Supply Chain Master’s Degree Provides Flexibility for Working Professionals
March 4, 2021 | By Stephen Caldwell
(This is part of a series of articles on the five newest master’s degree programs offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business. David Dobrzykowski provided insights and information for this article.)
Mexico City was in the background when Henry Batt recorded a video interview to talk about the University of Arkansas’s Master of Science in Supply Chain Management program. It wasn’t just another creative Zoom background, though. Batt was in Mexico City.
As the founder and CEO of Asah International, Batt oversees sourcing and procurement companies with operations in the United States, China and Mexico, so his schedule, as he puts it, can be “a bit chaotic.” But he still found time to pursue his master’s degree, making him one of the more extreme examples of how the supply chain program can work for even the busiest of professionals.
“The program has had phenomenal flexibility for me,” Batt said in his interview, “which is absolutely instrumental.”
The Arkansas 30-credit hour program, which is offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business, is designed for working professionals, so classes periodically meet face-to-face during non-working hours, while much of the work in between those meetings is done online.
But it’s not just flexible scheduling that has made the supply chain program attractive to students. The quality of the Walton College undergraduate and graduate supply chain programs, evidenced by impressive Gartner and U.S. News & World Report rankings, and an ability to help students meet long-term career goals also have been important.
Supply chain management is a fast-growing discipline, and while some students enter the master’s program with a degree in that field, others come from different academic backgrounds but eventually found themselves in a supply chain role. The Walton College master’s program is designed to give either of those types of students a deep dive in to supply chain principles so they can excel in their career.
The quality of the program is built on at least two related pillars.
One, a diverse faculty with a strong industry background that has helped create the top-ranked undergraduate supply chain program in North America.
And, two, the benefits of operating in an area that’s become known as the “Silicon Valley” of the supply chain industry because of the companies that are based in Northwest Arkansas or have a presence in the region.
Andre Brewer, a production coordinator for Darling Ingredients, earned his undergraduate degree in political science but found himself in supply chain roles and saw the U of A as the best option for a master’s degree that would help him advance professionally.
“Walton is one of the best in the nation, especially as far as supply chain management,” he said. “I want to be the best, and Walton gives me the competitive advantage I need to do that.”
The Walton College has faculty members who are among the top-rated researchers in the nation, but it also has those who have held high-level roles in companies such as Disney, P&G, Lowe’s, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., Walmart, Tyson Foods, Transplace, Nike, Delta, IBM and UnitedHealthcare. They even have one faculty member who was once a professional bowler, so he can shed insights into the logistics of knocking down pins.
They also have access to a network of supply chain executives across the region who frequently take part as guest speakers or by mentoring students. And Matthew Waller, the dean of the Walton College, helped found the Department of Supply Chain Management and last year was given the Distinguished Service Award by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
“It’s like playing basketball in the NBA,” Batt said. “You are just around the stars.”
The curriculum for the supply chain master’s recently went through an update to help adjust for the changing needs of students and industry. Students must pass at least 10 classes to graduate, but they now have the opportunity to specialize in one of five tracks: business analytics, enterprise resource planning, retail supply chain management, finance or blockchain enterprise systems. Students can also choose to take additional supply chain courses if they prefer an even deeper dive into contemporary issues.
In addition to the theoretical knowledge and technical skills, the students typically are involved in online supply chain simulations and hands-on projects, many of which bring a direct benefit to their employers.
With the critical role supply chains are playing in the success of modern organizations, a master’s-level education in the field provides a competitive advantage. And it’s an advantage working professionals can pursue – even globe-trotting entrepreneurs who often work from Mexico.