2021 Best & Brightest Business Major: Lydia Whipple, Michigan State (Broad)

Lydia Whipple

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

“Continuously curious, forever optimistic.”

Fun fact about yourself: In my time at MSU, I have accumulated more and more houseplants, going from 5 in my freshman dorm room to 24 in my apartment (including a tree)!

Hometown: Mason, Michigan

High School: Mason High School

Major: Supply Chain Management

Minor: Spanish

Favorite Business Course: SCM 479: Supply Chain Cost Management

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • MSU Dean’s List (Every Semester)
  • MSU SCM 479, Teaching Assistant
  • Beta Gamma Sigma, Member
  • MSU Supply Chain Management Association, President
  • Career Fair Director
  • Career Fair Ambassador Chair
  • SCM Alumni Conference Committee, Committee Member
  • Undergraduate Research Fellow Scholarship, Research Fellow
  • Broad Mentorship Program, Mentor
  • Innovative Nonprofit Creative Solutions Initiative, Co-Founder
  • Spartans Rebuilding Michigan, Member
  • ISCEA Certified Supply Chain Analyst, Certificate
  • WISE Future Leaders Symposium, MSU Ambassador
  • 2019 ISM UPMG Conference, Guest Speaker
  • 2019 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum Poster Presentation, First-Place Recipient
  • Fundamentals of Process Management, Certificate
  • Honors College International Peer Mentorship Program, Mentor
  • MSU Residential Business Community, Member
  • MSU Air Force ROTC, Cadet
    • American Legion Scholastic Excellence Award
    • Warrior Spirit Award
    • Wilks Warrior Award
    • Meritorious Service Award
    • Fitness Award
    • Cadet of the Month
  • Silver Eagles Drill Team, Member
    • #1 Cadet Pledge
  • MSU Intramural Sports, Soccer

Where have you interned during your college career?

Cisco Systems: East Lansing, Michigan (virtually), as a Global Manufacturing and Logistics Intern on the Partner Sourcing and Management team from May 2020 to August 2020.

ZF Automotive: Washington, Michigan, as a Commodity Purchasing Intern for the Turned Parts team from May 2019 to August 2019.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am excited to return to Cisco Systems in San Jose, California, as a Project Specialist for the Partner Management and Sourcing team.

What company do you admire most? I really admire Sunset Growers. I am always amazed by the firm’s greenhouse growing operations and how they are able to run an effective supply chain, within such a difficult industry as produce agriculture, while being innovative and focusing on sustainability. My first true understandings of supply chain management came from examples my mom shared with me of Sunset Growers’ unique end-to-end supply chain, which grows fresh fruits and vegetables year-round in places like Michigan.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? You can always learn a new technical skill, but soft skills only come from practice. The ability to communicate effectively and develop positive relationships with others is an art form that you continually develop and improve on through life. This past year is a good example of continual development in terms of learning to communicate effectively in this new virtual environment and finding ways to connect with people.

My internship at Cisco was completely virtual and the team members I worked with were located throughout the United States, so the team got creative in finding ways to connect and interact. My manager also organized opportunities for me to meet virtually with senior managers and executives across the company, which was impactful. In more than 30 conversations throughout the summer, I gained greater insights into the company as well as roles of higher-level business professionals. Not only has my growth in communication made me a more effective businesswoman, but it has also given me an appreciation for the astounding and diverse world around me. I plan to apply these communication and relationship-building skills in business as well as in interactions with people in informal settings and in my daily life.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field?

  1. Go for it! In business, you will always be necessary, especially in supply chain management (I am a bit partial!). Every day will be different, and every opportunity will give you a chance to grow.
  2. Continuously explore. The business world is so dynamic. You will have amazing experiences, meet amazing people, and your opportunities will surpass anything you could imagine!
  3. It is a SMALL world. For better or worse, your time in business will quickly provide you with an immense network. Be aware that while people sometimes forget a name, they rarely forget a face and they definitely do not forget actions!

