How A Unique Perspective Helps You See Global Supply Chains

October 20, 2022

Editor's Note: This article was republished from Walton Insights, a blog of the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

Adriana Rossiter Hofer

Adriana Rossiter Hofer brings a unique perspective to her role as director of the Global Engagement Office at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Her research and teaching both focus on global supply chain issues, she has traveled extensively around the world and she speaks three languages.

But Hofer also is a native of Brazil, where she did undergraduate and graduate studies before taking part in a life-changing study abroad program and later moving to the United States to earn her Ph.D. Her international experiences in industry, academia, and life inform her insights about cultures and people, as well as business, which is critical in light of the increasingly international nature of supply chains.

We asked Dr. Hofer for some of her views on how higher education in general and the Walton College in particular are preparing the next generation of supply chain leaders for these global realities.

Question: You are really passionate about the value of having a global perspective. Where does that passion come from?

Hofer: A global perspective has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Since I was a child, I've always been interested in different cultures. I've always learned different languages. I studied English. I studied Spanish. I studied French. But I couldn't travel anywhere, and in my hometown, there were not many foreigners. Then a study abroad experience when I was a young professional gave me an opportunity to spend a month in Seattle visiting companies and spending time with American families. It was amazing. I had spent all of my life watching American movies and studying English, so technically I knew about American culture and how Americans interact and work. But I can clearly say that I could only know and get to know America by spending time here. I really believe it's important for students to have that type of exposure.

“The main way we equip our students is by exposing them to curricular and co-curricular opportunities that enhance their global perspective related to the management of supply chains.”

Adriana Rossiter Hofer, Director, Global Engagement Office

Question: Why is a global education component relevant to supply chain management?

Hofer: Thanks to significant technological and regulatory advancements, supply chains continue to increase their global footprint. This is true not only for large, multinational companies, but for small businesses as well. It is easier than ever to reach consumers worldwide. At the same time, increased uncertainty in trade policies, fierce competition, and exponential growth in product variety make it even more challenging to manage these global supply chains. Not to mention an important lesson that companies learned the hard way during the pandemic: the need to design resilient and flexible global supply chains. Last but not least, the diversity in the workplace continues to require managers to exhibit an ability to work and do business with individuals and businesses from different cultural backgrounds. All these factors substantially enhance the complexity of designing and efficiently managing supply chain activities.


Question: How does the Walton College equip the next generation of supply chain leaders to succeed in such a challenging global business environment?

Hofer: The main way we equip our students is by exposing them to curricular and co-curricular opportunities that enhance their global perspective related to the management of supply chains.


Question: What are some specific ways the students are exposed to global perspectives while on campus?

Hofer: A global perspective is recurrent in the supply chain management curriculum here at the Walton College. In addition to a dedicated international logistics class, students are exposed to international experiences in different areas of supply chain management. Because all supply chain management concepts and principles are embedded in a global context, most of our curriculum content is taught from a global perspective. For instance, our procurement and supply management course covers best practices and the complexities inherent in selecting and managing suppliers located around the globe.

Another example would be our supply chain performance management and analytics course that covers global location decisions and measuring performance from a global perspective. And, naturally, our supply chain strategy course and integrated supply chain management course teach strategy and integration within the context of global supply chains.

Students also have the opportunity to have a minor in international business or they can take international business classes as electives. And, of course, having faculty from multiple nationalities – countries such as Russia, Germany, Brazil, Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands – brings a multicultural perspective into class discussions.


Question: What about opportunities to experience global supply chains first-hand?

Hofer: It's important for students to go and see, not just read and listen. Our students all have opportunities to study abroad and intern abroad, and we offer scholarships through the Walton College and Honors College.

The Walton College offers several short-term faculty-led programs in different regions of world, such as Ireland, Italy at the UA Rome Center, Chile, and Vietnam). These are short and intense focused learning experiences last between two to five weeks. Students learn about specific local business practices, and they compare and contrast those practices with those in the United States. They also gain an understanding as to why these practices are rooted in the country's history and culture.

We also offer semester-long exchanges in which students have the opportunity to spend one or two semesters in partner institutions around the world. This gives our students the opportunity to study at places like WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany, City University in Hong Kong, Aarhus University in Denmark, the University of Essex in England, Kansai Gaidai University in Japan, Universidad de Carlos III de Madrid in Spain, and Jonkoping University in Sweden.

Internships abroad are another option to immerse in an international learning experience. Students engage in projects with companies abroad with defined deliverables. These opportunities give an incredible exposure of what it means to be immersed in a work environment with different communication, leadership, and project management practices.

But the reality is that all these opportunities require a substantial financial investment, and for this reason many students cannot afford to go abroad. So, one of the areas I am very excited about is the brand new Global Intelligence Badge, a co-curricular learning opportunity in which students engage in a set of pre-determined activities that require exposure and reflection of different nuances of managing businesses internationally. We also offer virtual international internships, in which students join projects in international companies and work with the company's team virtually. We have received great feedback from students and we are thrilled to offer opportunities for students to enhance their global education even if they are not able to travel abroad.


Question: What are some important concepts students learn, either in the classroom or experientially, about how international supply chains work?

Hofer: They gain a deep knowledge of global supply chain management business practices, market-specific knowledge, infrastructure, manufacturing, market conditions in the country, culture, economic and political conditions in the country, language skills, legal aspects of business in the country, the historic background of the country, and so forth. And they learn how the techniques and concepts they've learned in their classes are applied in different contexts.

For instance, they learn to compare and contrast global supply chain practices with the realities in the United States. They identify how U.S. businesses can adapt to be successful in other countries. And they identify how U.S. businesses can improve their supply chains thanks to best practices observed in other countries.


Question: Do they also learn specific skills that help them when they hit the workforce?

Hofer: Absolutely. In addition to knowledge areas, being in a study abroad program allows students to develop important skills that should impact their success in the workplace. Some of the skills they learn that employers value most would include cross-cultural communication skills, flexibility, independence, adaptability, ability to deal with ambiguity, problem solving skills, and intercultural awareness.


Question: How do you see global opportunities evolving in the future for supply chain students here in the Walton College?

Hofer: The opportunities for students are going to grow both in terms of curricular and co-curricular experiences. We are continuously improving and adapting our curriculum to prepare students for the supply chains of the future, and we recognize those supply chains will be even more globally complex. We are also developing a number of programs that will make global experiences almost a default expectation of students.

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Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management is the active and intentional management of the flows of goods and services from product sourcing to the consumer. Great supply chain management is not a “one size fits all” approach anymore. People are one of a supply chain’s greatest assets, and companies need individuals who are strategic, agile and relationship-oriented. They need team members who can manage information, engage customers and suppliers, and integrate processes across both functions and firms.

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