Back to School

There are plenty of ways for business majors and industry newcomers to continue their education, whether online or in the classroom. But what’s a seasoned or moderately experienced supply chain professional to do?

Colleges are developing specialized programs for just that purpose as firms look to streamline their supply chains to keep costs down while minimizing risk. One school that has been catering to that need for many years is the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

The school offers full-time, evening, executive and online MBA programs, most of them with an emphasis available in supply chain management. But, in addition to that, the school’s Center for Executive and Professional Development also runs custom corporate programs in formats ranging from a full MBA with emphasis in supply chain management down to non-credit programs and other custom programs that could be as short as three days.

“Corporate clients often want to provide an MBA education, but they approach it in a strategic way,” says Dawn Feldman, executive director of the center. “They enroll employees as a cohort—shared experiences, shared language. A company that wants it will typically enroll 30 to 35 people—what they call their next-generation leaders—but we’ve had up to 60.”

The custom programs can be delivered on ASU’s Tempe campus or at company locations worldwide. They also can be done online and are taught by members of the W. P. Carey faculty.

“Think about a company with locations around the world and a purchasing team at each,” says Hector Zelaya, director of the center. “The custom corporate MBA gives those teams a common language and a common framework. From the company’s perspective, it’s more than a development tool. It’s also a retention tool and an attraction tool. They’re strategic about who they put in these programs.”

Done online, the program can accommodate students in Asia, Europe or anywhere else with an Internet connection. “It’s asynchronous online,” Feldman says. “In addition to the modules, courses utilize Web-based tools, so the focus is on engagement, but they can do it on their own time.”

The custom program curriculum has the same components as the schools’ full-time MBA program. However, in the custom program discussions and exercises can focus on that specific company and its challenges, Feldman says. “We’ve had online for more than 10 years. A company can take people who are geographically dispersed and go through the course without the expense of travel. In addition, some may choose to have an orientation session in Tempe or have a faculty member go to their site.

“A company has a specific problem,” she adds, “so we set up a focused initiative using the W. P. Carey School. They may be looking at strategic development, tactics or operations. When they choose to invest in custom, the faculty is giving their people the tools to approach their problems. We’re not trainers, but we transfer knowledge and the tools they need so they can solve problems themselves.”

Unlike the more structured full-time MBA or program for a certificate in supply chain management, the custom courses are very flexible. “They really fit the company’s specific needs. [The program] can be designed and delivered for [their] cultures. They really help define their learning objectives, in conjunction with our experts. ‘What’s your desired end goal?’ It’s a dialogue and a partnership.”

Zelaya adds, “It can cover the entire breadth of supply chain. A company might say they want to take a deep dive into procurement only or logistics only.


Supply chain professionals also can take advantage of three research center programs at the W. P. Carey School, which was ranked fifth among all graduate school supply chain programs, and tied for second in undergraduate programs in the latest Gartner survey. The school includes CAPS Research, the Center for Supply Networks (CSN) and the Health Sector Supply Chain Research Consortium.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, CAPS Research was formed as a joint venture between the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and ASU to conduct cutting-edge research in the field. More than 300 large, multinational firms have been corporate sponsors over the years, and research has addressed such emerging trends as environmental sustainability, the impact of social networking media on supply chains, and benchmarking of Chinese companies.

All of the CAPS Research products and events are aimed at executives with strategic responsibilities for supply management. The global roundtables, best practices workshops and critical issues events allow executives to be actively engaged in best-practices sharing. It includes a number of segments: CPO Insights is an e-mail-based communications and polling tool that is exclusively used by its CPO community. Practix Reports contain actual case studies on challenges and solutions to supply management initiatives. Benchmarking activities and focus studies provide tools to measure performance. Executive assessments are focused self-assessments that are derived from 10X Executive Assessments and Supply Leadership Model Assessments.

The mission of the Center for Supply Networks is to advance the science of supply networks and sustainability management. It focuses on studying supply networks and sustainability as complex adaptive systems. Its components include conducting supply network research, cutting-edge research in sustainable supply chains, taking the field beyond dyadic buyer-supplier relationships to triadic relationships and other network archetypes, and adopting complex adaptive systems theory as an overarching theoretical perspective.

The third program, the Health Sector Supply Chain Research Consortium, was founded in 2004 to bring together health sector organizations and academic researchers to conduct research on topics related to the strategic management of the health care supply chain. It functions as a boiler room for new ideas to drive excellence and innovation. Research is developed through collaboration with member organizations representing multiple stakeholders across the healthcare supply chain.

“CAPS is more applied, while CSN is more academic,” says John Fowler, chair of the supply chain management department at the W. P. Carey school. “The healthcare consortium is leading edge. The efficiency of health care is becoming more important and supply chain professionals (and those in related fields, such as operations management and industrial engineering) are looking at it more closely.

“Supply chain has an important role to play. Essentially, companies would like to have close to 100 percent of what we need available right away, like replacement hips or knees, but not so much inventory that it gets obsolete or costs more to keep around.”

Pharmaceutical companies have been putting a lot of money into research and development, says Michele Pfund, assistant chair of supply chain management at the W. P. Carey School, and faculty director of the school’s online MBA program. “The emerging trend now is to build more supply management teams, as well as research and development teams.”


  • Customize programs to fit your supply chain needs
  • Programs can be done online, on campus or at your facility
  • Utilize cutting-edge research