The bright minds learning to solve even the toughest supply chain challenges
Global SCLM classmates (left to right) Queenie Zhang, Katherine Jang, and Naya Sedivy in Norway
In the early days of the pandemic, desperate shoppers searched for toilet paper. Then, in March 2021, a cargo ship ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal. Last summer, highways closed after heavy flooding in B.C. And this year, infant formula shortages swept across North America. The last two years have exposed supply chain vulnerabilities like never before in history. They’ve also revealed the value of experts who can not only navigate, but also anticipate, the increasingly complex challenges of our globalized world.
Every year, up to 45 students from different corners of the globe are accepted into the Global Supply Chain and Logistics Management (Global SCLM) program. They spend the next three semesters learning how to tackle some of society’s most pressing issues, all while touring the world and making lifelong friends.
Promotion of intellectual and social mobility
A specialized joint exchange between the UBC Sauder School of Business, the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) and Chinese University of Hong Kong Shenzhen (CUHK SZ), every cohort of the Global SCLM program consists of 15 undergraduate students from each of the three universities.
Starting in third year, participants typically spend their first semester in Copenhagen, their second in Vancouver, and their third semester in Shenzhen.
“We place them in Denmark where there is such close proximity to the countries of Europe, then we place them in Vancouver, a gateway for air, sea, rail and everything else,” explains UBC Sauder Professor David Gillen. “Then we place them in China, the largest economy in the world.”
The curriculum structure is designed to promote both intellectual and social mobility, explains Gillen. “Students gain an understanding of cultural and social issues, and different value structures, all of which are important factors in logistics.”
A front row seat to history
When UBC Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) student Naya Sedivy first heard about the program, it immediately piqued her interest. Her father is a wholesale distributor, so the subject matter was familiar, and she’s always loved problem solving. She’s also half-Czech, half-Taiwanese in heritage, so the multicultural component of the curriculum was a major draw, she says.
Sedivy and the rest of her cohort entered the program as the world was grappling with supply chain chaos brought on by COVID-19. It took the concept of real-time learning to a whole new level.
“I remember sitting in class and watching all the news coverage about ships not being able to dock in the ports of Los Angeles,” recalls Sedivy.
During her first week in Copenhagen, she and her classmates did a case study that evaluated the Danish Critical Supply Agency (SFOS) and its response to Europe’s distribution of masks and other medical supplies.
“Nobody could have imagined something like the pandemic,” says Sedivy. “It’s all about asking, ‘How do we set up our companies so these events don’t destroy them?’”
For her part, CUHK SZ student Xiyue Chen made the decision to participate in the Global SCLM program during the initial months of lockdown. “I was astounded and intrigued by how supply chain disruption can impact every aspect of life,” she says.
Course content and highlights from Hamburg
Having taken one year of environmental engineering before pivoting to the BCom program, UBC Sauder student Stuart Hambrook is drawn to coursework that has an underlying theme of sustainability.
His favourite Global SCLM class so far has been ‘Supply Chain Risk Management,’ which he took at CBS last fall, because it covered the interplay of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
“It’s all about where you’re getting your sourcing from, where your materials are coming from, how globalized you are, which areas of the world, and which cultures, you’re impacting with your business operations,” says Hambrook.
As companies turn their focus to future-proofing their supply networks, CBS student Rosa Leschly says she feels well-equipped to offer her expertise.
"From hands-on work with inventory management to examination of logistics clusters' effect on company competitiveness, Global SCLM has allowed me to acquire the tools necessary for tackling the supply chain challenges of today and tomorrow.”
There’s also no shortage of experiential learning opportunities. While studying in Denmark, the students took a 5-day field trip to Hamburg, Germany. They toured an Airbus facility, and learned about the city’s pivotal role in the maritime industry.
“My internship experience at freight forwarding company, Flexport, exposed me to the vast global supply chain network and how it really operates,” says Chen. “And the trip to Hamburg brought me to the container terminal, shipyards, and aircraft manufacturer. I was in awe of the immense, yet intricate system. These experiences really ignited my passion for this industry.”
Locals who look out for their friends
Gillen explains that the even split among three schools was intentionally designed so the local students could look out for the other two thirds as they live and learn abroad. It’s a dynamic that everyone embraces wholeheartedly.
“We split ourselves up into groups that contain at least one person from each of the three schools, just so we can get to know people,” says Hambrook. “That’s how we do our projects and our social activities as well.”
This past semester, Hambrook was more than happy to play host. “It was really exciting to see how different people react to different environments – to see how my friends reacted to studying in Vancouver.”
For Leschly, the benefits go far beyond the strong friendships she has formed. “With cross-cultural collaboration at its core, the programme also strengthened my understanding of global business opportunities."
A promising future for the program and its graduates
In 2020, students were unable to travel and they transitioned to virtual learning for the first several months of the pandemic. In 2021, the Global SCLM program was granted special permission to send its students to Denmark despite the cancellation of international exchanges at UBC. This upcoming September, students will be taking two program courses virtually through CUHK SZ while studying at their home universities.
Ann Gilray, International Programs and Awards Advisor at UBC Sauder, says interest in the program is stronger than ever. “We’ve had more students apply this year than any other time in the history of the program.”
Gilray attributes the high volume of applicants to increasing awareness and the power of word of mouth. “The participants have a really strong network amongst themselves, and they spend a lot of time talking with more junior students about why it is so great.”
With its reputation now firmly cemented, and supply chain disruptions expected to extend into a post-pandemic world, students in the Global SCLM program and future cohorts seem poised to graduate into a world of opportunity.