Month: March 2022

Gaming Supply Chain Management Education

In the fall of 2021, the supply chain crisis began to impact consumers and suddenly it became a term everyone was hearing. At the same time, Dr. Craig Calvert, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) program co-Director and Assistant Professor-in-Residence for Operations and Information Management (OPIM) with the School of Business, was preparing to launch the first University of Connecticut course on supply chain management. After so much interest that fall, he also decided to offer a spring semester independent study on advanced supply chain management, during which his students are developing a board game to reinforce and teach supply chain concepts.

“Supply chains are dynamic and require constant adjustment and adaptation,” Dr. Calvert said. “When designing the supply chain management course I pulled from my years of professional and industry experience in supply chains along with speaking to other industry experts.”

Supply chain management is the process of managing the movement of goods and services from suppliers, as raw materials, and to end users, as finished goods in the most efficient and effective way. In the global economy, supply chains are becoming more complex and difficult to manage. This complexity has caused many of the supply chain shortages experienced during the COVID pandemic. As a result, supply chain management is a growing field, and more and more MEM graduates are being recruited for these roles each year due to their understanding of both the business and manufacturing aspects of supply chain management.

Introduction to Supply Chain Management Class

While many MEM students thought Intro to Supply Chain Management sounded like an interesting and different business elective to round out their MEM curriculum, it also has proven to have significant value for the students who have taken it, as well as those who continued and took the additional Supply Chain Management Independent Study with Dr. Calvert.

Luca Mastrogiacomo, MEM senior, notes that he took the class because he had really just learned the term supply chain and was interested to learn more. Now, he will be graduating with a job as the Supply Chain Coordinator of a small specialty ice cream company, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, in Brooklyn, NY.

“I didn’t have any experience with supply chain,” said Paige Lombardi, MEM senior. “I thought it would be a fun elective, but the way Dr. Calvert taught this course, I retained more than from any other class. I can already see how it will apply to my future career.”

Liz Downey, MEM senior, agreed, “Intro to Supply Chain Management was such a great class. Even though it was about supply chain, I have been able to apply what I learned to other classes this semester.” She continued, “Learning accounting and finance is obviously important, but supply chain would be a great benefit to everyone, as well.”

While the Intro to Supply Chain Management course offered a general overview of supply chain topics, students say the course was very practical and experiential. “It was not just theory,” Lombardi said. “It was like being in a real life situation, which really made it practical and applicable, and this is probably why I retained so much of what we learned.”

“It was also great working alongside the MIS students, which made up about half of the class,” Mastrogiacomo said. “It was interesting to see the different ways students who were more focused on business thought about things like manufacturing and gave us all a lot of insights into areas we don’t know as much about. It was generally just more representative of a real work environment where you’re working with people from all kinds of educational and experience backgrounds.”

Dr. Calvert explains. “The in-class activities were designed so that the MEM students and MIS students would learn about each other’s discipline. Sometimes I had the different majors work together and other times I had them intentionally intermingle. I had several MIS students who had never taken an MEM course, and this class was their only exposure to how a manufacturing person would approach a problem.”

Independent Study Course and the Game Project Emerges

gaming the future of supply chainThe enthusiasm of the fall 2021 Intro to Supply Chain Management course was strong enough for Professor Calvert to offer an independent study section in the spring on the same topic. Five students enrolled, three of whom were from the MEM program and two from Management and Information Science (MIS) in the School of Business.

“I really enjoyed the first class and that increased my interest in the field so I wanted to take the independent study also.” Mastrogiacomo said. “I liked that there was a lot of opportunity for problem solving and that it is very cross functional. It touches every area of a company and has a huge impact on their success or failure.”

The independent study allowed the students to explore Supply Chain Management more deeply, to apply what they learned already, and to develop new teaching methods to help future students understand how the supply chain works.

Dr. Calvert intentionally designed the course to utilize inquiry-based learning and to let them find and answer what “wonders” students have. Similar to project based learning, this style of teaching focused on exploring answers. “I have five bright students so I wanted to approach this differently and so far the inquiry-based learning model has worked,” Calvert said. “It is exciting to see students get excited about learning and have fun with the process.”

The five students, all seniors, worked together to develop a game that will reinforce supply chain concepts, such as managing risks, rewards, and complicating factors.

The game board, which is loosely based on the game of LIFE, features landing points such as Risk, Rewards, Stop, Pay Day, and Neutrals points, as well as Knowledge Checks. While nothing may happen at the Neutral squares and when landing on Knowledge Checks students will have to answer questions from the Intro to Supply Chain Management course, Risks, Pay Days, and Stop Points are all familiar challenges or rewards that could happen in any supply chain scenario.

