Real-world context adds value to MS-GL curriculum

Every year, an off-campus trip provides students in the W. P. Carey Master of Science in Global Logistics (MS‑GL) program with an exclusive look at global logistics infrastructure. It's an invaluable opportunity for students to explore their field — in the field — while adding real-world context to concepts learned in class. "Our program is global, from the ground up," says Arnie Maltz, an associate professor of supply chain management at the W. P. Carey School. "In my mind, the key learning of any trip like this is context."

A recent trip took 22 MS‑GL students to Southern California, where they visited the Williams‑Sonoma distribution center, the States Logistics Services temperature-controlled warehouse, Crane Co.'s Barksdale production facility, and the APL Logistics location at the Port of Los Angeles. They also toured the overall Port of Los Angeles complex, covering 7,500 acres of land and water along 43 miles of waterfront in San Pedro Bay, just 20 miles south of downtown LA. The massive facility comprises 270 berths, 86 container cranes, 16 marinas, and 24 passenger and cargo terminals — which handle billions of dollars of cargo every year.

Based on cargo volume, the Port of Los Angeles is the busiest container port in the country and the 16th-busiest container port in the world. Combined with neighboring Port of Long Beach, it's the 9th-busiest container port worldwide. And considering the value of shipments that pass through, it's the top freight gateway in the United States.

"Seeing the largest U.S. seaport complex is part of giving students a sense of on-the-ground realities around global commerce and global logistics," Maltz says. "Students now have an experiential sense of what it means to talk about unloading a big ship, or wrapping a piece of furniture for delivery, or taking containers off the port."

Current MS‑GL student You Lin says it was eye-opening to see the differences between Chinese and American ports, after working at a port in China for three years. She also appreciated the direct link between the trip and recent coursework. "Last quarter we learned about the problems at the Port of New York and New Jersey," she explains. "After this trip I can combine what I learned in class with real operations in the business world."

"It was pretty impressive to visit the warehouses of some logistics companies because that’s something I’ve never seen before," Lin adds. "It was very interesting to learn how to operate the warehouse, how to forecast demand, and how to deal with backlog in the real world."

For Lin's MS‑GL classmate Gautam Save, the trip was equally exciting. "The Career Services team and Dr. Maltz did an excellent job of giving all 22 of us a firsthand, real-world experience," he says. Save was happy with the unique learning opportunities provided by each company, as well as the eagerness of execs to meet the needs of individual students.

"At the Williams‑Sonoma distribution center, we were welcomed by its VP of supply chain, Tom Moonan — an alum of the W. P. Carey School," Save explains. "Although our class has a variety of students with experience spanning two to eight years, Tom accommodated all of our questions, and made us aware of the real-world challenges that Williams‑Sonoma or any company might face."

Sandy Somers, assistant director of W. P. Carey Career Services, says that diversity and connections made the Port of Los Angeles an ideal learning destination. The trip took MS‑GL students to companies that represent diverse aspects of the supply chain, and have strong relationships with ASU. "The companies we visited either have alumni working there, are part of the W. P. Carey Logistics Alliance, recruit here, or all of the above," she says. "That combined with actually being able to see the supply chain in action were highlights of the trip."