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Current Student Spotlight: Priscilla Olivarez

Current Student Spotlight: Priscilla Olivarez

What is NRF and how did you get involved?

My name is Priscilla Olivarez, sophomore TXA Merchandising major, and I originally got involved in 2021 by receiving a scholarship from the NRF Foundation, the Rising Star scholarship, in which I received a stipend to attend the 2022 NRF Foundation Student Program in NYC. Due to COVID, the Student Program was canceled but in January of 2022, Professor Jennifer Wilson asked me to help build out the UT NRFSA and establish it. I am the inaugural President and Student Ambassador and currently the Professional Activities officer.

Here at UT, beginning in January of 2022, the National Retail Federation Foundation Student Association (UT NRFSA) was created and officially became an organization under The University of Texas at Austin in summer of 2022. The UT NRFSA helps to connect students and mentors that are eager for a career in the retail industry, to the largest retail trade association with a variety of skills, opportunities, and scholarships. This association provides the skills and resources needed for a life-changing career through the NRF Foundation, and connects people to an industry that's a great place to start and a great place to grow.

How has NRF helped you as a TXA student at UT and what advice can you give prospective NRF members?

As a TXA student, the NRFSA has opened up many opportunities and networking events to build a name for myself in this vast industry. Because of establishing this organization and still being an officer in it, I am continuously building my leadership skills within it and also creating connections with professionals in the industry since we bring in speakers for most of our meetings. Throughout the past year and a half, the NRF Foundation has hosted multiple networking events and mentor chats where you can talk to professionals in the retail industry ranging in all jobs and all companies. This has really helped put my own name on a map and have professionals learn my name and then recognize me at further events and just build my confidence for professional development. It has also allowed me to gain opportunities that I never thought I would have coming into college. From receiving the Rising Star scholarship and then receiving a stipend for my Student Ambassadorship this past year, I was able to attend the 2023 NRF Foundation Student Program in NYC. The experience of attending this program was one I will never forget and cherish the opportunities I was given through this. Other members of UT NRFSA and attendees, Nandini Parikh, Samantha Wilson, and Sofie Finch, got to meet with executives of retail companies like Nordstrom and Burlington, visit headquarters of Macys, Lego's, and Target, hear speakers like Steve Madden and Christiane Pendarvis, co president of Savage x Fenty, and so much more! It was truly an amazing experience for all four of us and a couple of us were able to even land internships for this summer and visit UT alums at the 2023 NRF Big Show!

What was the process of creating the UT NRF student association? What are some memorable moments from this experience?

In the beginning of creating UT NRFSA, it was definitely challenging and it pushed my boundaries and limits I thought I had. Trying to start a student association under a national federation as a freshman was difficult but I knew that I had the support of Professor Wilson who was also very eager to build this organization and open these opportunities to students. I reached out to other students to help complete requirements needed for creating an organization under UT and they each worked hard and efficiently to really get this built and running. A very memorable experience is the first ever meeting I hosted where I was asking other students if they would be interested in becoming officers and help establish the organization. At that moment I had a lot of self doubt and questions because I didn't feel, as a freshmen, that I should have been leading that meeting. However, we all worked hard to complete requirements needed to have an official organization and when we finally did I felt accomplished and more confident in myself. Another memory will always be the 2023 NRF Foundation Student Program because that was the first ever program where there was any presence from UT so it was exciting to know that we are making an impact and recognition.

How have your professors provided mentorship and how do you see this program growing over the next few years?

Professor Jennifer Wilson has been an immense mentor throughout this process in helping obtain resources to establish the organization by contacting speakers for our general meetings to constantly promote the organization in classes. Professor Wilson has also built out a UT semesterly course that allows students to work on the NRF Foundation Next Generation and Student Challenge scholarships throughout the semester. Many of the other TXA faculty are very supportive in helping us get the word out by allowing us to post on TXA socials and speaking in their classes/events or meetings.

I am excited to see where this student association grows in the next few years and see what doors we open for other students to reach their goals and dreams for their future in this tough yet rewarding industry. I am hoping to keep building our membership in this organization and eagerness to be involved throughout meetings, networking events, mentorship opportunities, scholarships, and also more presence at the NRF Foundation Student Program. Finalists of NRF Foundation's Student Challenge and Next Generation scholarship are recognized and get to speak at each student program so it would be amazing to see a UT student representing the UT NRFSA and possibly winning a major scholarship that opens so many doors for the future!

By Sloane Davis