DU Supply Chain Institute Impacting Industry for 25 Years
The Transportation and Supply Chain Institute at the University of Denver reached a milestone this year when it celebrated its 25th anniversary. Founded a quarter of a century ago, the internationally recognized Institute endures to this day due to an uncommon commitment from industry leaders—a hallmark of the program since its inception.
It is probably fair to say that the average person understands supply chain a lot better since the pandemic. The disruptions caused by the global shutdown brought the reality of scarcity front and center, as the things we relied on to function in our everyday lives–like food, sanitary products and medical supplies–began to disappear from the shelves.
“The whole world basically collapsed because of supply chain issues,” says David Fisher, executive director of the Transportation Institute at DU.
The Institute keeps its curriculum current thanks to the guidance of an engaged board of directors representing some of the industry’s top companies, including Maersk, FedEx and Southwest Airlines.
“We thrive because our board informs our curriculum, and they also sponsor a lot of students into the program,” Fisher says. “We constantly update our curriculum to adjust to the here and now of supply chain and the future trends of what matters to the world.”
And right now, the focus is on optimization. Program participants are looking at how to use technology to advance supply chain structure, cover gaps and improve planning—“All those things that got us in trouble during the pandemic,” says Fisher.
While the program was founded exclusively on awarding the executive master of science degree in transportation management, graduates now have the opportunity to earn a bachelor of arts completion in transportation and supply chain—and the possibilities keep expanding. “We are adding more curriculum all the time in terms of continuous learning and certificate-level short courses,” says Fisher. A master of science in supply chain management and a bachelor of arts in transportation and supply chain management are also available.
The Institute was purpose-built as an industry program using the cohort model and is taught by Socratic method. All students begin the program as a group and go through the curriculum together for six consecutive quarters. Nine weeks within those quarters are taught virtually, with one week on campus or out in the field.
“We typically go to a port or airport or distribution center,” Fisher says. “We always take our cohorts to see actual transportation and logistics activities in practice.”
At the end of the program, students are taken to Europe, Asia or the Panama Canal in Central America to observe major international transportation hubs that feed into the supply chain structure around the world.
The Institute offers the distinct professional advantage of unifying students from different parts of the industry. Millions of people are involved in the transportation and supply chain industry, and many of them lack graduate school experience.
“Learning on the job has its limits,” Fisher says. “The whole vast and complex world of supply chain is a system of systems–and if you only know one little piece, your career is going to be confined to that small area. Five years ago, pre-pandemic, nobody really understood supply chain. Now, third graders can explain it.”
Look around you. Nearly everything you see was most likely planned, built and delivered by people in this industry; the device you are reading from right now, the chair upon which you may be sitting. The average desk lamp is assembled with a multitude of globally sourced parts, from the United States to Asia and everywhere in between.
“Everything we do has to have an extraordinary amount of coordination and people involved in it,” Fisher says. “Your standard of living is basically delivered to your door by transportation professionals.”