ODU management program preps grads for success
Detlev Peters has walked into convenience stores in the Hampton Roads area a couple of times recently to find the candy aisle shockingly empty.
“Hershey’s, Reese’s, M&M’s, everything, like they would just have a clean shelf of just nothing,” marvels Peters, who graduated with a degree in maritime and supply chain management from Old Dominion University in 2020.
Peters, who lives in Virginia Beach, works as a business development representative for Cornerstone Systems Inc., a Tennessee-based transportation and logistics solutions provider. He figures the disruptions to the global supply chains that consumers have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic will translate into solid job security for him and other graduates of ODU’s program, advertised as the only bachelor’s degree program of its kind east of the Mississippi River.
“Just because of the challenges that we’re seeing in the supply chain, I think there’s a lot of opportunity … a lot of entry-level positions and a lot of room to grow within those opportunities,” he says.
The U.S. Department of Labor supports Peters’ hunch, projecting that demand for logisticians, who analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain, will grow 30% by 2030.
Krista Kubovchik, who will graduate with a double major in maritime and supply chain management and business analytics in December, has already experienced a taste of the great demand for the skills she’s learning at ODU.
Last summer, Kubovchik began interning for Givens Logistics LC, a full-service freight broker and air-freight forwarder based in Chesapeake. The internship grew into a part-time job.
“I work in the transportation department … dealing with dispatching the drivers to pick up the freight,” she explains.
Since starting at Givens, Kubovchik has begun connecting the work she does there with the various concepts she’s studying in her classes. “There’s meaning behind everything I’m learning.”
She is one of about 80 students enrolled in the maritime and supply chain management undergraduate program, according to the program’s director, Ricardo Ungo.
The average ODU student, Ungo says, probably gives little thought to the Port of Virginia, even though they likely drive by it regularly. But the university’s proximity to the port, one of the busiest on the East Coast, is the supply chain management program’s biggest draw.
“You are close to all of those activities, and that provides … a pretty good advantage” for students seeking internships and employment opportunities, Ungo says.
Kubovchik, who’s president of the ODU Propeller Club for students studying maritime and supply chain management, often recruits speakers from the area’s pool of maritime executives. Members are often invited to attend events with the Port of Norfolk’s club chapter, which draws more than 300 members from the maritime, transportation and logistics industries.
Being located near a bustling port and maritime industry means ODU students have a number of choices for internships. “Typically, what I’ve seen is that if they do well in the internships,” Ungo says, “eventually they get hired.”
As part of their classwork, ODU supply chain students typically take on a logistics challenge faced by a local company and figure out how to solve it.
“Let’s say they have a problem in procurement, then we pick a topic there,” Ungo says. “The students work on that for the final project. Then that will benefit them because they have the opportunity to interact with someone in the industry. It’s not just case studies in the textbook.”
The program is offered by the ODU Strome College of Business’ Maritime, Ports & Logistics Institute, described by the university as “a hub where industry practitioners, students, faculty and community can connect and collaborate to develop solutions to challenges in our maritime, industrial and logistics ecosystem.”
The institute’s board of directors is led by Wayne Coleman, chairman and owner of Norfolk-based CV International Inc., which offers logistics and transportation services to the shipping community. Other board members include executives from Dollar Tree Inc., Virginia International Terminals LLC and Norfolk Southern Corp.
“The common denominator is they all have a very strong interest in supporting and growing this program,” says Nancy Grden, associate vice president of ODU’s Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and executive director of the Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth & Innovation (HRMC), which works to expand the role of maritime innovation in regional economic development.
Board members have been especially helpful in keeping professors in the maritime and supply chain program up to date on industry developments such as the latest technology, Ungo adds. For example, in 2018, the Port of Virginia and ODU signed an agreement to allow students and faculty to use the port’s Navis software.
For his students, Ungo says, having hands-on opportunities such as that “is a plus when they go to the [job] market.”