Company looks to Penn State Smeal for next generation supply chain talent

July 23, 2014

The Penn State Smeal College of Business is one of only two schools from which Burlington Stores, a national off-price retailer headquartered in New Jersey, actively recruits for its Supply Chain Leader Development Program. This leadership program for supply chain graduates is an 18-month program that introduces new graduates to the various roles and responsibilities of leadership at the company.

“We find that students from Penn State are able to hit the ground running in the supply chain area and also have a broad foundational understanding of business,” said Donna Norton, talent acquisition manager for college recruitment.

In addition to its recruitment efforts, Burlington Stores is also a corporate sponsor of the Center for Supply Chain Research, a Smeal research center dedicated to bridging academia and industry to improve the theory and practice of supply chain.

“We find that students from Penn State are able to hit the ground running in the supply chain area and also have a broad foundational understanding of business.”

-- Donna Norton, talent acquisition manager for college recruitment, Burlington Stores

“We’re proud to have such a robust partnership with the Penn State community,” said Norton. “Through the center, we look for opportunities to reap the benefits of the latest faculty research.”

She continued, “Our connections with the University also give us access to Penn State’s best and brightest students for consideration for our leadership program.”

Supply chain is a critical part of Burlington Stores’ business. The company’s off-price model adds an added sense of urgency to their business. Unlike more conventional businesses that buy merchandise many months out, off-price retailers buy in-season merchandise, so quick turnaround time to the stores is critical.

It was this aspect of the business that piqued the interest of Meredith Tarvin, who graduated from Smeal in 2012 and entered the leadership development program shortly thereafter.

“I met with Burlington representatives at the Supply Chain Career Fair, where I learned about the company, the off-price industry and the supply chain implications,” Tarvin said. “It seemed more interesting than a regular department store.”

The leadership development program provides participants with three six-month rotations in various parts of the organization. At the end of the program, participants are assigned a leadership position in Burlington Stores’ supply chain organization.

“Despite being fairly fresh out of school, I was given the ability to make a real impact on the company,” said Tarvin. “From the day you walk in the door, you’re given real responsibilities.”

And Burlington Stores provides leadership program participants some flexibility, allowing them to tailor the program to their skills and interests.

Phillip Plumly, a 2011 Smeal graduate who also connected with the company through the Supply Chain Career Fair at Smeal, completed his first rotation as a warehouse manager. The position clicked with his interests, so Burlington gave him the flexibility to stay on longer than the typical six-month rotation. He then moved into a rotation during which he worked on a project expanding the West Coast distribution center.

“Burlington really gave me the flexibility to find my niche and adjust and tailor the leadership program to fit my skills and interests,” he said.

Today, Plumly is a manager in Burlington Stores’ Profit Improvement Contribution (PIC) area, where he works with human resources, legal, and marketing teams to help improve processes.

Tarvin, after working through her three rotations, found a permanent placement as manager of supply chain analytics, where her reports help the distribution center operations team make better decisions.

Burlington Stores Supply Chain Leader Development Program is an 18-month program comprised of 10 weeks of training and three six-month rotations across the supply chain organization. The company operates under the off-price retail model, offering customers with everyday value—up to 65 percent off department store prices every day.

About Supply Chain at Penn State
Smeal’s No. 1 supply chain program offers a comprehensive suite of supply chain education, beginning at the undergraduate level with a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain and Information Systems. In conjunction with Penn State's World Campus, students can earn a Master of Professional Studies in Supply Chain Management. The Penn State Smeal MBA Program offers a concentration in supply chain management, and the college also offers a Ph.D. in supply chain. Smeal’s Center for Supply Chain Research and Penn State Executive Programs offer certificate programs in supply chain management and supply chain leadership.

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Last Updated July 28, 2014