Logistics Education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The demand for professionals who can manage logistics1 functions and processes has grown rapidly. At the same time, academic programs capable of producing such individuals have been slow to meet this need. As a result, there is a relative scarcity in the supply of college graduates with skills that allow them to manage logistics activities and to create and maintain partnerships with vendors, customers, and service providers (Closs and Stank 1999). Moreover, racial minorities have been underrepresented in logistics education and careers relative to the percentage of minorities in higher education and in the labor force, respectively (Addus and Lee 1992). The number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) with logistics programs is very limited. Only a few HBCU's offer logistics degree programs or concentrations within business and social science programs (Addus and Lee 1992).

The purpose of this article is to enhance minority participation in logistics education and professional careers by improving logistics programs at HBCU's. It presents brief discussions on the demand for and supply of logistics education in the nation and the role of HBCU's in logistics education. Based on these discussions, the paper recommends strategies for enhancing logistics education at HBCU's. These strategies aim at (1) developing new logistics degree programs at HBCU's with no such programs; (2) recruiting capable and informed potential minority logistics majors for these and existing programs at HBCU's and nonHBCU's; (3) raising the retention and graduation rates of minority students enrolled in logistics degree programs at HBCU's and non-HBCU's; and (4) producing minority graduates who are capable of effectively managing logistics activities in the globally competitive environment.

THE DEMAND FOR LOGISTICS EDUCATION

The demand for logistics education is divided into student demand for logistics education and employer demand for logistics graduates. In the mid 1980's, some studies reported that in spite of the growing demand for people in the logistics profession, the number of qualified students entering the field was diminishing, and this was primarily attributed to the lack of relevant information available to potential logistics majors on the nature of logistics degree programs and career opportunities (Roos 1985). Over the past two decades, the level of understanding regarding logistics, as it relates to managerial decision and government policy, has substantially increased. Accordingly, logistics has received increasing recognition as a vital business function and educational discipline. However, in many cases managers and policy makers continue to view logistics as a support function rather than a strategic tool, which suggests the need for continued progress in logistics education. It was suggested and widely accepted that a good understanding of the nature of logistics activities and cooperation between academia and industry would mitigate the problem (Roos 1985; Faucett, Vellenga and Truit 1995).

The last quarter of the 20th century has seen vast changes in the United States logistics system. The major factors driving such changes include deregulation of the transportation industry, the growing utilization of just-in-time inventory systems, competition based on high customer service levels, globalization, and the development of the Internet. By all indications, this trend will likely continue through the current century. The need to increase logistics professionalism will be one of the greatest challenges of the new millennium (Johnson et al. 1999; Coyle, Bardi and Novack 2000; Chopra and Meindl 2001).

Following economic deregulation of the nation's transportation carriers, a massive restructuring in the transportation industry occurred. As a result, by 1990 the railroads dramatically improved their return on investment (Lynch 1998; Tyworth, Cavinato and Langly 1991). …