Women in supply chain receive expert professional development from one of their own

Individuals who have a growth mindset are especially attractive to employers in today’s job market. At the Haworth College of Business, faculty set their students up for success in their careers—not only by teaching relevant concepts, but also by looking for opportunities to help their students learn the professional skills that will set them apart from their peers.

This summer a group of women majoring in integrated supply management participated in a 6-week professional development class facilitated by WMU supply chain graduate, Trisha Terns. Professor Sime Curkovic was impressed with the drive and commitment of his students and chose this summer class to pilot this new idea for professional development.

“I had a large group of women students this summer who were of exceptional quality,” says Curkovic. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring in a third party to help the students open up and explore leading and the challenges of being a woman in supply chain in a different way.” Curkovic immediately thought of alumna Trisha Terns, B.B.A.’10, who has previously taught at WMU and brings a unique perspective as both a woman in the supply chain field and a leadership communication coach.

Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, chair of the Department of Marketing, saw this as a natural fit for the talented women in WMU’s integrated supply management program. “These women will be entering careers that are primarily male-dominated. Trisha understands the challenge of what it’s like to be a woman leading a diverse group of men and offered her coaching services as a way to pay her expertise forward to the next generation of women in supply chain.”

Three women sit at a table with computers openCurkovic invited students in his course to participate in a 6-week Zoom class with Terns outside of scheduled classroom hours. Sessions included topics such as: Knowing Your Baseline Performance, Courage in Leadership, and Developing Your Influence Skillset. These topics and the coaching provided by Terns were intentionally designed to provide the women with the skills they need to handle challenges they might face upon graduation.

Throughout the sessions, Terns focused on helping the women build confidence and define healthy internal and external boundaries. She says, “There are a lot of unconscious social norms and belief systems built into our culture that have the potential to affect or enhance the journey of women in leadership when they’re brought to light. With this group I focused on reframing some of the negative areas that were holding them back so they see their value in the workplace and can envision a clear path.”

The women who completed this training lauded its impact in their lives as students and, eventually, professionals. Claire Norland, a junior, says, “Already, I have seen a huge growth in my confidence in the workplace. Because the industry is male dominated, it is extremely important for me to know my strengths and be able to communicate effectively. These sessions helped me to confront some of my concerns about working in the field and gave me the tools to work through those challenges.”

Terns was impressed with how the women approached the class with an eagerness to learn. “The women who participated all demonstrated a great deal of maturity. They showed high levels of vulnerability, little to no judgment and entered the space with a performance-based mindset,” she says. “This openness to new ideas enabled them to truly experience personal growth.”

Kylie Briner, a junior, can already see how the course will benefit her both now and in the future. “I see this giving me a unique advantage over my peers. It will help in my professional relationships because I am more emotionally intelligent than before. By having the necessary skills already in development from this course, I’ll be able to focus more time and energy on further development of the hard skills, allowing me to set myself apart from my competitors.

WMU Haworth is constantly looking for new ways to give its students additional training and experiences outside of the classroom. The participation in this course and positive feedback shows that students are eager to participate in extra activities—even in the summer months. Curkovic would like to expand the professional development offerings for all students. “We are just getting started.  Every student will have an opportunity to receive the same quality of performance coaching that is being offered in corporate America, customized to their specific needs.” 

Learn more about integrated supply management.