DO NOT POST New supply chain master's degree combines tech and managerial knowledge

Two top ranked academic programs at Arizona State University have joined forces to launch a specialized master's degree for supply chain management professionals.

Classes will begin this fall for the new Master of Science in Supply Chain Management and Engineering degree, one of the first programs of its kind in the United States. The W. P. Carey School's Supply Chain Management Department and the Industrial Engineering program in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering will offer the program jointly.

"People who work in supply chain management have been telling us for some time they need more technical knowledge to go along with a management focus," said Professor John Fowler, chairman of the supply chain management department. "We think that bringing together the business perspective and the engineering perspective around supply chains will be extremely valuable."

Applications are being accepted now for the new degree program. Students will take half of their 30 required credit hours credit hours at the W. P. Carey School and half at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. All of the courses are online.

The university's supply chain management and industrial engineering programs are among the top-ranked programs nationally in their fields, according to independent academic ranking sources. The program is designed for individuals already employed in supply chain management or a related field.

"This is a unique program," said Esma Gel, associate professor of industrial engineering and the engineering director for the new master's degree. "In traditional business and engineering degree programs, you tend to get only one aspect of supply chain management. In this program, you get a combination of the management and quantitative analysis skills that produce measurable improvement in supply chain performance."

A unique learning experience

Course work for the degree will span 21 months, divided into 15-week sessions. Students will take two courses at a time in most of the sessions. "It will be very focused," Fowler said. "We have some programs that are more intense, but this program is for people who are working. We think this will be a good pace, yet still academically rigorous."

All students will take the same courses, with no electives being offered initially, although they may be added in future years. Among the supply chain management courses are strategic procurement, logistics in the supply chain, and supply chain cost and design issues. Engineering courses include applied deterministic operations research models, supply chain modeling/analysis, and international logistics.

In their last session, students will undertake a "capstone" project, where they will apply knowledge and skills gained in class to supply chains in a business environment. For many students, the capstone project will be conducted in the organization where they are working, according to Gel. If some students come from the same company, they may work in project teams.

"The capstone course will be a real world project," Gel said. "We will expect the students to demonstrate that they can use the skills they learned in the program. We would like them to demonstrate actual improvements in processes within their companies."

Since all courses will be offered online, the program is expected to draw applicants from around the world. Applications started coming in even before the program's formal announcement.

"We have already been flooded with calls and emails regarding this new program," said Ruthie Pyles, director of graduate admissions and recruiting at the W. P. Carey School of Business. "We had strong interest even before we launched our website."

Combining two strong programs

Formal collaboration between Arizona State University's business and engineering schools has been under way since the mid-1990s. In 1997, engineering faculty participated in a high-tech MBA program that the business school launched that year. Discussions began shortly thereafter about organizing a joint master's program that would encompass supply chain management, operations management, and industrial engineering.

Two years ago, the W. P. Carey School hired Fowler, who had been on the industrial engineering department faculty, to chair the business school's supply chain management department. "When I arrived, one thing I wanted to do as soon as possible was to build more bridges between the two departments and ultimately the two schools," Fowler said.

In recent years, the demand for specialized master's degrees has increased significantly, according to Fowler. This provided more momentum for his efforts to establish a new supply chain management/engineering degree, he said.

"We saw the applications for focused master's programs going up, and that caused us to revisit the idea of starting a master's program in supply chain management in addition to the specialization that we already offer as part of our MBA program," Fowler said. "And if we're going to do that, we thought we ought to take advantage of the top-notch industrial engineering department we have on campus."

Because of broader advances in technology, professionals in supply chain management now can be much more effective if they have more technical skills, according to Fowler. "We can do more analytical work today than we could in the past," he said. "We have seen great advances in information technology. We have access to huge databases now. We have computing power on our desktops that allows us to use very sophisticated software."

Online learning with a personal touch

Although the courses are100 percent online, students will interact with each other since the structure is team-based and highly collaborative with online discussions and group projects part of every course. Before classes start in the first year, students will come to ASU for an on-campus orientation, where they will meet faculty, staff and their teammates and become more familiar with their class schedule, curriculum, and course materials. The W. P. Carey School also holds on-campus orientations for its online MBA program and has found it to be an effective model that sets the students up for success.

"The students will get together and meet face to face," Gel said. "There will be community building exercises too. It is amazing how well students can connect in a well-designed online program."

The university has found that the connections students make in their graduate programs – even online programs – develop into professional networks throughout their careers. "They will get to know each other very well," Fowler said.

Admissions and Recruiting Director Pyles said the program is looking to enroll individuals who have a solid foundation in supply chain management, either through their academic background or on-the-job experience.

"They don't necessarily need to be an undergraduate business major with coursework in supply chain management," Pyles said. "A candidate could just as easily be from any quantitative major as long as they have been working in the field of supply chain management or operations."

Applicants are required to submit a resume, undergraduate transcripts, a professional reference, scores on either the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and a personal essay.

"It is important that applicants articulate very clearly through their essays why this degree makes sense for them, why now, and what skills they're hoping to acquire to enhance their career goals," Pyles said.

Applicants whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country where English is not the official language, are required to take the TOEFL or English proficiency test.

Long-term career benefits

Pyles said that while word of the new program has been circulating in industry circles for some time, a significant recruitment effort would be carried out in the coming months. "It's going to be multi-pronged strategy of targeting our audiences," she said. "We will do outreach through traditional channels and also through business connections here in Arizona, as well as across the United States and around the world."

The application deadline for priority consideration is February 1, and the final deadline is June 1, although applications submitted after that date will be considered on a rolling basis. International applicants must submit their applications by April 1.

The program is expected to launch with about 30 students in the first class, with enrollment growing to 50 per incoming class by the third year.

Fowler said he sees the program evolving and growing over time. "While we're starting this as a program for working professionals online, we also envision offering this in a face-to-face format for working professionals locally," he said. "We also think there's a possibility for a similar program as a fifth year experience for students coming out of a bachelor's program before they take a job."

The working professionals who enroll in the initial program starting this fall can expect long-term benefits to their careers, according to Fowler.

"This is certainly going to give them deeper knowledge of both the business and engineering aspects of how to run today's modern, complex supply chains," he said. "Because of that, they will be more marketable. Some will want to move to a new company, while others will look to advance within their own organization."