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Poole Program Scores Big

The top 10 academic programs for operations/supply chain management are found at some of the highest ranked business schools in the county, including the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Kenan-Flagler at UNC-Chapel Hill and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

The Poole College of Management here at NC State sits comfortably among such heavyweights on the newly released list of the best undergraduate programs in operations management, published by Bloomberg Businessweek last week.

The sixth place showing was welcome news for the team behind the college’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, the cornerstone of the tough but popular program.

Rob Handfield

Rob Handfield says NC State’s supply chain management program gives students the opportunity to “look, smell, feel and touch the supply chain.”

“We’ve been at this for quite a while,” says Professor Robert Handfield, co-director of the cooperative since 2000. “It’s been quite a journey.”

If anything, Poole’s drive to become one of the best and most innovative business schools in the nation has been more like a Formula One race than a quiet stroll in the garden. Its Jenkins MBA program debuted at No. 63 on Bloomberg’s list of top full-time MBA programs last fall and its part-time program was ranked 30th in the nation in 2011. The supply chain program has risen quickly, moving up to its current position from 18th overall  in a nationwide study in 2009.

Handfield says the momentum comes from an unwavering focus on the university’s mission.

“NC state has always been a land grant institution and we’re staying true to our roots,” he says. “We have a strong, project-based curriculum. It’s real, practical, hands on and community based.”

Public-Private Partnership

The key to the supply chain program is its close connection to some of the area’s top industries. Students who choose the supply chain concentration participate in a semester-long project tackling a real-world challenge at a partner company under the guidance of a professional mentor.

Industry partners include some of the biggest and most complex organizations in the world, from GlaxoSmithKline and Bank of America to Biogen Idec and Caterpillar.

Ira Weiss in Nelson Hall

Under the leadership of Dean Ira Weiss, the Poole College of Management is building a national reputation for quality and innovation.

“What makes us unique is this engagement with our partner companies,” Handfield says. “It’s one thing to learn concepts from a textbook. But the best way adults learn is by doing. Other schools are just beginning to catch up with us in the area of experiential learning.”

The partnership is popular with industry leaders because it offers them access to top students who will soon join the workforce with job-ready skills and experience in the field.

“It’s very much a growing field,” Handfield says. “Supply chain is where the action is. It’s a major cost driver and also an area where you can add value if you have the right skills. You have to be able to negotiate a contract, evaluate a supplier and work in teams. The No. 1 thing we talk about in industry is finding that talent.”

Handfield also praises the program’s faculty for bringing a wealth of both academic and professional expertise to the supply chain program.

Businessweek Rankings

1. The University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

2. Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)

3. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

4. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

5. University of Michigan (Ross)

6. North Carolina State University (Poole)

7. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)

8. Boston University

9. Georgia Tech (Scheller)

10. University at Buffalo (State University of New York)

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