Exclusive: ID Chats With ISA's Buffington Scholarship Winner

As the winner of the Industrial Supply Association's $10,000 Gary L. Buffington Scholarship winner, to say Rachel Larson has a lot going on as a college student these days would be a major understatement.

To say Rachel Larson has a lot going on as a college student these days would be a major understatement.

The Western Michigan University senior is on track to graduate in May 2018 with a double major in Integrated Supply Management and Computer Information Systems. At WMU, she’s the executive director of member relations and recruitment for the school’s APICS chapter, an association for supply chain professionals. She’s vice president of WMU student honor society Alpha Lambda Delta. She’s also the team lead consultant for WMU’s Bronco Force Initiative, where she coordinates a $14 million project for Tenneco Automotive, and she’s a global purchasing intern at Marathon Petroleum.

Oh, and she just accepted the Industrial Supply Association’s most coveted education honor — the Gary L. Buffington Memorial Scholarship — at ISA’s annual convention this past weekend in Denver, CO.

The $10,000 scholarship is awarded every year to a rising senior in a qualified undergrad industrial distribution program. It was created in 2003 as a memorial to former I.D.A. executive vice president Gary Buffington.

During a keynote session Sunday at the Denver Convention Center, Larson delivered her acceptance speech to a crowd full of ISA member industrial distributors and suppliers — essentially the best possible career-launching platform for someone in her position.

After the keynote, I caught up with Larson to get her thoughts on the honor.

“Putting a face to a name is huge. Hearing the words from them over the phone is one thing, but to actually hear it in person and see the passion behind their words is completely impeccable,” Larson told me. “And with the opportunities here, it’s amazing. I can’t ask for more.”

According to the Western Herald, Larson interviewed via conference for the scholarship the morning of March 10 over WMU’s spring break. She was asked five questions in 20 minutes. Later that day, she got a congratulatory email from ISA, which announced the news on its website five days later. I posted it on the ID website on March 16.

Larson, 21, is the second straight WMU student to receive the honor, following Aaron McClendon last year.

Though she’ll be at WMU another year, Larson has already made a significant impact on industrial distribution education. She’s been the mentor to two students at the school who have already landed full-time internships.

“I’ve always been really passionate about education, hence the reason I originally wanted to go down the education field,” Larson told me. “So being able to give other people the things I’ve already learned, giving them tips on how to succeed in the industry — that fills my passion and hopefully helps their career ultimately. We all kind of go by connections, so if I can help them with some of mine, why not?”

ISA that said Larson — who can play six different instruments according to her WayUp.com profile — hopes to begin her career in industrial distribution by progressing through all aspects of an organization, from sales, to operations and eventually a management position.

As for being able to use the ISA convention platform to her advantage, Larson acknowledged the prime opportunity it presented to network with potential employers and help launch her industrial distribution career after graduation.

“I only have experience within a manufacturing industry, so I’m definitely able to talk everyone’s language and it helps to have that curve in there,” Larson said. “Having the opportunity to have a full-time position with any of these companies is huge. Having partnerships with them in the future — even if I’m not working with them — this starts my career off the right way.

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