Spartans are characterized by our strength, determination, resiliency and grit. When faced with a challenge, we always find a way to persevere.

This summer, as countless changes were happening — like internship offers being rescinded — the Broad College’s Department of Supply Chain Management collaborated with two industry partners to deliver a solution for more than 160 students.

Professional headshot of Carlos Valderrama, LLamasoft senior vice president of customer success

Carlos Valderrama, LLamasoft senior vice president of customer success

With extraordinary support from data analytics and software companies LLamasoft and Alteryx, the department was able to offer online learning and certification programs to both undergraduate and graduate supply chain management students at no cost. The programs offered a prime opportunity for students to sharpen skillsets in data sciences, analytics, supply chain design and network optimization.

“As Dean Sanjay Gupta tasked all Broad departments with finding alternative summer projects for students amid COVID-19, the supply chain management department certainly rose to the challenge,” said Vedat Verter, McConnell Endowed Chair in Business Administration and department chairperson. “Thanks to the leadership of Amy Broglin-Peterson and Kelly Lynch, two of our faculty with significant industry experience, this partnership was a huge success and we would like to repeat it next summer.”

Data skills are in demand

At a time when many companies were dealing with layoffs, pay reductions and massive disruptions, LLamasoft and Alteryx stepped up to work alongside the Department of Supply Chain Management in an exceptional way.

Professional headshot of Dan Kogan, LLamasoft senior program manager, learning experience

Dan Kogan, LLamasoft senior program manager, learning experience

Michigan-based LLamasoft has longtime connections between its employees and MSU faculty, and the company recently formalized this partnership by joining the Supply Chain Management Council earlier this year. Although plans to introduce LLamasoft software into the classroom last spring were disrupted by COVID-19, the summer partnership became the perfect time to pivot. This cutting-edge software gives students a competitive advantage, improving their employability and enhancing their knowledge of real-world concepts like data transformation, modeling and visualization.

“There is a gap within our industry for supply chain analytic talent — those who can bridge the operational and digital worlds to elevate lives and organizations through the science of smarter decision making,” said Carlos Valderrama, LLamasoft senior vice president of customer success. “Partnering with MSU facilitates a pipeline between talent supply and talent demand.”

Students who complete the LLamasoft programs earn certifications that validate proficiency, conferring a digital badge they can feature on LinkedIn.

“The digital badges that accompany LLamasoft certifications are a great way for students to demonstrate and promote their supply chain competency, especially when competing for internships or joining the workforce,” said Dan Kogan, LLamasoft senior program manager, learning experience.

Alteryx also has ties to MSU, with many alumni on the team in its Ann Arbor office. While this partnership was the company’s first time working directly with the department, Alteryx is looking forward to seeing how connections can be strengthened going forward.

Professional headshot of Alan Jacobson, Alteryx chief data and analytics officer

Alan Jacobson, Alteryx chief data and analytics officer

“We are excited to help students and faculty learn to use modern-day analytic techniques and expand their understanding of how leading companies execute analytics at scale,” said Alan Jacobson, Alteryx chief data and analytics officer.

The Alteryx for Good program was designed to empower students to succeed in the data economy by honing skills from the classroom and getting hands-on with data preparation, modeling and science, which are critical for the industry today.

“Our Alteryx for Good program offers our platform and training for all educators and students to go on this learning journey free of charge,” Jacobson said. “We believe it is part of our responsibility to give back and to help everyone become more digitally capable. We are hopeful that other programs at MSU join in and gain these valuable skills.”

Impact beyond the numbers

Not only was this partnership a timely opportunity for students to increase their career outlook, it also served as a chance for students to augment lessons learned in the classroom and stay productive.

“The Broad College and the SCM department have an emphatic focus on analytics,” said Yemisi Bolumole, associate professor of supply chain management. “The learning opportunities and credentials offered from LLamasoft and Alteryx directly align with the pedagogy and technologies that are being implemented in the Broad curriculum. This partnership allows students to elevate their self-guided learning, which extends what they’re doing in the classroom.

Professional headshot of Joe Fontana, supply chain management senior

Joe Fontana, supply chain management senior

“With the lines blurring between the job of the data scientists and the line of business manager, partnerships like these — for technology-enhanced learning innovations — offer our students a proactive opportunity to prepare them for tomorrow’s economy,” she said.

In addition, the programs offered students a way to keep busy, requiring 20–40 hours of work, when everything else was drastically changing and feeling abnormal.

“This experience was really important to me because I was completely out of work this summer, after a planned internship was canceled last-minute due to coronavirus complications,” said Joe Fontana, supply chain management senior. “When MSU reached out with this opportunity, it was my saving grace to keep me productive, all while gaining relevant industry knowledge at no cost.”

Partnerships like these truly keep the Spartans Will spirit alive and demonstrate how we can reach higher and conquer challenges together.