Lehigh University
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Supply chain program recognized as one of nation's best



Robert Trent

Lehigh University was lauded for its academic and research innovation in a new national survey of the nation’s premier supply chain programs. The survey was the first of its kind conducted by AMR Research, a global business and technology research firm that regularly surveys the international business landscape.

The honor comes at a time when the College of Business and Economics, which includes Lehigh’s supply chain program, continues to explore new global learning opportunities as part of its expanding curriculum.

Lehigh was one of only two private universities to have been included in the survey. It was also the smallest of the 19 participating institutions, all of which have routinely been recognized by industry as educational leaders in the supply chain arena.

“Lehigh did really well in all the categories that focused on our curriculum and academic performance,” says Robert Trent, the Supply Chain Management (SCM) program director. “This survey validates our program and shows how a smaller school like Lehigh needs to be faster, smarter, more innovative and more responsive to compete against the large SCM programs.”

The study analyzed 11 different criteria spanning three different categories: a program’s industry value, and both the depth and scope of its supply chain offering. Lehigh not only received top honors for its academic and research innovation, but it also earned top marks for the number of supply chain knowledge areas it covers—areas such as risk management, new product development, planning and forecasting, and sustainability.

Lehigh was one of only three universities to receive the highest score for the completeness of its curriculum coverage and one of five schools to receive the highest score for academic and research innovation.

The strength of Lehigh’s curriculum can partly be attributed to the unique relationship that exists between Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics and its P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, says Trent. AMR Research specifically cited Lehigh’s award-winning Integrated Product Development (IPD) program and a benchmark for other undergraduate programs. “Todd Watkins and John Ochs, co-directors of IPD, have been a great help to the SCM program,” Trent says.

Calling the IPD program a “compelling example,” AMR Research said universities must do a better job of preparing students for a dynamic global marketplace.

“Industry wants recruits that can more quickly transition to the challenges of supply chain management, and this can only come through required internships, simulation and technology being embedded in the classroom, team/times exercises, and less dogma around legacy teaching methods,” the survey reported.

It’s a role Lehigh takes seriously. The IPD program has won 13 grants from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance since it was launched in the early 1990s.

Similarly, Lehigh worked collaboratively with industry partners from across the United States to establish its Center for Value Chain Research in 2002. It has become a leading, cross-disciplinary facility for both students and faculty, who work with such corporate partners as Mars, Just Born, OHL, Dresser-Rand and Air Products on contemporary supply chain challenges.

“A winning formula”

It’s that type of innovative thinking and field study that has become a hallmark of the college, according to Paul R. Brown, dean of the College of Business and Economics.

“Our supply chain program has really been instrumental in designing a curriculum that is not only relevant, but is creative in its approach to globalization,” says Brown. “It’s so important for business schools to provide opportunities for students—at all levels—to apply research in new ways and compelling ways. They have a winning formula.”

Currently, Lehigh offers undergraduate business students a supply chain management major. Graduate level students can opt for either a supply chain certificate or a supply chain concentration as part of the M.B.A. program.

According to Trent, the program has undergone a steady stream of continuous improvement since its inception in 2000. Since then, the College of Business and Economics department has worked with industry partners to revise the curriculum five times to account for the evolving nature of the field.

As such, Lehigh’s offering closely aligned with the strategic objectives AMR Research argued a university should follow. They include a holistic approach to understanding the supply chain issues, the adaption of technology, and a new focus on globalization—curriculum objectives that Lehigh first adapted in 2000.

Lehigh’s SCM professors have been quick to endorse innovative teaching methods in the classroom. They include Sue Sherer’s innovative use of hands-on ERP systems, Liuba Belkin’s reliance on state-of-the-art negotiation simulations, and Zach Zacharia’s required experiential field project with Lehigh Valley companies.

“We are fortunate to have these individuals as part of our SCM program. I would compare our SCM faculty favorably against any in the country,” Trent says.

“The supply chain program has been successful because it has evolved,” Trent adds. “Graduates of our program have a breadth of knowledge that few of their counterparts get. The fact that we’re a comparatively small program helps in this respect, but so does the expertise of our faculty and their eagerness to span disciplines.”

--Tom Yencho

Photo by Ryan Hulvat


Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2009

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