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Joel Rosback graduates this semester with a degree in supply chain management from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business in an enviable position. He has zero debt, not to mention a full-time job waiting for him. 

“The feeling of graduating debt free is amazing,” Rosback said. “I know that I can go out into the world and do almost anything and not worry about being stuck to a payment. It is freeing.” 

After high school, Rosback planned to go to Virginia Tech, but he couldn’t stomach the idea of taking on student loans. Instead, he attended J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College to save money while taking core classes. He was completely independent, working full time to support himself. 

After he decided to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019, he knew he would have to take out student loans. But that paled in comparison with the $25,000 he spent on a 2018 Honda Accord. It was his first time taking on an extreme amount of debt, but others encouraged him to do so. “I definitely felt pressured by those around me at the time to get the car and to get a nice car as well,” he said.

About a year ago, his debt totaled about $36,000 — $24,000 for the car loan and $12,000 in student loans.

“I knew that I didn’t want to graduate with this debt, so I needed to figure out how to pay these things off as quickly as possible,” Rosback said, crediting evangelical Christian personal finance guru Dave Ramsey for encouraging his success.

“Since my student loans weren’t collecting interest, I worked on paying my car off first, which means I threw everything I had at it,” Rosback said. “This included extra income from work, bonuses, extra financial aid, tax returns and all the COVID money everyone got.”

It worked. By the beginning of 2021, he had paid off his car and a few of his student loans, chipping down his total debt to about $10,000.

But any satisfaction he felt was short-lived. Five weeks after paying off the car, he was tired of seeing that $10,000 student loan debt hovering over him. So, he sold the car for almost as much as he had paid for it and paid off the remainder of his student loans.

“I still do not have a car to this day, and I am going to try and hold off for as long as I can,” Rosback said. “If I could go back and do it differently, I would try to get a cheaper car for sure. … When I do buy a car, it will be with cash.” 

Rosback should have no problem saving for that car. In January, he starts work at DuPont as an asset scheduler for the Tyvek® team in the Richmond plant.

Originally a marketing major, Rosback switched to supply chain management and analytics after the department’s David Berdish talked about the concentration in a business foundations class. 

“He discussed all the opportunities in the field and the skills necessary, such as analytical and critical thinking,” Rosback said. “I consider myself to be a very analytical and critical person so after hearing about it, I instantly knew that supply chain was the career path for me.”

Soon after, Rosback knew he wanted to get involved in the community for the social and professional aspects. But he couldn’t find any groups specifically aimed at supply chain students.

“I felt very frustrated and like I was at a disadvantage in terms of my learning and experience potential,” he said. His girlfriend convinced him to start his own organization, so he founded the VCU chapter of Sigma Chi Mu Tau, the supply chain management honor society.

His fondest memory is of the honor society sponsoring the supply chain “Beer Game.” The game, aka the beer distribution game, illustrates the bullwhip effect, which happens in the supply chain when excess inventory causes lost sales opportunities. Four players — the retailer, wholesaler, distributor and manufacturer — represent various groups on the supply chain. When an unusually large amount of beer is purchased from the retailer, that information travels up the chain, causing a sibling of FOMO — the fear of running out of beer, leading the manufacturer to produce more.

“It was the moment for me that I knew that Sigma Chi Mu Tau can do a lot and can go a long way in supporting our members. It made me very excited for the future of the honor society.” 

Berdish, who spent more than 30 years as manager of social sustainability at Ford Motor Co., and now teaches at VCU, chairs the honor society and predicts Rosback will be successful in his career.

“He has a tremendous work ethic and balanced his academics and the launch of the VCU Sigma Chi Mu Tau honor society chapter,” Berdish said. “I’ve been impressed by his ability to think ‘in systems.’  Supply chain management requires discipline to understand relationships and the holistic — not linear — connection of sourcing, operations and distribution. Joel is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get into the details.”

When Rosback came to VCU, he said he didn’t know that supply chain was offered, but is glad to have found it.

“The reason I came to VCU in general was to be able to be close to home, save money and I knew that the VCU School of Business was a top-tier school,” he said.

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