Research faculty member Dominic Essuman both studies and demonstrates resilience

As a scholar of logistics and supply chain management, Dominic Essuman studies supply chain disruptions and resilience capabilities. These are topics he is familiar with from his own personal experience.

Dominic Essuman with his mother after graduating with his PhD degree

Dominic Essuman seems to have had a drive for education from his earliest years, although he was unaware of it, and his circumstances don’t explain it. Neither of his parents, who were cocoa farmers, had any schooling. 

Yet when Essuman was 7 years old, he took it upon himself to register for the new school opening in his village in western Ghana. His parents were away, so he grabbed his 5-year-old twin siblings and followed other families to the new school to enroll.

Asked what accounted for that independence and aspiration at such a young age, Essuman responds matter-of-factly.

“They announced that they’ll be starting a school, and every parent should bring their kids, and my parents were not there,” he recounts. “Everyone was taking their kid to the school to get registered. So we joined them. We were very young, but I can still remember that moment.” 

Another early memory is his mother calling the kids together every evening to read their school books. Although she didn’t speak English and didn’t understand what they were reading, she knew it was important to encourage their education.

“I don’t know why she was doing that; it wasn’t like she was learning from someone how to assist your children to learn,” Essuman says. “She didn’t know that, but it was a practice she adopted to make sure we were always learning.”

Even so, Essuman is the only one of the nine children in his family to go on to earn a university degree. One younger brother is working toward his degree now.

Something challenging and dynamic

Essuman says he pursued higher education at the urging of an uncle, who wanted him to become an accountant. He studied accounting and was good at it but soon abandoned it for supply chain management. 

“When I got to the university, that was the first time I heard of supply chain management as a field or as a topic,” Essuman recalls. 

“We had a few lectures, and I began appreciating that most of the things that were taught were practical things you can easily relate to. 

“Accounting tends to be very abstract, and you have to follow processes and procedures,” he continues. “I don’t like that. I want something more challenging, something dynamic.”

So Essuman completed a degree in logistics and supply chain management. He didn’t stop there, though. He also earned an MBA and PhD, all from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). 

Now a lecturer at the University of Sheffield in England, Essuman is also one of CARISCA’s research faculty. In that role, he conducts research and promotes research-led education on supply chain management; produces abstracts, papers and other publications on his studies; and mentors other team members and students.  

Essuman’s research interests center around supply chain disruptions and resilience capabilities. Those interests seem appropriate, given his educational experience. At two junctures, he had to develop his own resilience to overcome disruptions to his study plans.

After completing his MBA, Essuman wanted to pursue a PhD at KNUST but was told he would have to earn a master of philosophy degree first. Instead, he was advised to apply to the University of Leeds in England, where he was accepted and offered a scholarship.

“Unfortunately, things there didn’t go as planned,” Essuman relates.

A resilient, brilliant and reliable student

After 16 months in the three-year program, Essuman had defended his dissertation proposal and was ready to go into the field to collect data. Then his PhD supervisors told him he needed to change his research topic.

“I tried working on what they suggested for two months or so,” he recalls, “but every time I met with them they tried to suggest something different. I was really stressed. It affected me emotionally. So I decided to quit the program. I couldn’t complete it.”

“I like finding explanations to why things are happening.”

Feeling deflated, Essuman moved back to Ghana. There, he discovered that Nathaniel Boso had been appointed dean of the KNUST School of Business. 

Essuman had first met Boso during his MBA studies, when Boso visited KNUST to run a training program. Essuman was one of only three participants in the program who completed the final assignment. Impressed by their initiative, Boso reached out to them, and he and Essuman stayed in touch.

Boso subsequently advised Essuman on his master’s thesis and recommended he apply to the PhD program at the University of Leeds, where Boso was then on faculty. When Essuman returned to Ghana, Boso offered him support to finish his PhD at KNUST.

One year later, as a newly minted PhD, Essuman joined the KNUST faculty as an assistant lecturer in supply chain management. He was promoted to lecturer the next year.

