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference, which is being held this week in Los Angeles. She is expected to receive a bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing and management in November 2018.

The four other scholarship recipients will receive $10,000 each:

  • Jessica Bachansingh, a retail merchandising and product development major at Florida State University
  • Quinn Vissak, a computer science and engineering major at the University of Connecticut
  • Eric Wagner, a mechanical engineering and business administration major at the University of Florida
  • Julian Walker, a master’s degree candidate in integrated marketing at Northwestern University

Each applicant was required to go through two phases of the application process, beginning with an essay on innovation along with a two-minute personal brand video. For the second phase, the foundation developed a unique case study with West Elm, the furniture and home décor branch of Williams-Sonoma Inc., in which applicants created an innovative digital prototype that could serve as a complementary resource to the in-store experience for West Elm customers.

Digital retail executives from 20 companies were involved in selecting the semi-finalists based on the creativity and innovative spirit demonstrated in their applications. After a second round of judging to select the five finalists, a panel of executives convened in mid-September to determine who received the top $25,000 scholarship and the four $10,000 scholarships.

The scholarship was established to honor former Vice President Ray Greenly, who died of cancer in 2005. The program provides financial aid to students studying in fields such as engineering, computer science, marketing, business, ecommerce and economics.

About the NRF Foundation
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 is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of the National Retail Federation and is funded in part by generous donations from retail industry supporters.