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Mike Cottrell College of Business partners with Syfan Logistics

Jim Syfan, president of Syfan Logistics in Gainesville, Ga., speaks to Dr. Cesar Ayala's class recently about supply chain and logistics. The Mike Cottrell College of Business and Syfan Logistics formed a mutually beneficial partnership. Many UNG students intern at Syfan Logistics during its annual holiday shipping project and during the summer break. On the flip side, Syfan is helping UNG hone its curriculum for the Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in supply chain management and logistics.

In fall 2017, Syfan Logistics human resources recruiting manager Dan Bacus and project recruiting liaison Stuart Millar knew the transportation logistics firm's needed employees for its annual holiday shipping project. They looked to the University of North Georgia (UNG) as an excellent source of talented applicants.

Elaine Fitzpatrick, internship coordinator for the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia (UNG), knew students majoring in business administration with a concentration of supply chain and logistics needed a real-world experience at area businesses.

When Fitzpatrick and Millar met, they realized they could help each other. UNG students could intern at Syfan while Syfan would have access to a pool of quality candidates to fill its seasonal positions.

Therefore, the business and university formed a mutually beneficial partnership, which has strengthened in a year's time. Syfan Logistics officials now work with Dr. Cesar Ayala to hone the curriculum for the Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in supply chain management and logistics.

"It was good collaboration for both sides," said Ayala, assistant professor of management in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at UNG. "It helps us improve our curriculum. We can teach students the skills employers like Syfan expect them to have. We also know what attributes and qualities industry officials are looking for in future employees."

This partnership is not only a boon for both institutions but will prove profitable to the state of Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday plans to make Hall County the site of Georgia Port Authority's next inland port.

During regular visits to Ayala's classes, Syfan Logistics corporate trainer Levi Nix said he and other Syfan officials explain how the logistics industry is not limited to truckers and dispatchers.

"There is a world of opportunities in logistics from financing and business to operations management," Nix said.

That message resonated with UNG senior Kondwani Kapembwa. The finance major from Lusaka, Zambia, interned at Syfan for 10 weeks.

"It was one of those unexpected things," the Atlanta, Georgia, resident said. "Not a lot of finance majors look at supply chain management as an option. But the internship opened my eyes to what I could do with my finance degree."

In fact, Kapembwa said the Syfan internship helped her land a job with a capital investment firm in Virginia. She will start after her May 2019 graduation.

"Having that experience definitely helped," Kapembwa said, adding she shadowed Syfan's price analyst and finance employee. "It was a highlight on my resume and the capital investment group saw it as an asset."

Their success with interns from UNG has prompted Syfan to double the number of internships from last year to this year. Millar is anticipating that.

"As one of the senior members of the team, the students have injected an energy level and enthusiasm into our work environment that has become contagious," Millar said. "It's just wonderful to work with people who are so optimistic."

That's not the only attribute UNG students have in their favor. Nix said students pick up the training faster, master technology quicker and adapt to a flexible schedule. They also bring a fresh perspective to the table and help make the business more efficient, Bacus said.

"We may have been working on a project for months, then we hand it off to the interns to see what they could come up with," Millar said. "Then 10 minutes later, they look at us and say, 'OK. That's done. What else do you have for us to work on?'"

Fitzpatrick said the internships benefit the students in a very important aspect.

"The students who do internships either confirm their career choice or discover it was not what they were hoping for and they realize they need to change their direction or major," she said. "Internships also significantly increase their post-graduate opportunities."

UNG interns at Syfan Logistics

Fall 2017 — 12 hired as seasonal workers; six students hired for full-time work

Summer 2018 Internship — 12 students with 11 being business or finance majors

Fall 2018 — 24 UNG students (Christmas peak season project)

Summer 2019 Internship — Syfan predicts to hire 20 interns with majority coming from UNG

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