Earlier this month, Rutgers Business School hosted an event with Toyota Financial Services that allowed graduate business students to learn about Toyota supply chain methodologies and donate 30 boxes of food to a local food bank.
Joseph Agresta, an assistant professor of professional practice at Rutgers Business School and director of the Master of Supply Chain Analytics program, said that he organized the event after developing a partnership with Toyota Financial Services.
He said that the Toyota Production System is highly reputable, utilizing a lean supply chain process. Participating students at the event used the system's techniques to reduce the time it took to assemble donated boxes of food from five minutes to one minute.
Agresta said that he supports the involvement of students in socially driven causes along with experiential learning as it provides students with the opportunity to receive hands-on experience in their discipline.
Additionally, he said that the event created a space for students to network with professionals from Toyota Financial Services and better understand various career paths.
Agresta said he hopes this collaborative environment helps build a community among graduate students in the Supply Chain and Data Analytics programs.
"The one thing that we're really trying to do is drive a sense of community within the program itself," he said. "So, bringing all the students together and building that community within Rutgers … and then also for the students to network to be able to talk to the folks from Toyota."
While this event marks the first community service endeavor Agresta has led, he said that he aims to cultivate partnerships with more companies to enhance learning and establish ways for students to give back to their local communities.
Regarding the food donated at the event, Agresta said the participants were informed that the boxes of food would be distributed to The Food Bank Network of Somerset County, and several students accompanied him to complete the donation.
"I think students want experiential learning. Students want to be able to meet and work with industry partners," he said. "If people in our community (and) in the state of New Jersey see the types of things that we are doing in the community, combined with our learning, I think that attracts students to come to the University."
Shangyu Zhang, a Rutgers Business School alum, said that as a current supply chain professional, he attended the event to learn how the Toyota Production System could be applied to the efficiency of food bank donations.
He said that he believes the company's supply chain methodologies can assist nonprofits and community partners more aptly in serving people, including at food banks and hospitals.
"Toyota did revolutionize the way of community service by donating efficiency instead of money," he said.
Zhang said that he has participated in other Rutgers Business School events centered on the supply chain industry as a student but found that this event's combination of educational exhibition and community service was unique.
He said that he hopes to see more events in the future where students can learn about relevant business topics, grow their professional and social networks and contribute to community service missions.
Similarly, Othman Muhammad, a graduate student at Rutgers Business School, said he attended the event to network with other graduate students and alumni and comprehend the connection between theoretical supply chain topics and real-world applications.
"Overall, it combined volunteerism, spirited competition and experiential learning. By working on team challenges, we each contributed to developing a process that would then be improved upon by using principles from the (Toyota Production System)," he said.
Muhammad also noted that the event was different from other Rutgers Business School events as it enabled him to gain an understanding of Toyota's company values and its commitment to corporate social responsibility.
"I am excited about inviting more companies to collaborate with us at Rutgers Business School," he said. "Similar to the Toyota Financial Services event, it would be nice to work together on projects that help (New Jersey) nonprofits."