NASPO Events & Education Pulse Blog

Written by Olivia Hook Frey

NASPO’s academic partnerships are paramount to our higher education initiatives. Without these impressive partners at colleges and universities across the country, none of this programming would be possible. When we started this endeavor in 2016, we set out to build relationships with top-tier Supply Chain Management Programs and faculty, because we believe Supply Chain Management is the degree program that most closely aligns with the work our members do in state procurement. Since then, we have had some majors wins with each partner. Over the past three years, our goals with each academic partner have morphed. We have discovered the different specialties of each partner.


Kelly Lynch, Michigan State University’s Director of Corporate and Student Relations, as well as the rest of the MSU team, have been incredible partners to NASPO. I asked Kelly to outline his perspective as an academic partner in a blog post to share with you, our membership. I love to talk about the work we’ve done with our impressive partners, but I wanted you to hear it straight from him.

Below, Kelly outlines the work we’ve accomplished together in student engagement and recruitment and provides examples of the work we’ve done to serve the NASPO membership. Our partnership with MSU not only focuses on the relationship between NASPO and the emerging talent of current and graduated students as a recruitment pipeline to public procurement, but also to serve the membership with professional development, training and more. Read Kelly’s blog below, and keep an eye out for his recruiting tips toward the end! Thanks for writing to us, Kelly!

Written by Kelly Lynch

Greetings NASPO Members!

Olivia Hook Frey (NASPO Academic Affairs Manager) contacted me to ask about writing a short blog for this website about the partnership between NASPO and Michigan State University (MSU).  I am happy to do so!

MSU has been actively involved with NASPO for several years and we are honored to be designated as an Academic Partner with your organization.  If you don’t know what an Academic Partner is, let me explain by using the Merriam-Webster definitions:

Academic: of, relating to, or associated with an academy or school especially of higher learning
Partner: one associated with another especially in an action

The translation is that NASPO has decided to strategically associate itself with several institutions of higher learning (MSU is one institution – the others are Arizona State University, Penn State University, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, and Chemeketa Community College).  The reason NASPO is doing so is to make current students aware that public procurement is not only a viable option for them to consider in internship and full-time positions but an aspirational employment objective as well.

When students arrive at our campus, many are not sure about their career objectives in terms of college (Business or Engineering or Social Sciences, etc.) and major (in Business, it could be Accounting or Finance or Marketing or Supply Chain Management, etc.).  As students progress in their academic careers and they engage with faculty/staff and other students and student organizations, their focus begins to narrow.  Once they determine that they want to be Supply Chain Management majors, they will seek out internships (at MSU 90%+ will have at least one internship and about 50% will have more than one internship) and full-time positions (at MSU 90%+ will have a full-time position after graduation and they will average approximately three offers from prospective employers).

So, if NASPO and its members want to make public procurement a foundation of its talent acquisition and retention objectives with college graduates, you will need to compete.  Be honest – most students are aware of employers such as Cisco, Intel, General Motors and Target – but have they even considered (or are they even aware) that public procurement offers an excellent choice for their careers?  What does this mean for you?  My thoughts are:

NASPO/Public Procurement needs to engage with students, faculty, and staff and brand themselves as not only a viable alternative to ‘traditional’ (private sector) but as an attractive career consideration. If you think that you will succeed by attending a Career Fair or two, you better think again.  You have to establish a presence on campus in any of several forums – classroom/faculty support, student organization meetings, information sessions, etc.
Craft your message to students to make them aware of your advantages over corporate employers:

Supporting society and the ‘common good’ through smart and strategic spending of the taxpayer’s money
A culture of inclusiveness and diversity
Stability – less subject to the demands of quarterly reporting and Wall Street for earnings

Work with the NASPO Academic Partners and your local Colleges/Universities and Community Colleges to develop a talent acquisition strategy

Let me provide you with two recent examples of NASPO success at MSU:

NASPO wanted to sponsor an event with our student organization – the Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA). After several discussions, it was decided that NASPO would conduct a case competition for SCMA members.  NASPO worked closely with SCMA on developing the case, the ground rules, and prizes. The result was a competition that focused on procurement ethics – most case competitions at MSU require spreadsheets, empirical data analysis, statistical modeling, etc. and NASPO chose a scenario that required students to think about the ethics of behavior – the ‘right’ answer could not be found by mathematical equation – it required a different level of thought.  The result was rave reviews from the SCMA students that attended this event.  NASPO broke new ground!
The State of Idaho had a last-minute internship opening in late June due to unforeseen circumstances. Idaho contacted NASPO and NASPO – in turn – contacted its Academic Partners to see if we could help.  I am happy to report that the position was filled within 24 hours by an MSU student.

NASPO and its Academic Partners (along with your local institutions) are here to help – let us know what you need and engage in the process of ‘building your brand’!  NASPO and the State of Michigan are truly Academic Partners with MSU!