Five Questions with the Faculty: Dietrich von Biedenfeld
By Mark Kramer
As Dietrich von Biedenfeld sees it, the phrase “we’ve always done it that way” has no place in the world of business.
“That type of mentality sometimes impedes the best results,” said von Biedenfeld, the assistant chair and assistant professor of General Business, Marketing and Supply Chain Management at the University of Houston-Downtown’s Marilyn Davies College of Business.
He knows of what he speaks, having a legal background as an attorney and business procurement experience. von Biedenfeld previously worked as the chief contracts officer for the San Jacinto College District and the Houston Community College System. He also has served on the Texas Council on Purchasing with Disabilities under former Gov. Rick Perry’s administration.
The third-generation West Columbia, Texas native earned his law degree from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), with an emphasis on dispute resolution and international law. He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science from the University of Houston. He came to UHD as an adjunct as an adjunct business professor in 2016 and was eventually asked to become full time.
“I love the opportunity to directly support our future business and civic leaders’ success,” von Biedenfeld said. “Educating students who will be responsible for our shared economic future and our political structures is rewarding beyond belief.”
UHD News recently visited with von Biedenfeld about how Supply Chain Management is a lifeline for businesses.
UHD News: What role does Supply Chain Management play in business?
von Biedenfeld: Supply Chain Management really is the world of business. Without the flow of goods and services, there is no need for human resources, finance, accounting, and even legal functions are not necessary.
UHD News: How do you prepare students for all of the details involved in the Supply Chain Management field?
von Biedenfeld: The first step in the process of equipping students with the knowledge and skills to excel in the supply cycle professions is to lay a foundation of core functions. Once students understand operations, logistics, and legal elements, we explore the application of principles and theories in specific environments. Understanding industry-specific and culturally distinct aspects of business prepares our students to successfully work in the Supply Chain Management field. We emphasize the importance of awareness, analysis, and action.
UHD News: How important is Supply Chain to the national and global economy?
von Biedenfeld: The importance of the supply cycle cannot be overstated. We live in a globally interdependent world. From mechanical parts to produce, our national trade is dependent on international partners. Disruptions, interruptions, and terminations within the supply chain can bankrupt businesses, cause mass layoffs of employees, and, with emergency essential supplies particularly, result in loss of life.
UHD News: Speaking of economic impact, how is the recent Coronavirus scare in China affecting business and supply chain?
von Biedenfeld: The health crisis is going to get worse before it gets better. Some of this assessment is based on the reality that reported cases will likely increase as measurement precision and scrutiny expands of reporting from a relatively opaque media culture. We are seeing elevated awareness of the oil and gas markets, travel, and local Chinese marketplace impacts. We are seeing the negative effects compound existing challenges in oil and gas and travel markets caused in part by demand uncertainty and aircraft model production stoppages. These and other market stressors brought us into 2020 with concerns now exacerbated by this virus.
UHD News: What advice do you give students who are interested in entering this field?
von Biedenfeld: Students should be prepared to work outside of basic arithmetical equations when entering this field. One plus one does not always equal two in the supply cycle. Contract negotiations, political navigation, and regulatory compliance each require specific skills to effectively represent employers (remembering that self-employed entrepreneurs have even more of an interest in capable execution of strategies toward goals). I would advise students to be ready to learn, adapt and improvise.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.