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Partnering Together To Better Supply Chain Management

By Amanda Earing, News Editor, Boise State University and the University of Alaska Anchorage have teamed up to create a unique online program providing supply chain expertise for professionals in two popular growth areas: RFID and lean management.

What do two universities over 3,000 miles apart have in common?

Boise State University and the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) have teamed up to create a unique online program providing supply chain expertise for professionals in two popular areas of growth in supply chain management.

The Supply Chain Management Graduate Certificate is a one-year education program that allows students to focus their studies in either radio frequency identification (RFID) or lean operations excellence in supply chain management.

The two universities each have their own areas of emphasis in supply chain management and by partnering together the program offers students the ability to learn from various supply chain backgrounds.

This partnership is coordinated by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), which seeks to expand course sharing and joint academic programs in the West.
“With two universities, the program gets the benefit of a more diverse faculty with different areas of expertise,” says Dr. Morgan Henrie, head of UAA’s program.

UAA’s primary focus lies in RFID technology. Located in one of the largest distribution channels in the world, Anchorage completes 650 weekly air-cargo flights and serves as initial point for the fresh food supply chain that moves millions of pounds of seafood through the lower 48 states and into international markets.

Boise State’s expertise in lean operations also comes from practical application of supply chain concepts and close ties to the industry.

“The faculty is heavily involved in consulting and applied research in the areas of lean operations and quality improvement,” says Patrick Shannon, a lean manufacturing expert who teaches in the program for Boise State.

“We are called upon on a regular basis to provide training and education in supply chain related fields to private and public sector organizations.”

Boise State University’s supply chain management faculty has consulted with Hewlett Packard and SuperValu, the fifth largest supermarket chain. They have also worked extensively in the wood products and forest industries due to Boise State’s location in the northwestern U.S.

Combining the two universities’ areas of expertise into one program does have its challenges.

“This is an innovative program when you cross between two universities and it’s not easy to do,” says Shannon. “It took some time to work out the administrative issues and get everyone coordinated on the same page, but it has worked out really well and we have a lot of support from both universities’ administration departments.”

Students wishing to apply for the program can sign up through either Boise State or UAA and will receive their certificate from the university where they enroll. Once enrolled, students are given a blackboard site that they go to for their classes.

“Regardless of which university is teaching the course, everything is handled in a similar manner with the same look and feel to all of the classes,” says Shannon.

The flexibility of an online course and the shorter program allows students to easily balance their education with their current careers. In fact, many of the projects students complete are often based on experiences within their own jobs.

As a result, Shannon recommends only students currently in the field should apply for the course.

“They’ll need to work on projects related to supply chain issues and a venue for that lies within their own company,” says Shannon.

The certificate offers students many benefits over a traditional graduate degree program, and both universities are accredited through the Association of Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), ensuring quality management education.

“For those not able to invest the time and/or money to complete a full master’s program, earning this certificate will help you become an expert in the area you choose, and better qualify you for strategic planning for your firm in these areas,” says Henrie.

The focus on RFID and lean management will also appeal to employers looking for qualified candidates to manage their supply chain in these areas.

 “Having formal qualifications like this certificate can give you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs in supply chain management. For some government procurement positions, a certification in the specific area is a prerequisite to even be considered for the job,” Henrie points out.

“These online courses are more focused than a broad-based master’s degree program and allow students a chance to be exposed to current topics in supply chain management,” adds Shannon.

“The narrower focus of the program allows students to further develop their specialty and they don’t have to take broader courses such as marketing, management, economics and other such courses found in a broader based degree program.”

However, if students do choose later on to enter a full graduate degree program, the credits received from this certificate can be transferable into a master’s degree.

Inaugural students of the program, who will earn their certificates this spring, include civilian logistics professionals, active duty military logisticians preparing for transition to civilian economy, MBA students and Ph.D. candidates who want specialized courses as electives.

The two universities will be accepting applications for the next cohort starting in August. For more information about the program visit