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University of Arkansas supply chain management department ranked best in North America (with video)

Gartner releases its rankings of supply chain academic programs every two years.

University of Arkansas, Lafayette ((Photo credit: University of Arkansas)

University of Arkansas program nabs top spot in Gartner ranking

Students benefit from location near major companies, Walmart, Sam’s Club

— New Master’s in Supply Chain Management program launches this fall

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A few years ago, the supply chain management undergraduate program at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas undertook a major revamp of its curriculum to better meet the demands of the marketplace. 

Faculty and administrators gathered best practices from academia and talked to companies about what they were looking for in students they hire.

“We radically redesigned our curriculum,” Matt Waller, Dean of the college and the Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair in Business, told FreightWaves. 

The effort paid off. Earlier this week, the global research firm Gartner ranked the supply chain management undergraduate program in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas number 1 in North America. 

Gartner, which studies and rates companies and academic programs across a variety of industries, releases its findings on supply chain programs every two years. In 2018, the University of Arkansas program ranked number 14.

Waller helped launch the department in 2011. He credited the curriculum redesign as one of several factors that helped the school shoot up in the rankings this year. (The rankings reflect excellence in three specific areas – industry value, program scope and program size.) Built around five “pillars,” the department gives students a grounding in basic business and supply chain principles, then layers on top of that specializations such as business, blockchain and ERP. 

All students are required to intern with a company, and take a capstone course that immerses them in real-world supply chain scenarios

“We designed this with industry,” Waller said. “When we show this to our industry partners, they love it.”

Matthew Waller, interim dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. (Photo credit: Beth Hall)

Located in Fayetteville in northwestern Arkansas, the school is home to a wealth of supply chain talent. J.B. Hunt and Walmart are headquartered in the region, as is Sam’s Club and Tyson. What is more, more than 1,000 consumer packaged goods companies have offices in the area.

“If we were somewhere where we didn’t have all of this, it would be very difficult to have the curriculum,” Waller said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

The university has graduated 200 supply chain management students each year over the past four years, he said, averaging about 225 each year over that span, with the numbers continuing to grow.

Looking ahead, Waller said the department will continue to adapt its curriculum to rapidly changing industry needs. Continued meteoric growth in ecommerce, along with local and global unrest, means the university will likely have to increase its focus on disruption, risk and resilience.

“The level of risk that we face has been amplified because of trade issues, the coronavirus and racism and inequality,” Waller said. “You don’t want students to be on the job and not think about these things.” 

The school will boost coverage of social and environmental sustainability, as well as governance and ethics, he said.

Waller described yet another new initiative – a Master’s of Science in Supply Chain Management for people in the field who need a better understanding of supply chain systems.

“There are a lot of people who major in who knows what and end up in a supply chain position.” Waller explained. “We realize that there are many people who need a short-cut getting up to speed in supply chain management.” 

Designed for early career business professionals, the program will launch its first cohort this fall.

“We are constantly innovating, and we innovate heavily by trying to understand where the needs are in industry,” Waller said. “We treat [the program] like a business.”

Related stories:

Gartner releases Supply Chain University Top 25 for 2020

Plug and Play partners with Walmart, Tyson and JB Hunt on supply chain incubator

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Linda Baker.

Linda Baker, Senior Environment and Technology Reporter

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves senior reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes autonomous vehicles, the startup scene, clean trucking, and emissions regulations. Please send tips and story ideas to [email protected]