Responding to Change: Penn State’s New Supply Chain Certificate

Penn State’s new Supply Chain Risk Management Certificate plans to better prepare students for our new, more risky business environment.  


Your procurement office and local businesses aren’t the only ones trying to adapt to the seemingly continuous supply chain disruptions. We see it everywhere. Supply chain disruptions are changing how we do business, and we are all trying our best to keep up! When it comes to training and higher education, thankfully, institutions like the Penn State Smeal College of Business are stepping up to the challenge.  

This coming fall, the Smeal College of Business will add a certificate in Supply Chain Risk Management to their many online programs, which already includes a Master of Supply Chain Management (MSCM). We spoke with Dr. Kevin Linderman, John J. Coyle Professor in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and Department Chair of Supply Chain Management of Supply Chain and Information Systems, and Dr. David Huff, Clinical Professor of Supply Chain Management and Director of Online Graduate Programs in Supply Chain Management, about the new certificate. Not only did Dr. Linderman and Dr. Huff share with us why they and their team are so passionate about equipping students and professionals with knowledge and training on supply chain risk management, but they also discussed the plan for the new certificate and who the new courses can benefit.   


Why have a certificate in Supply Chain Risk Management?  

Dr. Linderman has been thinking about and researching supply chain risk management for years, but the current supply chain disruptions brought the issue into the spotlight further demonstrating the importance and relevance of his studies. He admits that understanding how to manage risks in supply chains is “my own passion” but, “the pandemic amplified the whole risk issues in supply chains and made it real front and center.” Dr. Linderman explains that this context makes it the perfect time to provide educational content at Penn State, especially since so many practitioners are facing these issues daily.  

Risk in supply chains is an important area, and “companies are thinking more and more about it these days, and how they can build expertise of supply chain management,” say Dr. Linderman. With the Certificate, students will explore a variety of risk management strategies and learn how to apply these skills in our changing business and cybersecurity environments. 

Essentially, the program couldn’t be timelier. 


What does the Certificate entail?  

The Certificate consists of 4 online courses for a total of 12 credit hours, which is split between two colleges—the Supply Chain and Information Systems Department of the Smeal College of Business and the College of Information Sciences and Technology. 

The Supply Chain and Information Systems Department will offer courses that rigorously explain supply chains and the management of risks for effective supply chain management. Dr. Huff says that the first course seeks to “provide an enhanced understanding of key principles, concepts, and methodologies,” and “[a] systems viewpoint and process orientation [will be] explored at the firm level and from the perspective of inter-firm collaboration among participants in supply chains.” While the second course, he explains, “covers foundational topics for understanding and managing supply chain risks and strategies for building supply chain resiliency. Case studies and industry executive interviews shedding light on best practices will be utilized.”   

Then, the College of Information Sciences and Technology expands this understanding by offering courses on security and cybersecurity, which are vital as our supply chains become more and more digital. The first course will provide students a graduate level foundation in cybersecurity. The second course builds on this foundation by examining “the fundamental elements of crisis, disaster, risk and emergency management within a security context with an emphasis on cybersecurity. The material is taught from a managerial perspective and uses several case studies,” explains Dr. Huff.  

As a result, the Certificate provides a solid foundation in supply chain risk management and further focuses on security, both physical and cyber.  


Who is it for?  

Currently, the program is positioned within the master’s degree programs at Penn State, but it is a good fit for anyone wanting to better understand how to manage risks in a supply chain—from graduate student to practitioner.  Dr. Linderman explains that the Certificate component was designed to be modular in that it can be added to any student’s academic pursuits. The program, Dr. Linderman says, “allows them [students] to put on multiple hats and perspectives within the supply chain to make better assessments of where there are risks in the supply chain” and consider different strategies to address these risks.  

Overall, the Certificate can help build both student and practitioner’s knowledge and resiliency within the industry. As Dr. Linderman reminds us, our considerations must move “beyond cost and quality and then can consider reliability.”   


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