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Penn State Smeal spring 2020 supply chain marshal points to Novack as guiding force in academic journey

May 1, 2020

Rachel Hooker in Prague
Rachel Hooker, shown here during a trip to Prague, took advantage of a Smeal study abroad program. During a six-week program in Maastricht, Netherlands, she traveled to 10 cities in six countries as part of a two-week study tour to learn how business is conducted in the European Union.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Many people can point to one person who changed the trajectory of their academic journey. For Rachel Hooker, that individual is Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management Bob Novack.

Hooker, who will graduate May 9 with a 3.99 GPA in supply chain and information systems, has been selected as Smeal’s spring 2020 supply chain and information systems student marshal. Hooker said that Novack, as well as a couple others, were instrumental in helping her to succeed academically. 

“Dr. Novack has had an immense impact on my academic achievements. During my freshman year, he convinced me to switch into the supply chain major. He is my academic advisor for my (Schreyer) honors thesis and has always been generous in guiding me with professional career advice and sending recommendation letters,” she said.

“I owe so much gratitude to (Paiste Fellow in Teaching & Learning and clinical professor of marketing) Jennifer Coupland, as well. I've always been passionate about marketing, and that is largely due to taking three of her marketing courses and being involved in Penn State Prime, a marketing club she advises. My advisor, Janet Spearly, has always been a firm advocate for me and has kept me sane and organized as my academic plans changed. I wouldn't be where I am today without any of them.”

Hooker, who hails from Media, Pennsylvania, has accomplished quite a lot in her time at Smeal. She has earned seven different awards:

  • Academic Excellence Scholarship
  • Robert “Bear” Koehler Award
  • Terry L. Priest Transportation Award
  • Traffic Club of Pittsburgh Award
  • J.W. Van Dyke Memorial Scholarship
  • The President’s Freshman Award
  • Even Pugh Scholar Award

 In addition, she was professional development director for Penn State Prime, director of professional activities and recruitment chair for Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional co-ed business fraternity, a Smeal Student Mentor, and a teaching assistant for both an honors supply chain course and a 400-level brand management marketing course. 

Novack, who taught Hooker in two of his courses and selected her as a teaching assistant for his introduction to supply chain honors course, has mentored hundreds of brilliant supply chain students in his time at Smeal. The praise he showers on Hooker reveals her place within that group.

“I can state that Rachel is one of the most intelligent, sincere, honest, and caring students I have ever had the chance to get to know. There has never been a time that I asked her for something that she did not accomplish,” he said. 

“The underclassmen in AKP and in supply chain have the utmost respect for her. She counsels them on scheduling and career advice. She has helped me persuade students that supply chain should be their major. She does all of this with a sense of humility that is refreshing. If all of my supply chain students were like her, my job would be easier than it already is.” 

Once Novack nudged Hooker in the direction of supply chain, she discovered that there was a lot that she liked. 

“I like that supply chain is very analytical and requires a lot of problem-solving. I've always been one to ask a lot of questions, and there's so much to learn within supply chain about a company's operations. I also like that supply chain communicates with so many other teams and departments like marketing, sales, finance, etc. After interning in supply chain at Johnson & Johnson and Dell, I knew for sure that supply chain was for me,” she said. 

Hooker enlisted the help of Novack to guide her through her Schreyer honors thesis.

As he explained it, “In supply chain terms, she developed a complex and robust minimum order quantity model for Hershey to use to calculate replenishment shipment quantities for their customers in a vendor-managed inventory environment. This was a spreadsheet model that is extremely detailed since Hershey is going to use it monthly to reset their minimum order quantities.”

Hershey demanded changes and Novack said he kept pushing Hooker to make it better.

“She got very frustrated at times, and rightfully so. But I kept pushing her because I knew she could do it and that she never runs away from a challenge,” Novack said.

“Final chapter – Hershey really likes what she did and it works. I know that Rachel felt a great sense of accomplishment and relief. But, she never gave up and neither did I. She is a special young woman and she deserves to be recognized as our student marshal. She earned it.”

As if all of her academic and extracurricular responsibilities weren’t enough, Hooker found the time to work at Champ’s downtown. She was on duty the night the Jonas Brothers visited and performed which, she said, “was an awesome experience!” And, this semester, she started high-intensity interval training, which she has continued while sheltering at home.

For someone who has accomplished so much, you might think another honor like SC&IS student marshal wouldn’t resonate. You’d be wrong.

“I was so excited! It was cold outside, so I took a white loop bus back to my apartment and was scrolling through my emails on the bus when I got the notification,” she recalled.

“I'm pretty sure I let out a little scream and then immediately called my parents. I’m very passionate about supply chain, so it is an honor to be chosen. It felt like such a great way to culminate my college career.”

After graduation, Hooker will be returning to Dell Technologies in Austin, Texas, to assume a position in its Supply Chain Development Program. It is a three-year rotational program where she will work for a year each in procurement, logistics, and operations/planning, alongside monthly trainings on hard and soft skills.

“Throughout all years, my commitment to academics and friendships never wavered. I made amazing friends here at Penn State and they've always been there to support me and provide endless laughs and great moments,” Hooker said.

“Academics gave me the foundational understanding I needed to pursue my professional and personal goals in life.”

More information about Smeal's spring 2020 commencement can be found online.

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