On Feb. 16, 2016, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business hosted an extraordinary event designed specifically for Smith’s professional community. The inaugural event, dubbed “Exploring the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry,” was highlighted by a fireside chat with Wendy Herrick, Unilever's VP of Supply Chain U.S., followed by a faculty dinner with company representatives, an executive panel, and an enticing networking opportunity for Smith students and alumni.
The fireside chat with Herrick was a special invitation-only intimate conversation with selected Smith student leaders. Afterwards, the executive panel was open to all Smith students and alumni. The panel discussion took place in Frank Auditorium and was moderated by Jeff Kudisch, assistant dean for corporate relations and managing director of the Office of Career Services. The impactful and informative conversation was led by an impressive group of panelists, including Herrick, Alex Baxter (VP Supply Chain Planning at PepsiCo), Jim Radin (VP Global Supply Chain Operations at McCormick), and George Harry (Director of Transportation at Johnson & Johnson).
Although the panel attendees were the intended spectators of the event, it was the company’s panelists themselves that were astounded by the inquisitive questions and proactive organization efforts displayed by members of the Smith community.
“I was blown away by the level of engagement and collaboration between the University of Maryland faculty, career center, student organizations, and partnering companies,” said Herrick after the event. “I hope the students walked away with a closer connection to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which unites our core mission of driving positive social impact while simultaneously delivering business growth. I look forward to continuing this momentum on campus and engaging with the leaders of tomorrow.”
On the other end, the event’s innovative approach and the participating companies’ commendable collaboration were not lost in the eyes of Smith’s finest. Kudisch, who moderated the panel, was quick to point out that, “the event was especially unique in that one of our valued employer partners, Unilever, actually collaborated with admired competitors (PepsiCo, J&J and McCormick) to foster the professional growth of our Terps and enlighten our Smith community regarding current and future CPG challenges, trends, and competencies requisite for job success. Together these winning companies produced an amazing evening of leadership insights, advice, and reflections that captivated our students and faculty."
The event was hugely successful, as Smith faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the company representatives have been raving about the event ever since. The idea for this event was originally brought to life by UMD alum Max Cooper (quoted below), with the intention of elevating the level of awareness of the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry within the Smith community. His idea evolved into what became a truly amazing evening of events.
“Millennials can relate to the sustainable culture that Unilever and the panel partners are built on,” said Cooper, who is now a customer service analyst at Unilever and proud 2015 UMD alum. “Through this event, we were able to demonstrate these cornerstones while generating more interest around the exciting challenges that the CPG industry has to offer. As a recent graduate who benefited from UMD’s corporate partnerships, I am extremely proud to have helped create this groundbreaking event. It is rewarding that we connected Maryland students with visionary leaders who can help them discover their career paths.”
The evening was a true example of collaboration and innovation at its best. Approximately 100 students attended the event. It was primarily geared for supply chain management, marketing, and engineering undergraduates. The evening was hosted by Unilever and the Smith Office of Career Services, and co-sponsored by QUEST, Supply Chain Management Society (SCMS), and the Terp American Marketing Association (TerpAMA).
For more information about the Office of Career Services, visit www.rhsmith.umd.edu/career.
- Brendan Beichert, Smith MBA Candidate 2017