Lombardi explains, “Along the game, you have to keep stopping and there are lots of decisions to be made along the way that ultimately affect profit. The goal is to have the biggest profit, and your pay or rewards vary based on decisions you make regarding number of workers, their education levels, contracts you’ve made, etc. There are various risks and you have a chance to reevaluate your decisions at the stop points.”

Downey, Lombardi and Mastrogiacomo all agree that supply chain management is an important course for MEM students to take and that Dr. Calvert made this a unique and engaging course that will benefit them in any career.

“People hear the word and don’t really know what is involved,” Mastrogiacomo said. “It is a little different than what most people think MEM graduates end up doing, but it really touches on a lot of the areas that they do and the concepts are important to know about.”

In Five Years: 2017 Graduates Reflect

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? That’s one of the most commonly asked questions in interviews, and also one of the most difficult to answer – it’s all a guess, really. In the course of five years, so many things can happen; unpredictable things like global pandemics; fun things like relationships; and more predictable things, like getting that first job.

How your next five years will turn out will depend largely on which opportunities you take, your determination and your attitude,… although we all know an MEM degree doesn’t hurt either.

Recently, I decided to reach out to some MEM alumni from the class of 2017 and ask them about their experiences over the last five years – what surprised them and what advice they’d have given to themselves back on their own graduation day five years ago. Here is what they had to say:

Connie Bowman currently works at General Electric as a Lean Transformation Team Member at General Electric.

Connie could also be described as a lean supply chain specialist doing internal consulting, and she is most surprised that she is still working for General Electric since she joined GE right out of college. She isn’t surprised she is working in Lean, however, as she was drawn to this area since learning foundations in MEM classes.

If she could have given herself a piece of advice on her graduation day, it would have been, “Be confident! Take more risks. Get to know the people better! People are key. They are your network for success.”

Anand Gupta currently works at Pratt & Whitney as a Program Manager in their Geared Turbofan Program Office.

There Anand helps manage the business and technical aspects of their largest commercial engines program.

The biggest surprise for him was that he is now attending law school. He is glad he ended up in program management, but he hopes to do legal or contracts work in a business environment such as Pratt & Whitney next. He says he has no idea what he will be doing in 10 years.

If he could give himself advice on graduation day, he says he would say, ‘Be open to different opportunities, and be careful to choose an industry that speaks to you. It’s more fun coming to work if you believe in the company’s path.”

Jackson Haigis currently works at Pratt & Whitney as an Account Socialist in the Global Supply Chain organization.

He has been most surprised that he ended up in a less technical role than he ever thought he would be, but he really enjoys what he does.

If he were to give himself advice on his graduation day, he says he would tell himself, “Don’t be afraid to jump in the deep end and take on a new challenge.”

Connor Mitchell currently works at Kering as an Operations Process Engineer on the Logistics Team.

Connor Mitchel 2017What has surprised Connor the most was working in logistics for fashion and luxury goods, after starting his career in a manufacturing heavy environment.

If he could go back and give himself advice on his graduation day, he would have told himself that “real education starts after graduation; don’t become complacent; continuously re-evaluate your own goals, and make them known to your family, friends and manager.”

Caitlyn Syrett is currently working at Pratt & Whitney in Military Engines as a Fleet Logistics Specialist.

Caitlyn Syrett 2017There she is in charge of sourcing spare parts to military bases for the F135 enginer. Her position in particular focuses on supplying deployed carrier ships.

What has most surprised her was when she started at Pratt, she accepted a rotational position in their Aftermarket Operations program. By joining this rotational program, she moved three times in two yeas and lived in Connecticut, Georgia and Michigan. She says it definitely took her out of her comfort zone because she thought she would stay close to home in Connecticut. However, moving wast a great way for her to grow professionally and personally, and helped her professional network grow so much too.

Her advice to herself on her graduation day would be, “Don’t sweat the small things.” She didn’t have a job lined up coming out of school or the very best GPA, but she still got a really good job and is currently very successful. She was the first to graduate from Pratt’s, then, brand new rotational program and she has received many awards at work, including Employee of the Month for Military Engines. “It is all what you make it.”

Michael Vaghi currently works at TriVista Business Group as a Consultant.

What has most surprised him is that he never really thought he would get to work in a job that allows him to get exposure to such a variety of different industries and help solve their problems.

If he were to give himself advice on his graduation day, he would say, “be open minded about pursuing other career and job opportunities. Windows of opportunity are very short, so if any part of you thinks it’s a good fit for your growth aspirations, always make the jump.”

