For Martinsville resident Olivia Hupper, it is not out of the question to think that she might one day have a professional relationship with pencils—or something like them. A second semester sophomore at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Hupper is working on a degree in International Business and Logistics with the hope of becoming a professional logistician. Thinking about how pencils find their way into stores like Staples, she says, pretty much sums up what the field of logistics is all about.
“You would probably think that every part of a pencil comes from China—the wood, the lead, the eraser, the metal that attaches the eraser to the wood. But some parts come from China, some come from the U.S., some from Mexico, some from Thailand. So you have to find the quickest, cheapest way to get all those products to Mexico to produce the pencil and then the fastest and cheapest way to send it to the U.S. and then ship it out all over the world.”
While price is the biggest factor in guiding the decisions a logistician makes, Hupper explains, quality concerns are also important. So to make sure a pencil eraser meets a company’s quality standard, it might be necessary to send an agent who knows about erasers to, say, Thailand to determine the best source. “That expense might seem ridiculous for an eraser,” Hupper admits, “but considering how big a company Ticonderoga is, it makes sense. The company’s reputation depends on quality. You may have to pay more for the pencil, but it’s a good pencil.”
When Hupper was a junior at Oceanside East High School in Rockland, she thought she wanted to become an engineer, but after visiting a number of engineering programs she realized that field was not for her. “So then we started looking at business schools. But my mom had to drag me to Maine Maritime! I didn’t think I would like the business program at Maine Maritime because I perceived it to be an engineering school. I went to the presentation about the business program and I was so blown away by how personable the professors were and by how well spoken the students in the program were. It was really impressive.”
So while many of the students at Maine Maritime Academy are focused on how to operate big ships—working in the engine room or learning to captain a vessel—business students like Hupper, she says, are “providing the people on the ships with the cargo they need.”
Hupper’s freshman year was consumed with classes on economics, accounting and business. “They really throw you right into the business part of it. We just start focusing on what it is like to run a business or be part of a business or about the economy from the very beginning.”
The first semester of Hupper’s sophomore year included a business logistics class that introduced every aspect of the subject. “That was my favorite and most difficult class,” she says with clear enthusiasm. Now every additional class she takes, such as the transportation class she is completing as her second sophomore semester draws to a close, will intensively focus on selected elements of business logistics.
A program requirement, too, is that students take a foreign language. Hupper has chosen French—partly because she took four years of French in high school, but also because, she says, “If I could, I’d love to get a logistics job in France. That’s a hard goal, I know.”
What makes it a hard goal is that Maine Maritime’s business students are required to spend 12 weeks interning with a company between their junior and senior years. Most commonly, Hupper says, that internship leads to getting a position with that company—in fact that high job placement rate, she says, is something that makes the cost of tuition at Maine Maritime well worth the expense of taking out student loans (Hupper says the scholarships she’s received, especially the Worthington Scholarship she was awarded when she graduated Oceanside East, were a big help in reducing that expense). But lining up an internship in France will probably be difficult. Hupper smiles and gives a little shrug. “I’m still going to try. Getting an internship is a lot of work no matter what—you really have to put yourself out there.”
Although working for a company in France is her dream, Hupper says she would also be happy to stay in New England—in Maine, if possible.
“There are so many job opportunities in New England and in Maine,” she points out, referencing such companies as FMC in Rockland (which processes seaweed to make carrageenan), Fisher Engineering and Bath Iron Works. “I love Maine. It is a beautiful state. And my family is here—my grandfather owned Art’s Lobsters in Tenants Harbor and all my uncles and cousins lobster and my parents met when my mother was on summer vacation at her parents’ cottage in Martinsville—so I feel really connected to the community.”
Hupper is planning on staying on an extra year at Maine Maritime Academy to get her master’s degree as well as the bachelor’s degree. By her senior year, she says, she hopes to have a job placement lined up. “Companies really want you to get your master’s degree and they will pay for it.”
There is a lot of hard work ahead of her to get her degree, Hupper acknowledges, but she says she feels confident that she has chosen the right career path for herself. Focusing on finding “the quickest, least expensive way to move a product from point A to point B,” will provide her with constant and interesting challenges—moving pencils around the globe being only one of many possibilities. —JW
PHOTO: Julie Wortman