Business students put grad specialization to work and take top honors

A team from ASU's Master of Science in global logistics program make top 2 in Rutgers supply chain challenge

May 15, 2020

There were a few firsts in this year's Rutgers TEN Plus Supply Chain Innovation Challenge. First off, a team of four new graduates from Arizona State University's Master of Science in global logistics program is one of the top two winners who will share a $5,000 cash prize.

Another first is that the members of the team all hail from Ghana through the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program, including Samuel Gyan, Lois AndohSamuel Togodui and Asie Wadee. Samuel Gyan, Lois Andoh, Samuel Togodui, and Asie Wadee From left are graduating students from ASU's Master of Science in Global Logistics program Samuel Atta Gyan, Asie Wadee, Samuel Togodui and Lois Andoh. Download Full Image

The competition is an extension of the Rutgers TEN Plus Supply Chain Case Challenge, which was held annually from 2015 through 2018 and hosted by the Rutgers Business School supply chain management department.

This new competition featured two parallel tracks, one for undergraduate teams and one for graduate teams, including a virtual preliminary round — and it should have had a final round onsite in Newark, New Jersey, in April.

The last new twist was the final onsite round was canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, the Rutgers leadership team decided to award participants based on their performance in the virtual first round of presentations.

In the virtual first round, teams presented ideas for electronic device manufacturer BetaWare, who sponsored the event, to innovate and add value to their customers.

“Being at the top in this case competition is another confirmation of the successes that I can attain in the supply chain field," Andoh said. "This is just a tip of the iceberg and I can’t wait to embrace what is out there.”

The W. P. Carey School of Business foursome believes their specialized master's program equipped them with tools and skills to address the issues in the case. Through courses such as Decision Modeling and Operations Management, they were able to develop strategies to target the core requirement for the case. For instance, they used the cash conversion cycle, a financial metric learned in their Supply Chain Cost Decision Issues course, to measure the firm’s financial stability. Plus, access to library resources such as Mergent Online enabled them to analyze the viability of their proposal against other companies.

“This case competition was broad and wide open to innovative solutions,” said Patricia Swafford, clinical associate professor of supply chain management, who is also the faculty director and worked with the students. “Winning is a testament to both the forward-thinking ability of the team and ASU’s commitment to promoting ‘out of the box’ thinking and innovation.”

All team virtual preliminary round presentations were blind judged by a panel of top-level executives from Estée Lauder, Panasonic, UPS and Pfizer. 

“Congratulations to the team for presenting an innovative solution and sharing in the winning of this competition,” Swafford said. “And thanks to Rutgers for sponsoring this event and rewarding the best teams despite the final round cancellation due to COVID-19.” 

Sweet endings to new beginnings

Recently, the Master of Science in global logistics program was designated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security as a STEM-eligible degree program. The designation gives greater opportunities for international students to find employment in the U.S. for up to 36 months beyond graduation, as compared to 12 months for non-STEM degrees.

Togodui plans to take advantage of the benefit. "In the process of pursuing this, I not only look forward to developing new skills and gaining experiential knowledge in supply chain but see it as a prolonged opportunity in giving back to the U.S. community a perspective I bring from a different culture."

Wadee seconds Togodui's plan. “The approval of the STEM employment benefit provides me with a rare opportunity to continue learning and improving upon my skills and abilities to make a lasting impact in the world at large, and it is worth taking advantage of."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for STEM jobs will grow by 13% by 2027, with higher wages than non-STEM jobs: The national average for STEM salaries is $87,570, while non-STEM jobs earn roughly half as much, with an annual average of $45,700.

“I look forward to applying the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired to solving challenges that we face in our daily lives,” said Gyan, who accepted a job offer to work with a logistics company in Ghana. “I’m excited to work with them. I know the opportunity will provide a conducive environment for me to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired over the years.”

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


Vegetation shifts can outweigh climate change in desert rangelands

May 15, 2020

Grasslands across the globe, which support the majority of the world’s grazing animals, have been transitioning to shrub lands in a process that scientists call “woody plant encroachment.”

