Written by: Jennifer Levy, KUO Program Development Manager and Senior Instructional Designer
As Kettering University Online’s (KUO) Program Development Manager and Senior Instructional Designer, I have the pleasure of working with our Contributing Faculty members, many of whom are subject matter experts for the courses they teach. Coming from a wide range of educational, career, and geographical backgrounds, KUO faculty unite in the effort to link transformative experiential education to rigorous academic standards with real-world applications for learning that lasts a lifetime.
This time, we are happy to shine the Faculty Spotlight on Contributing Faculty Member Kathy Chao. Professor Chao spent her career with General Motors and, for the last 18 years, was in Senior Management, working within the areas of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. Professor Chao teaches Foundations of Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain Logistics, and Supply Chain Operations.
Following are excerpts from our conversation:
JL: Thanks so much for making time for our chat.
KC: My pleasure!
JL: The first question I always ask is, “ Where did you grow up?”
KC: I grew up in Troy, Michigan.
JL: Ah, not so far from campus in Flint!
JL: What drew you to the procurement/supply chain industry?
KC: Initially, it was the desire to use my finance degree in an occupation that had the potential for lots of travel. I stayed because the field was challenging and becoming a global marketplace with opportunities for growth.
JL: Can you talk a bit about the work you did with General Motors?
KC: I was in Senior Management, Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, for more than 18 years. I have more than 35 years of experience in Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, with more of a focus on Purchasing. I also have extensive experience in Program Management, Process Development and Corporate Training.
JL: That is an impressive resume! I am curious - What has been your experience of being female in a male-dominated industry?
KC: Working at General Motors, I found my colleagues knowledgeable and willing to share their experiences, but I had to match that intelligence and show an interest in learning from them.
JL: How do you think you have overcome the many challenges of being female in a male-dominated industry?
KC: I did so with persistence, passion, and by caring about the outcomes while working hard to deliver the results.
JL: What advice would you give to other women starting their careers in this or other similarly male-dominated industry?
KC: I would tell them to ask for the things they want. I would also say, do not expect people to understand your goals if you are not communicating them. The worst thing that can happen is they can say no – but that is not always the wrong answer for you.
JL: Can you talk a little bit about your teaching philosophy?
KC: Sure. My philosophy of education is that I think it should promote understanding, support open dialogue, and enable learners to have the tools needed to solve complex problems. Critical to supporting this learning environment is recognizing that every student brings their life experiences to the topic and has a right to voice their opinions and engage in an open, positive dialogue about the topic. This means that I respect my students, meet them where they are, and create an environment where all can learn. My experience as a manager, as well as in the development of corporate training, has taught me that course content needs to be engaging, relevant with timely examples, and delivered in a variety of ways.
As I enter the latter half of my life, I am interested in teaching what I know, providing insight and direction to those just starting a business or are in the middle of their career. I am interested in giving back to both the Institute that was the genesis for my business education and the U.S. industries that continue to support our economy—continuing to probe with the questions of why and, better yet, why not, can only improve the workplace for future generations.
JL: What has surprised you most about teaching online?
KC: The level of dialogue and learning that can happen in a short time, given the amount of material we cover.
JL: How would you describe your Kettering students?
KC: I find my students to be focused and experienced. During the weekly discussions, the learners that are most engaging are those who are consistently sharing what they know with their fellow learners. One of the most rewarding experiences is to see, through the class discussion and assignments, learners who are developing a true understanding of what Supply Chain Management is really about. I have had students tell me that they were able to take the weekly discussion and learning resources and apply them directly to their current work assignments. This means more than just providing a building block for a future career; it also means changing a paradigm in a current one. Providing relevance and real-world results motivates students to learn more about the topic and participate more fully in their organizations.
JL: What advice would you give to someone who is taking his or her first online course?
KC: Stay on top of your schedule! The weeks go by so quickly that if you are not online every day, you may miss something. Also, if you are not sure about something, engage your professor during office hours. They are happy to help clarify and review any material.
JL: What is the best advice a professor or mentor ever gave you?
KC: Persistence can be worth more than intelligence. Stick to it and work hard to get what you want.
JL: Please describe any career achievements or highlights.
KC: Most of my career was spent during the development of a global supply chain, and I was involved in many joint venture projects between GM, European, and Asian suppliers. While I stayed at GM my whole career, I have also worked with Magna, Isuzu, Honda, and SAIC on major initiatives. In the last several years, I worked on major data warehouse and cybersecurity projects that were transformative for the company.
JL: What are some of the fun things do you like to do in your spare time?
KC: I enjoy traveling (and have been missing it!), camping, reading, and making things.
JL: Who has influenced you the most in life?
KC: My husband, who is a life-long learner and coach. Always ready to help when asked and be supportive in my career choices.
JL: What surprising things have you learned about yourself during the COVID-lockdown?
KC: How much I miss traveling! Also, how it is important to make a conscious effort to reach out to people who may be alone and make a connection. Online tools have been helpful, but I prefer face time to really connect with others.
KUO honors and appreciates Professor Chao for her contributions and highly regarded work with students.
If you are interested in becoming a member of our award-winning faculty, or a subject matter expert for course development, send your curriculum vitae and cover letter to Dr. Christine Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in becoming a student, visit Kettering University Online for information about our graduate degree programs.