2018 Top 50 Undergraduate Professors: Param Vir Singh, Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

Param Vir Singh

Carnegie Bosch Associate Professor of Business Technology

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Param Vir Singh is a powerhouse. In addition to being the Bosh Associate Professor of Business Technology, Singh is also the director of the PNC Center for Financial Services Innovation at the Tepper School of Business. Singh’s expertise and research is at the forefront of technology changes and policy and innovation. Most recently, his work is exploring e “economic value of property images in the context of Airbnb.” Simply put, Singh’s research backs up what many already assumed. Better pictures on Airbnb can lead to 14% greater returns for an Airbnb host compared to “amateur photos.” Outside of the classroom, Singh spends time playing racketball and playing with his two children. This summer he built them a backyard fish pond.

Age: 39

Education: PhD in Information Systems, Foster School of Business, University of Washington

At current institution since: 2008

List of courses you currently teach: Fintech, Digital Marketing and Social Media Strategy

Twitter handle: @ParamVirSingh

What professional achievement are you most proud of? In 2015, I was awarded the prestigious Sandra Slaughter early career award by the Informs Information Systems society. This award is a recognition for the candidate’s emerging thematic and high impact research that is likely to make a significant impact on theory, research, and practice.

“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…” I realized the joys of intellectual inquiry and the freedom the professors have to pursue that.

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

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? We are working on identifying the economic value of property images in the context of Airbnb. Airbnb hosts post images of their properties which the guests use to choose a property to stay. Using deep learning techniques to quantify quality of an image and econometric analysis, we find that high quality pictures could lead to more than 14% greater returns to a host compared to amateur pictures. More interestingly, we also identify human interpretable attributes that make a good image for an Airbnb property. We provide specific recommendations related to Composition, Color and Figure-ground relationship that a photographer can follow to take an optimal image for an Airbnb property.

What is your most memorable moment as a professor? In 2010, a group of students from my course on Digital Marketing and Social Media strategy participated and won the Google Online Marketing Challenge (GOMC). They were the America’s winner for the challenge. In GOMC, teams from all across the world competed and winning it was a huge honor for us.

Since you first started teaching, how has business education changed? I feel in the last 10 years the desire to learn about the nitty gritty of technology has changed. Business students not only want to learn how Artificial Intelligence or Blockchain or any new technology can be used by businesses but also want to get their hands dirty in building these technologies.

“If I weren’t a business school professor, I would be…” bad at my job.

“Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a professor”: You would love your job even more than what you think.

Name of the professor you most admire and why: Ramayya Krishnan (Dean, Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University). He is not only a visionary on how technology can be help shape business and society, but also he is one of the few professors who is actively involved in bringing together businesses, governments, and academics in developing technology based solutions to advance this vision. It is rare for someone to seamlessly bridge serious academic research and business/government interests. And he has been able to do it. Meeting him is always a great learning experience.      

What do you enjoy most about teaching undergraduate business students? Unrestricted creativity of these students.

What’s the biggest challenge? Monday 8:00 am classes are tough

What is the most impressive thing one of your undergraduate students has done? Started his own company to pursue his interest in music and performs around the world.

What is the least favorite thing one has done? Not keeping in touch.

Since you’ve been teaching, how have students changed over the years? Students are more entrepreneurial, informed, and inter-disciplinary now a days.

What does a student need to do to get an A in your class? Understand the fundamentals and keep engaged. Be inquisitive.

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

If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? Gonna Fly Now – Rocky

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

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

“If my students can explain how technology can help shape businesses and society, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”

What are your hobbies? Racketball, playing with my kids (Elin and Aidan)

How did you spend your summer? Built a backyard fish pond for my kids.

Favorite place to vacation: Paris

Favorite book: To Kill a Mocking Bird

Favorite movie and/or television show: Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Sufi music, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Bucket list item #1: See the World

What’s the biggest challenge facing business education at the moment? Technology such as artificial intelligence is going to have a profound impact on workforce. Business education needs to reinvent or the graduates coming out of business school will be ill suited for jobs of tomorrow. At the Tepper school, AI has become an integral part of a large number of our courses. This I believe should be a pattern for other schools to follow.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…” Business schools need to be more inter-disciplinary. Both students and faculty need to reach across campus and work with Computer Science, Economics, Engineering and other areas. In future, jobs will no more be unidimensional and we better prepare our students for these multidimensional jobs.

“And much less of this…” Business school being a closed entity, unconnected with the rest of campus.

Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would be like for you: Success to me would be having graduated students who have done very well in their careers and producing research that makes impact. I am working on developing a cryptocurrency test bed at Carnegie Mellon called CMU Coin. The goal of the testbed is to support research and education. I am leading the initiative with Ramayya Krishnan. We have brought together folks from all across the campus for this initiative. Students will get first-hand experience in engaging with blockchain in a relatively controlled environment. This whole initiative can act as a catalyst for blockchain related innovation at CMU. If that happens, I would consider that to be a success for me.

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