CMU logistics competition provides real-world experience

Students gain the skills employers are looking for through hands-on learning

| Author: Logan Pellegrom

The supply chain and logistics industry has been at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic, having been devastated by global disruptions and never-before-seen issues. Experts predict many of these issues will have lasting effects on the industry in which professionals must make adapt to quickly.

This makes it imperative for students to have real-world experience and applicable skills before entering such a demanding field — and it's one reason why the Central Michigan University College of Business Administration decided to introduce its own Logistics Undergraduate Case Competition.

Logistics case competitions are events in which teams of three or four students are given a hypothetical logistics situation and present a solution to a panel of judges composed of industry experts. Teams are scored on their technical solutions and presentation skills by the judges and faculty who determine the winning teams.

Evelyn Smith and Jim Taelman, CMU marketing and logistics management faculty members, led the effort to introduce the competition to CMU.

Smith says case competitions not only provide students with valuable hands-on learning, but sought-after experience employers are looking for, too.

"Our goal is to provide students with opportunities that set them apart from students at other universities," said Smith. "Employers are looking for candidates who are eager to take on challenges and learn outside of the classroom, so we are working to provide as many of those opportunities as possible."

Turning competitions into careers

By hosting its own competition, CMU enables significantly more students to participate. Prior to the pandemic, CMU teams typically competed in three case competitions each year at other institutions, allowing only 12 students the chance to compete each year.

Case competitions are highly regarded events by companies, which use the events to network with students and recruit. Smith said events also attract recruiters who may not otherwise visit the area and meet CMU students, in addition to the many companies with existing strong partnerships with the program.

This year's event was held on Nov. 5 and included representatives and sponsorships from PenskeRyder SystemFifth Wheel Freight and Gordon Food Service, which each provided an industry expert to serve as an event judge.

The event was open to junior and senior students of any major and also included an SAP competition for freshman and sophomore students. Students studying business information systems facilitated the technology for both events.

The 2021 event also included $7,000 in scholarships to students, provided by CMU alumni Jim and Renaye Damman. Each member of the winning teams from the case competition and SAP competition received $1,000 from the Dammans, who also provided an additional $5,000 for students to compete at other national or international competitions and flew in from Texas to personally present the prizes in person.

Smith said while the first goal is to provide opportunities for current students, a secondary goal is to use unique opportunities such as these to recruit undergraduates to the program and new students to the university.

The College of Business Administration plans to hold an annual Logistics Undergraduate Case Competition and continue attending competitions at other universities when they are expected to resume this spring.

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