Moving vans figure prominently in Whitney Klemm’s dynamic career
By Justin Walker
Supply chain management is all about the logistics of moving products from the developers to the consumers, and Whitney Klemm knows a thing or two about moving.
Klemm, a senior buyer at Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, has had at least eight major moves in her life. Her hometown? Well, she is not sure if she has one. Klemm grew up overseas with her parents, even going to middle and high school in Taiwan. Her experiences may not have been as traditional as her peers, but they did provide her with a vision for the future.
“When I was applying for college, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” Klemm said. “I wanted to study Entrepreneurship and International Business. While researching schools, Baylor came up number one for both of those programs.”
Whitney Klemm, BBA ’10
Senior Buyer—Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, Utah
Baylor had always been on Klemm’s radar. Her mom was originally from San Antonio and graduated from Southwest Texas State University—now known as Texas State University. Upon graduation, her mom was approached about attending law school at Baylor by a family friend serving on the Board of Regents. This connection eventually landed Klemm in Waco.
Early in her college career, Klemm went back overseas to visit her family, where they toured a warehouse to see how certain products were manufactured. The tour caused Klemm to wonder how they were able to get the products to everyone across the globe. Her mom encouraged her to look into logistics, which led Klemm to switch her major to Supply Chain Management.
During her junior year at Baylor, Klemm interviewed with representatives from British Petroleum’s (BP) Materials Management Department when they visited campus. She landed an internship with the department for the summer of 2009, where her international background came in handy.
“I am fluent in Mandarin,” Klemm said. “BP was having an issue getting some information with a Chinese supplier and they kept sending the emails in English. I came in and offered to translate the email and send it in Chinese and see if that helps. Not 24 hours later, we had a response with all of the information they had been requesting for nine months.”
BP was impressed. After Klemm graduated the following May with a BBA in Supply Chain Management and International Business, she moved to Houston to work for BP with the Challenger Program, a three-year development initiative. She started in Materials Management working in the warehouse for a year before moving to the Category Management Department as a category analyst. In this role, Klemm managed the global marine vessels and contracts, a position she enjoyed.
Upon completing the Challenger Program in 2013, Klemm was offered another position with BP in Anchorage, Alaska, also in Category Management. She continued to work with contracting and vendor management, holding three different positions while in Alaska. However, Klemm eventually chose to go in a different direction after nine years in oil and gas.
“I have always been interested in education, even in my time at Baylor,” Klemm said. “Western Governors University had a senior buyer role open, and the role is synonymous with what I had at BP.”
Now at WGU, Klemm handles all of the academic program contracts, negotiating with vendors who develop and deliver course content to WGU’s online classrooms. She is still contracting, negotiating and managing vendors, it is just a different commodity this time around.
Klemm has traded in the marine vessels and oil for eBooks and publications, but she is not ruling out a return to the natural resources industry. Some mining companies near Salt Lake City have reached out to her and while she is happy with her current position, it is definitely a possibility, she said.
Klemm’s next journey will be a chance to give back to her alma mater. In November 2020, Klemm joined the Hankamer School of Business’ newly-developed Supply Chain Advisory Board. She is excited about the opportunities this will open, not just for her but for Baylor Business students as well.
“My goal for this board is to make sure we are setting up students for success when they are graduating and trying to identify what type of careers they can have,” Klemm said.
She also hopes that she can be an example for female students to continue to strive for their professional goals.
“When I was a student at Baylor, one thing I always feared is what women’s roles in business were and can they have families,” Klemm said. “That is something I have been able to balance really well—having a growing family while also having a growing career. I just want to be able to tell students you can have the best of both worlds and you can balance that correctly.”