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Despite how vast and global the business world is from an opportunity standpoint, I still find myself in a small world! The network of students, alumni, faculty, and staff at Michigan State University as well as business professionals beyond is so interconnected and strong that I have truly been shocked at how interrelated my network has become. This has provided opportunities for learning outside the classroom as well as for mentoring and building relationships. I had not realized how important these networking opportunities were when I started college and how beneficial a strong network can be.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? I would have participated more heavily in other major-specific student organizations. For example, I wish I would have participated in Finance, Horticulture, Spanish, and Engineering student organizations in my time at MSU (to cover a few of my other interests). In my limited experience in supply chain management (SCM), I have found that being a liaison is a major component of my role. Not only do I want to understand the different backgrounds, structures, and goals of other people and functions beyond SCM, but I also want to communicate effectively across these different groups. That way, I can bring everyone together and create some truly amazing opportunities and experiences.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? The summer of 2019, my friend Abhi (pre-med) and I started up a project/initiative to help a local homeless shelter with tasks where it was struggling. Little did either of us know going in that their biggest issues revolved around inventory management! That summer, we developed a simple and easy system for tracking inventory for them and planned on going a step beyond to do the same for other shelters in the area. Our end goal was to connect the shelters so that all donations could be managed, shared, and distributed to areas that needed them most. Unfortunately, the impacts of COVID-19 put this project on hold, but I hope to continue it when I move out west after graduation.

Even though the project did not reach its ultimate potential, I am so proud of what we were able to do because I was able to combine the passion I had for supply chain with a passion for helping those in need. I think that being a business major can sometimes seem mainly financially or cost-driven because you do not always see a direct impact of your work on the people around you and your customers. This project helped solve a significant problem for a local shelter, not only making volunteers’ tasks a bit easier but also enabling better service to shelter recipients. And if we can advance the project, we might change the way that more shelters function for the better!

Which classmate do you most admire? This might surprise him, but it is Ben Anderson. Ben and I have worked together over the past two years as actively involved members and Executive Board (EBoard) members for the MSU Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA). SCMA EBoard has been one of my most challenging and insightful positions, especially serving as President this year. I admire Ben for simultaneously working as a mentor and a teammate for me and others. He is a classmate I can always count on to be honest and to think through things differently. In what has become a very unexpected and difficult year with respect to leading and motivating a group of students virtually, Ben has often been able to bring insights into discussions that have challenged (in a good way) my thinking and  encouraged me and others to speak out and share our individual thoughts. Honesty and bravery to express differences of opinion are two characteristics that Ben has displayed, and I believe that these attributes should be a larger focus in my personal growth and development as a leader. Why? It is because I can see the benefits that these characteristics provide while working with Ben. Decisions we have made and directions we have taken have been improved due to Ben’s willingness to question approaches and to offer alternative views.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? To Dr. Judith Whipple, my amazing mother, I owe the greatest thank you for my success in college. An advisor, mentor, and favorite professor I will never take a class from (for better or worse), she has always been my best critic and cheerleader simultaneously. Her love and passion for supply chain management and teaching it to new, young minds are characteristics that can truly inspire all. My mom, for decades, has been charting a course for the future of the field of supply chain management, and I could not be more honored to have such an amazing role model in my field of work. And no, she did not force me to write this!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Help others find their passions – It seems that every role I am drawn to holds responsibility for guiding and mentoring others. Whether through my formal or informal mentoring, motivating the Supply Chain Management Association and EBoard team, or participating in various panels/coaching opportunities throughout my college career, everything seems to point back to an attempt to share the knowledge passed down to me and to help people struggling in their efforts to figure out what they want to do. I am so blessed with an amazing family, wonderful co-workers, and fabulous classmates who have helped guide me along the way. My hope is to pay this forward to everyone I can.
  2. Lead and implement successful innovation Whether it be small- or large-scale, I want to invoke change and innovate in my professional career. I have not yet had the chance to design, plan, and implement a major project from start-to-finish, and this is something I greatly look forward to in my future roles.

