MSU student earns top national retail honor

Contact: Zack Plair

Emma Jumper (center), a senior finance major at Mississippi State, is pictured among four other finalists for the National Retail Federation Foundation’s annual scholarship competition. Jumper, a native of Paragould, Arkansas, took top honors, earning a $25,000 scholarship. (Photo courtesy of the National Retail Federation)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A Mississippi State College of Business student has been recognized as the top retail student in the country this week.

Emma K. Jumper, a senior finance major from Paragould, Arkansas, received a $25,000 Next Generation Scholarship from the National Retail Federation Foundation. The Dean’s List Scholar and member of the Shackouls Honors College competed among five undergraduate finalists from across the country for the top scholarship honor and accepted the award Sunday [January 17] at the foundation’s second annual gala in New York. Four other finalists received $10,000 scholarships.

The gala corresponded with NRF’s annual event “The Big Show,” which includes nearly 40,000 participants, some of whom are CEOs and other representatives of Fortune 500 companies.

“Emma is truly an exceptional student, and we are extremely proud to have her as part of our College of Business family,” said Sharon Oswald, dean of MSU’s College of Business. “Winning an award of this caliber further demonstrates the quality of our MSU students. Emma has increased the visibility of MSU’s College of Business on the national level.”

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.

MSU’s School of Human Sciences, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is a university member of the organization and has participated in NRF events for three years, associate professor Charles Freeman said. He added this was the first year the School of Human Sciences has partnered with the College of Business to nominate a NRF scholarship applicant.

Jumper, who grew up on a northeast Arkansas cattle farm, focused her application on the trends in food retail—something Freeman said stood in contrast to the more typically touted retail fields of fashion, merchandising and marketing. Plus, he said Jumper’s passion for the subject shone through in her writing, interviews and presentations.

“When you connect with something that is true to yourself, of course you’re going to stand out,” he said. “But this really shows that retail does reach across all disciplines.”

Freeman said he began taking students to “The Big Show” in New York in 2014, and two MSU students previously made it as far as the semifinal round for NRF scholarships. This year, in partnering with the College of Business to nominate a candidate to apply for the scholarship, he said Jumper was “a perfect fit.”

To apply for the scholarships, students submitted two essays related to the retail field, created a visual timeline that shaped their experiences and career aspirations in retail, a resume and letters of recommendation. Finalists moved on to a 25-minute interview with a panel of professional retail judges and presentations to fellow students at the NRF event.

Freeman and Melissa Moore, professor of marketing, quantitative analysis and business law, helped Jumper during the application process.

“There was no doubt in my mind that she would be one of the finalists, and quite frankly, I’m not at all surprised that she took the top spot,” Moore said.

Since Jumper won the NRF scholarship, Freeman said four recruiters for retail companies had expressed interest in possibly hiring the honoree.

“With this scholarship, she’s basically written her own ticket for a job,” he said.

Jumper, who plans to graduate in December, still has time to consider the exact career she will pursue, but she said she is “honored and humbled” to represent MSU on the national stage.

“I don't know what the future holds yet,” she said, “but I trust myself to recognize opportunities as they emerge. More than anything, I see this as a success for Mississippi State and a testament to what great things are happening on our campus.”

For more on NRF, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 2:37 pm