Dr. Kevin Watson
For Dr. Kevin Watson, it’s the hands-on approach of Louisiana Tech that appeals to him most. He and fellow faculty member Dr. Tony Inman apply that approach on a daily basis with their sustainable supply chain management students.
“It is amazing what a few words can do,” said Watson. “I’ve had students come in to discuss a specific grade and we end up talking about the life skills they need to excel in the future—things like asserting themselves in groups, asking more questions, or graduate school admissions (and how to pay for it). I had a student that came in to discuss his multiple job offers and how to possibly pick one of the jobs. I’ve had students (and parents) write an email or letter thanking me for an experience.”
Watson noted that some of the time those letters start with “I didn’t like…” or “I didn’t appreciate it at the time…”
“Then something clicked at work and they understood why we do some of the things we do, and they appreciate it,” he said. “I met a former student who now works for Walmart to discuss a project he was working on. The way he took ideas we had discussed in the classroom and logically connected them with ideas from other classes and his work in order to craft a solution to the project was brilliant. He is going to be a rock star and shoot up the corporate ladder; one day he’ll be running at least part of the show.”
Providing students with opportunities for quality placements after graduation is central to Watson’s work, and the agility the supply chain management faculty have allows them to make changes to course curriculum as employer demands change.
“Our curriculum is demanding because our students are learning valuable skills based on what employers need. We are constantly receiving and incorporating feedback from employers and alumni into the curriculum to ensure that the courses we teach reflect the skills employers need,” said Watson, who noted he and Inman work constantly expose students to new opportunities.
The duo has taken supply chain students to numerous distribution facilities and manufacturing plants across the South—a tactic that builds on Inman’s legacy of working diligently to establish strong ties with employer partners.
It is clear that employers recognize and value this, a direct benefit to students in the program.
“We’ve been able to grow the major because students value the quality placements—Walmart, Amazon, International Paper, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc.—both in terms of the companies recruiting our majors and the starting salaries our graduates are receiving,” said Watson.
Outside of his teaching responsibilities, Watson’s research focuses on supply chain information security, sustainability, and the Theory of Constraints (TOC), a topic that first garnered his interest as an MBA student because it had clear real-world problem-solving applications.
“I had a professor who made us read The Goal, a great book about the TOC,” said Watson. “The same professor brought in manufacturing executives to speak to our student APICS chapter. There was a problem involving Walmart, paint brushes, and distribution—I thought about the problem from a TOC perspective and came up with a novel solution.”
Watson presented that solution to a transportation company, which asked how they would sell it to their customers. “I didn’t know how to sell something where the benefits seemed so self-evident, so I ended up at the University of Georgia to study TOC and that solution became my dissertation.”
He also partners with College of Business faculty outside of the management department to develop relevant research—like his concept called Constraint Based Allocation with Dr. John Lauck, an assistant professor in the School of Accountancy.
“Every company has to have some means to establish product costs and to analyze process improvement projects,” said Watson. “Right now, the alternatives are expensive and/or inaccurate causing managers to make poor decisions. If our solution works, as we believe it will, it will provide accurate information at fairly low cost.”
Louisiana Tech is the best of both the teaching and research worlds for Watson, and he is proud of what the sustainable supply chain management program has grown into over the past few years.
“There is a very high level of teaching and we are very involved with our students, really hands on; I know most of our supply chain majors just by sight,” he said. “There are a lot of smart researchers to bounce ideas off, we have enough resources to provide our students with an excellent education, and we have enough support to help those students find great opportunities when starting their career.”