Nothing brings a wider grin to Dr. John Lambert’s face than a discussion about his international business students at The University of Southern Mississippi.
“It is a great pleasure to work with the wonderful students at USM,” said Lambert, assistant professor of international business. “This program is working for two compelling reasons. First, it is successful thanks to the wonderful support of the U.S. Department of Commerce office in Jackson. Second, and most importantly, it works because our students rise to the occasion and meet the challenge.”
The challenge 26 international business students faced during the spring semester involved a capstone senior class project. In this project, the students were divided into teams and tasked to develop business solutions for local companies. The companies/clients included Sanderson Farms, Myers Utilities, Eaton Aerospace, Kellett Lumber, Starring Trailer and Hardwoods of America.
Lambert explained that the project required students to draw from what they had learned from the entire spectrum of classes in which they had participated during their college careers.
“They had to apply what they had learned to date to solve a real-world, real-time international business issue,” said Lambert. “They do so with the tools and resources used by professionals in various areas of international business. This challenges not only their grasp of theory, but also their resourcefulness and creativity to function in the real world.”
Lambert added, “This semester the students were thrust into the world of international business. They visited the U.S. Department of Commerce office in Jackson for presentations by people on the front lines of international business.” Representatives from the Mississippi Development Authority, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the World Trade Center and Federal Express all gave presentations showing the functions of their offices and how to use the tools that they use. Southern Miss international business alumna Jessica Gordon, now a trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce, led the session on technology resources used by public and private sections in international business. This technology was used by the students to complete their capstone projects and was among the tools that they had to grasp in a short time. The class project culminated with team presentations to company/client representatives. One such team, dubbed Sanderson Farms Group A, featured seniors Annah Freeman of Laurel, Miss., Meghan Snyder of Gautier, Miss., Katherine Hutienne of Hattiesburg, Miss., and Courtney DuBose of Soso, Miss.
The task assigned to SF Group A was to conduct research on the lack of reefer containers being supplied to the Gulf Coast. Sanderson Farms contracts with reefer container vendors to ship chicken around the world. A refrigerated container (or reefer) is an intermodal container used in freight transport of temperature sensitive cargo. These containers have an internal refrigeration unit but rely on external power from electrical power points at a land based site, a container ship or harbor wharf. Based in Ellisville, Miss., and founded in 1947, Sanderson Farms has annual
sales of approximately $1.7 billion. The company processes around eight million chickens per week out of nine plants. Currently, the Fortune 500 company sends the majority of its chickens via reefer containers ports in Savannah, Georgia.
“Our goal was to find out some ways Sanderson Farms could get more chicken transported in reefer containers to ports along the Gulf Coast,” said Freeman. “It’s really a typical supply-and-demand situation so we made some visit to ports in Gulfport, New Orleans and Mobile to get a sense of how their operations work and how accessible they might be for more shipments from Sanderson Farms.”
Tommy Satterthwaite, corporate sales manager for Sanderson Farms, said the team’s presentation provided some food for thought with regard to transport and shipping procedures.
“They came up with some really interesting recommendations with this project” said Satterthwaite. “There was a lot of enthusiasm and energy and you could tell they did a lot of research on the topic.”
“I bet we spent close to 100 hours as a team on this project,” said Snyder. “The tour of (the Port of) New Orleans was especially helpful. It’s a lot more exciting and rewarding when you get to participate in an out-of-class type of project. This class has turned out to be more than I could have ever expected.”
For more information about the international business program at Southern Miss call 601-266-4659 or visit www.usm.edu/business/departments/management_intbus.php