DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. — It happened in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, just after Operation Warp Speed kicked off. A chance meeting of two supply chain management and logistics professionals during a panel on the vaccine’s distribution. The meeting allowed the two to collaborate on an effort to help future business leaders while they were learning their trade.
One of the professionals was Dr. Jennifer Blackhurst, Associate Dean of Graduate Management Programs for Tippie College of Business, University of Iowa, the other Marion Whicker, Executive Director for U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armament’s Command’s Integrated Logistics Support Center.
Whicker had just been chosen as OWS’s Deputy Chief of Supply, Production and Distribution and it was the magnitude of this logistical operation that impressed Blackhust about Whicker’s leadership qualities.
“A project like [OWS] requires more than just one functional area of expertise, like supply chain,” said Blackhurst. “The integrated approach across [the Executive MBA program] is an exciting change for us.”
Blackhurst knew that Whicker’s experience would have great impact on the students in her Executive Master of Business Administration degree program, so Blackhurst invited Whicker to take part in a produced video from a series of edited interviews to give firsthand accounts on how market analysis, marketing, business analytics, leadership, and supply chain management come together to tackle large scale real-world situations.
“Ms. Whicker gave an overview of vaccine distribution and dove deeper into the importance of leadership skills, analytics, models and systems, marketing needs, and supply chain expertise,” said Blackhurst. “In my mind, leadership brings all these things together, a good leader is someone who is really strong at integrating.”
Whicker also found leadership to be one of the key factors with integrating these logistics and business skill sets and there was one thing she wanted the students to remember if they were ever put in charge.
“As a leader, one of the biggest challenges is keeping calm,” said Whicker. “Things are going to come up that’s unexpected, you can’t freak out, because someone has to fix it, and you have no choice but to fix it.”
She also reminded them that it was important to rely on teamwork to help reach goals.
“The power of the collective mind is important, because you don’t know what someone’s experiences are,” said Whicker.
Blackhurst was extremely pleased with the interviews with Whicker and felt they will have a huge impact on her Executive MBA program.
“[The interviews] will benefit our students to hear about how [Marion’s] skills across multiple functions and areas of expertise are needed on a large scale, real world and complex projects.”
When the interviews wrapped up, Blackhurst and Whicker discussed how impressed they were with how well everything went and agreed to continue the partnership on future projects to help the students at the university.