Where does the metal in your phone come from? When will the plastic for that coffee maker arrive at the factory? Who can supply the best ink, screw bolts, or rubber at the best price in the fastest timeframe? These are questions that supply chain management teams focus on in their day-to-day work. And in a few years, Justin — a supply chain management major at Auburn University — will be facing those same challenges.
Originally from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Justin moved to the US in 2018 for his senior year of high school to earn his diploma, acclimate to the US classroom, and apply to colleges.
“I have fantasized about speaking and learning English like a native speaker since I was a kid,” says Justin. “In 2018, my parents agreed to let me study abroad in Philadelphia. I was really lucky to stay with the same host family for two years. Because of COVID, they let me stay with them until I could move into the dorm in Auburn this year. The high school faculty and my classmates were extremely nice and caring, and that’s the most crucial part.”
While researching colleges in the USA, Justin began working with Shorelight education counselor Gene Batan. The one-on-one attention helped him discover universities with strong business schools and supply chain management programs. In working with Batan, Justin narrowed down his list of schools — and Auburn University began bubbling up to the top of the list.
Why Choose Auburn University?
“Gene told me that [Apple CEO] Tim Cook is an alum, and that Auburn’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program is ranked number three in the US,” he says. Justin had never heard of Auburn and was undecided on applying. “Then I heard a lot about the school traditions and the hospitality they have in Auburn from my host family. I started doing research on the school. After considering the ranking on the school, the business school, and the ranking [of the] SCM program, I decided to give it a shot.”
Beyond the Rankings — Auburn’s Welcoming Family Spirit
Auburn University is located on a beautiful campus in the college town of Auburn, Alabama. Alabama — and the American South, in general — is known for its “Southern hospitality”; the students, staff, and lifelong residents are very friendly and invite you in warmly and immediately. Walking down the street, you will get lots of hellos from strangers passing by, meet people in the parks and cafes, and maybe even get an invite for “sweet tea” on a neighbor’s porch. That’s Southern hospitality.
“Auburn is so welcoming,” Justin concurs. “I was really lucky to have two roommates who moved in before I did. They told me about everything I need to know when I got here. The International Buddy Program (IBP) also helped me to make friends with domestic students. I met my best friend Jack through IBP, and most of the people I’ve met have been through him. I could already tell he has a huge connection of friends the first five minutes I sat down with him. He legit said, ‘hi’ to everyone who walked pass us.”
Like many international students, Justin came to realize that the “best” school for him may not be the number-one or two university in the US. There are plenty of great schools in the Top 100 or 200 — prestige schools not in the Ivy League — that offer more than rankings and reputation. Choosing a university is about the quality of the faculty, academic specialization programs, mentors, research departments, city location, arts and culture, food, dorms, amenities, international student support services, and so much more. It’s also about feeling at home right away and making good friends (like Jack) that last a lifetime.
And then there are university sports programs like Auburn’s, which are a big part of weekend socializing and fostering school spirit.
“Auburn loves their football games more than anything else, and is a very family-oriented school,” he continues. “You will hear stories about how your friend’s parents met at Auburn and all of their children ended up going to Auburn. It’s very interesting to hear about stories like that.”
Campus Jobs and Volunteering Opportunities at Auburn
Justin started his first year in the USA like many did last year — amid the COVID outbreak, beginning his college experience online. He admits it was not as he envisioned or wanted, but he certainly made the most of it — taking foundational courses, working a campus job remotely, and then, when travel restrictions were lifted in the US, volunteering in Florida.
For his first campus job, Justin worked as a Global Ambassador, chatting with prospective international students via email, WhatsApp, and WeChat about why they should choose Auburn.
“The students I talk to are mostly from Latin America and Asia, but there are also a few from Europe and Middle East. There are also students who have said they will apply to Auburn after I shared my own experiences with them,” he says. “I’ve actually learned a lot and realized how fortunate I am. There are students struggling financially [who] gave up the opportunity or chose to take a gap year in their country due to COVID or their financial situation.”
So, what insider advice does Justin share with his fellow international students who are considering Auburn University?
“I tell them about the hospitality around the town. I tell them about the craziness Auburn has for football. I tell them how Auburn is a family-oriented school,” he says. “I also tell them about the amazing recreation center.”
