New professor praised by students for creative teaching

"How much did e-commerce turnover during Black Week in November 2023?" It’s the final day of the course Distribution and E-commerce, and in the D-corridor, the students have prepared a quiz. Instead of a traditional presentation of their group projects, posters are displayed along with questions for course mates to answer.

"Rather than sitting passively and listening to each other's presentations, they have to move around, talk to each other, and ask questions," explains David Eriksson, newly appointed Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Department of Engineering.

The atmosphere is relaxed, the students are about to wrap up by submitting their answers, and there's some joking around. In June, they'll graduate from the Industrial Engineering Bachelor’s programme, and many are thinking about the next step in life.

In their group assignment, Jakob Kjellberg, Fanny Andersson, Vincent Borg and Samuel Karlsson (not in the photo) focused on last mile delivery logistics. Photo: Lina Färm

"Creative and innovative"

A few weeks later, it is announced that David Eriksson is the recipient of the university's Pedagogical Prize for 2023, nominated by his students. The motivation reads:

"As an engaged teacher, David Eriksson goes the extra mile for his students. He is creative and innovative in his pedagogy and gets his students involved in his teaching while creating
a relaxed and educational environment. He connects the material to science in an understandable way, which means that his students really absorb the knowledge and find it interesting.

David always does his utmost to provide the support that his students need. That makes him a worthy recipient of the 2023 Pedagogical Prize. "
When David received the news, he was sitting in his home office, with a sleeping cat beside him.

"I made a sudden move while in my chair and probably made some noise because I scared the cat away. Winning the award is an honor, and I accept it with great reverence. I’ve always had a fondness for teaching during my time in academia. I invest a lot in providing students with the best education I can, and it's nice to see that students appreciate what I do. I hope my efforts make a difference for my students and that I can give them a little push forward in life."

He appreciates how the students describe the teaching in the way he wants to work and believes it's also thanks to them and his colleagues that the education is so successful.

"At the university, a lot of responsibility lies on the students themselves, and the fact that I am awarded this year also shows that my students are co-creators in the education. It would be impossible for me to create a relaxed and educational environment without their help. Similarly, it would have been impossible for me to succeed as an educator if it weren't for my closest colleagues. It's my colleagues who create the conditions for me to do the best job possible."

Teaching attracted him - despite school fatigue

In April, it was also announced that David Eriksson had been promoted to Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management. Growing up, an academic career was far from obvious. Despite having friends and being quick to learn, he didn't enjoy school.

"I didn't do my homework properly and wasn't very diligent. In high school, I studied at Teknis and was involved in student associations, but after graduation, I just wanted to work. I called all the places nearby listed in the phone book, and for the first few years I had up to three jobs at once," says David, who enjoyed working in retail and, among other jobs, spent a few years at Clas Ohlson.

Eventually, he felt that something new needed to happen, and despite his previous school fatigue, he was attracted to teaching and envisioned a teaching role in an industrial profession. He applied to Industrial Engineering at the University of Borås and, after his Bachelor's degree, was encouraged to continue his studies. After his Master's degree in 2009, he earned a Licentiate degree in Technology Management and Economics at Chalmers, and in 2014, he defended his doctoral thesis in Textile Management at the University of Borås. The thesis dealt with the relationship between supply chain governance and moral responsibility, and how it affects social responsibility.

Curious about human behaviour

The moral issues have engaged him ever since. It's about, for example, why seemingly empathetic and rational people buy products that they know have been produced under poor conditions and how companies disassociate themselves from moral responsibility. By using a theory from psychology, he could explain how supply chains can be designed in a way that makes people no longer feel responsible for either slave labour or environmental destruction.
"If you're not confronted with the real effects of your behaviour, you can lie to yourself or rationalise it away."

Today, he collaborates with colleagues in resource recovery to investigate how people can be motivated to sort their household waste.
The focus of his research has been on the design of supply chains, but curiosity and the desire to learn have led him to also delve into methodology and scientific theory. It started by chance, and an interest in religion and faith.
"I pondered questions like how do you know something is true, what type of evidence is needed, and what is knowledge. I've always found methodology courses fun and have developed tools on how to write scientific texts and have implemented them in teaching."

Accustomed to working towards goals

In his new role as professor, David looks forward to taking a more formal responsibility to contribute to building up research activities in industrial engineering and continue working on issues of scientific theory and methodology.
On his computer, there's a folder titled "Towards professor" containing his CV, lists of scientific communication, educational and academic merits, and more. Everything needed to work towards the goal of becoming a professor. The folder changed its name from "Towards Associate Professor" shortly after he was appointed as Associate Professor of Logistics at the School of Engineering in Jönköping, which says something about David's motivations.

"In my reluctance towards school, I've probably always had the goal of proving that I can do things. Maybe not for others anymore, but still for myself. And as an engineering academic, how do you do that? Well, you work towards goals," concludes David Eriksson.

He enjoys academia and mentions freedom and trust, being able to produce good things, as positives. On the downside are bureaucracy, rejections of research applications, unpaid work, and always being available. The latter is something he deals with by sometimes disconnecting because it's necessary.

"I'm careful to take the space needed to feel good, to turn off the phone when necessary. I usually talk to the doctoral students about it, that they shouldn't work around the clock. It's not entirely easy when they also have a lot to do, but it has to work. It's about people growing and feeling good in their role over several years."

Name: David Eriksson
Age: 42 years
Residence: Sandared
Family: Wife, two teenage children.
Interests: Swedish handmade chef's knives are a big interest. Over the years, there have been "far too many" visits to blacksmiths. "Sharpening a knife by hand is the perfect relaxation."
Trivia: Has read everything by Stephen King, in chronological order. It took him five years. 

Inaugural lecture
David Eriksson will be installed at the Academic Ceremony 3 May. The same day, he will give his inaugural lecture My Chain of Mystery - Aspects of Supply Chain Design.
Read more about the lecture 

David Eriksson's Researcher Profile webpage