Evan Wexler currently works at Slalom Consulting as an Associate Consultant, Data and Analytics

Evan Wexler '17

What has most surprised Evan was Connecticut, he says. He has been surprised that there are so many great jobs, great companies and communities here in Connecticut, and after working in NYC for two years, he came back to Connecticut and is glad he did.

If he were to give himself advice on his graduation day, he says he would tell himself, “Don’t be afraid to try something different – if something is not enjoyable allow yourself to experiment with other opportunities to find what is right.”




Faculty Spotlight: Professor Nunez

The faculty who teach students in Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) come from around the world and bring with them culture, diversity, experiences and expertise – a combination that is as unique as each person. Professor Manuel Nunez does not disappoint, letting us see a glimpse into the life experiences that shaped him as an instructor and researcher at the University of Connecticut.

Professor Nunez came to UConn from the second largest city in Costa Rica, called Alajuela. He still has friends and family there that he misses, but says he also really misses the soccer. Alajuela is home to a professional soccer team, La Liga, of which Nunez says he is an avid fan.

Professor Manuel NunezEven while missing home, Nunez always wanted to come to the United States, even as a young child. He has always enjoyed US culture, music, values and way of life, so that made adjusting to the American way of life a little easier for him. He loves the culture, so he has always felt at home here. He says the biggest adjustment was driving in bad weather conditions in New England winters.

Nunez is a big professional sports fan in America too. His favorite teams are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, and the New England Patriots.

For fun, Nunez likes to read, collect and play board games, collect playing card and Tarot decks and Star Trek memorabilia. He reads about two books per week and his favorite reading genre is science fiction. He is also a Star Trek fan. He also likes to read about history and general science as well. He also enjoys mental challenges as a mathematician, and he assembles scale model kits and solves various puzzles.

As a faculty member and researcher, Nunez enjoys contributing new ideas and concepts, and he especially enjoys transferring his knowledge to his students.

“It is a very fulfilling lifestyle,” Nunez says.

“As a researcher, it is very exciting to face challenging problems and try to find new solutions to those problems,” he says. “As part of this process, I learn more about new subjects and methodologies.”

He recalls as a freshmen in college himself, one of his professors told him that if he constantly wonders about how to improve things, he should study Operations Research (OR). Nunez took that idea and found he really enjoyed the mathematical aspects of OR – proving theorems, developing algorithms and creating new models of everyday situations.

Nunez teaches Computers in Manufacturing for the MEM program, Adaptive Business Intelligence (ABI) for the MS BAPM program and the Operations Management Seminar for the OPIM doctoral program.

“I have taught the computers in manufacturing class for more than 20 years and it has evolved a lot,” he says. “Students like it because it teaches them skills they can readily use in their jobs, internships and senior design projects.”

Nunez says he is not a specialist on a very narrow research field and that his work touches on many different subjects. He says he sees a promising future in studying the business implications and applications of using cutting edge technologies such as quantum computing. “Through my lifetime I have witnessed the profound effects that the arrival of new computer technologies had in business and society in general. I believe that eventually quantum computing will become more prevalent and have similar effects.”

Nunez says his favorite part of his work is interacting with people, teaching young people and seeing them transitioning into professionals, working with stimulating colleagues, and appreciating that the university is a place for open-mindedness, research and learning.

How to be a Lab Manager

The MEM Labs, located in E11 room 102 and 106, are great places to explore, learn and engage in some hands on practice and experimentation with MEM concepts. You get your first taste of the lab with MEM 2212 and then maybe you haven’t spent much time in there again – but that’s all about to change!

The MEM Lab is getting a facelift this summer and we will be introducing lab kits with which to experiment and experience some different materials and equipment related to manufacturing, and we will be connecting more intentionally to the OPIM Innovate Lab over in the School of Business. Some of the exciting features besides a cleaner look, include a roller table, robot arm and a few other special things we are still working on.

The other very important feature of the MEM Lab is the Lab Manager. Typically, each year we hire one or two lab managers, preferably a senior, and a junior who can continue in the role the following year.

I decided to ask our last two lab managers what they thought about being the lab manager, how they got the job and how it may have impacted their ability to learn and take those skills to jobs outside UConn.

Here’s what they had to say about being Lab Manager:

How did you become the lab manager?

Logan: I applied to become a lab manager the summer going into junior year. There was a post on JobX for a MEM lab manager as well as one for the MEM 2212 UTA. I applied and got both positions for junior year.

