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Penn State Smeal’s SC&IS collaborates with CSCR® corporate sponsors to maintain curriculum leadership position

June 8, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A unique partnership between the Penn State Smeal College of Business Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems (SC&IS) and the college’s Center for Supply Chain Research® (CSCR®), the outreach arm of the department, is designed to make sure Smeal maintains its leadership position in both undergraduate and graduate supply chain education. 

Gartner Inc. ranked Smeal No. 1 in North American graduate supply chain programs and No. 3 in supply chain undergraduate programs in its latest rankings, released in 2020. 

Kevin Linderman, the John J. Coyle Professor in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and the chair of the SC&IS Department, said the collaboration draws on the expertise and experience of CSCR’s corporate sponsors and board members. 

“There are not many schools around the United States that has a Rolodex like CSCR® does,” he said. “We’ve engaged board members in assessing our curriculum, with the recognition that we need to continually adapt courses and curriculum as the world is adapting. COVID has forced change and education is going to change as a result in the next 5-10 years.” 

Linderman said the collaboration is based on a four-year cycle:

  • Assess courses in Year 1
  • Implement changes into courses in Year 2
  • Make adjustments in Year 3
  • Start the process over in Year 4 

Part of the process is an alignment step in which emergent themes are identified for Smeal and evaluated for how well the current curriculum is connecting into those themes, or how they could be adapted. Those themes include: globalization, diversity, technology, data analytics, ethics and sustainability and how they all connect to other business functions like marketing and finance.

CSCR® board members help identify and define those themes. The multi-faceted diversity of the board helps strengthen that process 

The three newest members of the CSCR® Advisory Board — Linda Bixby, Michael A. del Rosario, and Linda Pulli — affirm the center’s commitment to all facets of diversity. 

“Our sponsor base and the center fully support diversity. It’s obvious in the makeup of our board,” said Steve Tracey, executive director of the CSCR®. “This kind of diversity keeps us relevant in the eyes of the industry. You have to maintain a certain amount of diversity in order for the idea sharing and networking to work, as well as providing opportunities for student co-ops, internships and full-time employment.” 

Founded in 2014, the advisory board helps advance the CSCR® mission by providing input and guidance on the strategic plan, budgets and activities of the center, among other contributions. Board members serve two-year staggered terms to ensure continuity in committee initiatives. The strength of this collaboration is exemplified in the three newest board members. 

Bixby is the director of academic programs for LMI Research Institute (LRI), which was founded in 1961 to help the Department of Defense resolve complex logistics management challenges. Bixby facilitates formal working relationships with universities nationwide. She plays an integral role in advancing the mission of LRI to spur innovation and further groundbreaking research, to include logistics and supply chain, in support of the United States government. 

A general transportation manager for Walmart, del Rosario brings both military and civilian supply chain knowledge to the board. While serving in the U.S. Army, del Rosario was selected to lead a battalion support platoon, which was responsible for providing ammunition, food, fuel, medical and other supplies to any area of operation. At Walmart, del Rosario has also served as an operations manager and transportation general manager. He serves on several charitable and employee relations committees within the company. 

Pulli is executive director of global supply chain for Merck & Co. She is the chief of staff for the Global Supply Chain division; responsible for the Manufacturing Integrated Risk Team, leading the Merck Strategic Operations Center, a cross-functional team for sharing external and internal information to proactively manage and de-risk potential supply chain disruptions due to logistics/transportation, global security, cyber, IT or political events for situations requiring emergent or timely response. She also leads the Merck Drone Delivery team, developing and delivering innovative solutions to deliver lifesaving vaccines and medicines via drones for last-mile delivery to patients and customers. 

CSCR’s broad industry sponsor base helped SC&IS assess the standardized curriculum in each of its courses and help determine what needs to be added and what should be retained. The goal is to standardize 80 percent of course curriculum and allow instructors to customize the remaining 20 percent. 

Linderman said the success of the collaboration on undergraduate education prompted a strategy to identify more opportunities for CSCR® corporate sponsors and board members to work with Ph.D. students. 

“Penn State is known for problem-driven research that is rigorous and relevant,” he said. “If we can inspire research around contemporary issues, we will attract better candidates.” 

Linderman said the collaboration between CSCR® and Ph.D. students will be a virtuous cycle. 

“We want to better position our Ph.D. students in the marketplace. We can teach them the latest techniques and help them conduct problem-driven research, using problems as a context to new, rigorous research, which is informed by industry and then informs industry,” he said.

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