Q&A: The Societal Importance of Haslam’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) Research

May 8, 2023

The Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, ranked fourth in the SCM Journal List’s annual ranking of university supply chain management research production. This marks the eighth consecutive year Haslam has been in the prestigious ranking’s top four, affirming the central role of supply chain management research at the college.

Haslam’s Department of Supply Chain Management Emphasizes Research

In a brief Q&A, two of the department’s top researchers, Chris Craighead, FedEx Chair in Supply Chain Management and Sarah Alice & Tommy Bronson Faculty Research Fellow, and Stephanie Eckerd, associate professor, Director of Supply Chain Management PhD Program and Jerry and Suzanne Ratledge Professor in Supply Chain Management, explained why continually maintaining a high level of research productivity yields far more than obscure academic articles.

What Makes Haslam’s SCM research valuable outside the university?

Craighead: We think of the business and societal impacts from the beginning of the research process, and many questions we address are meaningful for various industries and the broader community. Our research has been, and will be, applied by others because we design it to offer value to business and society. In some cases, faculty work directly with our company partners to help them navigate critical supply chain challenges.

Eckerd: Our program has unique touchpoints to industry with our Global Supply Chain Institute and Advanced Supply Chain Collaborative (ASCC). For industry partners, we use our research skills and background knowledge to dive into salient issues, employing sophisticated methodologies and proven theoretical lenses that help us apply lessons learned across a broad swath of organizations, not just the handful involved in a given study. It is a mutually reinforcing relationship. We bring what we learn from our industry partnership research into the classroom to help shape the managerial skills of future leaders. In this way, our industry partners are assured of getting new talent that understands the problems they face today and potential solutions to those issues.

One recent example was a project done through the ASCC: a study of how planners respond to demand-side disruptions that cause changes to demand variability. The firms we have worked with to collect this data have reaped benefits through a better understanding of the factors that cause managers to under- or overreact when these shifts occur.

What research have you conducted that is relevant to recent happenings in the business world?

Craighead: My primary research area is supply chain disruptions and risk, so it has been particularly relevant the past several years. I used to have to explain what supply chain disruptions are and how they can affect companies and society. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its aftermath brought supply chain disruptions into everyone’s living room. I no longer have to explain my research, and I will continue to work on supply chain disruption research, as there are many important company and societal challenges to overcome.

Eckerd: My colleagues and I have been investigating the impact of unethical behaviors in supply chain triads. Recently, we published on how honesty and deception in negotiations are contagious behaviors spanning relationships. In this work, a supplier experiences honest or deceptive negotiation behavior by multiple different buyers. They then become the lead actor in a negotiation with yet another new buyer. Is the supplier likely to exhibit the behavior they have been subjected to? Yes! We varied the number of times the supplier experienced the targeted behavior before exhibiting it, and it only takes once for the supplier to parrot the behavior in a fresh negotiation. This kind of work helps shed light on behaviors most people do not even realize they are participating in.[1]

Undergraduate research is an emphasis at UT. How do you draw the interest of undergraduate students to research, perhaps leading them to pursue advanced degrees?

Craighead: I think this occurs naturally as part of various honors programs. For example, I mentored an undergrad student on her research on disruptions, and she ended up pursuing a master’s in supply chain.

Eckerd: While I know we have exceptional students — many of whom would make fantastic academics — my personal preference is that students go out and work for a few years before coming back for an advanced degree. Just a few years is all that is needed to bring context to the areas they are studying and contributing to. It also helps improve their credibility at the front of the classroom.

How does UT’s SCM research production and quality compare when looking at the discipline across all universities?

Craighead: Our research compares favorably to other SCM programs worldwide. We have many top and rising supply chain scholars in our department — a department that has a long history and reputation for its research productivity and impact, and we continue to attract some of the best faculty to our thriving program. Research is embedded in our culture — it is an essential part of who we are.

About Haslam’s Department of Supply Chain Management

The Haslam College of Business has one of the most comprehensive, forward-thinking and highly regarded supply chain programs in the world. U.S. News & World Report and Gartner consistently rank it among the top five global programs. An advisory board of more than 40 industry professionals informs its curriculum, and students develop applied skills to help improve organizational performance through supply chain management.


Brian Canever, marketing content manager, bcanever@utk.edu

[1] Ried, L., Eckerd, S., Kaufmann, L., & Carter, C. R. (2023). From target to actor: Contagion of honesty and deception across buyer–supplier negotiations. Journal of Operations Management, 69(2), 261-283.