Internships, industry connections help UNT logistics students get ahead

The logistics program in UNT's College of Business was the first of its kind in Dallas-Fort Worth when it began in the late 1990s. Over time it has grown to become a recruitment resource for regional, national and international businesses.

Logistics is the movement of goods and materials from a beginning to an end point. Logistics is how products, such as gasoline, clothing or groceries, are created, packaged and shipped along a supply chain to businesses and consumers for use every day.

Faculty, students and alumni credit the growth and success of the program to a number of unique foundational items, including a required internship for students, constant communication with industry leaders to make sure students can seamlessly move from classroom to the workplace, and classroom projects giving students experience outside of textbooks and case studies.

Students help the Madagascar "Silkies"

One outside-the-textbook project logistics students took on in Fall 2012 involved the Peace Corps and a group of women in Madagascar, who are successfully building their incomes by weaving silk scarves and selling those scarves around the world.

Working with the Peace Corps, undergraduate logistics students developed spreadsheet-based inventory control systems the silk weavers will use to manage their inventory, and in the end better strengthen their business. The students worked in small groups, and dealt with challenges that strengthened the problem solving skills they'll need when they graduate.

James Warden

Ted Farris

The students had to develop systems that require little upkeep as electricity is only available for the silk weavers for about two hours a day, and develop a system that is completely user-ready for people who aren't familiar with Excel or other traditional supply chain inventory systems. After students turned in their projects, their professor, and the logistics program founder, Ted Farris reviewed them with input from North Texas business leaders. The final system suggestions were handed over to the Peace Corps, who took them to Madagascar.

"We can talk theory and read textbooks, or we can come up with real solutions for real problems, and that's what we are doing," Farris says.

Industry involvement, mandatory internships

Logistics alumnus Jesus Romo says the program's interaction with industry leaders and the real-world experience students gain through classwork and required paid internships is a perfect combination for creating successful students.

"These are the strongest factors that differentiate our logistics program from other programs around the country," Romo says. "UNT's logistics faculty shows a true desire to see their students succeed, and that's why you see so many alumni going to Fortune 500 companies. The faculty work with CEOs, CFOs, COOs regularly, and they know what's required and how students need to improve to be successful when we graduate."

Romo, who graduated in 2012, is an area manager for Amazon. He is charged with streamlining operations and product work flow systems, and finding process improvements. 

"Dr. Farris and the logistics faculty really prepared me for this kind of work," Romo says. "When I came to Amazon I felt confident that I could be successful, and that's because I had an internship with JC Penney and because of what I learned at UNT."

The idea for an internship requirement for UNT's logistics students came from discussions with industry leaders, Farris says.

"When managers are hiring, they look for prepared students, students who are ready to move into a career," Farris says.  "We find that 70 percent of our students get career offers from the companies they intern with. Nearly 50 percent accept those offers, and of those students who don't, they go on to accept better offers somewhere else."

Students in UNT's logistics program also graduate with professional certification by the American Society of Transportation and Logistics, which strengthens their resumes even more. UNT's program was the first to be recognized by the society to allow blanket certification for graduates.

Careers in logistics

Graduates of UNT's logistics program are surveyed annually, and the survey data shows an average starting compensation package of nearly $60,000, Farris says.

"We include signing bonuses, salary, benefits, stock awards, everything in our compensation study," Farris says.

For all graduates compensation ranges from about $25,000 to more than $110,000 per year, and alumni work for a wide range of businesses.

The field of logistics is so large that almost any business organization can be seen as a potential employer of a logistics professional. Service firms rely on logistics functions, and any business involved in the movement of a product is involved in logistics.

"A career path in logistics offers something for everyone," Farris says. "Forty-five percent of our majors go into marketing and sales related positions, 40 percent operations, and 15 percent pursue the quantitative analysis positions. We have structured our program to help students determine their own passion and then fill in the blanks to make them attractive in the marketplace."

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