Interview with Kingsley Gnanendran, Ph.D. - Director of the Online MBA Program at the Kania School of Management at The University of Scranton
About Kingsley Gnanendran, Ph.D.: Kingsley Gnanendran is Professor of Operations Management and the Director of the Online MBA program at the University of Scranton. In this role, he is actively involved at every stage of the student’s tenure in the program from admission to advising to graduation, and says it is an absolute delight to work with students to further their educational goals. Students enrolled in the program hail from all over the country, and work at different levels in industries ranging from financial services, insurance, healthcare, pharmaceutical, airline, defense, and communications to the military and government. Additionally, Dr. Gnanendran directs the online certificate programs in Supply Chain Management and Enterprise Resource Planning.
Dr. Gnanendran’s academic background is in the discipline of management science, which involves the development of mathematical models to solve decision problems arising in organizations. He has a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a Master’s in industrial engineering. His Ph.D. in management science is from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he was involved in researching how large-scale linear programming techniques might be used to solve production planning problems efficiently. Currently, Dr. Gnanendran is a professor in the Kania School, and teaches MBA classes in operations, supply chain management, and enterprise resource planning, as well as in the emerging area of business analytics.
[GraduateCertificates.com] May we have more information about The University of Scranton’s graduate certificate programs in Supply Chain Management and Enterprise Resource Planning? What is the structure of the curriculum for each of these programs, and what student populations do they serve in particular?
[Dr. Gnanendran] We offer certificate programs in Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Each program comprises four courses (12 credits). For the SCM certificate, students must complete courses in operations management, quality management, supply chain management, and integrated enterprise management systems. Students will learn how the source, make, and delivery processes in a company can be managed efficiently and effectively. Topics covered include: forecasting, sales and operations planning, quality management, statistical process control, six sigma, process capability, JIT, lean operations, inventory and risk pooling, supply chain drivers and metrics, distribution network design, sourcing, supply chain coordination, and the integration of the major business processes such as procurement, production, and fulfillment.
For the ERP certificate, students must complete two mandatory courses in integrated enterprise management systems and accounting integration & configuration, plus two electives chosen from: production planning & control, customer relationship management, treasury management, or business intelligence. The first mandatory course covers topics such as organizational data, master data, and transactional data in relation to the major business processes and their integration. The second mandatory course deals with how an enterprise system can be configured from scratch to match an organization’s ongoing operations. The student can then customize the certificate according to their particular interests (operations, marketing, finance, or analytics) by taking the appropriate elective in that area.
The Kania School offers this program in collaboration with SAP, the market-leading ERP software company, through their University Alliance partnership. The program features hands-on exercises on the latest iteration of SAP software, the S/4HANA Intelligent ERP System. Students completing the Kania program can optionally pursue (on their own) an SAP-offered certification called “SAP Certified Application Associate: Business Process Integration with SAP S/4HANA.” This is a well-recognized industry credential.
Both certificate programs are targeted at working professionals who are seeking to advance in their current organizations or aspiring to a new role in a different industry or company. The programs were launched in response to recognized market needs for trained professionals in these areas.
[GraduateCertificates.com] Who is the ideal student for these two graduate certificate programs? For students who are debating between earning an MBA or other graduate degree in business leadership, and earning a graduate certificate in a specific area of management, what do you recommend they take into consideration, and how should they navigate this decision?
[Dr. Gnanendran] The “ideal” student is one who is motivated to study independently and is able/willing to commit about 12-15 hours per week on the course. Since there is no prompt to go to class at a fixed time every week, it is easy to fall behind if one is not disciplined. However, a great feature of these online courses is that there is consistency across courses, and across weeks within each course, in terms of when content opens up and deliverables become due, and where to find specific content. Once you get started, you will see that it’s easy to get into a rhythm after a couple of weeks.
For students unsure about whether they want to pursue the MBA, a certificate is a great option as a gateway into the MBA. Since all of the certificate courses are transferable into the MBA, you will not lose any credits and so will have a lower-risk opportunity to “test the waters” before committing to the comprehensive 36-credit hour MBA.
[GraduateCertificates.com] As these programs are both delivered online, what is the delivery/instruction method, and how does it facilitate interactions between course instructors and students in the online environment?
[Dr. Gnanendran] Our online certificate programs are delivered using Moodle, an open-source learning management system, or LMS, which has been customized for a consistent look-and-feel across courses so that students can immediately focus on the learning task at hand instead of spending time trying to locate material. The courses are offered in an “asynchronous” format, meaning that there are no live events where everyone in the class is expected to be logged in at the same time. However, the courses are “paced.” This means that students can study on their own schedule and convenience as long as they meet weekly deadlines for course deliverables such as assignments and discussion forum posts.
The latter, the discussion forum, is a key pedagogical device in the online courses. The intent is to mimic a free-wheeling classroom discussion, albeit in written form, to foster greater interaction and exchanges between students. Because the discussions are in written form, they tend to be especially well-crafted, and elevate the richness of the interactions. Students can post questions about content to a special “Ask-the-Instructor” forum, which is akin to raising your hand in class. The instructor will respond to the question within a few hours. You can also contact the instructor via course mail or internet e-mail at any time, or by phone during their posted office hours.
[GraduateCertificates.com] What are the admissions requirements for the University of Scranton’s graduate certificate programs in ERP and Supply Chain Management? For students who are interested in this program, what would you recommend for them to put forth a competitive application?
[Dr. Gnanendran] Admission to both certificate programs requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, a statement of intent, and three letters of recommendation, at least one of which should be from a professional reference. The statement of intent should outline your reasons for pursuing the program you are interested in so that we can better understand your motivation and aspirations. In terms of work experience, the SCM Certificate requires 3 years of work experience, whereas the ERP Certificate has no such work experience requirement. (By the way, the MBA program also has the same 3-year work experience requirement as the SCM Certificate program.)
[GraduateCertificates.com] Outside of faculty guidance and support in classes and office hours, what support structures are in place for students of The University of Scranton’s graduate certificate programs in ERP and Supply Chain Management?
[Dr. Gnanendran] All students are assigned a faculty mentor for academic advice such as program planning and course choices. Students also have access to the University ‘s Center for Career Development which helps students with career decisions that are consistent with their unique talents and aspirations. The center is in constant conversation with recruitment partners and focuses on both preparation and opportunities. The Center offers individualized appointments, hosts career-related programming, and facilitates networking opportunities.
[GraduateCertificates.com] May we have more information on the Kania School of Management’s (KSOM) mission statement, and how the graduate certificate programs it offers fit into the School’s overall mission?
[Dr. Gnanendran] Briefly, the Kania School’s mission is to provide quality business education within a culture of excellence and care for the individual. One of the ways that the School meets this goal is by offering affordable, relevant, and innovative programs to students from all over the country via its online platform. More online programs will be launched in the future: a certificate in Business Analytics is already in the works, and various other possibilities are under discussion.
[GraduateCertificates.com] In your opinion, where do you see graduate certificate programs in the overall post-baccalaureate education landscape, and how do you see graduate certificate programs as a graduate education option evolving as the business and tech industries evolve both in America and internationally?
[Dr. Gnanendran] A recent trend in the further education of business professionals has been the move toward competency-based training and micro-credentialing where the focus is on the mastery of a narrow skillset that may be in demand in the labor marketplace. The SCM and ERP Certificates also are focused on niche areas and are “stackable” meaning that they can be used either as a standalone credential or a stepping-stone to the MBA.
Thank you, Dr. Gnanendran, for your excellent insight into the Kania School of Management’s online graduate certificates in Supply Chain Management and ERP!
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