2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Carol Prahinski, Michigan State University (Broad)

Carol Prahinski

Assistant Professor

Michigan State University, Broad College of Business

Carol Prahinski, a supply chain management professor at the Broad College of Business, was voted faculty member with the greatest impact on student experience by the 2018 Broad College graduating student body. In addition to traditional PhD studies, she is a graduate of Second City improvisation, a board member of the state National Speakers Association, and a Toastmasters leader. She also spent nine years working in supply chain and purchasing in the food manufacturing industry. Prahinski is credited with engaging students through stories, enthusiasm, and thought-provoking questions. Prahinski has won several international awards for her research, business cases, and dissertation. Her research articles have been listed among the top 25 hottest articles for multiple years. She has also won numerous speaking and leadership awards, including Toastmaster of the Year and Distinguished District Governor for the organization.

Age: 54

Education: PhD, Business Administration, Operations Management, Ohio State University; MS, Business Administration, Operations Management, Ohio State University; MBA, Babson College; BS, Business Administration, Operations Management, University of Delaware, 1986.

At current institution since: 2007

List of courses you currently teach: Supply Chain Application and Policy, Negotiations, Supply Chain Management

Twitter handle: @CarolPrahinski

What professional achievement are you most proud of? In 2007, I hit rock bottom with my students’ evaluations of my teaching. I couldn’t get much worse. While at a party, two different people mentioned Toastmasters. I became a member, worked the educational program to improve my communication and leadership, and my teaching evaluations soared.  I have two proud moments. First, this spring, graduating students selected me as the professor who had the most positive impact on them during their time at the Broad College of Business.  It takes hard work to be a natural. Second, this August, I was elected as an International Director for Toastmasters International.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I knew I wanted to teach as a youngster.  In my undergraduate program, I learned that supply chain management is my joy.  I knew as an undergraduate junior that I wanted to share my love of this topic with the university students.

“One word that describes my first time teaching…” Novice

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am not on the research track.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? I have many memorable moments as a professor.  For example, I vividly remember one of my students quietly handing me a note to communicate that my dress hem had caught in my pantyhose.   Other best moments are standing ovations, cheers and personalized class gifts, such as a t-shirt with my image telling others, “You are the bottleneck.”  I also love it when I see the lightbulbs light up and my students understand how to improve their decision making.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? The temporal effect has been somewhat minor in my mind: new companies, new technology, and new examples.  The theory and lessons are unchanged.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” a consultant and public speaker.  More significantly, I wouldn’t be fulfilling my life’s destiny.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”:  You will never relax on the beach again.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: I admire many faculty. I will always be thankful for Dr. Michael Pohlen, Professor Emeritus of the University of Delaware, Business School.  He introduced my field to me, encouraged me to step forward on this path, and cheered for me along my journey.

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Their positive attitude, professional behavior, and openness to learn.

What’s the biggest challenge? Occasionally, I face a student with a closed-mindset.

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Each of my students is impressive.  Most have overcome significant challenges and fears to reach their future.  I’m proud of all of my students.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Even students who mess up learn from their mistakes.  Be open to learning and I will hold you in good esteem forever.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? When I began teaching, many students didn’t consider financial implications.  They purchased bottled water and gourmet coffee. Today’s students are thrifty and aim for value.  They are also culturally and politically sensitive.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?  Show up, learn, and apply the learning successfully.

“When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as …” Tough.

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be?  The Theme from Rocky.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student: Smiling

Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Closed-minded

“If my students can make good business decisions and persuade others to support these decisions, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”  

Fun fact about yourself: Bicycled 4,600 miles across the United States while carrying my gear

What are your hobbies? Toastmasters and scuba diving

How did you spend your summer? My husband and I have a newly-purchased second home in Key West, Florida.  We spent our summer making repairs and painting the exterior in an art deco blue.

Favorite place to vacation: A warm, coral reef for scuba diving

Favorite book: Too many to list.  See www.Prahinski.com/resources.

Favorite movie and/or television show: Coco, Madam Secretary and NCIS.

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Serena Ryder, Amy Winehouse, Katy Perry, Rhianna, Gwen Stefani, ZZ Ward, and Yanni.

Bucket list item #1: #1 is in process: To be elected and serve as International Director of Toastmasters International.  Next item: Improve the US immigration process.

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? International borders and sex discrimination.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Collegiality, teamwork, and support

“And much less of this…” Egos

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: To be recognized as a thought-leader by the business community and to be actively engaged with others to improve teamwork and processes.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.