Student Spotlight: Nic Holwerda, Matt Nehr, Maria Tartaglia


Student Scholarship Recipient Spotlights:

Nicolas Holwerda, Senior, Michigan State University, Matthew Nehr, Senior, Duquesne University and Maria Tartaglia, Senior, Penn State University

Interview conducted by Mitchell Smith, 2nd year MBA Student, TCU Neeley School of Business, February 1, 2019

*Interviews have been edited for clarity.

Mitchell Smith: How did you hear about the Parsley Scholarship?

Nic Holwerda: At Michigan State I think there had been very few recipients of the scholarship itself. I learned through independent research for scholarships: taking the time to look up online what is available and what am I eligible for, what would be worth my time, what am I interested in going after. The David R. Parsley scholarship definitely stood out. To me it is one of the most distinguished scholarships out there for supply chain students or for people pursuing a career in supply chain. When I saw the scholarship, it really caught my attention. I applied after my sophomore year and I was awarded the $5000 scholarship, taking 2nd or 3rd place. That in itself is motivating enough to say “Hey, can I come back and apply for this scholarship?” So, I applied for it as a junior, and I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the first-place recipient of the scholarship.

Matt Nehr: I think someone from Duquesne won it last year, and our professor promoted it out to the students through email. I thought I had some good experience in that realm, so I applied.

Maria Tartaglia: Penn State's business school, Smeal, has a lot of listserv emails that notifies students of events or scholarship opportunities. I'm on a listserv for just supply chain majors and received an email that said all supply chain majors could apply for the scholarship.

MS: What got you interested in the food scene?

NH: So I feel that, as many may attest to, food is extremely important to everyone in the world. I think that it’s something no matter where you are in the world that brings people together. It always has and it always will. Looking at food from the sustainability perspective, I find it really interesting how the world itself is going to scale and use resources to accommodate for a growing population. With the depletion of some of our natural resources and lands--are we really going to be able to become more efficient at using what we have been given? Are we developing technologies and strategies for “how can we do this better?” How can we really try to feed more people?

I’ve held several jobs in the restaurant industry. My first job was working at an ice cream shop. While at the ice cream shop I began working at a restaurant at the same time. Then, when I became interested in supply chain, I started looking for jobs that were more closely aligned with what type of job I’d have in supply chain.

I first looked at a midwestern grocery chain, Meijer. Meijer is a supermarket that is very popular and close to my hometown. I went into Meijer and told the hiring manager what I was looking for and specifically said that I was interested in an internship. There wasn’t any internship available at the time. So, I told the manager what my interests in Meijer were and what I’d like to do. Instead of an internship, I went to the back room where inventory is handled; they’ve got loads coming in on a daily basis. Seeing and being hands-on with the inventory in the back room and distribution in the store was remarkable. It was remarkable in a negative way to recognize how much waste is happening at grocery stores.

As consumers we’re looking for the cream of the crop so to say; as we walk down the aisles of produce and we see an apple that might have a small bruise on it, we’re going to leave the apple behind. And we’re not the first people who have done that. Meijer’s already done that before employees put it out on the shelves and before that, the distributor did the same thing. They're doing all these quality checks, and by the time all these people pick over it there is a lot of produce just being thrown out before even making it to the consumers’ hands or the dinner table. On top of that, consumers buy produce, bring it home and then don't eat it. That's what stood out to me the most. We aren’t doing enough to tackle all these problems. I’m not the only one that recognizes this issue--there’s definitely groups constantly trying to improve upon this. It’s just that the US as a whole hasn't been doing a great job at reducing waste and trying to be sure that we’re using our resources efficiently. This is something I think I would like to pursue throughout my career, i.e. how can we make this better? In restaurants the same things happen; so much food gets wasted. You deliver food to a table and they might eat half of it or take one bite and discard it after that. That food isn’t going anywhere, it’s not going to food banks, it’s not being composted correctly, we’re not taking the energy and consuming it in the best way possible. I’ve seen this in so many different lights personally. I experience this behavior at home, at restaurants and in supermarkets, and now I’m studying about it in school. These are real issues that past generations have seen and worked on, but we still haven't seen the significant strides that I think will be necessary for the future.

MN: My first job was at a bakery two minutes away from my house. I started working in the back, cleaning and mopping floors, and I moved up to baking cookies and cakes. I picked up a second job as a cook at a local Pittsburgh restaurant. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and enjoyed the restaurant industry so this scholarship piqued my interest.

