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Author's profile photo Marianne Bradford

North Carolina State Jenkins SAP Course Provides Focused Learning, Proven Results

In an increasingly aggressive job market, our graduates continue to gain an edge on the competition through unique, specialized curriculums. The result: NC State success stories around the globe.


In 2009, the University Alliance Program launched in the Jenkins Graduate School of Management in the NC State University Poole College of Management to provide courses on SAP (Systems, Applications, and Products in Data Processing), an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system used by over 95,000 customers in 120 countries. There are over 12 million users, including the majority of Fortune 500 companies around the globe. SAP is the world’s largest business software company and the world’s 3rd largest independent software provider.  Led by Dr. Marianne Bradford, associate professor of accounting, the courses are exclusive to few schools in the country. As a result, Jenkins MBA graduates have a competitive advantage in top industries.


“People realize that it is important to gain hands-on experience with an ERP package, and of course, SAP is the market leader. It is implemented in many of the major companies in the world,” says Bradford.

According to Bradford, SAP, the premier ERP system, runs all areas of organization, including accounting and finance, human resources, sales and distribution, production, purchasing and inventory. This complex, cross-functional system is taught by Bradford using an in-depth curriculum. While some universities offer the course based solely on one organizational area, such as accounting or purchasing, Bradford says her Poole College of Management course details all the core modules of SAP, as well as ERP theory and practice.

“We go through most core modules. That’s the differentiator,” says Bradford of her popular courses. Two years ago, the first section of her advanced SAP course included seven students. This year, 60 students are completing the course and receiving the SAP University Alliance certificate.

“When you have so many types of students in your class –MAC students, MBA students, students from the Integrated Manufacturing System Engineering program, for example—it only makes sense to teach cross-functional ERP. Because that’s what ERP does—it runs your whole company.”

“I would strongly suggest that students recognize and seize this unique opportunity to genuinely differentiate themselves with respect to both resume and practical skill set alike,” advises NCSU alum Ben Gahagan, who completed Bradford’s course before graduating with degrees in Internal Audit Accounting and Financial Analysis in May 2011. “It is a legitimate opportunity to gain useful, real-world experience in an area of business that is in extremely high demand. Further, this is not an opportunity afforded to students at all schools – there are a limited number of institutions that have fostered partnerships with SAP.

Gahagan landed his current Oracle position at Sonoco, a multi-billion dollar global consumer packaging corporation. Oracle is the ERP provider in the world. Gahagan says that he, along with another NC State alum, were among eight chosen by the company. The application pool included nearly 200 resumes from across the United States.

After an increasingly high demand for the Saturday SAP course, the school added a Friday section this year for part-time MBA students who want SAP experience, but don’t have the time in their schedules for a three-hour course. Upon completing the more advanced course, students learn SAP configuration and receive the SAP University Alliance certificate. Companies that use SAP include John Deere, IBM, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, Glaxo Smith Kline, Caterpillar and more.

“The knowledge I garnered from Dr. Bradford’s class was paramount in landing my current position. The course was, without question, the most practical and useful course that I took while double-majoring at NC State University in regard to preparation for employment after graduation,” Gahagan says. “The ability to fully access an instance of SAP, viewing the same interface that is seen by users at major organizations across the world, provided me the confidence and competence necessary to begin a career in the world of ERP. From an employer’s perspective, access to recent graduates with ERP experience is a major advantage – it is a capability that has not typically been present among this group, especially those attempting to obtain entry-level positions. The recruiters with whom I spoke were extremely impressed that a candidate was able to obtain ERP experience academically, and, particularly, that NC State University is able to offer such a program; I have absolutely no doubt they will recruit NC State University graduates with even greater fervor in the future as positions become available.”

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