Research is Li’s Bread and Butter

Faculty members at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management come from a wide array of different backgrounds and fields, as well as bring specific skill sets to the University to share with each student their knowledge and experiences. Rong Li, assistant professor of supply chain management, joined the Whitman School with her research and teaching skills able to do what she does best alongside other skilled faculty members and students.

Li began her academic career with an undergraduate degree in mathematics followed by a Ph.D. in industrial engineering at Purdue University. In discovering her interest in business, she began to study operations management. After receiving a Ph.D., Li returned to her undergraduate alma mater, Nankai University, to teach in China for three years, then decided to return to the United States and join the Whitman School.

Li shares, “I made the change because when I was at my alma mater I could give back, but I realized what I wanted to do most is research. Research is really my bread and butter.” 

Li’s main research interests are different types of risk and how to better manage it across industries. She is interested in understanding how decision-makers in a company will make decisions differently, depending on what is at risk for them. 

“Whoever the decision-maker might be – a manager, president or CEO – and depending on their experience, leverage and stakeholders, they react to certain risks in a specific way,” says Li. “I’m trying to build different models to represent different types of behaviors. And in turn, I am looking for new and emerging techniques to better manage risk.” 

Being at the Whitman School for three years, Li has utilized the strong faculty around her at Whitman to help support and collaborate with her on research. She has been able to launch two research projects with different faculty members to leverage their expertise, as well.

One of her projects studies blockchain, working with computer science faculty at Syracuse University. The other project is focused on cyber risk and supply chain, in which she works with the mechanical engineering faculty. The labs and resources available at Syracuse, in addition to faculty expertise, has given her so much more opportunity to discover new information and succeed with her research.

On top of her research, Li teaches management science courses at the Whitman School for undergraduate and graduate students. Being able to teach while continuing her research is a two-way street for Li. On one hand, Li can teach her students new concepts and ideas with relevant research. Her students thoroughly enjoy hearing about her research because of how relevant it is to so many different fields.

On the other hand, when she is talking about decision-making models with her students, she can gather research on how they make decisions. 

“My students represent the next generation of managers. I like to find out how students feel about different information and how to receive it, as well as about how they make decisions,” Li adds.

It is rewarding for Li to not only teach her students, but to see how they understand the models and then translate that to her research when she publishes it for a reader to understand.

In addition to her research and teaching, Li is involved with two different faculty committees at the Whitman School. As a part of the One Whitman Council, she is confident in the five core values of Whitman and prides herself on exhibiting those values every day. She sees the values in herself, her students and the faculty around her. Li and the committee aim to incorporate the values into every aspect of Whitman, such as student activities, teaching, research and more.

“We all look at them from a different perspective, because we come from such different backgrounds and contribute something new,” says Li. “I learn a lot at every meeting I attend.”

The other committee, Whitman Teaching Committee, focuses on improving teaching strategies, revising course curriculums and receiving true feedback from students on course evaluations.

When Li is not busy with research, teaching or being involved outside the classroom, she is passionate about sports, dance and music. Taking a break from her work to enjoy time with family and friends is important for Li to have a balance between her work and life. Despite the stereotypes she grew up learning of professors committing all of their time to work with no downtime, she does not feel like she fits that label at all. In her free time, you can find Li learning to play the flute, attending dance classes and enjoying the snowy weather in Syracuse. 

Learn more about Whitman faculty members in the latest faculty profiles.

Karley Warden