2020 Best Undergraduate Business Professors: Haya Ajjan, Elon University

Haya Ajjan of Elon University’s Love School of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Haya Ajjan

Associate Professor of Management Information Systems, Faculty Administrative Fellow, Sheldon and Christine Gordon Endowed Professor in Entrepreneurship, and Director of the Center for Organizational Analytics

Elon University

At Elon University’s Love School of Business, Haya Ajjan is the go-to professor for all things data and business analytics. Now at the school for a decade, Ajjan, is the founder and director of the Center for Organizational Analytics. She teaches courses like Data Mining for Managerial Decision Making, R-Programming, and the App Economy. Ajjan also played a major role in developing the curriculum for Love’s M.S. in Management concentration in Organizational Analytics.

Teaching business-related topics is in Ajjan’s blood. Her father was a professor of economics at the University of Damascus in Syria and remembers hearing stories about his teaching when she was just seven years old. “I always looked up to him and was inspired by his relationship with his students,” Ajjan says of her father. “I often read the ‘Thank you’ notes his students sent him, and that gave me a great sense of pride in his work.”

Current age: 40

At current institution since what year? 2010

Education: Ph.D. in Business Information Technology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

List of courses you currently teach: Data Mining for Managerial Decision Making, R-Programming, and The App Economy


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was seven years old, I loved hearing stories about my father who taught economics classes at the University of Damascus in Syria. I always looked up to him and was inspired by his relationship with his students. I often read the “Thank you” notes his students sent him, and that gave me a great sense of pride in his work.

Fast forward to when I joined college in 1998. A few of my friends were struggling in Algebra, and they asked me if I could tutor them after class. I found great joy in doing that. It was really fulfilling to learn that my friends’ grades were actually improving with the tutoring. I was eventually hired by the tutoring center on campus to teach quantitative subjects. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and help them make sense of complex material.

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

My research focuses on better understanding the impact of technology use on individuals, groups, and organizations. In a recent study, I examined with my co-authors the opportunities and challenges employees face in working remotely due to the COVID -19 pandemic. We found that technology improves productivity and performance. We also found training and technology support were perceived to be lacking, especially for those in non-management positions. In another study, my co-authors and I found that women micro-entrepreneurs who had high self-efficacy (i.e., a belief in her ability to succeed in a specific situation) and used technology reported higher ability to build social capital and achieve a higher sense of empowerment.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… an astrophysicist engineer unraveling the mystery of life.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

My sincere desire to empower people with knowledge. Being able to teach a topic that I am passionate about gives my life deep meaning and is a gift that I cherish every day.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Exuberant

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: You’re going to have a ball! It is a lifelong learning endeavor and is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling careers- preparing and inspiring people to change the world.

Professor I most admire and why: I have over the years been mentored by amazing professors who have helped me develop as a business faculty. I am especially thankful to Professor Moutaz Khouja, Operations Management at UNC Charlotte. He was instrumental in encouraging me to apply to the Ph.D. program, and furthermore I admire how he relates to his students with so much compassion and care. He has a special talent in breaking up complex mathematical topics to make them understandable and engaging for all.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I enjoy supporting my students to build pathways to achieve their goals and dreams. I love it when my students and I connect the dots on how what we do in the classroom is applied to real-life business problems to improve our society.

What is most challenging?

You know the famous quote, “Whether you believe you can, or you can’t, you are right.” Given the quantitative nature of the topics I teach, some students will decide before they even try that they can’t succeed in programming or quantitative modeling. I consider it my mission to help my students change their mindset and understand that with focus, perseverance, patience, and dedication, they can master those subjects.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious.

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Entitled.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair.


What are your hobbies?

Reading, swimming, and getting lost in new cities.

How will you spend your summer?

Summer is a time to fulfill curiosity and learn new things. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, discovering new areas of research, reading books outside my field, and learning new analytics techniques.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Las Palmas and Sevilla in Spain; Corsica in France; Yosemite in California

Favorite book(s): Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‎, Growth Mindset by Carol Dweck, and Our Search for Belonging by Howard Ross and JonRobert Tartaglione.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

I can’t decide on one. Here are a few: The Good Wife, Madam Secretary, and Anne of Green Gables- All of them portray strong empowered women who are not afraid to differ.

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?

Queen, The Beatles, ABBA, Air Supply, and Ennio Morricone (Cinema Paradiso)- I like the way their music makes me feel.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… An integrated business case study that runs across all business courses to allow students to learn how the different subjects (i.e., finance, accounting, analytics, marketing, HR, etc.) connect and interact to serve a common objective.

The business school of the future would also have a business consulting center where every student is involved with local community organizations. Students work in teams to conduct high-quality consulting (e.g., accounting review, financial modeling, marketing assessment, and so on) as part of their classwork. The long-term immersive, hands-on experiences will help the students develop their business skills while supporting our local community.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… building a cycle of never-ending improvement not only in process and technology, but also in developing their people. I believe companies should partner with universities to develop customized continuing education certificates for their employees.

I’m grateful for… my family, friends, colleagues, and students for bringing me to where I am today. I know without their love, mentorship, support, and encouragement I wouldn’t be here.

Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:

“Every Dean wishes for a colleague who is entrepreneurial, innovative, and yet humble. Haya is that person. Whether it’s new curricula, or starting an academic center, or publishing research in reputed journals, or writing a textbook, Haya does it all. I’ve seen her working with students into the night and weekends. She brings money into her center through corporate partnerships and when I asked what she wanted to do with it, her reply was immediate – ‘pay my interns.’ It’s always the students.”

– Dean Raghu Tadepalli

Kelly Smith ‘14: “I have known Dr. Ajjan for ten years now and can say with certainty she is the best teacher I have ever had. Dr. Ajjan has a gift for explaining complicated programs and processes to all of her students with ease and grace. Her passion for analytics and confidence in each of her students is both inspiring and contagious and it is simply impossible to leave one of Dr. Ajjan’s classes without feeling a sense of accomplishment. This feeling has lingered with me over the years and I credit Dr. Ajjan for inspiring my academic journey in higher education. Her brilliance, dedication, compassion, and leadership at Elon University are unmatched. We need more Dr. Haya Ajjans in higher education.”

Dana Harrison, Marketing Professor: “Dr. Ajjan is a remarkable, humble leader that demonstrates personal integrity with high ethical standards and an outstanding mentor to students and colleagues.”

Kathryn Barthelmess ’20: “Dr. Ajjan has empowered, supported, and encouraged me throughout my understanding and love of data analytics. She makes the application of classroom learning seamless and is the #1 biggest fan for all of her students. The best part about being mentored by her is the deep, personal connection outside of the classroom – she’s not just a professor or mentor; she’s a friend for life!”

Caroline Perry ’18: “The highlight of my college career was having the privilege of working with Dr. Ajjan as my mentor for undergraduate research. She consistently goes above and beyond what is expected of a professor, spending countless hours with students outside of the classroom, pushing us to go beyond what we once thought we were capable of.  Through challenging us, she is developing students that are truly ready to be leaders of tomorrow.  No matter where my career takes me, I will always consider her a mentor.”

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