Don’t Follow the Money, Follow the Supply Chain

Written by Sam Kaplan, Director of Excellence Global Trade and Supply Chain Management of Highline College


She beamed as she handed me her passport. It was her first. The student of Highline College has never traveled outside of the United States before, or much outside of the U.S. West Coast for that matter. But as a participant in the new Follow the Supply Chain Study Abroad program she will be one of 16 students traveling to Vietnam, Wenatchee, and Seattle to study the supply chain up close and understand another country’s culture, politics, and economics.

She and the other participating students from four schools—Highline College, Wenatchee Valley College, Tacoma Community College, and North Seattle College—come from an American patch quilt of backgrounds. The students will follow Washington apples from the orchards and packaging facilities of Wenatchee through Puget Sound area ports to a port on the South China Sea, into the nighttime wholesale market of Ho Chi Minh City and into the shops and stores around Saigon. They will see how Brooks running shoes are designed, tested, and environmentally vetted at the company’s headquarters in Fremont and then see the various components manufactured at a factory in Vietnam.


11 of the 16 students gathered for a pre-trip briefing (other five participated via teleconference)


Even as they gain a deep understanding of the supply chain, they will also learn about Vietnam itself. They will spend time and interact with Vietnamese students, be briefed by the U.S. Consulate, and see cultural sites such as Vietnam’s unique water puppets.

Most American students participating in study abroad programs—and too few Americans participate at all—are from a wealthy background due to the cost and time away from work (community college students often also work full-time). This is a short-term program of 10 days and the cost to the students is only $500. This is due to the generous sponsorship of Lynden Logistics, The Boeing Company, Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, and University of Washington’s Center for International Business, Education and Research. Consequently, we have 16 students coming from diverse backgrounds, many of whom would not have been able to afford a traditional study abroad trip.

The students will see apples and shoe supply chains here in Seattle and Wenatchee in late August and travel to Vietnam in early September. If you want to support these students, please give me a shout (206-592-4838 or


This blog article was written by Sam Kaplan, Director of Excellence Global Trade and Supply Chain Management of Highline College