Decade of Trips Down Under Provide Haslam Students Business Insight

August 7, 2016

Diane Mollenkopf, McCormick Associate Professor of Logistics at the Haslam College of Business, has been taking students to visit the same companies in Australia since 2007.

“Ten years ago, many of the Australian business managers didn’t understand why a group of American university students would want to study their firms,” Mollenkopf said.

The relationships Mollenkopf built came to fruition for her students this year, as one company shared its challenges maintaining market share amidst domestic and foreign competitors.

“The managers were very comfortable with having Haslam students visit and shared much more than we’d have ever expected had we not known the company for so many years and followed their progress,” Mollenkopf said. “The dynamics of competition, the importance of strategy and execution—these are great lessons for our students.”

Anya Aleksandrova, a senior majoring in accounting, said seeing the terms and concepts she has studied come to life brings them into strong focus. “We got to see first hand the supply chain and marketing issues specific to Australian businesses which are similar yet at the same time entirely different from the issues American businesses deal with.”

Students also witnessed the reaction to Britain’s exit from the European Union and a national election’s impact on business.

“Recognizing that a decision made half-way around the world will have implications for Australia took many students by surprise,” Mollenkopf said. “While their immediate focus during the program is on marketing and supply chain management, the bigger lessons come from realizing how interconnected the world is, how the global (as well as national) economy impacts business and society, and how political shifts and social norms impact business.”

Wiley Stidham a senior majoring in supply chain management with a collateral in international business, was impressed with the juxtaposition of distribution centers in Australia and the United States.

“Being able to see how Woolworth’s ran their DC compared to the Amazon DC I visited last year was a really cool experience, especially seeing the difference in technological systems and equipment,” Stidham said. “Not only did this trip affirm that I chose the right field, it also gave me a new perspective on the world.”

Charles Dick, a senior who has spent time in Australia before, said he chose the trip because of its ability to provide experience in his majors of supply chain and marketing.

“Australia is a very laid back environment, but I found myself learning more in three weeks than ever before in my life,” Dick said. “This is one of the most hands on programs that I could have chosen.”

Mollenkopf began the trip in 2007 to help give Haslam students exposure to the impact of Asian markets and supply chains on an economy similar to the United States. Marketing professor Dan Flint and supply chain professor John Bell also have contributed to the creation and honing of the program.