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York College Supply Chain Management students see logistics in action during trip to Port of Philadelphia

Supply chain students pose at Port of Philadelphia on field trip.

It’s one thing to read about the logistics of shipping.

It’s another to stand in the middle of PhilaPort, the Port of Philadelphia, surrounded by huge cranes lifting massive containers off even bigger ships as hundreds of people move about, each performing a dedicated task.

That’s why Dr. Mohammed Raja, his colleagues, and 20 of their York College of Pennsylvania Supply Chain Management students piled into a bus headed to PhilaPort last November— to take what they’d learned about in class and see it in action.

Experiential learning

It wasn’t the first time Dr. Raja took his students on a trip like this.

Last year, they visited the Port of Baltimore. And they regularly take trips to warehouses and other facilities along the supply chain.

“The supply chain program is very much hands-on and experiential,” he says.

That’s one of the things York College junior Christina Hilton likes about the program. Sure, she can learn from a book, but being able to see and experience them in person is a game changer.

“I’m a visual learner,” Christina says. “Once I’m able to see it and how it’s put into motion, I’ll always remember it.”

Christina is the incoming president of the York College student chapter of APICS, a globally recognized professional organization for individuals interested in supply chain management. They helped plan the tour to PhilaPort with her professors and others like it.

“The idea behind these tours is to expose our students to how supply chain works in the real world,” says Dr. Raja.

Relating classwork to the real world

In her logistics class, Christina was creating an international logistics plan to ship crude oil. It was all hypothetical, trying to figure out what she’d need to get the oil from point A to point B.

Then, while at PhilaPort, she got to see the actual size of the container and ship she’d been working with theoretically for her project.

“Being able to see this in actual working motion and seeing how it all relates, that was the best part,” Christina says.

And that’s the whole idea.

“The biggest feedback that we’ve gotten from our students is that now they can actually conceptualize things they had learned in class,” Dr. Raja says. “They can connect the theory to the practice and things become more tangible for them as opposed to being abstract.”

Dr. Raja says he can teach about the different paperwork needed to ship things, the services that are provided. But talking about things isn’t the same as seeing for yourself how all the pieces fit together.

Building camaraderie

Being together on a bus for four hours changes the dynamic between students and their professors. It allows professors to engage with students in a less formal environment. Dr. Raja says that’s a good thing.

It's building a good camaraderie that we want to generate in this program, he says.

Christina agrees.

“It allows you to ask professors questions, not in a classroom setting,” she says.

She’s impressed by how willing her professors are to help her and her classmates, to give up their day just to help them understand the concepts they’ve been teaching.

These kinds of trips allow freshman and sophomores to get to know the upperclassmen — to get advice on what’s to come and to get a leg up on understanding the tangible reality of the field.

Making learning fun

The PhilaPort tour was organized for educational purposes. But it was also just plain cool to see these huge ships and containers and how it all worked together.

“The port completely fascinated me,” Christina says.

As the bus drove through the city of Philadelphia, she remembers seeing big oil ships and tanks popping up on the horizon as they approached the water’s edge.

“I was just feeling like, wow, this is amazing,” she says. “All this has to work in order to get goods to us. How everything comes together and actually works is pretty amazing.”

Learn more about the Supply Chain Operations Management program.