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Auburn University senior Jackson Chen has talent, and that’s clear every time the music major touches the ivories on stage as a concert pianist. However, it is his dedication to hard work and a sincere fascination with how things develop behind the scenes that has his mentors convinced he’s also destined to be a star in the business world.
Chen was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived most of his life in Dothan, Alabama. He is a dual-major student working toward a degree in supply chain management at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business.
“After graduation, I would like to start my career in the consulting field while being involved with the music scene in the area that I would reside,” Chen said.
Business came first. “I declared a major in supply chain management in my first year since it focuses on finding the most efficient and effective way to solve a business problem or achieve an objective, which is similar to how I operate,” Chen said. “The addition of the music major came in my second year.
“I auditioned... since I realized that Auburn's Music Department has great professors who are experts at their instruments and are actively involved with performances,” he said. “As a person who has been playing piano since middle school, I would like to improve my craft at the next level.”
Still, his budding interest in a business career has led to a few surprises along the way.
“To be honest, I did not expect supply chain management to be the topic of dinner conversations in 2020,” he joked. “I think one of the reasons that happened is because essential items are regularly out of stock on a nationwide scale, which created the awareness of how important a robust and resilient supply chain needs to be to have the products or services that we need in our daily lives.”
Harbert’s Alex Ritenbaugh, who serves as the supply chain management department’s program champion, sees Chen as someone who has immense talent, yes, but also as one who consistently thinks of others.
“Jackson is not only an exceptionally bright student, he’s also a thoughtful and conscientious leader,” she said. “He’s the first to volunteer when we need help with anything and is a great ambassador for our program.
“It’s clear that Jackson has a passion for helping others and thrives in any opportunity he has to shine the light on a fellow student,” she noted, adding: “It’s hard to balance ambition and humility, but Jackson does so seamlessly to the betterment of all around him.”
"Piano is a precision instrument and that same precision is required in keeping the world’s supply chains running.”
-- Alex Ritenbaugh, Harbert College of Business
An interesting combination
Many might ask, why the combination of music and supply chain management?
It’s not so hard to see the connection, says Ritenbaugh, and she feels Chen has it sized up just right.
“Much like a great pianist, Jackson makes it all look so easy,” she said. “When you go to watch a piano performance, what you don’t see is the years of dedication behind it, the hours of practice every week, the will to push though when it’s anything but easy.
“With this level of dedication and passion, it’s easy for me to see why Jackson chose the Harbert College of Business and the Supply Chain Management program. Supply chain management is not for the faint of heart and is very much a ‘behind the scenes’ career.
“When you walk into a store and are able to buy what you need or when you order a package online and it shows up on your door in two days, it all seems so easy. But there are countless people diligently working behind the scenes to make your consumer experience seamless,” Ritenbaugh said. “Piano is a precision instrument and that same precision is required in keeping the world’s supply chains running.
“I can see why Jackson is passionate about both!”
Plenty of fun, too!
Earning a degree in a chosen major, or in Chen’s case two majors, clearly is important for its own reasons, but Chen also enjoys plenty of other things about being a college student at Auburn.
“I have made many great memories during my time here,” he said. “One of them is to get to experience Auburn traditions with friends from my hometown who also go here. I have known them as early as elementary school, and it is interesting to grow with them.
“Another one is to get the opportunity to perform a solo piece at the Gogue Performing Arts Center the year after it opened,” Chen recalled, and “last but not least, I enjoyed learning new activities such as tennis and ice skating with the friends I got to meet here.”
He also shared high praise for his Auburn instructors and mentors in both fields, music and business, crediting their influence and experience as a major contributor to his successes.
Christy Warren, an academic adviser to Chen, said “Jackson is a phenomenal student. He always has a positive attitude and is great at staying in touch with me about his academic plans.
“Jackson knows what he wants and pursues it wholeheartedly,” she said. “I have no doubt he has a bright future ahead of him!”