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Jenkins MBA Students Part of BP’s Gulf Coast Response Team

The Jenkins MBA students filled a number of roles, working under the general title of procurement supply chain management (PSCM) business analyst. Primarily, they conducted research about the supply market and assisted a team of more than 100 procurement professionals in delivering needed supplies to support beach cleaning operations involving more than 40,000 personnel in five states.

“Our tasks varied based upon which team we were assigned to,” said Adam Burkhart, one of the Jenkins MBA students working in the Gulf Coast.

“The hours were long – 14 hours per day, seven days a week – but rewarding,” he said. “The PSCM group here is comprised of some of the best and brightest supply chain professionals in the world, and I would have been hard-pressed to find a better place for a real-world SCM experience,” he said.

Three Students Continue Gulf Coast Assignments

Burkhart speaks as if he’s still at the Gulf Coast – which he is. He is one of three Jenkins MBA students who chose to delay their return to their academic studies to work another semester with the BP supply chain team.

Dave Olmsted, another Jenkins MBA student who stayed on for the fall semester, said he accepted the initial summer position because “it offered unique opportunities both for this summer and for helping to shape my career in the future. To participate in an event that is so high-profile and to have a chance to make an impact in a situation that will no doubt be a case study for future MBA students was something I could not pass up.”

“Many elements of the job were tactical and changed each day,” Burkhart said, “but most days seemed to involve equal shares of calls and meetings and ‘down-time’ for planning and writing. People had varying levels of stress, and varying ways of coping with that stress, but I felt that everyone was committed to the response and always willing to put in as much effort as was needed.”

Burkhart this fall is working with BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, a new business unit within the company. “This is an extremely unique and valuable experience that is giving me great insight into how to organize and manage a business,” he said.

Olmsted now is working on the contract alignment program team this fall, along with Alek Samuelsen, a third Jenkins MBA student working with BP in the Gulf Coast. Olmsted said he decided to stay on because, “I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m eager to learn and when the opportunity to stay presented itself, I immediately knew that’s what I was going to do,” he said.

This summer, Olmsted’s assignment focused on the deployment and demobilization of personnel to site locations along the Gulf. “What I believe was most useful from my coursework (for the summer assignment) was having a system for clearly defining objectives, scope of work, action steps and deliverables. Having a framework for a project allowed my team to have a clearly defined path and goal,” he said.

Putting Classroom Lessons to Work

Reflecting on their summer jobs, the MBA students said the experience allowed them to apply classroom instruction in everything from networking to process maps, SWOT analysis and Porter’s Five Forces analysis tools.

Knowing the tools “served me well in preparing proposals and presentations,” Burkhart said. He worked in the facilities management program, which dealt with housing, offices and other facilities for the response effort.

One of the things he learned, he said, is that – despite the skills and knowledge of the organization as a whole – simple issues like bottlenecks can cause major upsets in decision making processes when working in the midst of a crisis situation.

Organizational Structure is Critical

“I gained a vast amount of knowledge around real applications of SCM concepts,” Burkhart said. “One of the most critical things I learned, though, was the critical nature of organizational structure. An alignment between philosophy, policies, and people enables all of the PSCM activities that have to take place in a functioning organization. I think working in a crisis situation highlighted this, because the scale of the response effort was unknown when much of the organization was put in place.”

Samuelsen said he also saw a payoff from the coursework he has completed thus far. “From Innovation of Technology to Organizational Behavior to all of the career development classes attended, there is proof that the principles taught in class are truly put to work in the corporate world,” he said.

He said he “saw how relevant networking and excellent communication can benefit in the business world. Networking and effective communication is a way of life here. If you are agile and able to connect on different levels with people, information flows, and the tasks at hand become much easier to execute and complete. I have been blown away by how useful one can be by simply acquiring useful information and getting it into the correct hands. “

Experience Shows Opportunities in Supply Chain Management Careers

Samuelsen, who had not considered the supply chain management concentration prior to his time with BP, now says, “This experience has changed that view and will prove quite useful in the pursuit of a supply chain career.

“This was my first real experience working with a PSCM group,” Olmsted said. “Aside from the actual knowledge and skills that I’ll take away from this assignment, the networking and opportunities available to me will no doubt shape my career.”

Olmsted summed up his lessons learned in three key points:

  • It is not enough just to have knowledge. For that knowledge to be impactful in a situation, it must be properly dispersed, managed and understood by those that may benefit from it.
  • There are few personal qualities more important than working well with others, a willingness to take on challenges, and a positive attitude.
  • The little things that companies do to treat employees well goes a long way towards morale and creating individual ownership in company activities.

Also working with BP in the Gulf Coast this summer were Jenkins MBA students Ryan Jones, Terry Munroe, Nate Rich, Robert Evans and Mark Reardon. The Jenkins MBA students’ work opportunity came through the long-standing relationship that BP has had with the college’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC), and SCRC director Dr. Robert Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain Management. The SCRC is co-directed with Clyde Crider, who joined the SCRC following his career with Caterpillar.


Left to right: Adam Burkhart, Dave Olmsted and Alek Samuelsen

Dig Deeper

  • Supply Chain Resource Cooperative at the NC State College of Management
  • NC State Jenkins MBA Program