In terms of an internship, I was actually at a conference for Kerry Foods. Kerry makes a lot of food products, like syrups for soda machines and stuff like that. I was going to interview with them, but the internship ended being too far away, and the company didn't do housing so I would end up having to spend money to do the internship. I decided against Karry Foods and took the local one at US Steel.

MT: When I was in high school I worked at a Restaurant called Dutch's Daughter, which was kind of my first job and it was a fine dining seafood restaurant. I worked there on and off for three years between breaks and between semesters. That was a cool experience because I got to learn about customer service and working behind a front desk. I also learned about the back of the house in the kitchen and understanding how to work with a wide variety of people and workstyles. This made me love the restaurant industry in general.

MS: Do you still plan to pursue a career in the food services?

NH: For me, food has always been my interest. If I don’t work within the restaurant industry, maybe I will in a different type of industry which can directly or indirectly affect food, nutrition, health. I want to do a lot in my career to make an impact on the health of people. That might mean beginning with a concentration in health care, doing things such as nutritional supplements or medicines, new food solutions, or working with a larger corporation to tackle world hunger. I’d love to work for an organization like that. It's hard to say where my path is going to take me. I’ve gained a pretty thorough knowledge of the entire scope of supply chain and as how supply chain pertains to the food industry. There are endless opportunities to help companies directly or indirectly. So, yes, I do plan on staying in the industry and always keeping that as something that’s been important to me. I’ve grown up with this value, it’s close to me and important to me, and I don't think that’ll change anytime soon.

MN: I think I would like to work for a company like Kerry Foods or Heinz. Eventually, I would like to do procurement of purchasing and negotiations, etc. I could see taking the skills I’ll learn at US Steel to the food manufacturing industry, somewhere like Kraft-Heinz or somewhere local in town. I’ve been in Pittsburgh my whole life, and I can’t imagine not being here. Thus, I’m kind of limited to food companies in town. There’s also a company in town, Armada Supply Chain Solutions. They handle a lot of inventory and shipping for companies like Chick-fil-A and similar companies. They have an office in town so that’s another option.

MT: It's definitely an interest of mine. I am not knocking it out; I always think about how much I do like it. However, I have already accepted a full-time job for July this year when I graduate and it’s not in the food industry. I’m going to be working for Bose, the headphones speaker company, out in the Boston area. I accepted a full-time leadership program where there will be two years of rotational. I’ll get the opportunity to work in different sectors whether it’s demand planning or procurement. That’s kind of my plan at least for the next few years, but you never know what the future holds.

MS: How has the scholarship helped you, what are the benefits you’ve seen?

NH: It really is incredible, and it’s made a huge difference to me at school. I pay for all of my tuition, and I’m responsible for taking on debt if I’m not able to pay for it. This has been a huge difference maker for me. I’ve been able to not have to worry about these payments, and I can just focus on my schoolwork, my aspirations, and my goals, personally and professionally. It’s really made a difference and I don't have to worry about working; I’m a full-time student.

MN: All of the scholarships I win, obviously, they help out with the student loans. They also allow me to not have to work so many hours, so I can spend more time running the clubs I’m president of and doing things like that. Since I didn’t have to work as much I have gotten to do some cool things.

For the student supply chain council we were able to get a crowdfunding fundraiser set up, and we’re going to use that money to do a plant tour of the US Steel facilities in town. That’s something that hasn’t been done at the school for I think 5 or 6 years. Receiving the scholarship has allowed me time to bring back an opportunity for students to see what goes on in a manufacturing environment. Also, we are hosting workshops and other things like that. APICS is an outside supply chain organization, and we have invited them to come to the school and do a professional development event. These things haven’t been done in the past, but I have some more time to plan cooler things like this because of the scholarship money.

MT: I felt really honored when Matthew called me; I was just ecstatic. I felt really honored and surprised, but also super happy. I put a lot of time into the application and wanted it to be meaningful and kind of show how the restaurant industry has really helped me and still sparks an interest in my mind. I wanted to show what the restaurant industry has given to me, that working in the restaurant was super rewarding. Receiving the scholarship also lifted the financial burden of funding my last year at Penn State. The money went directly to my last year and gave me support to finish strong academically and financially.