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Michigan State University: Nurturing a new generation of supply chain educators

Supply chain managers with the know-how to lower the cost of doing good business are in great demand. The need has, in turn, fuelled an equally strong demand for educators capable of nurturing such professionals. The qualification that produces these educators is the PhD, a journey of discovery that broadens horizons and begets intellectual mastery. Professor Thomas Kull knew this and kept it in mind throughout his 13-year career in industry management.

Vying for a change of scenery, he wished to hop aboard this voyage and pair this ultimately rewarding exposure with his existing qualifications and experience. He didn’t have to look far for a specialised programme in this niche topic. Close to his hometown, Michigan State University –– his alma mater –– offers a PhD in Operations and Sourcing Management (OSM), top-tier recognition, and the international business influence to teach him exactly what he needed to know.

The PhD would be the perfect addition to his BA in Advertising and MBA in Operations Management, he thought. He was right. During Professor Kull’s PhD, he explored how OSM management practices interact with organisational culture and common supply chain risk issues.

How to deeply explore these and other issues was something his professor, Dr. Ram Narasimhan, knew best. Professor Kull also developed transferable skills such as large-scale research project management, a multitude of empirical and analytical capabilities, and most importantly, the confidence needed to equip a new generation of supply chain professionals.

Today, he’s doing just that as a professor of supply chain management at a top business school in Arizona. Professor Kull initially began his career in academia as an assistant professor. It wasn’t long before he was entrusted to teach undergraduates, MBA students, and doctoral candidates.

Such professional and personal growth are what the Broad College of Business’s PhD in OSM was designed for. The programme prepares candidates for faculty positions at research universities across the globe. The programme offers an integrated approach to studying both operations and sourcing management, focusing on theory development and model building.

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During Professor Kull’s PhD, he explored how OSM management practices interact with organisational culture and common supply chain risk issues. Source: Michigan State University

Areas covered include operations strategy, technology management, new product development, outsourcing, and of course, supply management. Broader supply chain issues are also covered, from strategic supply chain design to tactical and operational level planning and coordination.

Teaching this elite programme is a group of widely recognised researchers with excellent reputations. Their guidance made it easy for Professor Kull to evolve into one himself. “The MSU programme allowed me to work with multiple faculty members and teach a variety of classes,” he says.

“Today, my most rewarding moments are when students contact me after graduating and thank me for helping them in securing the right job or being successful in that job. This includes doctoral students who like to say ‘I’m inside their heads.’ That’s true for me as well. Dr. Ram Narasimhan is in my head too.”

Inspired by his professor’s research focus, Professor Kull is currently researching socio-technical and supply chain risk issues. His doctoral students, on the other hand, have sparked his interest in innovation. Clearly, every MSU graduate leaves with a better understanding of their practice and the agility to roll with the times.

At MSU, Dr. Mark Pagell discovered a passion for social sustainability by grasping the bigger picture of how global supply chains are managed. His PhD gave him a credible platform to share his knowledge and contribute to change. Today, he is a professor of sustainable supply chain management at University College Dublin.

He is also the co-editor of the Journal of Supply Chain Management. Dr. Pagell was among the first few scholars who honed his interest in Sustainability at MSU. Today, with increasing emphasis on Business Sustainability, he is considered a thought leader in the space, particularly in the domain of social sustainability and worker safety.

He notes, “The issue of sustainability in global supply chains has grown in importance in recent years, and has now morphed to include worker safety.” Dr. Pagell also mentions that his research projects began with Professor Steven Melnyk when he was a PhD student. Professor Melnyk was one of the first people to research sustainability. Today, his focus is on worker safety in Global Supply Chains. Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Dr. Pagell recently received a major grant in Europe to promote worker safety in the field.

With a PhD in OSM, many are diving deep into their passions and contributing new knowledge — just like Broad College’s thriving alumni.

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At MSU, Dr. Mark Pagell discovered a passion for social sustainability by grasping the bigger picture of how global supply chains are managed. Source: Michigan State University

Dustin Cole’s research has enabled him to interact directly with the industry –– a large publicly traded company, two social enterprises, two government agencies, and an NGO, to be exact. Not only have these connections helped in collecting feedback, he was also able to gather real-world data to fast-track his findings.

The result? Novel ways organisations can manage their planning to reduce barriers for workers with disabilities and a better understanding of water stress on businesses.

Victoria (Zhenzhen) Yan has been gaining exposure to organisational responses to climate change. She is also examining issues related to product localisation in the automotive industry.

“These questions have enabled me to gain exposure to the more important and emerging topics of the day and contribute to the discussions on these issues that are critical to the future of the supply chain,” she says.

Sukrit Pal’s research interests are just as critical. In his dissertation, he’s using econometric and simulation analysis to inform both practitioners and policy makers about different solutions that can be used to build resilient healthcare supply chains. The COVID-19 pandemic and its underserved patients fuelled his efforts.

If there’s an area of supply chain management you would like to improve, a PhD in Operations and Sourcing Management will teach you how. Apply here today.

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