This year, Justin is excited about a new campus job he will have working side-by-side with his friend Jack in the International Buddy Program.
Over spring break this year, Justin volunteered to rebuild houses damaged by a hurricane. Working with the nonprofit Amplify, Justin and other student volunteers stayed in rented beach houses, learned carpentry and communication skills, and helped families in Port St. Joe and Apalachicola, Florida, get back into their homes.
“Volunteering is important for me because it’s an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone,” admits Justin. “Being able to help those who are in need just makes me happy.”
Justin’s former counselor Gene Batan beams proudly when he thinks back on Justin’s first year: “Justin is a great example of how students can take advantage of all the resources that Auburn Global has to offer, while at the same time giving back to [the] global community, all before starting his second year!”
A Closer Look at Justin’s Major: What Is Supply Chain Management?
Everything that goes into building a home like Justin did as a volunteer — from the lumber and flooring to hammers, back hoes, and electrical wiring — takes a skilled supply chain management and operational logistics team. SCM, as it’s abbreviated, is an essential business process that manages the pipeline of raw materials and other products for manufacturing. SCM teams manage the end-to-end process between supply vendors (for instance, the steel that goes into a steel beam) and companies that build products and other materials.
Think about every component that goes into your dorm room, gaming station, winter coat, car, or refrigerator. All the raw materials for those items are managed by a supply chain process: an involved system that organizes and develops process flows; forecasts and budgets money, materials, and shipping; and reviews data to ensure smooth operations.
Supply chain teams are integral to a manufacturing business because nearly every department relies on their data. Accounting, product design, engineering, manufacturing, warehouse staff, marketing, public relations, human resources, product launch teams, and shipping all depend on the supply chain group in their company to make sure materials are sourced, bought, shipped, and delivered on time and on budget.
Learn more about earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration/Supply Chain Management at Auburn >
Is Supply Chain Management Right for You?
Typically, a supply chain management degree is offered through a university’s business school, and is ideal for interested students with strengths in data, analytics, forecasting, budgeting, project management, multitasking, communication, and agility.
Supply chain management is growing in popularity as a major, thanks to ecommerce and increasing globalization. As you have probably seen in the news, “supply chain issues” have come to the forefront during COVID. So, it’s no surprise that this field is expected to grow at a rate of 4% a year. In-demand graduates can earn an entry level salary above $75,000 in the US, and if offered as a STEM-related business degree, SCM can also mean potential added benefit of work visas after graduation.
When it comes to his strengths, Justin says he is “more numbers than words,” and had been considering SCM as a major since he was in high school, when he talked with a cousin about career tracks and what to study in college.
“I have always known I wanted to be in a business school, but I didn’t want to major in something too general — like business administration,” says Justin. “I also don’t see myself in the accounting field. My cousin said he had a friend who was studying logistics in grad school. That’s when I started digging into SCM.”
Justin loves data and numbers, and knowing he’s part of team that is important to the success of the business.
“If you need me to be honest here, I chose SCM because [of] numbers and money!” says Justin. “The fact that SCM is a core business interests me and makes me feel responsible for what I do.”
Taking Inventory and Forecasting His Future
Like most college sophomores, Justin is keeping his options open as he looks to the future. He is focusing on his coursework, campus job, and an active social life. As for future career goals and internship plans, Justin is not limiting the type of companies he’ll apply to, but, ideally, says he would like to work for Amazon, Wal-Mart, or a similar ecommerce company with a global reach.
“I have a friend who is going to be a consultant, so, going into a company to solve the company’s problems. I also heard I could be a purchasing agent, or I can work for a warehouse,” he continues. “I still don’t know for sure which path [to take] after I graduate. I’m going to figure it out as I go!”
As is common in the USA, Justin’s first-year courses were foundational liberal arts courses and general education: geology, world history, calculus, and microeconomics. Now in his sophomore year, he’ll take a mix of general education and introductory business courses: English, geology II, business analytics, business law, and macroeconomics.
“I’ll be able to take SCM and accounting next semester, and I’m really excited about that!” he says. “I heard there are a lot of options for me. That is one of the reasons I am excited about the classes and what I will learn from the school in the future.”
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