“Dominic was a resilient, brilliant and reliable student,” says Boso,” who in addition to his role as dean serves as director of CARISCA. “I was extremely impressed with the quality of his work and his willingness to learn new things, and so investing in him was definitely a yes from me. His success as an academic so far justifies my initial confidence in him as a rising star in academia.”

Rocky start as a researcher

Essuman insists that his becoming an academic was not a conscious decision. He just found himself working in academia when he was offered a teaching assistant position after completing his bachelor’s degree. That position came with the opportunity to do graduate work.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision,” Essuman says. “It wasn’t. But one thing that I like about academia, that I think is a conscious decision that I want to stick to, is research.

“I like finding explanations to why things are happening. I don’t want to take anything for granted. I want to understand why things work, how things work. 

“I’m very analytical,” he adds. “And I like questioning virtually everything and even questioning myself. So it’s very inherent within me.”

After his undergraduate program, Essuman had his first experience presenting his work at a research conference. That turned out to be another test of his resilience. 

“I didn’t know anything about research, but there was a research conference happening at KNUST, and I presented my undergraduate dissertation there,” he recalls. “But I didn’t receive positive feedback.” 

“The feedback seemed to suggest that what I was thinking was so foolish that they couldn’t believe I was considering what I was doing as research. It took me about two weeks or so to recover. Any time I remember it, tears drop. It wasn’t a cool experience at all.” 

Still, after he recovered from the harsh response to his first conference presentation, Essuman was eager to get another chance. His next experience went much better, and he has continued to improve ever since. For CARISCA’s 2022 Supply Chain Research Summit, Essuman had two papers accepted and also served as a session chair.

In his role as a research faculty member on the CARISCA team, Essuman has led two projects. One study is on women entrepreneurs’ resilience. The other is on women-owned businesses in agricultural supply chains. 

Dominic Essuman

He believes his experience with CARISCA helped him land his current position at a top research-intensive university in the United Kingdom. He says he was unaware of how competitive the job search was until he joined the committee that recruits new faculty.

“Then I realized it was very, very competitive,” he says. “I had to provide a very good CV. The activities I’m performing at CARISCA, I think, went into it in terms of giving me an advantage.”

Essuman says working with CARISCA also “has been a great blessing” because it allows him to interact with giants in the field whose work he previously read only in papers.

Essuman dreams of helping other aspiring researchers. He wasn’t introduced to research until the third year of his undergraduate program, and he feels that was too late.

“Waiting for students to get to the tertiary school, or even in their final year, before you introduce them to research is not good enough,” he declares. “There are some basic traits that people need who want to be good researchers. 

“They need to be open; they need to learn psychology; they need to learn philosophy. There are certain things they need to know. But I didn’t get any of that.”

Essuman wants to fill those gaps for future researchers by recruiting students with interest and aptitude at the senior high school level. He will then provide them with the underpinning they need to excel as researchers when they get to college.

“In the future, I want to build a foundation that will help develop young researchers,” Essuman says. “I would love to start in Ghana, and then if it becomes successful, which I believe it will be, expand it across Africa.” 

As good as they come

Essuman already has passed along some of his research knowledge to those coming behind him. One student, William Afloe, was assigned to Essuman as his undergraduate thesis supervisor at KNUST.

Never having been exposed to research before, Afloe and another student turned in a paper that Essuman said was plagiarized. He warned the students they would have to find a new thesis supervisor if they ever did that again.

“But what he did was to take us further to explain what research is and give us a couple of articles to read and make sure we understood what we were about to do before we started the entire journey,” recalls Afloe. “And so I can say that he’s the main reason why I began to appreciate research, and supply chain research for that matter.”

Afloe recently completed his master’s thesis, which Essuman helped supervise, and plans to continue on for a PhD. He hopes to join the KNUST faculty one day. He and Essuman stay in touch.

“Once he realized that the passion to do the work was there, he tried to help in every way possible,” Afloe says. “He’s really a good person, and I’ll say I’m very blessed and privileged to have met him. Dominic is as good as they come.”




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