Sam Chevakula

Sam Chevakula studied art and design as an undergraduate student in his native India but decided to shift career paths and get into the business world. After earning an MBA in India, he’s now pursuing a master’s degree in supply chain analytics at UMSL. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Sam Chevakula was working for a dairy company in his home city of Hyderabad, India, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the first half of 2020.

Chevakula had completed his MBA the year before at Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University. He’d chosen an emphasis in marketing but also enjoyed learning about supply chain and logistics management.

The pandemic provided a stark reminder of how important that was.

“I could really see how supply chain was broken at that time because India literally had to shut everything for three months because of COVID,” Chevakula said. “People were affected. Prices were hiking, and individuals couldn’t bear the cost. We really wanted to deliver milk to support business and supply people with their daily essentials. We happened to take some (extraordinary) steps to pursue this business and deliver this, and it was completely bootstrapped.”

The experience pushed Chevakula to make supply chain the focus of his career and ultimately to pursue a master’s degree in supply chain analytics at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

The company was rebranded to Ariko Fresh in December 2020, and Chevakula shifted to a position as a supply chain functional consultant. He spent nearly two years in that role and saw how much more he wanted to learn, which is what led him to explore a second master’s degree.

“I was very much interested to get into supply chain and understand the data structure,” he said. “That is something that is booming right now, and I thought I could brush up my skills and learn new skills. As all of us know now, data is something which is helping most of the companies in a gigantic way.”

He started researching universities in the United States and came across UMSL’s master’s program. He was particularly drawn to its emphasis on analytics, which made it stand out from the other programs he was looking at.

Chevakula began digging deeper to learn more about St. Louis and discovered it was a supply chain hub given its geographic location and the presence of global manufacturing companies such as Bayer and Boeing, which have large presences here.

“I thought, why not? Let me try UMSL,” Chevakula said. “That’s when I put an application in at UMSL, and I was very much happy that they selected me.”

The university even gave him a waiver so that he didn’t have to take the GRE exam, and offered him a scholarship to help with the cost of his graduate studies.

Chevakula is now in his second semester in the program and has already learned a lot from faculty members such as Associate Professor Andrea Hupman and others in the Department of Supply Chain and Analytics.

“I’m very much happy,” he said, “I would love to recommend, if there are any students who are searching for supply chain and analytics, I would 100% refer them and ask them to try this university.”

Chevakula has done his best to immerse himself in the campus community as well, including taking part in events sponsored by the Indian Student Association.

He also found an on-campus job last spring and summer working for The Barnett Agency, a student-run public relations firm in the Department of Communication and Media that provides strategic communications and public relations solutions developed to meet the needs of clients, both on campus and in the community. It can provide communication research, content creation, writing, photography and social media management.

Before Chevakula made what he thought was the pragmatic decision to get into business, he studied art and photography at Sri Venkateshwara College of Fine Arts, inspired by the colorful and creative advertisements he saw all around him. Through the course of his studies, he also developed skills in graphic design and videography.

Chevakula ultimately decided it made more sense to keep art and design as more of a hobby. But he was grateful for the opportunity to put his talent to use at The Barnett Agency, especially with the limitations he faces finding work on an international student visa.

“Sam inquired about working with The Barnett Agency when he arrived on campus,” said Jill Alexander, a teaching professor in the Department of Communication and Media who serves as the agency’s faculty advisor. “His application stood out above other candidates because he included a link to his digital portfolio. It was clear from his work that he understood how to craft messages for public consumption, as well as use Adobe Creative Suite tools like Premier Pro for video editing.

“While it was unusual for a graduate student in supply chain and analytics to also have graphic design and video editing skills, once I met Sam in person, I understood that he is a really creative person. His creative skills proved to be a valuable asset.”

Chevakula played a leading role last spring in the development of a video for the Office of Research and Economic and Community Development that played during the annual Research and Innovation Reception.

He appreciated learning about some of the research being done by faculty members in different colleges and departments at UMSL.

“I really enjoyed that,” he said. “I love to share my experience and also learn from where they are coming. It’s a great combination, enjoying your hobby and gaining knowledge.”

Chevakula has since moved to a new position as a graduate assistant in the Office of Academic Affairs and also helped redesign The Current student newspaper’s website. He plans to continue putting his creative skills to use when he can as he works toward his degree over the next year.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik