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Perhaps never has consumer interest in the complex global supply chain been so high.
That interest is due to the impact of supply chain disruptions on consumers, who are
facing shortages of essential items and higher prices for those items remaining.
In turn, companies around the world are feeling the pinch of supply chain bottlenecks coupled with increased consumer demand.
Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business recognized the need for supply chain logicians who can provide corporate leadership and address local and global challenges and responded by introducing the new Master of Science degree in Supply Chain Management program in Fall 2021.
This program was designed to equip graduate students with skills in strategic planning, informed decision-making, and problem solving by providing rigorous training in essential supply chain management concepts, quantitative tools, and analytical skills. During the Spring 2022 commencement services, Harbert will have graduated its first MS in Supply Chain Management program student.
Elder (right) pictured in class prior to graduation
When Harbert opened its doors to the new program, it presented Luke Elder, of LaGrange, Ga., with a unique opportunity. Elder opted to double down and pursue both an MBA and an MS in Supply Chain Management, making him an outstanding candidate for corporate leadership roles when graduating.
Elder earned his undergraduate degree in business administration at the University of North Carolina, where he played football on scholarship and was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference Academic Honor Roll. He had planned to enter the job market after graduation and was interviewing for various positions when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing him to reassess and consider an MBA.
“Immediately, I went to the Auburn website where I found what specifically lured me even more than the school name—dual degrees and graduate certificates,” Elder said.
Auburn was an obvious choice for Elder. “These unique programs offered a tremendous value and diversity to the educational experience offered, compared to other schools,” he said. “Obviously I looked at the MBA program in Chapel Hill, but after comparing the two, I knew Auburn was the best next step if I chose to further my education.
Elder was drawn to supply chain management because it combines various aspects of business. “SCM professionals must utilize a balance of analytical abilities and soft skills to effectively understand complex problems, develop solutions, and implement change across various levels and verticals of the business, as supply chain typically affects all business functions,” he said. “The field is constantly changing, which requires ongoing problem-solving, and as a supply chain professional, it keeps you on your toes and pushing yourself.
Rafay Ishfaq, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management, said, “This is a new program, but we have made great strides in attracting well-qualified and talented degree candidates. We expect to have a steady stream of well-trained and skillful supply chain professionals who are ready to fill topline, challenging, and well-paying management roles, just like Luke.”
Elder was hired prior to graduation by the shipping company Maersk and started his career as a client program manager in Charlotte, N.C., a few weeks after his graduation in May 2022.
Glenn Richey, PhD, head of the Supply Chain Management department, said that Elder was first to step into the program, but others were quick to follow. “Luke walked the unknown path to our new MS SCM degree without the guidance of fellow students. But he is the start of a new, rapidly expanding network of the Auburn family. He has 25 fellow MS SCM graduates on his heels.
“Our program has snowballed during this global crisis,” Richie said.
Elder addressed the recent notoriety of the supply chain field due to consumer impact. “People are a bit more enlightened to the reality of how interconnected the world is and that products don’t just magically show up on shelves at the store,” he said. “As we’ve all seen over the past few years, supply chain is key to living our everyday lives, and when things go awry there can be significant long-term consequences.
“Instead of looking for ways to improve the bottom line through cuts within operations, supply chain has been transformed into a way to drive value to customers. Whether this is due to Amazon changing customer expectations or everyone seeing the consequences of disruptions from the pandemic, the result is an increased strategic importance of supply chain management,” Elder said.
Regarding the demand for skilled supply chain professionals, Richie said, “Today, the world calls for responsive supply chain strategy and resilient processes. At Auburn, we continually adjust our program to the market's needs and via the suggestions of our corporate partners."
“We expect to have a steady stream of well-trained and skillful supply chain professionals who are ready to fill topline, challenging, and well-paying management roles...”