2017 Top 40 Undergraduate Professors: Ravi Dharwadkar, Syracuse University (Whitman)

Ravi Dharwadkar

Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence and Chair, Management Department

Martin J. Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University

In the 20 years since Ravi Dharwadkar has been teaching in the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse, recognitions for his teaching and research have become commonplace. The chair of the school’s management department has been the humble recipient of numerous awards including Whitman’s Thomas Finucane Award for Exceptional Scholarship, the inaugural Whitman Research Fellowship, the Teaching Recognition Award of the Meredith Professorship, the Whitman Teaching Fellowship, and the university’s Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Recognition Award. His research articles dealing with topics such as corporate governance, corporate strategy, and international business have been featured in top academic publications including the Academy of Management Journal and Strategic Management Journal. Dharwadkar is also known for his commitment to diversity and globalization. Last year, he joined the International Council at Syracuse, a group of faculty and staff tasked with furthering global engagement at the university.

Age: 49

At current institution since: 1998

Education: PhD, Management, University of Cincinnati, 1997

List of courses currently teaching: Core Undergraduate International Business, Advanced Topics in Strategy, and Doctoral Seminar in Corporate Governance and Organizational Theory

Fun fact about yourself: I like training my super energetic Australian Shepherd named Moxie.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I was teaching an undergraduate international business class at the University of Cincinnati, after interviewing corporate executives in China and India for my dissertation research. I realized that I could bring some unique insights into the classroom.

“If I weren’t a business school professor…” I would be a multinational executive or consultant.  Before I got my MBA, I wanted to be a physicist.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Apprehension—On my very first day of teaching, I had to cross a faculty union picket line to get to my class because the professors were on strike to teach (largely) first-generation American students at the University of Cincinnati after having been in the U.S. for less than six months.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students?

Influencing some of their career paths some of the time.  Here’s an email that I received earlier this week: “After having taken your SOM 354 class last spring, I kept in mind the importance of studying abroad, especially in Asia, and took an opportunity to intern in India this past summer. It was an absolutely amazing experience— therefore, I wanted to thank you for emphasizing the value of internships abroad because I don’t think I would’ve taken the risk if I did not hear the positives beforehand.”

What is the biggest challenge that comes with teaching undergraduate business students? So much to cover, so little time from my perspective.  

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? My former student, Stephanie Jorden, who is currently working for Amgen and is also enrolled in the Joint EMBA program with UCLA and the National University of Singapore (Their Global Executive MBA for Asia Pacific) pursued a global career path right after graduating from Whitman—living and working everywhere from Paris to Johannesburg to Nairobi, ending with a two-year stint with GE Aviation in Singapore. She has already worked on four continents and studied on two of them; she is an amazing role model for my daughter, Annika, the young women at Whitman and Syracuse University, and elsewhere.  

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Didn’t show up for the final exam because they had mixed up the dates…it’s happened a couple of times so far.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Attend regularly and read The Economist.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as … A tough but fair grader

“But I would describe myself as … Relatively lenient compared to my teachers in life.    

What are your hobbies? I enjoy playing racquetball, reading, following cricket, travel and enjoying my daughter’s outside of school activities.

How did you spend your summer? Some highlights included riding a camel and taking in amazing Buddhist art of Mogao caves near Dunhuang, China, walking on the Great Wall of China near Beijing, enjoying “The King and I” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., visiting George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, attending a family wedding with Irish and Indian components at the Art Institute in Chicago, reading biographies of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, and conducting a professional development workshop on integrating accounting and strategy research in Atlanta.

Favorite place to vacation: Turks and Caicos

Favorite book: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis—hilarious but all too familiar account of academic life.  

Favorite movie and/or television show: Movie: Gandhi   TV: Blackadder—big fan of Rowan Atkinson (and Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, etc.) and BBC shows.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

British popular music (Freddie Mercury, The Who, etc.) and A. R. Rehman

Bucket list item #1 Hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti

What professional achievement are you most proud of? Working with bright doctoral students and co-authors from a variety of faiths and denominations (Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism and no faiths), countries (U.S., Canada, India, China, South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Israel, Bulgaria, etc.), ethnicities (Asian, White, Hispanic and African-American), genders and experiences different than mine. I like to think I have had a small part in their success.  

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? When my wife was pregnant, we surveyed my undergraduate students for their favorite baby names and about what their parents did to encourage and/or annoy them when they were growing up. Ninety-nine percent of the class offered words of advice and encouragement that I still enjoy years later.  

Professor you most admire and why: My favorite professor in the U.S. was Marty Levy—the most enthusiastic, helpful statistics professor ever.  

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

I’m exploring how large owners (e.g., institutional, family, corporate blockholders, etc.) influence managerial behavior and firm strategies. My current project finds that large institutional owners are very important in curtailing managerial overconfidence which has been shown to be related to a variety of negative firm-level outcomes.  

Twitter handle: None

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” All undergraduate students would spend some time in a foreign country (be it a couple of weeks or a semester)—this will help them in learning more about themselves as well as appreciate and understand their home countries.

“And much less of this…” Uninspiring professors who don’t care about teaching or their students.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you. My students’ success is my success.

Students say…

“The impact Professor Dharwadkar has had on me as student is unquantifiable. He goes above and beyond for each of his students, and it is hard to express in only a few sentences how great of a professor he is.” 

“Ravi Dharwadkar is an influential mentor. His lectures were engaging, challenging and empowering. I am grateful for everything I learned both inside and outside his lecture room.” 

“Professor Dharwadkar’s class makes intellectual rigor and high standards commonplace, and will challenge you to think critically about big ideas. He is the most tough-but-fair educator I’ve met. He breaks down complex global business trends into their component parts, replete with data and historical examples, to bring students to a higher level of understanding about the world outside. I can’t adequately express how much of a difference this critical lens has made in my professional life.” 






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