The University of North Carolina Wilmington is taking steps to launch a new master’s degree program focused on supply chain management.
The UNC Board of Governors approved the program in October. University officials are preparing to submit materials before the end of the year to seek final approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Officials anticipate the program will be approved, and applications for fall 2023 have already opened. Cem Canel, director of the Congdon School of Supply Chain, Business Analytics and Information Systems, said he expects the inaugural class will range between 25 and 40 students.
Work to pursue the program started before the pandemic elevated “supply chain” to a household term. Canel said the university conducted a market study in 2018 and discovered no master’s program in North Carolina entirely dedicated to supply chain management. The report pinpointed a need for employees with specialized supply chain skills, he said.
“The pandemic also showed how important supply chains are for every business … Now people in every business realize what happens when things go wrong with their supply chain,” Canel said. “So that’s I think perfect timing for us to initiate this program.”
With 30 credit hours, the online-only program will include courses such as supply chain analytics, logistics distribution management, project management, quality management, procurement strategy, supply chain management strategy, applications of supply chain and more. Canel, who will direct the new program, will teach a course in operations management – similar to a class he’s currently teaching in the business school’s Master of Business Administration program.
Though Canel said he anticipates a potential international student pool as an online degree, the specialized degree could benefit local employers including the N.C. State Ports Authority, MegaCorp Logistics and Port City Logistics.
Port City Logistics’ chief people officer, Brandon Claridge, said while the firm wasn’t involved in the early stages of proposing the program, it is dedicated to supporting the new degree through a future partnership “to offer educational tours, project sponsorships and paid internships.”
Earlier this year, the firm announced
it was planning to hire 75 employees and construct a 150,000-square-foot warehouse at the Port of Wilmington, set to open in 2024. “We look forward to building a strong pipeline of talent from UNCW,” Claridge said. “We are in the current process of hiring leaders for our transportation team in Wilmington although we have numerous other areas of the company in Savannah and Greenville, [South Carolina], that would benefit from graduates of the [supply chain management] program.”
Before the pandemic, Claridge said “most people took for granted fully stocked store shelves and figured that everything could be obtained immediately. The pandemic changed our global paradigm on the supply chain and, in general, elevated most people’s education on what it takes to move goods around the world efficiently and effectively.”
One of the firm’s first engagements prior to committing to an investment in Wilmington was to assess talent, he said, adding that it was impressed by UNCW’s Cameron School of Business. “We are confident that graduates of the [supply chain management] program will multiply our efforts in being innovative, creative and transformative,” he said.
Canel said work is underway to form an advisory board and feedback system for the program in which employers can offer curriculum suggestions, career days and build relationships with students. “We’ll constantly be looking at how we can improve what we are doing in the field,” he said.
Nationwide, logisticians (who oversee a company’s supply chains) earned a median salary of $77,000 in 2021, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Industries have an increased need for this kind of skilled labor but are facing difficulty locating those with the right experience, Canel said. “Now more and more jobs are going to be available for people with those skills, especially at the graduate level,” he said.
UNCW will target its current business school students as potential applicants for the new advanced degree program, according to Canel. It’s possible for students to stagger their hours to handle the coursework and a full-time job, he said.
“We have excellent faculty to teach in this program,” he said. “It's not the first time they will be teaching those courses. They have research and they have experience in this field in terms of the topics that are covered … Hopefully, we will also hire more faculty specially dedicated to this program.”