Passport To Knowledge: Gaining a Global Perspective


The sun never sets on the global supply chain. Advanced education programs at a variety of universities offer logistics professionals a world tour unlike any other.


The Chain in Spain

If studying abroad means going where the action is, you can’t do better than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)-Zaragoza Logistics Program in Spain. The program’s campus stands in the middle of Europe’s largest logistics park, Plataforma Logística de Zaragoza (PLAZA). Modeled on MIT’s masters of engineering in logistics (MLOG) program, the nine-month Zaragoza course draws graduate students from around the world and from a variety of disciplines.

“It’s a mix between business and engineering backgrounds, as well as international studies and political science,” says Jarrod Goentzel, the Zaragoza program’s executive director. “People who want to get involved in international business realize that supply chain is a good way to pursue that goal, because most supply chains are inherently global.”

MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics operates the program in Spain in partnership with the University of Zaragoza, the government of the Aragón region, several corporations, and PLAZA. Along with the masters degree, MIT-Zaragoza offers a PhD, both from the University of Zaragoza. The program also provides a home base for faculty, students, and corporate partners to conduct research.

One faculty member, for example, is exploring more effective ways to transport medicines into sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions. Three other research initiatives emerged after officials at the DHL facility in PLAZA introduced MIT-Zaragoza researchers to colleagues at the DHL Innovation Center in Germany.

“The Zaragoza center became a key research partner for the new DHL Innovation Center,” Goentzel says. With funding from the Aragón government, resources from DHL, and expertise from the academic center, the partnership is focusing on three areas: reverse logistics, postponement strategies, and supply chain visibility.

Students in the masters program may participate in faculty research for their thesis projects, or they may do research for local corporate sponsors. “The company can use the results of the research project to move forward,” Goentzel says. “It’s a way for them to explore topics that they may not have time to explore, given daily management requirements.”

The MIT-Zaragoza program, which is taught in English, currently includes 33 students from 15 countries. “The international experience is not only living overseas, but also studying and working with people from different backgrounds,” Goentzel says.

That experience acquires an added dimension each January, when students from the Zaragoza program and the MLOG program in Cambridge, Mass., study together, spending half the time at each campus. “The students are grouped into teams of six, and we play a month-long simulation game,” Goentzel says. “They compete to see who manages the best supply chain.”

With the experience the students gained in MIT’s and Zaragoza’s programs, that competition is sure to be fierce.

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