What are your hobbies? My main “hobby” is trying new things. As I am sure you can imagine, that has now led to a long list of a variety of hobbies…The highlights include horticulture, SCUBA, quilting, hiking, exercising, and sailing. As someone who likes to remain active, I keep myself busy very easily!

What made Lydia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“I am the Director of Corporate and Student Relations in the Department of Supply Chain Management in the Broad College of Business. I have gotten to know Lydia quite well since I started in this position in March 2018, when Lydia was completing her freshman year at Michigan State University. I have gotten to know Lydia in her role as a student employee in the Departments of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, as a student, and as a leader in the Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA) student organization. Throughout the course of her academic career at MSU, Lydia has established a high set of achievements and an engaging personality that quietly supplements her leadership skills.

In her freshman year, Lydia enhanced her classroom education by starting as a Broad Scholar, supporting the research of Matt Schwieterman (then Assistant Professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management, Dr. Schwieterman is now an Assistant Professor at the Farmer School of Business at Miami (Ohio) University). Dr. Schwieterman wrote the following to support this nomination of Lydia:

“I had the privilege to work with Lydia in the Broad Scholars Program; a selective opportunity for talented undergraduate students to work with faculty on research projects. I was very impressed with both her work ethic and her ability to generate new ideas and forge the project ahead. She has an ability to make observations from business and combine them with data management skills to produce some truly unique insights. The progress she made was so positive that the project continues to this day.”

Associate Professor Dr. Jason Miller has also worked with Lydia in supporting his research, and he also supports Lydia’s nomination:

“Lydia is an incredibly intelligent and diligent student. Regarding her classroom performance, Lydia is in the top 1% of students I have encountered in my nine years of teaching. I have also been fortunate enough to work with her in an academic research capacity. She has routinely demonstrated the ability to create insights that are consistent with someone with substantial experience in a doctoral program.”

Lydia is also employed in SS21 as a Teaching Assistant in Dr. Mike Thibideau’s SCM 479 course. In supporting Lydia for being selected, Dr. Thibideau makes the following comments:

“Lydia’s many fine qualities include an unrelenting eagerness for learning, high intelligence, a strong commitment to community, a relentlessly positive attitude, and sincere, warm people skills. She radiates positive energy in any environment I have seen her participate. In the classroom, Lydia’s engagement in debate and group discussions contributes to a participative and active learning environment. Her verbal and written communication skills are excellent, and her quantitative analytical capabilities are very strong. She has consistently demonstrated leadership in group projects and is well regarded and respected by her peers. Lydia’s commitment to learning, growth, academic excellence, community engagement, meaningful internships and her track record of high achievement indicate she is an emerging leader and difference maker in the field of supply chain management.”

I have gotten to know Lydia quite well due to her membership and leadership in the SCMA. I am the Faculty Advisor and I work closely with the E-Board of the organization. Lydia has been very active in the SCMA and she has been on the E-Board last two years – this year as the President. Lydia has been an exceptional leader in the SCMA, but her ability to lead this organization during the pandemic has made her stand out this year. It has been difficult to keep the students engaged in a virtual environment in the evenings, after long days of virtual events. She kept the students motivated to attend and she kept the E-Board focused on meeting the objectives of the organization, in the face of event cancellations and postponements, virtual membership meetings, and Zoom fatigue, Lydia would not let this adversity negatively impact the value of active participation to its members and to corporate guests that have partnered with SCMA throughout the academic year. Membership is up by over 15% this year. I completely concur with the statements of support from other members of the SCM faculty about Lydia’s classroom achievements, experiential learning, community service and developing the skills and capability of other students to make learning and living at MSU as great an experience as possible.”

Kelly M. Lynch
Director of Corporate & Student Relations
Department of Supply Chain Management


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