Supply Chain Professor Uses Innovative Spirit to Help Community

Julie Niederhoff

Supply Chain Professor Uses Innovative Spirit to Help Community

Over the past several months, Julie Niederhoff, associate professor of supply chain management, spoke to multiple major media outlets, including CNN, NBC Nightly News and The New York Times about supply chain challenges that have arisen from the pandemic, specifically within the meat industry. However, she has also used her personal talents and knack for innovation to help tackle challenges within her own community.

Throughout the past few months, Niederhoff has made hundreds of masks that she has given to those who need them at — no cost. “I have loved sewing since I was 8-years-old,” she says. “I think it is soothing and comforting.”

When the need for masks quickly gained traction in the spring, Niederhoff got to work, making about 200 in April alone with the help of her 15-year-old daughter. They left the masks on their front porch with a sign inviting anyone who was interested to take as many as needed.

Image 1: Julie Niederhoff and husband wearing masks Image 2: Instagram post showing masks

With a mind for innovation, Niederhoff did not stop with making only traditional masks. She also designed some with clear vinyl in the center to help those who are hard of hearing still be able to read lips.

“A friend reached out to me who has a daughter who is hard of hearing and relies on reading lips,” Niederhoff says. “She wanted to get those kinds of masks for everyone who interacted with her daughter.”

Niederhoff made about 30 masks with clear vinyl centers and sent them to the family. However, it also occurred to her that more people might need masks of that style, like those working with elderly people. So, Niederhoff made about 120 more of this type in just two weeks to give away to those who could use them.

Niederhoff’s investment in supporting the common good did not stop there. She combined her passions for supply chain and innovation with community over the summer as a virtual guest lecturer for a Syracuse University Summer College class called Humanitarian Medical Technology, which was available to high school students. Those in the class worked on developing projects in areas like food access, water access and prenatal and maternal health access.

“That is something I am really interested in — the idea of operations, supply chain and innovation within humanitarian aid in our global community,” she says.

Niederhoff hopes to develop a new class in Whitman centered around the supply chain and innovation side of humanitarian aid. She adds, “Supply chain is about doing things well, but we can also do good, we can help people.”

Mallory Carlson
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