Inspiration, insights and opportunities

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Three days of career-building opportunities conclude today for more than 1,000 participants in the Student Program at NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show. Students from 133 colleges and universities across the country heard from 18 executive mentors and 30 recruiting companies during the event, the only one of its kind designed specifically for students.

The Student Program kicked off Friday with a presentation by BJ’s Wholesale Club and NRF Chairman Chris Baldwin. “Given the world we’re living in today where personalization will be increasingly important, quantitative skills will matter. There’s no doubt there is a massive role for people who are creative thinkers,” Baldwin said. “But ultimately business is a big gigantic math test, so the ability to figure out quantitatively how a business will work is an important thing.”

Students attended a panel discussion on technology and innovation with speakers including Talia Watts, Nike Marketplace merchandising manager, and Mented co-founders Amanda E. Johnson and Kristen Miller were among speakers on an entrepreneurship panel.

On Friday, students also heard from Elena Richards, minority initiatives and talent management leader for PcW’s office of diversity, who discussed unconscious biases in a new session, “Check Your Blind Spots.” A keynote from Hallmark Greetings CMO Lindsey Roy closed the day.

Students began Saturday with a “commencement-style” speech from Soles4Souls President and CEO Buddy Teaster, who spoke to students about finding their true purpose in life and a career filled with passion. “I don’t know anything about shoes,” Teaster said. “I don’t know anything about retail and I was a French major in college — but I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been for the last six years.”

Later that day, a supply chain and fulfillment panel featured speakers including Melissa Barr, senior director of supply chain, strategy, analytics and technology with The Kroger Co., and Jo Malone, founder and creative director of British luxury fragrance brand Jo Loves, gave a keynote on resiliency and reinvention.

Student programming concludes tonight with the fifth annual NRF Foundation Gala, a night for retail executives to celebrate and give back to the industry. Festivities include the naming of the winners of the Next Generation Scholarship and the 2019 Student Challenge Competition. The Gala also honors NRF’s The Visionary 2019 — Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., and The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future.

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