On Oct. 23, four undergraduates Broad Spartans had the opportunity to attend the second annual WISE Future Leaders Symposium.

Meghana Cheeti, supply chain management junior

WISE, which stands for Women Impacting Supply Chain Excellence, is a symposium highly sought after by female supply chain students from prestigious programs across the United States. Students who are selected to attend are invited to build a nationwide network of current and future female supply chain leaders.

“I think it is important for young women to have female mentors and role models that they can connect with and learn from,” said Simone Peinkofer, assistant professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management, who has served as the Broad faculty advisor for the event for the past two years. “Such events provide young women with an outstanding opportunity to create a network of strong, successful women in leading supply chain management roles, which will help them to further grow their leadership skills.”

Through a competitive selection process, Peinkofer and Judy Whipple, Bowersox-Thull Endowed Professor of supply chain management, selected juniors Meghana Cheeti and Courtney Palkowski and seniors Julia Hojnaski and Caroline Szabo to attend.

Julia Hojnaski, supply chain management senior

Hosted by the WISE student organization at the University of Arkansas, the event was held virtually this year due to the pandemic. Despite the circumstances, MSU students were still able to gain valuable knowledge from the industry’s leading women.

“It was so encouraging as a young woman entering the field to hear from so many successful women leaders about how they set and achieved their goals,” Cheeti said. “Female leaders in the industry discussed defining a vision for our careers using our personal values and strengths.”

Afternoon leadership sessions at the symposium were open to only four selected female students from 27 universities across the United States and were sponsored by Shelley Simpson of J.B. Hunt, chief commercial officer and president of highway services of the Arkansas-based major shipping company. Female executives and leaders from the company were featured in a panel discussion and virtual breakout rooms.

Palkowski shared her admiration for female leaders in supply chain, including Simpson, and explained that one of the key takeaways she learned from Simpson was to not be afraid of responsibility and take initiative.

Courtney Palkowski, supply chain management junior

“If any part of the organization is looking for help, raise your hand and get involved immediately and run for a position,” Palkowski noted as a word of advice from Simpson. “The more you become involved and give 110% every time, you will be noticed.”

Szabo added, “They shared so much insight into the strategies they have used to navigate their careers and how they have overcome challenges in their lives,” she said. “I found these conversations to be extremely valuable as someone who is still in college because it sparked me to think about my strengths, what I can improve upon and how I can use some of their past experiences to prepare for my future career.”

These four students not only expressed the value of hearing from the leaders but also from interacting with peers from the other universities, who bring both unique and shared experiences. Szabo said they learned the importance of “challenging yourself and being open to being in uncomfortable situations.”

Caroline Szabo, supply chain management senior

Attending the event inspired these young women to support other women within supply chain in their own impactful way once they enter the industry after graduating.

Palkowski said she now feels motivated to make her own meaningful contribution to MSU’s supply chain program by empowering her fellow female supply chain Broad Spartans. Palkowski reflected on the most memorable quote for her: “Empowered women empower women.”

As Spartans, they each added how honored they were to represent the women of MSU’s supply chain management program; they shared their gratitude towards MSU and how it has influenced them as student.

“MSU has given me a strong set of tangible supply chain and business skills that I know have prepared me well,” Szabo said. “I also think one of the great things about the MSU supply chain program is that the rigor of the program gives you confidence that you are prepared to succeed in your career.”