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NEW awards scholarships to industry-bound students

Wednesday, June 23, 2010  
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The Network of Executive Women has awarded three scholarships to college students pursuing careers in retailing and the consumer products industry. The scholarship recipients are: Bethany Haefner of Fayetteville, Ark., from the University of Arkansas; Lashawndra Lawrence of Auburn, Ala., from Tuskegee University; and Ashley Benson of Warrington, Pa., from St. Joseph's University. The scholarship awardees will be recognized at the NEW Leadership Summit, Sept. 27-29 in Charlotte, N.C.

Haefner will graduate from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in May 2012 with a master of business administration degree. She has interned as a category advisor with The Hershey Co., where she assisted Walmart buyers to build effective seasonal modular displays, and worked on sustainability packaging scorecards with a team at The Scotts Co.

"A category advisor works very close with the Walmart buying team, and must develop a relationship of candid dialogue and trust,” noted Ralph May, category development manager for The Hershey Co., a NEW platinum sponsor. "I strongly believe that Bethany has proven that ability.” May's opinion was affirmed by a senior buyer at Walmart, who said, "I am just so thankful that she is on the Hershey team. She really came through for Easter and provided valuable information and feedback that went straight into business decisions." Walmart Stores is one of 64 retail and consumer products companies that sponsor the Network.

Haefner was named Outstanding Graduating Marketing Student of the Year by the University of Arkansas's Sam M. Walton College of Business. The award recognizes students who excel academically and have "a special spark of creativity,” according to Carole Shook, instructor, markets and consumers. "[Haefner] came up with a completely innovative idea of looking at private labels as they relate to Walmart's Great Value brand and determining how college students felt about private labels and, in particular, the new packaging system Walmart has recently introduced,” Shook noted. "Studies on college students' perceptions of private labels are nonexistent in the current research, especially in regard to Walmart.”

Developing tomorrow’s foods

Lawrence will graduate in May 2011 from Tuskegee University with a master of science degree in food science. Lawrence works as a food product and development laboratory graduate researcher at the university and has experience as a biochemistry lab undergraduate researcher. She is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and the Research Chefs Association and is past president of the Tuskegee University Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society.

As a summer intern with the Tuskeegee University's NASA Center for Food and Environmental Systems for Human Exploration of Space, Lawrence worked to improve the color of bread supplemented with sweet potato flour, which had been developed earlier. "Some participants in the consumer test termed it ‘neon bread,’ because of the color of the sweet potato flour,” said Peter Gichuhi, food product specialist with CFESH Food Processing and Product Development Team lab. "Under our guidance, Lashawndra managed to develop bread dough with a more appealing color by testing different levels of food colors.”

Lawrence's career goal is to become a research chef for a major food company and develop healthy and affordable food products to be used in chronic disease and obesity prevention. "I am particularly interested in targeting those in underserved communities, because I come from such a neighborhood and know that they often lack access to healthy, affordable foods,” Lawrence said. NEW "is an organization that believes in what I strive to live each and every day,” she continued. "Because I have seen the bias that many American women face through the struggles of family members and other professionals, I have always strived to be the best that I can be and ensure that I have done everything in my power to achieve my goals in life.”

Benson will graduate in May 2011 from St. Joseph’s University with a bachelor of science degree in food marketing. Benson has worked as a management intern at Wegmans Food Markets, where she was involved in a 12-week program learning the role of store management and she continues to work with the supermarket operator during school breaks. Earlier this year she served as a student intern at the National Grocers Association’s convention, where she acted as a moderator for various workshops and assisted Coca-Cola in distributing trade show samples. On campus she works in the university's Executive Food Marketing office.

Although retailing was not Benson's first choice in the food marketing field, at Wegmans she found her niche in the industry, she said. "I enjoy the fast-paced atmosphere, the ability to talk to customers and help them plan meals and aid in making decisions to benefit the store and its customers,” she noted. Her goal is to work for a progressive food company as a merchandising consultant or in the sales and marketing department. This summer Benson is working at Wegmans on a continuous improvement project. After graduation she hopes to interview for a management trainee position and explore other career opportunities.

During her time at Wegmans, Benson has "shown to exhibit managerial courage when giving honest feedback on her learnings and where improvement can be made," noted Store Manager Steve Gallucci. "Ashley exhibits strong leadership qualities and has a very welcoming personality that puts others at ease. I see the potential that Ashley has to be a leader long term in our organization.”

Among Benson's many campus activities is participation in the Food Marketing Association, where she currently serves as a peer mentor program leader. She also is involved in Hawks Against Hunger.

Ashley Benson

Bethany Haefner

Lashawndra Lawrence

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