An assignment in Haiti inspired Rasheen Chatmon to pursue a master’s degree in Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University.
Chatmon, a maintenance warrant officer in the U.S. Army, was sent to the Caribbean nation following the devastating 2010 earthquake. It was there that Chatmon was exposed to the frustrations of an inefficient and unworkable supply chain.
“That was a pivotal moment for me, seeing all these people suffering from a lack of resources,” Chatmon said. “Water, medical care, all the equipment we needed was within arm’s reach, but the supply chain was damaged due to a broken runway or a broken crane on the dock.
“All the equipment, all the resources were there but there was a breakdown in the infrastructure that kept the populace from getting what they needed,” Chatmon said. “I sat there seeing this and in my mind, I was like, ‘If I was in charge of this, this is what I’d do.’” Chatmon said.
After researching supply chain management programs, Chatmon chose MSU.
“When I saw MSU was ranked No. 1 in supply chain management, it stood out to me,” Chatmon said.
Studying online wasn’t new for Chatmon. He earned both his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees that way. Besides, he wasn’t situated particularly close to East Lansing.
“When I signed up for it, I was sitting in a tent in Kuwait,” Chatmon said. “I sent an email: ‘When does the next class start? What do I have to do? This is my current situation.’
“I applied and got accepted,” Chatmon said. “As soon as I got back from Kuwait I came here for my first onsite visit and I have not looked back since.”
As Chatmon’s education progressed, so did his concept of supply chain management.
“My perspective is constantly changing,” Chatmon said. In the military, he recalled, “I was literally, ‘Hey, we need this to fix this vehicle,’ I order the part, it comes in and I put it on. That’s as far as I thought about it. There was no, ‘How did this piece of equipment get here? What were the steps it took to get it here? How much money did it cost to produce this item?’
“Supply chain management touches everything and I really didn’t think how deep it went until I entered this program,” Chatmon said. “Every single thing, somebody supplied it - this table, this chair, these lights. It amazes me, no matter where you go, supply chain management is there.”
Chatmon is preparing to transition from military to civilian life, and he said he would look to both the military and MSU during this period.
“The military has a lot of resources that help you transition,” Chatmon said. “At the same time, there are faculty members at MSU who are retired military. I can always talk to them and say, ‘When you retired, what were some of the challenges you faced?’ and allow me the opportunity to not make the same mistakes or take advantage of some of the same resources they did to become successful.”
Chatmon advises other active duty military personnel to consider both the benefits and the challenges of earning a degree.
“Think long and hard about what you want,” Chatmon said. “Anything worth having is not going to come easy, so there’s going to be sacrifice and lot of dedication needed to be successful.”
Chatmon is certain it was the right decision for him.
“I don’t regret it at all,” Chatmon said. “I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
After earning two degrees strictly online, Chatmon especially enjoyed MSU’s blended program, in which online students also spend four three-day weekends on campus.
“I got my undergraduate degrees online, so being able to come to the campus and meet people and network and just take in the whole college experience is really special,” Chatmon said. “The amount of knowledge and experience that I got from being able to spend a weekend on the campus and interact with other students and interact with faculty members, there’s no beating that.”
As he prepares to enter civilian life, Chatmon continues to recall the impact his time in Haiti had on him.
“The things I saw and experienced, the frustration of having the supplies that you need at arm’s distance and you can’t get it and people suffer for that, that was a powerful and moving time for me,” Chatmon said. “It makes you appreciate that you have the power to maybe impact somebody else’s life.
“One of the things I’ve been looking at is getting a job at FEMA, something where I can apply what I’m learning to help somebody else,” Chatmon said.
Thanks to MSU, he said, “with the tools and knowledge we have, the possibility is endless.”