John Henry: I became the MEM Lab Manager my junior year after hearing about the open position from the past Lab Manager, Logan Miller. I applied and went through an easy interview process and got the job.


What do you enjoy about being the lab manager?

Logan: When I was the lab manager, I enjoyed having that space available to me to do work in. I also enjoyed helping other students with using the printers and/or studying for certain classes. It was nice to represent MEM and create a welcoming environment for everybody.

John Henry: I spent a lot of time in the MEM Lab through my freshman and sophomore years and it quickly became my go-to study space. I also enjoyed MEM 2212 and working with the 3D printers. As the Lab Manager, I get to operate and make use of the space for both myself and other students who want to utilize it like I once did. Now that we are looking to make renovations, I am excited to be part of a transitional period for the lab and help make it even better.


Were there any extra benefits such as experiential learning or any transferable skills that helped you get a job?

Logan: I’d say one of the biggest transferable skills I got from being the lab manager was effective communication. At times there would be multiple students in the lab asking different things of me and I had to make sure I was answering their questions completely and clearly. But I also needed to work with many faculty members to get certain things done which taught me how to approach people higher up than me without being nervous or unclear.

John Henry: I found that the employers I talked with loved to hear about my experience as a Lab Manager. Being able to talk about working with manufacturing technologies in a lab environment as well as being a resource for other students is something they saw as valuable experience.


What would you want to share with other MEM students about pros or cons to being the lab manager?

Logan: As far as pros, you have access to the MEM lab whenever you want – it’s a great place to do work with friends or isolate instead of going to the library or staying in your dorm. It also makes you much more professional and helps you meet other people in the MEM program. If you’re passionate about the MEM program, you will also be hosting prospective students and their families during open houses.

As far as cons, it can be a serious time commitment and you need to be comfortable with how the 3D printers work, how different computer programs work, and should have a basic understanding of the different MEM courses you’ve taken so that you can provide assistance if needed. The amount of work fluctuates quite a bit – sometimes it is super busy (especially during Senior Design season) and sometimes it is extremely slow.

John Henry: The pros are that it is great pay for easy work, and it is located in E2 where MEM has many classes. Plus you can really make your own schedule, which is also very nice when planning around classes. The cons? Well, I haven’t found any downsides!



We are always looking to hire a lab manager for this year and next. If you are interested, please visit the student on campus job website, search for jobs on Storrs work study or campus jobs and select Mechanical Engineering as the Employer. The Job is listed as a Class III – Student Computer Lab Specialist – 319UST. For additional questions, please contact the Program Assistant.

Childhood Friends Reunite in MEM

It’s not unheard of for students to come from across the country or around the world to study at the University of Connecticut. It’s not uncommon for students to come these same great distances for the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) program. However, it’s relatively rare that two youngsters who met 15 years ago in Girl Scouts in Singapore would both end up attending UConn as MEM majors from across the country and around the world.

Archana Velauthapillai and Alexa Boden, both MEM juniors, spent much of their childhood years in Singapore, attending the same school and Girl Scouts troop.

Archana Velauthapillai, MEM junior, and Alexa Boden, MEM junior, as children at a Father-Daughter dance in Singapore.

“We knew each other and did a lot of Girl Scouts activities together, but we weren’t really close at that time,” Alexa said.

They were friends, but didn’t really keep in touch when Alexa’s parents moved them to Chicago before 8th grade, and Archana’s family moved to China just a year later. They remained friends on social media, however, so when Archana saw that Alexa would be attending the University of Connecticut, she reached out to Alexa by private message in Instagram.

Archana, at the time, was living in China with her family when she decided to attend the University of Connecticut. She had assumed she would not know anyone there. Alexa, too, did not think any of her Chicago classmates would be attending a state university in Connecticut so she too had assumed she would not know anyone at UConn. So when the two women learned of each other’s plans they knew they had to meet up.

The women were both pretty surprised that they would know anyone at UConn at all, but even more surprised it would be a childhood friend from half a world away.

Alexa came to UConn planning to major in MEM as it blended the business and engineering aspects she loved of product design. Archana started off in Undecided Engineering, but within her first semester knew she wanted to change to MEM.

By the second semester of freshmen year, Archana and Alexa were registered for many of the same MEM classes and first found each other in MEM 1151, Introduction to Management and Engineering for Manufacturing.

Archana recalls, “I was new to the program and didn’t know anyone, but I walked in and saw Alexa sitting there, so I sat down right behind her.”

“We reconnected pretty fast after that class,” Alexa said, “and since then, we’ve done a lot of group projects together.”