Fatoki Selected for Prestigious North Star Collective Faculty Fellowship

The Assistant Professor of Business Management will dedicate this semester to fostering inclusivity and collaboration among BIPOC early-career faculty, while furthering his research on supply chain management

By Jordan J. Phelan ’19
Assistant Professor of Business Management

BRISTOL, R.I. – Assistant Professor of Business Management Jimoh Fatoki has been named to the North Star Collective Faculty Fellowship’s latest cohort, recognizing his academic achievements and positioning him as a leader committed to advancing inclusivity and equity within academia.

As part of the North Star Collective, Roger Williams is one of 18 member institutions throughout New England committed to reparative justice and racial equity and to initiatives that propel academia toward a more inclusive and equitable future. Now in its third year, the semester-long fellowship is “dedicated to restoring, nourishing, and uplifting early-career faculty” who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, with a particular emphasis on supporting leaders as they transform higher education institutions around racial equity through writing and publishing endeavors. Fatoki is one of 31 faculty in this semester’s cohort. 

Originally from Nigeria, Fatoki completed his MBA and Ph.D. at New Mexico State University, where he delved into the impact of supplier involvement on business performance through supply chain risk management. His multidisciplinary background in agricultural and environmental engineering brings a unique perspective to the fellowship, fostering an environment of interdisciplinary collaboration.

A distinguished scholar, Fatoki said his teaching philosophy emphasizes the practical application of knowledge to real-world scenarios on a range of topics related to how organizations can develop value-added approaches to enhance productivity and operational efficiency, including location and facility design, quality management, inventory management, and business analytics, where students are taught how to tell informative stories and make accurate business decisions using data. His research explores the ways in which emerging technologies facilitate the coordination and integration of supply chain activities, enhancing agility, robustness, and resilience.

Now entering his second semester of teaching at RWU, Fatoki is poised to use what he learns from the fellowship to build upon the experiences of the past year and further shape his classroom into a dynamic space that fosters learning through open dialogue.

In a Q&A session, Fatoki shared why he applied for the fellowship, what he is excited to gain from the experience, and how he feels his many years of academic and professional expertise can help others find their own path. 

Q: What motivated you to apply for the North Star Collective faculty fellowship?

Fatoki: The motivation was to meet people. When you come to the United States from a different country, you come from a different culture, a different way of life. In 2019, when I came to the U.S. for my Ph.D., I realized that there were so many things I needed to learn that differed from what I was used to. I needed people who had felt the same way and had been through similar experiences.

I see the North Star Collective as more than just a collection of new faculty in member institutions in New England; it’s a community of people who have this experience of being new and trying to find their feet and a place where you can learn from others who have a lot in common and who are sharing ideas on how to navigate the challenges of academics. It will be interesting for me to meet them, form a community with them, know how they navigate their challenges and also be able to share how I navigate my own challenges.

Q: What will you gain from the fellowship, and how does it align with your career goals and aspirations?

Fatoki: What I will gain from the fellowship is a whole lot. There's a lot to gain in terms of research. For example, the writing group gives me the room to dedicate two to three hours of my day for writing. The second one that I feel is very important is the collaboration – the chance to have a couple of people around that you can continue to collaborate with. For instance, because the program is for all fields in academics, I met some people who are in business who probably would have a lot to do together in terms of research collaboration. But the most important thing for me is the community that I will form. We are all starting our careers and so we can work together to achieve that objective of research and teaching, keep track of each other’s progress and keep nourishing these connections as we move forward in the academic world and until we get to the top of our careers. That’s a big deal for me.

And this aligns with my goals and objectives. For a professor, there are three basic things we talk about: research, teaching and service to the university. On the teaching side, that’s more individualistic. You can ask friends about how they teach and see what you can integrate into your [approach], but in terms of research and service to the university, I think that is what becomes very important. For instance, being able to work together on research and present at conferences together is a form of service to the university and a way to get the university’s name out there that is a benefit from having this community around you.

Q: What will be the focus of your research?

Fatoki: Supply chain and risk management-related areas will be the focus of my research. The major goal of my involvement in the community is to look broadly at how an organization can improve their manufacturing and management of their risk with the challenges they have and the complexity of their supply chain.

I'm trying to develop an idea on how organizations can manage that in terms of reducing the risk they face, especially when we look at catastrophic risk. The Suez Canal, for example, was very difficult because that was unexpected for everybody. And these are the things that make the supply chain come to the forefront for people in the environment and research. The idea of supply chain in the past wasn’t really a big deal until the pandemic when people were looking for stuff they would normally find in the store, and they couldn’t find it. It became a question of, ‘Who should we blame?’ Then we started talking about the supply chain, and it became popular among people. And I think people are getting more and more concerned about it. In the past it was more about operations over organization in terms of single units. Now, it's all about what we do as a group. So even if you are good at organization, even if you are able to get your things down to a single unit, if you do not structure your supply chain as good as it’s supposed to be then you will see a problem. We know that it's not about us alone. It's about how much we're able to coordinate activities.

Q: How does the fellowship relate to your work as a professor, and how do you anticipate you will bring this new experience and knowledge into your classroom at RWU?

Fatoki: The fellowship is open to every field, so by hearing how someone in science or humanities or education is doing research, you can broaden your knowledge and maybe use their ideas. But the academic work goes back and forth in terms of teaching and research, and you can use what you learn in research in how you teach, and you can use your experience in teaching for research. For research, the more you embrace literature, the more [quality] examples and illustrations you have to share in class. 

I think that's what drives student engagement. The more you are able to leverage something that they can relate to in terms of experience, the more it becomes something that they can quickly grab and take away. The more you focus on research and discuss with others outside your field, the more you are able to bring this level of student engagement and participation in class activities.

Q: What kind of impact can the North Star Collective fellowship initiative have on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education?

Fatoki: With people from India, China, South Korea, Ghana, Nigeria, and all these different countries, the collective focuses on the goals of BIPOC faculty because we want diversity. We want people who are underrepresented in the academic world to be able to share their voices.

The good thing is we are not alone. We started out as a community in connection with the previous cohorts, so all the benefits of one small community can be shared with the larger community. While we are building our small community, we are also thinking about how we can build a bigger community. All of this is an example of diversity, equity and inclusion, and it's given room for people who are minority to have their voice included in the academic world. That is a big deal and a benefit for us.

Q: What are you most looking forward to with this opportunity?

Fatoki: I’m looking forward to the community. I value the community. If you’re going through challenges, it’s important that you have people to talk to that you have something in common with. And if you’re going through something that someone else might have gone through, or is even going through at that time, there’s a bit of connection with that person, and they can help.