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  May 28th, 2013 | Written by

A Degree Of Elevation

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This Air Force Veteran’s UPS Career Took Off Thanks to a Master’s in Transportation and Logistics Management

When UPS hired Lloyd Knight in 2007, the Air Force veteran with a bachelor’s degree in Transportation and Logistics Management from American Military University (AMU) quickly learned that resting on his scholastic laurels wouldn’t fly. “UPS places a strong emphasis on education,” he says, “and a degree is usually required for a promotion to supervisor or manager.”

Hired on as government tender manager, he was promoted in 2008 to government operations support group manager, again in 2009 to global government operations manager, and yet again in 2012 to director, global government operations. That title—director—carries weight, so it wasn’t without some heavy lifting in the classroom that Knight earned his master’s degree from American Public University (APU) and, by extension, the full faith of the UPS brass.

“I entered the master’s program in early 2010 and finished in 2012,” Knight says. “I had such a good experience at AMU the first time around with the bachelor’s program that I didn’t even look around for another school for the master’s program.”

Based in Charles Town, West Virginia, American Public University System (AMUS) includes AMU and APU. One degree the system offers is a Master of Arts in Transportation and Logistics Management, which Knight attained. “This degree program also offers a concentration in reverse logistics in specific, so students can get both the ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ perspective on logistics,” explains Jennifer S. Batchelor, Ph.D., program director and associate professor, Transportation & Logistics Management. APUS also offers two graduate certificates, in Logistics Management and Leadership in Logistics. “These are the key opportunities and educational offerings that we have for higher level executives,” she adds.

What separates APUS from other universities? “A lot of the programs in other universities focus on supply chain in general, while we dig a little deeper into transportation and logistics,” Batchelor says. “This is really our competitive advantage.”

Knight says he was looking for general information on commercial logistics. “I didn’t have anything specific that I wanted to learn,” he admits. “However, at the time, I didn’t realize just how much the education was going to do for me and how much I was going to use it.”

When he graduated in January 2012 as a member of APU’s Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.89, among his completed courses were Global Logistics Management, Strategic Intermodal Transportation, Research Methods in Transportation and Logistics Management, Transportation Policy and Planning, Transportation Economics, History of Transportation, and courses on security for both ports and airports—not a class selection available at the local J.C. “If you want a really dry read,” he says, “[check out] my thesis,” which happens to be on cargo security in the U.S.

We’ll take his word for it.

NOTHING TO TURN YOUR NOSE UP AT: The standard 747-400 Freighter, like this UPS-owned craft, can carry 124 tons of cargo up to 4,450 nautical miles, according to Boeing.
NOTHING TO TURN YOUR NOSE UP AT: The standard 747-400 Freighter, like this UPS-owned craft, can carry 124 tons of cargo up to 4,450 nautical miles, according to Boeing.

Dry as it may be, Knight’s thesis—and the focus of so many of his courses—was uniquely relevant to his everyday duties. “I manage thousands of sensitive shipments each year for the Department of Defense and defense contractors,” he says. “Shipments such as medical supplies, military unit equipment, military retail and military supplies can have an effect on readiness and troop morale and welfare.”

Knight is responsible for developing operational strategies to meet government business requirements, and ensuring that UPS remains compliant with government regulations and directives. “I was an expert in Department of Defense transportation regulations prior to this degree, but I knew very little about National Transportation Policy,” he says.

Through the APU program, Knight also studied the Certified Cargo Screening Program in great detail—an important knowledge base considering he works for a freight-forwarder that sends a large portion of its cargo by passenger aircraft. Though he had a strong grasp of the air transportation industry as he began his master’s degree coursework, he was able to gain knowledge of other transportation modes of great importance to adapting along with governmental needs. “Over the last several years the military has made great efforts to reduce its dependency on air freight and shifted to ocean, ground and multi-modal modes,” he says.

The program also helped him improve his management abilities. “I manage about $200 million worth of business a year with 22 people in five different teams that handle multiple government contracts, so management skills are important,” he says. His ability to do so was no doubt improved by APU’s Leadership course.

As Knight looks back, he says the biggest challenge of being in the program was the time commitment. “I was putting in 10 to 14 hours a day at UPS, plus spending one to five hours a day on school work. At the time, I didn’t realize just how much the education was going to do for me and how much I was going to use it.”

Knight says one personal benefit he took away from APU and draws on every day is his enhanced written communication ability. “My military education had given me a good background in verbal communication and giving speeches. However, an online program is more about writing than interacting verbally and giving speeches, so I was definitely able to improve my writing skills.”

There was one last benefit Knight hadn’t foreseen would result from his higher education:

“I deal with many senior ranking officers in the military, and with a master’s degree, I’m now on equal footing education-wise.”