Student Challenge Class of 2020

The Challenge

The NRF Foundation collaborated with Akola and KPMG for the 2020 Student Challenge Competition. 27 teams from 19 NRF University Member schools competed in this year's Challenge for a chance to receive tuition scholarships and travel to the 2020 NRF Foundation Student Program. For the Challenge, teams acted as members of Akola’s product development team and had to select a retailer, develop a jewelry line and create a 30-page pitch deck and 90-second pitch video to present to buyers at their selected retailer.

Each team was assigned a KPMG mentor to guide and advise them throughout the duration of the competition. Teams' pitches were evaluated by a group of retail executive judges on their research and understanding, creativity and feasibility, visual effectiveness and structure and quality. Seven teams advanced to the semi-finalist, which included Q&A calls with a panel of new retail executive judges.

Three teams advanced to the final round, where they presented live to a third panel of judges at the KPMG offices in New York as part of the NRF Foundation Student Program, January 9-12, 2020.

The Scholarships

Each student on the top team received $5,000 scholarship; students on the runner-up team each received a $2,500 scholarship, and third place team members each received a $1,500 scholarship. The top team will be named during the NRF Foundation Honors on Sunday, January 12, in New York.

Top Team

Georgia Southern University
Georgia Southern University

Cayley Creekmore, Shannon Foote, Anna Tiller, Woodley White

Selected retailer: Free People
KPMG Mentor: Renee Howard


University of North Texas

Rina Alshaer, Kayla Fox, Kaitlyn Sifford

Selected retailer: Anthropologie
KPMG Mentor: Elisa Holland

University of North Texas
UW Madison
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Annie Brennan, Leah Levy, Danielle Talatian, Diana Xiong

Selected Retailer: Tory Burch
KPMG Mentor: Kelly Combs


Columbia College Chicago
Columbia College Chicago
Jack Bobiek, Madeline Franklin, Catrin Reyes, Oula Yassine
KPMG Mentor: Alana Widdess
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
Caroline Hosier, Sofia Masuda, Yoael Kebede
KPMG Mentor: Leila Shin
LIM College
LIM College
Gabriella Florio, Allison Haselton, Hunter Poorman
KPMG Mentor: Greg Brunner
Marist Colgle
Marist College
Madeline Dintino, Courtney Duggan, Christopher Mitchell, Dylan Skinner
KPMG Mentor: Ali Wampler
Texas A&M University
Addison Holcomb, Shannon Perkins, Madison Robinson
KPMG Mentor: Laura Christal
UW Madison 2
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Dylan Kravetz, Max Lerman, Annie Plunkett, Julian Zubkov
KPMG Mentor: Karen Smith-Lewis