Managed grazing of drylands is the most extensive form of land use on the planet, which has led to widespread efforts to reverse this trend and restore grass cover. The launch catapult for the fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used to observe the research site. Credit: Schreiner-McGraw/UCR Download Full Image

Until now, researchers have thought that because woody plants like trees and shrubs have deeper roots than grass, woody plant encroachment resulted in less water entering streams and groundwater aquifers. This was because scientists typically studied the effect the grassland shift toward shrubs has on water resources on flat ground.

A new study from a team of researchers from ASU, the University of California, Riverside and the U.S. Department of Agriculture modeled shrub encroachment on a sloping landscape and reached a startling conclusion: Shrub encroachment on slopes can increase the amount of water that goes into groundwater storage. The effect of shrubs is so powerful that it even counterbalances the lower annual rainfall amounts expected as climate change continues.

“We were surprised to find that a transition from grassland to shrub land can increase sustainability of groundwater aquifers,” said lead author Adam Schreiner-McGraw, who recently earned his doctoral degree at ASU in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and is now a postdoctoral hydrology researcher at the University of California, Riverside. “The best way to increase focused recharge in this system is to increase the amount of runoff from hillslopes that gets concentrated in the streambeds.”

The intrusion of shrubs into grasslands is often considered a problem because it reduces the amount of forage available for livestock grazing and can lead to more bare ground patches and subsequent increase in soil erosion. This process of creating more bare ground is called “xerification.” Climate change contributes to xerification, but fire suppression and overgrazing play the biggest roles.

“We approached this research with a simple premise — that topography plays a role in redistributing available water and this should affect the outcomes of xerification,” said co-author and hydrologist Enrique R. Vivoni, of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

It makes sense that shrubs, which have deep root systems along with thick stems and many leaves, capture more water than grass does as it percolates down through the soil, leaving less available water to replenish the underground aquifers. Research on “diffuse recharge,” where water replenishes groundwater supplies over a large area, seems to bear this out for flat landscapes. Xerification of grasslands has thus been viewed as bad not only for livestock but for the water cycle as well.

But many landscapes are not flat.

The research team looked at focused recharge, which occurs when hillslopes funnel water into concentrated areas, such as streambeds. Streambeds often have sandy bottoms, which allow water to quickly infiltrate and prevent the deep-rooted shrubs from sucking it up. They then used data from a highly-monitored desert mountain slope in New Mexico to simulate the effects of woody plant encroachment and climate change on water resources.

They discovered that not only did the shrubs increase focused groundwater recharge but that they did so even under conditions where climate change reduced the amount of rainfall.

They also modeled a more extensive form of shrub encroachment called “thicketization,” in which plants grow in dense stands with no bare patches, and found that, as in prior flat landscape research, the shrubs reduced the amount of groundwater recharge on slopes, as well.

On hillslopes, bare soil in between patches of shrubs are necessary to drive water into streambeds. Increased runoff increases focused groundwater recharge.

Climate change will most likely increase groundwater recharge by making rainstorms larger, but less frequent. Larger storms increase the amount of runoff that reaches sandy-bottom channels and increases groundwater recharge. Findings from this study suggest that vegetation will also play an important part in groundwater recharge in the future.

“It is striking that ecosystem composition is what controls projected future changes to groundwater recharge,” Schreiner-McGraw said. “This does not mean that climate change is not important, but that vegetation change is potentially more important and something that scientists and land managers should focus more effort on understanding.”

Though the study took place in New Mexico, the research team indicates that it can be applied to similar environments. For example, large parts of California are also desert savannahs and Southern California and the Central Valley have landforms similar to those found in the New Mexico study site. These areas could experience similar hydrological processes, though atmospheric rivers create storms that are very different than monsoon storms, so more research is required.

This work is also an example of advancing science for the public good through interdisciplinary research.

“Without a close collaboration across different disciplines, in this case hydrology and ecology, it would be difficult to use scientific methods to support land management decisions,” Vivoni said. “Approaches like this often require teams from multiple institutions.”

The paper, “Woody Plant Encroachment has a Larger Impact than Climate Change on Dryland Water Budgets,” is published in Scientific Reports. Additional co-authors include Osvaldo Sala of ASU’s School of Life Sciences, the Global Drylands Center and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of SustainabilityHeather Throop of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Life Sciences, and Debra Peters with the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

This article was written by Holly Ober of the University of California, Riverside with contributions from Karin Valentine.