EPIC Spotlight: Brian Fugate

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April 20 , 2016

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If Brian Fugate notices students falling asleep in his class, he can always rouse them with stories about his family’s pig farm in his home state of Tennessee.

That 7,000-head farm, which included some cattle, was located “way out in the country” in eastern Tennessee near Tazewell, Fugate says. He spent part of his high school years traveling around Tennessee with his father through the state’s county extension office, attending expos and gatherings.

Though he’s no longer connected to pig farming, he is right at home at a university that celebrates a Razorback hog.

Fugate joined the Sam M. Walton College of Business in August 2015 as associate professor and the Oren Harris Chair in Transportation. He teaches introductory supply chain management classes.

His farming experience inspired him to initially study agriculture engineering at the University of Tennessee before changing his major to earn an industrial engineering degree. He then worked for Delta Airlines, evaluating the suppliers – namely food vendors – for the company before relocating to the auto industry, helping produce airbags.

Fugate, however, yearned to learn more about business and returned to the University of Tennessee to earn a MBA in logistics and marketing.

“I just love learning,” Fugate says. “Supply chain is just that process improvement on steroids.”

After working in logistics for John Deere, Fugate returned, once again, to the University of Tennessee, where he earned his Ph.D. He taught for a couple of years at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, before going to Colorado State University. While at Colorado, he and a partner came up with an online application called ACTIV82LRN, which allows students to engage in social learning by answering questions while viewing and evaluating the answers of fellow students. This was a result of Fugate’s passion for finding innovative ways to foster active learning and develop critical thinking skills for learners. It earned an Innovations That Inspire award from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Fugate’s research includes studying the business advantages of sustainability and understanding the supply chain implications for fresh food and food safety. His work has been featured in many publications, including the Journal of Supply Chain Management, Journal of Business Logistics and Journal of Operations Management.

Shortly before coming to Walton, Fugate, his wife and four children lived in an 800-square-foot apartment in Zaragoza, Spain, while Fugate participated in the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program as a Fulbright Senior Research Award recipient.

During his professorships, Fugate came to know Walton College supply chain management faculty Terry Esper and Matt Waller.

Fugate was a Ph.D. student when Esper, associate professor, taught at University of Tennessee before coming to Walton. Fugate says Waller was his mentor as Fugate grew into his role as professor. “He was somebody I was impressed with, and he took the time to give me advice along the way,” Fugate says.

When the opportunity came, Fugate jumped at the chance to work with the impressive supply chain faculty at Walton. “This is supply chain mecca – supply chain heaven,” he says, noting that the local companies, from Walmart to J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., provide many learning opportunities through their partnerships with Walton.

“Here, I’m like a kid in the candy store,” Fugate says.

He’s also a grown-up who isn’t afraid of getting in a little mud. Fugate went to Atlanta to compete in the Reebok Spartan Sprint where athletes run about 5 miles in the woods and participate in 24 military obstacles that include crawling on the wet ground. Like a true Razorback, he enjoys the mud and comes by it honestly.