James Fathers entered the education sector in 1997, following 10 years as a designer in manufacturing and two years as a consultant to small and medium enterprises on innovation and design. Since then, he has put this experience into practice in learning, teaching, research, and enterprise.
Over the years Fathers has gained extensive experience in the development of programs and initiatives aimed to enhance the learning and overall experience of design students. Examples of these are developing new programs in product design, including piloting a pass fail model for first-year learning, and an M.B.A. in design management. In addition to this he developed support systems for entrepreneurial activity, providing facilities and mentoring for recent design graduates via DesignWorks, a university-based, design-based incubator unit. He served as the staff governor from 2010-13. He also was rained and served on a university-wide coaching and mentoring team for faculty in staff.
Fathers’ teaching and learning activity focuses on sustainability, universal design, and design in a development context. His significant research interest in socially responsible design has been developed with the delivery of a number of journal and international conference papers. His registered doctoral research has focused on the role of design education in a development context, which led to a 12-month research sabbatical to India, where he worked alongside local crafts groups to develop appropriate design training strategies to facilitate enterprise development. Outside the university he served as a director between 2006-2013 for Just Add Spice, a London-based social enterprise that develops agency timebanking systems for communities and public services.
Currently Fathers is collaborating with Imagining America on establishing their commission for Publicly Engaged Design, is working with partners in Virginia Tech on the development of the inaugural ACC competition for creative achievement, and was recently the principal investigator for the Blackstone Launchpad, resulting in a $900,000 grant for the University.
Fathers holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and a B.A. from South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education in Cardiff, Wales. He is a fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA).