Finding a concentration to call home
Rachel Powner, BSBA
Supply Chain Management
As a sophomore in the College of Business, Rachel Powner had a problem: she liked her classes too much.
She was trying to pick from one of 10 business concentrations to focus on and couldn’t make up her mind.
“I started off and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll go marketing’, and then, ‘I’ll go accounting’ and every intro class I was taking I was liking each one more and more,” said Powner.
Until she finally got to supply chain.
“I was like, ‘Wow,’” said Powner. “I’m not only doing good in this class, but I enjoy this class. Every day I showed up and I was excited to see what’s new.”
In the supply chain management concentration, Powner found a place to put her strong suits to work, applying her analytical abilities to solving problems and then leaning on her people skills to present her ideas and gain buy-in.
“It wasn’t just needing one or the other, you really needed both,” she said.
However, before she could get too comfortable, or even finish her introductory supply chain class, Zac Rogers, who taught the course, threw her into the deep end.
“It’s the full cradle to grave cycle of any inventory.”
– Zac Rogers, Assistant Professor
Supply Chain Management
After the first couple weeks of class, Powner approached Rogers to let him know how much she was enjoying learning about supply chain.
“Could I talk to you more about this?” Powner recalls asking. “And that’s when he just threw me right into the case competition.”
She found herself alongside upperclassmen pitching their ideas to a panel of professionals at the Supply Chain Forum.
“I had a really great team. There were some seniors on my team that really kind of took me under their wing,” said Powner.
After their presentation, a representative from Advanced Energy, a manufacturing company based in Fort Collins with over 10,000 employees and high-tech factories across the globe, approached her with a question: “We’re looking for interns, would you be interested?”
“I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely,’” said Powner, although she was thinking to herself, “I’m only a sophomore, am I ready? Do I know enough?”
Learning from hands-on experience
At Advanced Energy she began working in logistics, which focuses on the complexities of how – and when – to transport and store goods. There, she started to get a better sense of the scope of supply chain.
“I was amazed at how much money goes into the transporting of products and the packaging of products and the safe delivery of products,” Powner said.
And she learned another important lesson: “Don’t doubt your ability.”
Looking back, she realized that Rogers hadn’t.
“He believed in me,” said Powner. “He thought that I would succeed in this concentration and I think that having that relationship with a faculty member really helped me decide to go down this path.”
“You really get that feeling of family.”
– Rachel Powner
Building her skills
Powner returned to the College of Business after her summer internship with a new perspective on her coursework and a desire to keep exploring the industry. She continued with Advanced Energy during her junior year and then secured an internship with Lockheed Martin, where she’ll be headed after graduation for a full-time position as a subcontract administrator at the company’s offices in Littleton, Colorado.
As Powner grew in the classroom and developed more skills, she found herself stepping up in new ways in her professional work.
“I was able to really provide more help and ideas,” Powner said. “It’s a really great way to kind of get started and figure out what you’re into and what things click beyond the classroom.”
And her internship with Lockheed Martin pushed her in new ways.
“It was a little bit more of that human interaction,” said Powner, who found it to be a compelling way to combine her interest in data with her interest in collaborating with people.
“I definitely, you know, wasn’t enjoying sitting at a desk all day. I like to be able to get out, get around, talk to people,” she said. “A lot of it is that relationship building, especially when you’re working with suppliers and negotiating contracts.”
Community, sustainability, and success
During her time at CSU, Powner has seen the impact of the College of Business’s commitments to student success and fostering a supportive community.
“There are just so many good, genuine, authentic people that go to CSU that are Biz Rams.”
– Rachel Powner
For instance, students have expenses covered to enter case competitions, which give them hands-on experience tackling problems faced by experts in the industry.
“So that’s really great because it can help level the playing field for anyone that wants to go,” said Powner, who is appreciative of the opportunities to network with leaders in her field and meet peers from other institutions.
Powner’s second case competition came her senior year, when she traveled to Denver with her team to go head-to-head with students from 15 to 20 other schools.
“You could see how the curriculum was different after watching their presentations,” said Powner. “We focused on sustainability a lot within our project … that’s something that CSU prides ourselves on and something that we take classes on.
“CSU has a lot of opportunities and I think the biggest thing I can recommend would be to go and talk to your faculty members,” said Powner. “So, if you’re taking a class and you’re really enjoying it, go to office hours for more than just getting help on the class.”
Seeing how much the faculty, upperclassmen and her classmates were all willing to give back to one another made Powner want to do the same.
She helped organize a supply chain-focused career night that gave students the opportunity to have in-depth conversations with people from all across the industry. The chaos of planning an event bringing together nearly 100 corporate partners and students was a challenge, but halfway through the event, after watching students excitedly exchanging business cards and hearing that classmates had just been offered jobs and internships with leading employers, the impact started to set in.
“That was worth every hour that I put into it,” said Powner.
“When I was a sophomore I had no idea what I was doing or what an internship would look like, so having those older students or alumni come back and donate their time and be willing to have the conversations and help students – or even meet up for a cup of coffee – has been really life-changing,” said Powner. “So, I would just like to pay it forward and do that with other students.”
And through everything, there’s one common thread that’s tied all her experiences at the University together.
“Everyone at CSU wants all the other people at CSU to succeed, and I think the sooner that students can figure that out and have that realization, the better.”