As Kettering University Online’s (KUO) Program Development Manager and Senior Instructional Designer, I have the pleasure of working with our Contributing Faculty members and Faculty Mentors, many of whom are subject matter experts for the courses they teach. Coming from a wide range of educational, career, and geographical backgrounds, KUO faculty unite in an effort to link transformative experiential education to rigorous academic standards with real-world applications for learning that last a lifetime.
This time, we are happy to shine the Faculty Spotlight on Dr. Rafael Rojas. Dr. Rojas teaches a course in Operations Management. Following are excerpts from our conversation:
JL: Thank you, Dr. Rojas, for making time to chat with me. The first question I always ask is, where did you grow up?
RR: I was born in Tokyo, Japan and grew up in Quito, Ecuador.
JL: That is so interesting. How about your degrees? Which degrees do you have, and from where?
RR: I have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Escuela Politecnica Nacional in Quito, Ecuador, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Gannon University in Erie, PA, an MBA from the University of California in Irvine and a DBA from Grenoble Ecole de Management in Grenoble, France.
JL: You were educated all over the world! Currently, you teach the operations management course for KUO. I’m curious as to what motivated you to specialize in this area.
RR: My entire professional career has been focused on process improvement in the role of facilitator, coach, and teacher to operations leaders. I really enjoy guiding leaders and teams through both tactical and strategic transformations by focusing not only on improvement systems but also on developing leaders’ skills.
JL: The concept of sustainability is becoming increasingly important in today’s business landscape, almost regardless of industry; how do you emphasize this idea to your learners?
RR: The operations management course focuses on the organization’s ability to adhere internally to values and strategies, as well as on best practices for managing the extended supply chain. The idea of sustainability is represented today in every major organization's values, mission, and strategy, so I encourage learners to include in discussions and assignments reflections about how organizations are realizing their efforts toward becoming sustainable. The supply chain is a good example of how bigger organizations have succeeded or have fallen behind in ensuring sustainable practices.
JL: Speaking of teaching, what is your teaching philosophy?
RR: My goal is for learners to walk away from the course with both a good understanding of concepts and a clear vision of how to implement or apply what they are learning. I always welcome questions and appreciate learners’ different points of view. I also challenge them by having them reflect on ways they will apply the material they have learned.
JL: That makes perfect sense since the approach KUO takes in developing all of their courses is “Learn today. Use tomorrow.” What would you love learners to come away with after they have taken this course?
RR: I would love to have every learner in the class walk away with a new insight, skill, and/or a further understanding of something they have learned in the past.
JL: What would you say about your Kettering learners?
RR: One of the reasons I love teaching at Kettering University Online is the level of practical knowledge our learners have. This demands that I am well-prepared and keep up with the latest developments in the industry.
JL: Getting back to operations management, I saw a quote by Lean expert Bruce Hamilton where he said: "Continuous improvement is not about the things you do well — that’s work. Continuous improvement is about removing the things that get in the way of your work. The headaches, the things that slow you down, that’s what continuous improvement is all about" (GMBP, 2023, para. 1). Since continuous improvement is a fundamental aspect of operations management and also a part of the Lean methodology, can you elaborate on how you encourage students to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement and identify areas for optimization?
RR: Yes! Continuous improvement is an essential function of operations management, and the operations management course provides an opportunity for learners to discuss Lean methods and their applications. Additionally, the class is designed to challenge learners to reflect on better ways to manage operations not only of their own organization but also of other organizations.
JL: From some of the work I have done, I recognize that supply chain management plays a vital role in operations management. What do you think are some of the key challenges in this area, and how do you guide your learners to tackle these challenges both efficiently and effectively?
RR: There is a section in the course that is dedicated to learning about the supply chain. This is where learners have an opportunity to discuss supply chain networks, as well as the impact they have on organizations and the complex challenges they pose. Also, the field of supply chain management has provided good case studies in recent years, so I always encourage learners to focus on these examples because they provide insights into the current challenges learners are likely to face in their daily work.
JL: Operations management also requires making informed decisions based on data analysis. How do you equip learners with the necessary analytical skills to make effective, data-driven decisions?
RR: Throughout the course, I encourage learners to focus on relevant case studies that provide strong data analysis and objective recommendations. I also challenge learners to reflect on prior professional experiences so they can make better decisions in the future.
JL: Switching gears, are there any particular career achievements or highlights you would like to mention?
RR: I always look for learning opportunities, and, as such, I have had the chance to work in several industries, including diesel engines, transportation, health care services, construction, and semiconductors.
JL: My last question is always, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
RR: I am an avid road cyclist and runner. I also try to keep up and not lose my ability to speak French.
JL: Dr. Rojas, thank you for creating space in your busy schedule to chat with us.
RR: It was my pleasure to talk with you. Thank you!
KUO honors and appreciates Dr. Rojas for his contributions and highly regarded work with students.
If you are interested in becoming a member of our award-winning faculty or a subject matter expert for course development, send your curriculum vitae and cover letter to Dr. Christine Wallace.
If you are interested in becoming a student, visit Kettering University Online for information about our graduate degree programs.
GMBP (2023). Bruce Hamilton. https://blog.kainexus.com/continuous-improvement/continuous-improvement-...