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Solving Industry Challenges an Important Goal for Supply Chain Ph.D. Alumni

Penn State Smeal College of Business Ph.D. Program alumni James Abbey ‘13g and Kaitlin Wowak ’12g are using their supply chain management expertise to improve supply chain practice in industry through research and teaching.
March 25, 2014

Penn State Smeal College of Business Ph.D. Program alumni James Abbey ‘13g and Kaitlin Wowak ’12g are using their supply chain management expertise to improve supply chain practice in industry through research and teaching.

Wowak, now an assistant professor of management at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, cites her love of research as one of her primary motivations for pursuing an academic career.

“Academia and industry can both realize benefits by engaging in partnership if they allocate time and resources towards developing relationships.”

“I enjoy working on issues managers face on a daily basis,” she said. “I am currently doing research on product recalls, which can have major implications on a firm’s financial performance and brand image as well as on consumer well-being.”

Abbey, an assistant professor at Texas A&M Mays Business School, is focused on closed-loop supply chains—also an area that has significant impact on business. A closed loop supply chain refers to one that incorporates re-use, remanufacturing, and recycling of materials used in the production process as well as the product itself.

“Academia and industry can both realize benefits by engaging in partnership if they allocate time and resources towards developing relationships,” said Wowak. “If they drift apart, our research won’t have practical implications and industry won’t receive guidance about how to overcome various challenges.”

Abbey added, “Though the process of working with companies is not always simple, I find the process invigorating and exciting as problems that have never been seen before come to light. That process of discovery makes my work with the companies and related research significantly more enjoyable.”

Both Abbey and Wowak cited Smeal’s focus on research excellence as a primary reason they chose the college for their doctoral studies. They also indicated that the Smeal community played a significant role in their choice.

“I wanted to go to a premier academic institution that allowed a balance between the work environment and community,” said Abbey. “As such, Penn State represented the ideal solution—a fantastic community environment with scholars who are among the best in the field.”

Abbey began his career in health care consulting after earning a B.S. in economics from Iowa State University. He later returned for a second B.S. in statistics and M.S. degree with a focus in supply chain. Wowak holds a B.S. in finance from the University of Florida and an M.S. in information and telecommunication systems for business from Johns Hopkins University.

About the Penn State Smeal College of Business Ph.D. Program
The Smeal College of Business Ph.D. program, aimed at students who want to pursue a career in academic research, offers specialization opportunities in accounting, finance, management and organization, marketing, real estate, and supply chain and information systems. Learn more at www.smeal.psu.edu/phd.

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