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How One Respected Instructor Created New Beginnings

Since 2010, Professor Tracy Freeman has taught various operations and supply chain management courses at the Poole College of Management. Over the course of her career, she has left an indelible impression on both the worlds of academia and industry. As Freeman plans to conclude her time at NC State and begin a well-deserved retirement, she leaves behind a multitude of contributions worth revisiting.

A unique perspective for Poole College

Looking back at Freeman’s first year at NC State, SCRC Executive Director Robert Handfield says, “We knew she would be a right fit for the College because she had the demeanor of someone who is passionate and knows a lot about the subject. And what we look for, especially in our instructors, is that they have a lot of real-world experience.”

Handfield also pointed out that Freeman came to the college from Accenture and brought “extensive knowledge in working in supply chain management.”

In fact, according to Donovan Favre, lecturer of operations and supply chain management at Poole College, Freeman spent most of her career working firsthand in the world of business. “She has experience with AT&T and in supply chain working in manufacturing and operations and logistics, where she consulted with large operations in supply chain,” he says.

Given her history of working in the field, Freeman has been able to provide her students with a unique perspective grounded in application, which helps them see the world beyond an academic setting and challenges them to think about the utilization of skills in the business world. Because for Freeman, education isn’t just about teaching. It’s also about motivating students to be productive. And she’s demonstrated that commitment in a multitude of ways.

Introducing students to industry

Freeman has devoted a significant amount of time to helping students prepare for a career after graduation. She has done so by managing the Supply Chain Club, as well as playing an integral role in the founding and ongoing management of the college’s bi-annual Supply Chain Recruiting Event—the only concentration-specific recruiting event at the college.

For the Supply Chain Club, she regularly hosts career-prep workshops, plans and facilitates industry site visits, and has representatives from corporations visit the classroom to explain what it’s like working in various areas of supply chain management on a day-to-day basis.

Freeman has also been proactive in advising student teams as they work on practicum projects for the SCRC’s corporate partners, using the combination of her industry experience and passion for student success to guide them through the challenges of working on a real-world project for a major corporation.

Jeffrey Stonebraker, associate professor of operations and supply chain management, attests to Freeman’s commitment to her students. “She challenges them to be their best,” he says. “In my undergraduate class, I ask my students why they are operations and supply chain management majors—most attribute that to her.”

How students have been personally impacted

Katie Aten, a recent Poole College alumna, names Freeman as one of her reasons for pursuing a career in supply chain.

“You can really see the impact she has on students,” Aten says. “She starts off the class at the beginning of the year by asking, ‘How many of you are studying supply chain?’ and one to two people will raise their hands, and then at the end of the year, she’ll ask, ‘…Now how many people are studying supply chain?’ and so many more hands shoot up.”

Amanda Meredith, an undergraduate supply chain student currently working on a supply chain practicum project for MetLife, has a similar story. “Professor Freeman is enthusiastic about her field, and hearing her talk about it made me want to declare my concentration in it,” she says.

Meredith also pointed out that Freeman is very proactive in communicating job opportunities to students—including those she hears from alumni who make a point to stay connected with her—which Meredith finds very helpful.

“Some professors are just there to grade papers and get in and out, but I feel like Professor Freeman really wants to connect students to resources and get internships to gain experience.”

But what has Freeman taught her colleagues?

Indeed, Freeman has taught many students during her time at NC State—but she’s had a notable impact on her colleagues as well.

Handfield, who is also the Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at Poole College, says that Freeman has helped him develop materials for his courses, network with former colleagues and offered advice based on her unique experiences.

Meanwhile, Professor Favre says that “Tracy is far more organized than I am,” which is a skill she has used to help him optimize and streamline his classes for the betterment of his students. “She has also gotten me more engaged with the students, whether it’s been helping the students get jobs or helping with the Supply Chain Club.

“There are few people I know who would leave an esteemed corporate position to spend ten years giving back to the profession and students. And she has not only done that for a ten-year period, but she’s excelled and helped thousands of students, both from an academic and career standpoint.”

Handfield says Freeman exhibits candor and professionalism, and that her work cannot be easily replicated. As she embarks on a new journey in life, he says the students are the ones who are going to miss out on “the Tracy Freeman experience” the most.

Nevertheless, Freeman’s values and lessons will undoubtedly persevere through the continued success of the many students and colleagues on which she’s had such a lasting impact over the years.

This post was originally published in Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.