A Sneak Peek at UT-Knoxville’s Inaugural Supply Chain Summer Program for Female High Schoolers

Michigan State University SNEHIT/Adobe Stock

What would a supply chain summer program for female high school students look like? The summer of 2017 may not even be halfway over, but a group of administrators and professors at the University of Tennessee — Knoxville are already working out the details of a weeklong supply chain summit to be held on campus in July 2018, aimed at female students from the state of Tennessee who will be rising high school juniors.

The idea of starting a supply chain summer program for young women came from the success of Business Education for Talented Students (BETS), a UT-Knoxville program that since its inception in 2008 has brought in 239 high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to learn about business.

“One of my goals is to have a set of programs that high school students can choose from in order to come to UT to learn about business,” said Tyvi Small, creator of the BETS program and executive director of talent management, diversity and community relations at UT-Knoxville. “I thought our next logical program would be a summit for high school young women who want to know more about supply chain.”

Small has been working on planning the program together with Wendy Tate, associate professor of supply chain management, who has spoken to Spend Matters in the past about the recent decline in female supply chain students at UT-Knoxville, as well as the gender gap in the industry.

“It’s going to be a really great opportunity for us to build some pipeline with our students,” said Small, who pointed out that 50.1% of BETS alumni have matriculated at UT-Knoxville, with over half of those students studying in the business school. “I think we’ll have the same numbers with [the supply chain summit] as well.”

Like BETS, the supply chain summit will be free to attendees — provided they make it through the application process, which will involve an essay and a letter of recommendation. “We’ll do a holistic review,” Small said. “We’ll look at their grades to see how focused they are academically. Did they take any business courses? Was [the essay] thoughtful?”

Small expects to receive 45 to 50 applicants for the 15 spots. “We normally start small,” he said. “That way we can work out some of the things that we didn’t even know were going to be issues. Once we are at full speed, we’ll be about 30. I’m thinking we’ll probably have somewhere between 100 and 120 [applicants].”

While the curriculum is still being finalized, students can expect to take part in college entrance exam prep sessions and workshops on leadership development, communication and professionalism. Instead of jumping into Supply Chain 101, the first couple of days will focus on molding the students into young professionals and leaders. “Then we’ll go into the different disciplines of the supply chain,” Small said. “We’ll have instruction from our faculty that will deal with procurement, purchasing, transportation.”

To give the students a glimpse into the real world of supply chain, the program will likely include a visit to a corporate office or factory. “Many high school students are visual learners,” Small said. “[Visiting a plant lets them] see how supply chain works from that perspective. That’s why we want to really engage corporate partners.”

And that’s where the professionalism workshops will come into play. “When they go and visit these corporate offices, we want them to be prepared,” Small explained. “How to give a firm handshake, how to ask questions, how to do all the things that we want them to be able to do when they go into a professional setting.”

Apart from an intense immersion experience into the world of supply chain, the students will live in residence halls alongside current supply chain majors trained as peer counselors, thus getting an idea of college life — the tamer bits, at least.

“We always want an outcome,” Small said. “[The students] will be working on a supply chain project that they can present to their friends and family so that they’ll know it wasn’t just a week having fun at UT, but [also] learning some really key things about the supply chain field.”

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