Reflections of A UW-Chemical Engineer: The Real World Is A Lot Like "Summer Lab"

Lecture by John Church

Executive Vice President – Supply Chain
General Mills, Inc.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Lecture at 4:00 PM
1800 Engineering Hall

Reception at 3:30 p.m. Lobby Engineering Hall

Video of Lecture

An undergraduate Chemical Engineering program teaches the theory and principles that govern chemical processes and their applications. Real world situations are simplified into model systems and problem-sets where "steady-state" or "assumed constants" make the problems easy enough to solve. Laboratory sections, however, provide practical examples of how the equations and principles apply. It's here that the student learns that the observed results usually differ from what one might expect by straight calculation. The lab experience gives the student an understanding that engineering calculations need to be verified and complemented with real world application. Usually, factors that we assumed negligible in the calculations color the outcome in a real system. Most solutions to the world's problems include people with various motivations, different skill levels, and inherent biases. Sometimes you just need to know which way to "turn the valve" to increase or lower pressure or whether you need to add more "catalyst" to get the desired reaction. Whether extruding Cheerios™ through an annular die or improving the sustainability of our global food system, the answers can't always be calculated. The experiment is where the learning happens.

John Church

John Church is the Executive Vice President of Global Supply Chain for General Mills, Inc., the purveyor of such iconic brands as Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Haagen-Dazs, Yoplait and Annie's. He has accountability for Sourcing, Logistics, Manufacturing, Engineering, Food and Employee Safety and Social/Environmental Responsibility. He leads 20,000 supply chain employees on five continents. Church is Lead Director of the supervisory board for Cereal Partners Worldwide, a joint venture with Nestle. He is also Lead Director for the Board of Directors of Yoplait, S. A. He serves as the Executive Sponsor for General Mills' Hispanic Employee Network.

Church's background includes leadership roles in R&D and each of the Supply Chain functional areas. Church joined General Mills in 1988 as a product developer in the Big G cereal division. He led several new product initiatives including the development and commercialization of Multi-Grain Cheerios. He subsequently assumed leadership roles in both R&D and field manufacturing operations, including three years as the Plant Manager of the Covington, GA facility, General Mills' largest cereal and snacks plant. Church returned to Minneapolis in 2001 as Director of Operations–Integration where he led the successful integration of the manufacturing and logistics networks of Pillsbury and General Mills. He was promoted to Vice President, Engineering in 2003 and Vice President, Supply Chain Operations in 2007. He was promoted to Senior Vice President, Supply Chain in 2008 and elected by the General Mills Board of Directors to Executive Vice President in 2013.

Church holds a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin (1988). He is a member of the Visiting Committee for the UW-Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. He currently sits on the Executive Advisory Board for SCM World, a leading cross industry learning community of supply chain professionals around the globe. Church also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Allina Health, a $4B healthcare organization in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Board of the Courage Center in Golden Valley, MN, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancement of individuals with disabilities. He resides in Orono, MN with his wife, Klerissa and has four children.