NRF and University of Phoenix announce the Dream BIG Scholarship recipients for 2017

WASHINGTON, 2017-Oct-12 — /EPR Retail News/ — The National Retail Federation and University of Phoenix today named the Dream BIG Scholarship recipients for 2017, recognizing individuals who want to enhance their retail careers through education.

“At NRF, we put a premium on lifelong learning, and we’re inspired by the number of individuals in the retail industry who are constantly looking for new ways to improve their craft,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Our mission is to nurture the raw talent and determination that exists in each one of our Dream BIG Scholarship recipients by giving them the resources they need to further their education. This opportunity for professional development is a win for scholarship recipients, their employers, the customers they serve and the retail industry at large.”

“Technology and consumer demands continue to drive change within the retail industries,” said Dennis Bonilla, executive dean, School of Business and College of Information Systems and Technology, University of Phoenix. “Education is essential to helping one grow in their career in order to be prepared for and take advantage of opportunities that change may bring. University of Phoenix is proud to work with the National Retail Federation to develop the next generation of leaders in retail by providing an industry-aligned education designed to help them succeed.”

The 20 recipients are current retail employees and were selected out of hundreds of applicants from 70 retailers across the country. Each will receive a full-tuition scholarship to pursue an undergraduate or master’s degree at University of Phoenix.

The recipients of the 2017 Dream Big scholarship are:

Pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree

  • Aundrea Hyde – Jewelry Sales Supervisor at Macy’s in Glendora, Calif.
  • Emily Villatoro – Assistant Department Manager at Nordstorm in Falls Church, Va.
  • Hailey McLean – Customer Solutions Training and Quality Assurance Sales Trainer at The Container Store in Flower Mound, Texas
  • Justin Martin – Area Sales Manager at Saks Fifth Avenue in Minneapolis
  • Katherine Watt – General Manager at Red Robin in Anaheim, Calif.
  • Kelly Corcoran – Visual Merchandising Lead at Mattel in Phoenix
  • Korinne Jones – Commercial Manager at IKEA in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.
  • Leslie Courtney – Senior Director of Shared Services at The Kroger Co. in Fort Mitchell, Ky.
  • Natalie Harkness – Associate Buyer at Maurices in Duluth, Minn.
  • Sean Lenahan – Store Manager at Brooks Brothers in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
  • Varinia Boyd – District Manager at Brooks Brothers in Gilbert, AZ

Pursuing a Master’s Degree

  • Alexis Katsafanas – Assistant Buy Planner at Nordstrom in Seattle
  • Alison Wallace – Associate Planner at Burlington Stores in Philadelphia
  • Ana Baron – Production Administrative Support Personnel at The Kroger Co. in Moreno Valley, Calif.
  • Hannah Wong – Accounts Payable Operations Coordinator at Whole Foods Market in Austin, Texas
  • Katherine Mather – Customer Solutions Department Point Person at The Container Store in Lake Dallas, Texas
  • Kenny Rogers – Human Resources Business Partner at Steak n Shake in Sulphur Springs, Calif.
  • Kristen Turner – Assistant Buyer at Burlington Stores in Robbinsville, N.J.
  • Michael Billett – Area Manager at Mattress Firm in Boardman, Ohio
  • Shannon White – Store Manager at Lane Bryant in Atlanta, GA

Retail executives from some of the industry’s best-known companies including Best Buy, Neiman Marcus and The Container Store served as members of the executive judging committee that chose the recipients.

The Dream BIG Scholarship program is made possible through a collaboration between NRF’s nonprofit arm, the NRF Foundation, and University of Phoenix. This is the fifth year the NRF Foundation and University of Phoenix have offered the Dream BIG Scholarship, which is awarded to current retail employees. Meet the 2017 recipients and learn more about the Dream BIG Scholarship.

About University of Phoenix®
University of Phoenix is innovating to help working adults move efficiently from education to careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant and engaging courses, and interactive learning can help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. University of Phoenix serves a diverse student population, offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs from campuses and learning centers across the U.S. as well as online throughout the world. For more information, visit

About NRF
NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.


Ana Serafin Smith
(202) 626-8189
(855) NRF-Press