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CCALS Fellows, left to right: Sofoniase Zeraye, LaTonya Warren, George Boulos, Elaina Clifford, Jalen Jackson

by Elaina Clifford

Five students from Virginia universities were selected to participate in the summer 2023 CCALS Research Fellowship. These research fellows were tasked with following goals and objectives:

  • Initiate assessment of Virginia’s logistics and supply chain ecosystem(s) – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
  • Begin information gathering and initial engagements with key stakeholders to collect input.
  • Identify emerging technologies (AI, blockchain, autonomy, etc.) that have shown the ability to impact logistics, transportation, and supply chains.
  • Perform data collection and benchmarking of state-level logistics and supply chain programs, policies, and ecosystems to identify best practices and recommendations.

Meet these five fantastic research fellows as well as the fellowship instructor, and learn more about the future change-makers of Virginia’s supply chain:

Lessie Oliver-Clark  |  Jalen Jackson  |  Elaina Clifford  |  LaTonya Warren  |  George Boulos  |  Sofoniase Zeraye

Lessie Oliver-Clark

Lessie Oliver-Clark

University: I’m an Instructor in the Department of Applied Engineering Technology in the College of Engineering &Technology at Virginia State University, and my educational background is as follows:

  • B. A. Economics, and Echols Scholar, University of Virginia
  • M.S. Management Information Systems, Florida Institute of Technology
  • Doctoral Studies, Old Dominion University

Role in Fellowship: As Principal Investigator my role is to administer the overall fellowship program and guide the students’ research efforts.

Fun Fact: I have more than 30 (ugly) Christmas sweaters.

Biggest Challenge: Managing a geographically remote group of students from different academic disciplines and coordinating virtual interviews with multiple stakeholders.

Most Fulfilling Aspect: Seeing the students coalesce into a team and develop valuable project management skills.

Additional comments: This was a great example of the cooperative capabilities of the five CCALS member universities: Virginia State University, Old Dominion University, The University of Virginia, Longwood University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Jalen Jackson

Jalen Jackson

University: Virginia State University

Role in Fellowship: My role in this fellowship was to research, analyze, and create questions to ask stakeholders about various issues in Virginia logistics.

Fun Fact: I enjoy drawing.

Biggest Challenge: Creating questions to supplement our research in order to obtain the finest information for our assignment was a challenge for me.

Most Fulfilling Aspect: The most satisfying component of this fellowship opportunity was meeting these fantastic groups of individuals and our group work. We worked hard as a team to produce this fantastic report and presentation.

Additional comments: This fellowship has provided me with an excellent chance to expand my knowledge, enhance my public speaking skills, and strengthen my teamwork abilities.

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Jalen Jackson

Elaina Clifford

University: Longwood University

Role in Fellowship: Throughout this fellowship, I’ve embraced diverse roles, leveraging my expertise in economics, marketing, and supply chain management to contribute effectively.

Fun Fact: I love to read, camp, and hike during my free time.

Biggest Challenge: I believe that the most challenging aspect of the fellowship revolved around embracing the uncomfortable and finding comfort in it. The process of learning is not always a smooth journey; it often entails experiencing growing pains. Throughout this fellowship, I had the opportunity to acquire a plethora of new knowledge and skills that will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on my professional trajectory.

Most Fulfilling Aspect: The most fulfilling aspect of this fellowship was getting the opportunity to see my team members grow and helping them in their professional development. We all brought different things to this project and came into this fellowship with such different backgrounds, which I believe provided many advantages.

Additional comments: Both I and numerous team members share the common sentiment that our exploration of logistics in Virginia merely scratches the surface, given the intricacies of the supply chain. There exists an abundance of untapped potential, and I would greatly appreciate the chance to extend this program into the school year, allowing for further growth and development. However, if such an extension is not feasible, I want to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity thus far—it has been an absolute pleasure.

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LaTonya Warren

LaTonya Warren

University: Old Dominion University

Role in Fellowship: My role in this fellowship, I feel, was to provide insight from a chemistry perspective. As everyone on the team is majoring in some form of engineering, I was the only student majoring in chemistry. This was great, for it diversified our team and I feel that moving forward our team will be the standard.

Fun Fact: I am the mother of an amazing 11-year-old son named Kayden.

Biggest Challenge: Nothing comes to mind for I feel our team’s dynamic was great. And we quickly fell into a rhythmic ebb and flow.

Most Fulfilling Aspect: I learned something new every single day! And had the amazing opportunity to speak with a lot of great leaders on the business side and the policy side here in Virginia.

Additional comments: This program should continue on through the fall semester. There is so much work to be done and it is so important to see projects like these to the finish.

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George Boulos

George Boulos

University: The University of Virginia

Role in Fellowship: Interviewing, opportunities, and policy.

Fun Fact: I like chocolate milk and judo.

Biggest Challenge: Staying at home and some irregularity in meetings.

Most Fulfilling Aspect: Working on a project to improve the state I grew up in. Also, I’m a big fan of making things efficient.

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Sofoniase Zeraye

Sofoniase Zeraye

University: My name is Sofoniase Zeraye and I’m currently a senior attending Virginia Commonwealth University studying mechanical engineering and physics.

Role in Fellowship: I focused primarily on data analysis for the project, scouring the web for publicly available data sets that related to the points of interest for our research and querying them to highlight specific metrics and identify trends.

Fun Fact: I got bored during quarantine so I taught myself how to tattoo and tattooed myself. I’m not the best but considering I’m self-taught and have only practiced on myself I’d say I’m decent at it.

Biggest Challenge: Collaborating with a team to achieve broader goals. Communication is very important especially when the research is so interconnected and we’re working remotely, often on our own schedules.

Most Fulfilling Aspect: Seeing everything we’ve spent the last two months working towards coming together. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve and I’m very excited to continue this project.

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