Published 02/23/17

Linking innovative learning to the business community – with exciting results

Last spring, in a conference room at the national headquarters of a Rhode Island based business, several staff from the company’s logistics and transportation team gathered to hear from a group of Bryant students. The company representatives – including the vice president – listened with polite interest at the proposed efficiencies and business optimizations. Then the students announced an eight-digit projected savings as a result of their recommendations.

Across all spring 2016 projects projected savings or earnings was more than $46 million.

“You could see everyone sit upright,” says Michael Braunsdorf ’16, a Global Supply Chain Management and Political Science dual major who was part of the student group working on the project. “They were thrilled.”

Collaborations like these, between Bryant students and regional, national, and international businesses, are happening every day. With experiential learning opportunities for undergraduates and MBA candidates becoming a critical component of postgraduate success, Bryant has implemented several programs that link the classroom and the community – with exciting results for all.

Three programs in particular highlight these innovative real world consulting initiatives:

  • the Global Supply Chain Management capstone course, in which students help companies solve a supply chain problem;
  • the Carolyn Rafaelian International Business Practicum run by the John H. Chafee Center for International Business, now in its eighth year as a requirement for all international business graduates;
  • a new digital marketing course that challenges students to create and implement client-specific social media plans in real time.

"Truly staggering" impact

The recommendations presented by Braunsdorf and his classmates were part of a capstone course titled "Empirical Applications in Global Supply Chain Management."

A requirement of all Global Supply Chain Management program majors, it connects student teams with regional industries. And Braunsdorf’s client wasn’t the only company to see real results by collaborating with Bryant students.

Hiring managers like what they're seeing at Bryant.

Sixty-two Global Supply Chain Management seniors assisted eight companies during the spring 2016 semester. For a nominal consultancy donation of $3,500 to the program, these businesses engaged Bryant students to solve real-world supply chain challenges. For instance, Smithfield, R.I.-based Banneker Industries sought to optimize warehouse processes. Alex & Ani in Cranston, R.I., wanted to assess its in-house packaging operations. And Warwick, R.I.’s Day-O-Lite Manufacturing needed to evaluate its freight carrier selection process.

The results? Collectively, across all projects during the spring semester, the projected savings or earnings for the companies that participated was more than $46 million.

“The financial impacts are truly staggering,” says Professor of Operations Management Christopher Roethlein, Ph.D. “Our supply chain students are providing outstanding results to industry.”

The capstone course is Roethlein’s brainchild. His corporate background in aerospace and original equipment manufacturing prompted him to launch the practicum experience five years ago. Early on, he used his previous contacts to recruit companies to the practicum. But with its current reputation, many companies that “want in” now come to him.

Students prove themselves to industry partners

Roethlein says that he sets the bar very high for his students: “I expect them to prove themselves to our industry partners. They must contribute to the corporate profitability and growth of the companies they’re working for.”

To meet that goal, students must often complete research outside of Roethlein’s classroom. “I lead the course, but I don’t manage all the projects,” he says. Students seek out the expertise of other professors within Bryant’s Global Supply Chain Management area for advice. Roethlein notes that having the whole team of Global Supply Chain Management faculty contributing to student success is an important factor in the excellent consulting that students offer.

“Our industry partners love it because they can get help solving a supply chain problem,” he says, “but they also get a good look at talent.” And it seems the hiring managers like the talent they’re seeing. Roethlein says most project collaborations end with job offers for students.

The popularity of Bryant’s Global Supply Chain Management capstone mirrors demand within the corporate community for supply chain managers. Today, more than 170 undergraduate students are enrolled in the major at Bryant, and the number rises every year. With it, the practicum will also grow, says Roethlein, not only in student participants but also in the industry type and geographic reach of the clients.

The excellence of Bryant’s Global Supply Chain Management program was recently cited in GSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly , which noted that Chief Procurement Officers should be encouraged by graduates of programs in procurement and supply chain management. “Schools like Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., among others, are turning out students who have studied economics, global sourcing and international trade, corporate social responsibility, information technology, statistics, and operations management. These programs are also focused on developing their students’ writing abilities, character, and leadership skills. In addition, the students have valuable experience from special projects, co-ops, and internships.”