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Virtual Practicum Projects Prepare Students for Evolving Work Environments

For the third semester in a row, student teams spent the spring working virtually on supply chain practicum projects for several of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative’s (SCRC) corporate partners. At the SCRC’s virtual Gallery Walk event on April 27th, nine undergraduate student teams and five Jenkins MBA teams presented their project scopes, findings and recommendations to an audience of industry professionals, faculty and student peers. 

The students worked on projects for the following SCRC partner companies: Biogen, Caterpillar Inc., Gilbarco Veeder-Root, Gilead Sciences Inc., Metlife, Duke Energy, Altria Client Services, American Red Cross, and Eaton Corporation

Adapting to current conditions

In lieu of traditional settings, teams had to collaborate virtually with their clients throughout the semester, introducing the students to the unique work environments most professionals have become well acquainted with over the last 15 months.

From being in and out of virtual meetings to connecting with professionals across the globe, students had to remain flexible and deliberate in applying critical professional skills such as communication and scheduling.

Despite the unique challenges they were faced with, students were able to adapt and optimize their approach for researching, interviewing and piloting recommendations for their clients by following the guidance of their executive advisors and applying the knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom. 

“It was a lot of great experience getting to talk with professionals I normally would not have contact with,” said Charles Moorman, an undergraduate whose team worked with the American Red Cross on planning and optimizing post-pandemic travel policies.

Project highlights

For some of the student teams, they worked on projects that were continuations of work started by student teams during the fall semester, while others focused on new challenges clients were facing. Below is an overview of several teams’ projects, as presented during the Gallery Walk: 

Client: American Red Cross
Project: Post Pandemic Travel
Students: Mack Brooks, Mael Lumas, Charles Moorman and Mark Oakley
Key Objective: Identify travel practices that protect their employees in the post-pandemic environment
View the project presentation >>

Client: Duke Energy
Project: Open-Source Software (OSS) Sourcing Standards
Students: Kyle Miller, Brea Smith and Will Steitz
Key Objective: Identify process improvements to prepare non-IT sourcing teams with the knowledge to identify and mitigate risks of OSS onboarding
View the project presentation >>

Client: Caterpillar Inc.
Project: ERP Transformation
Students: Aniket Ekhe, Jared Murphy and Elwin Pinto
Key Objective: Present leading practices for ERP Implementation and future state mapping for the order management process
View the project presentation >>

Client: Gilbarco Veeder-Root
Project: BDP Smart VU Implementation
Students: Will Henshaw, Jason Esposito and Luna Hsieh
Key Objective: Assist in implementation of a new order and shipping visibility tool called the BDP Smart VU System to onboarding suppliers
View the project presentation >>

Client: Biogen
Project: Bioburden Database
Students: Christiano Mota, Michael Capo, Sohail Patel and Fernando Jarillo
Key Objective: Create a central repository to organize contamination data and proactively investigate such risks
View the project presentation >>

Client: Eaton
Project: Supplier Market Intelligence
Students: David Kloiber, Alexis Pyle and Zach Pacious
Key Objective: Expand knowledge on suppliers beyond the tacit knowledge and internal data to incorporate a quantifiable supplier ranking system that improves understanding of potential suppliers’ attributes.
View the project presentation >>

Impact on Student Success

Because of the professional connections made with the partnerships throughout the semester, students were able to acquire a sense of professionalism and real-world experience, despite having to work remotely. They adjusted to the virtual environment, while figuring out the best ways to communicate efficiently, relationally and effectively. 

While remote learning and working may not continue at its current capacity, changes in work culture have caused some companies to change their long-term plans to include more flexible working environments — and the students say they are now prepared to adapt accordingly. 

“I can already tell that I’ve learned a lot and seen the changes within myself with being more professional, speaking better in meetings and managing a project better.” Mack Brooks, another team member who worked with the American Red Cross this semester. 

While the students learned to operate in a virtual environment, they also developed additional professional skills by working in multidimensional teams that included communicating between their advisors, company executives and other corporate connections. 

Furthermore, the students expanded their toolbox by learning and applying new hard skills, such as by creating spend analyses, surveying data, developing onboarding playbooks or completing environmental scans. 

Impact on Industry

In addition to the students gaining all this experience, the partner companies reaped the rewards of the students’ hard efforts as well. 

“Thank you for a great semester,” Rich Wachowski, a supply chain associate at Duke Energy, told his student team at the Gallery Walk. “Thank you for really helping us as we advance our compliance initiatives within supply chain. We want to ensure that at the end of the day that we protect our customers located in our service jurisdictions. I’m very excited to take your deliverables and continue to work with our training groups to implement those. Very, very impressed with your work this semester.”

Caroline Land, an IT contract manager at Duke Energy, said of her team during the event, “They’ve been a great group to work with. I’m so excited for each of them and where they are going to go after graduation.”

This post was originally published in Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.

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