Why Supply Chain Management Has Become A Hot Major At Business Schools

Rutgers Business School

Rutgers Business School


That record of success helped to land the school in the top ten of last year’s ranking of top supply chain undergraduate programs by Gartner Inc. an information technology research firm. Penn State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Texas at Austin, and Western Michigan were the top five schools. Rutgers’ program tied for ninth place with Arizona State (see table of the top 25 on following page) in the ranking which measures

Rutgers has been strategic in how it has introduced the topic to undergraduate students, taking the unusual move of making the Introduction to Supply Chain Management course a core requirement for all business majors at the school, Spiegle said. This fall, 1,300 undergraduate business students will take the school’s intro class, up from 1,100 last year. The class introduces students to basic concepts like global sourcing, project management, procurement and logistics operations, amongst others areas.

Supply chain management majors can choose one of two tracks, project management or procurement. Every student gets to work on real-world client projects in class, where they’re put on teams and tasked with solving a real-world supply management problem assigned to them by one of Rutger’s corporate partners.


The school also recruits executives from the field to teach one-credit courses to students. For example, the chief procurement officer from Johnson & Johnson has taught a course that looks at new product design and supply chain alignment, while a senior vice president at pharmaceutical giant Merck taught one on how to manage manufacturing outsourcing. “These are very, very popular courses,” Lei said. “Our students take these classes with the executives and the executives recruit our students by the end of the semester. They really help our students get jobs.”

In addition, all majors must do an internship or co-op while in school, and faculty help connect students with one of the 135 companies that partner with the supply chain management department. Haiyan Liu, a senior at Rutgers majoring in supply chain management, spent last summer doing an internship for Kuehne + Nagel, a global transportation and logistics company. She and two other supply chain management majors helped the company re-certify their membership in the SmartWay partnership, a program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that works to improve fuel efficiency. The internship involved analyzing data from logistics operations at Kuehne + Nagel and helping the company report the information in a way that aligned the data compiled in the SafeWay database.

It was a complex task, but Liu said she was able to draw on all of the concepts she’d learned in her classes, from project management to business logistics. “Students in the major start small, but think big. From the very beginning, we have more knowledge at our fingertips than other students, plus the mindset and analytical skills to think about a problem strategically from the beginning to the end,” she said. “This gives us the ability to go onto higher positions at organizations, compared to marketing, finance or accounting majors.”


The school has forged strong relationships with companies such IBM, Novartis and Colgate-Palmolive, but is always looking to forge new ones, Spiegle said. Recently, the school scored something of a major coup when American Express hired one of Rutger’s students as a project management intern. A senior vice president of compliance at American Express has been teaching at Rutgers the last few years, and recently convinced the company to take on a Rutgers intern in that department, Spiegle said.

The student worked on a compliance problem for the company, finished her project two weeks early and impressed her employers enough that they ended up offering her a part-time job, Spiegle said. The company recently informed the school they plan to develop an internship program specifically for Rutgers supply chain management students. “It’s always been the Harvard, Yale, and Wharton students who get the internships there,” Spiegle said. “We finally cracked the ice.”

Rutgers students are in demand amongst employers because many of them have become supply chain management experts of sorts, due to the school’s emphasis on the latest technologies used in the field. For example, the school helps students become certified in SAP, an enterprise resource planning systems used by companies throughout the world that is highly valued by those in the supply chain management field, especially pharmaceutical companies. Students also have the opportunity to take Six Sigma courses and gain certification, which makes them stand out in the job market, Lei said.


With growing interest in the field from employers, the school has plans underway to expand its footprint in the health-care field. Next year, the school plans to add a concentration in health care delivery for supply chain management majors and MBA students. “We are already seeing quite a number of inquiries from hospitals after they learn that we offer these classes,” Lei said. “The health care delivery sector has become increasingly complex and there is a huge demand to include talent from either undergraduates or MBAs who can improve the organization performance and delivery of services in the health care supply chain.”

Lei said the school also plans to apply supply chain management to other fields, and will offer a course next year that will examine fashion management and topics like outsourcing material, purchasing and fashion design.

Now that the program is established, the next step is to raise awareness of the major potential with Rutgers Business School students, Spiegle said. He and his team have been hitting the road each fall, visiting high schools and community colleges to talk about the major and the school’s program. “The parents are familiar with finance and accounting, and often tell their children to go into something like that,” he said. “They’ve never heard of supply chain management before, which is why we need to raise awareness. We tell them that there’s absolutely no limit these days when it comes to where supply chain management fits in the business world.”

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