2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Daniel Ostergaard, University of South Carolina Moore School of Business

Daniel Ostergaard of the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Dr. Daniel J. Ostergaard

Associate Clinical Professor of International Business

University of South Carolina – Darla Moore School of Business

With nearly three dozen nominations from alumni, current students, and faculty, there were not many more-nominated professors to make this year’s list of Best Undergraduate Business School Professors than Daniel Ostergaard. The sheer volume and quality of those nominations made it pretty much impossible not to include the Associate Clinical Professor of International Business at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business.

Ostergaard might also have the most fascinating pre-professor career. Ostergaard spent nearly two decades as a public servant, starting in the U.S. Coast Guard and ending in an appointed senior advisor position in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Before starting at the Darla Moore School of Business, Ostergaard says he was the “Commanding Officer for a cutter in Hawaii for 2.5 years conducting search and rescue and counter-narcotics operations along with the occasional environmental protection mission.”

After leaving public service, Ostergaard launched his own business development firm and ran an organic cattle ranch in North Carolina before moving full-time to the classroom. Check out Ostergaard’s profile below for more details on his fascinating path to Darla Moore.

Current age: 48

At current institution since what year? 2010


University of South Carolina

Moore School of Business

Ph.D. in Business Administration (Concentration in International Business)

Harvard University

J.F. Kennedy School of Government

Master of Public Administration

United States Naval War College

Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies

United States Coast Guard Academy

Bachelor of Science in Government

List of courses you currently teach:

  • Globalization and International Business
  • Economic Globalization: Leadership and the Transnational Mindset
  • Risk Management and Security Strategies in International Business
  • International Business, Security and Religion: Israel and the Middle East (Faculty-Led Short-Term Study Abroad)


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…

After 20 years in the public and private sectors, I decided to become a business school professor.  I started my career as a U.S. Coast Guard Officer.  Driving ships, law enforcement, gunnery and fire control.  I was the Commanding Officer for a cutter in Hawaii for 2.5 years conducting search and rescue and counter-narcotics operations along with the occasional environmental protection mission.  I eventually migrated to Washington, D.C., where I was finishing my first Master Degree studying terrorism when I heard the actual plane hit the Pentagon on 9/11.  I had left the Coast Guard 10 days earlier and found myself returning as a drilling reservist.  Later, I had the distinct honor of working for Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) as a liaison in D.C. for both homeland security and criminal justice issues.  After my second Master Degree, I was appointed as a senior advisor in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leading the Homeland Security Advisory Council.  Finally, after 17 years of public service, I co-founded a business development firm focusing on South Asia and the Pacific Rim.  After several years of business development consulting, we eventually decided to return to North Carolina for a sabbatical.  My family and I purchased land and developed an organic cattle ranch for several years.  While there, a great mentor, Chancellor John Bardo of Western Carolina University (WCU), offered me a position as the director for a regional economic development think tank.  I had already been serving as a lecturer for the Criminal Justice online program and started teaching International Business classes for the business school.

Several years later I began to see the impact of my interaction with students in the classroom. I found myself learning as much or more from them then they ever did from me.  They were great students:  motivated, hungry to learn, challenging in all the right ways.  More importantly, I was inspired every day as I watched my fellow WCU business professors crafting the next generation.  WCU had an exceptional group of educators in the business school who pushed me to be a better professor every day.  I decided to remain in higher ed a bit longer but realized I needed a Ph.D. at some point.  Recognizing that the University of South Carolina (UofSC) had repeatedly been recognized for having the top international business program in the country, I decided it was time to go back to school (at the ripe age of 38) to earn my Ph.D.  I began teaching at UofSC the following spring and have loved it ever since.

Surrounded by an accomplished group of peers, I am humbled every day that I walk into the classroom.  Teaching UofSC International Business and South Carolina Honors College undergraduates has been the most rewarding job since leaving the U.S. Coast Guard.  Every single day they inspire me to be a little bit better than I was the day before.  All the while, I have come to the realization that having a desire to change the world is important; however, as a professor, we become a force multiplier for the future.  This puts a great deal of weight on the individual professor.  We can settle for mediocrity or we can push students past where they thought their limits were… and in making them achieve something greater, my hope is that the confidence and the self-awareness leads to a lifetime commitment to both education and to making the world a better place.

I feel very fortunate to be a professor of international business.   Having worked in 77 countries around the world, I am reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena speech.  In that speech, he explains the difference between the critic versus the person who is actually in the arena.  It’s our job – as professors – to ensure our charges are the next generation in the arena and not simply critics.  Our job is to ensure that they have the ability to pick themselves up, even when marred by Roosevelt’s “…dust and sweat and blood” and that they find within themselves the inspiration to dare greatly.

I am not sure if this is why I became a professor.  I do know it is the reason why I remain one.

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

I study the long-term impact of terrorism and national security issues on international business.  Recently I have been researching malign influence operations perpetrated by foreign governments against businesses either as economic espionage or simply using social media to undermine U.S. and allied governments.  I have learned that this is not a notional threat.  It is real and it is happening now and more importantly, requires a sophisticated, multi-dimensional response.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… A simple cattle farmer.

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

I think people want to be pushed intellectually.  I mean really pushed.  Surely, no one goes to business school because they want to be coddled or led into a safe space where we tip toe around issues for fear of hurting feelings.  On the contrary, a university is the place where we should discuss and debate issues – even hard issues that we are uncomfortable with – because if not at university, then where?  So, from the first day of class, we build mutual respect in the classroom and set high standards and expectations that oftentimes seem impossible to achieve by many students.  Nevertheless, by mid-terms, the students have not only risen to the occasion but they have collectively set the bar higher than I ever would have for them.

Most importantly, being a professor is a holistic engagement.  It’s not just the 90 minutes in the classroom.  It’s building trust and confidence which lead to leadership and character development.  The academics start in the classroom but the education begins when we walk out the door at the end of class.

Also, I try very hard to never give them my personal opinion when we are speaking about controversial or difficult topics.  I want them to form their own opinions and not be weighted down with trying to determine how I think about something.

One word that describes my first time teaching: I recall telling a lot more sea stories from my adventures in the Coast Guard back when I first began…

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I never knew how humbling it really was.  Humbling given the power entrusted in us to help build a better tomorrow… and not just humbling, but also rewarding and enriching.  Clearly, I do not mean in terms of remuneration but in terms of the intangible benefits that come from watching the evolution of young people from late adolescence to adulthood.  It is an incredible transition to bear witness to as these young people form goals and set off to achieve those goals.  The students have continuously enriched my life (and that of my entire family) since the day I started teaching.  I have learned far more from them then they every have from me and for this I am very grateful.  Humbled but enriched.

Professor I most admire and why:

Dr. Andy Spicer.  Without a doubt.  Amazing man who has a gift for teaching, mentoring, leading and inspiring others.  He is a researcher of “big ideas” that matter while at the same time he takes time to encourage and inspire his students.  He has a heart of gold and would give you the shirt of his back.  He is a role model and a teacher.  A truly exceptional professor whose expectations I hope I can live up to eventually!


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? 

Business students are a different breed.  They are not in it for the drama.  They are dedicated, motivated and sincere in their desire to make a difference in the world.  At the UofSC, my business students are sharp, well-read and possess a genuine international mindset.  These are not wide-eyed kids trying to check boxes to get through class.  Rather, these are young professionals:  dedicated, invested, and hungry to learn everything they can.  More importantly they are honorable and their integrity is solid.  They espouse an idea that a rising tide floats all boats and so I see it – day in and day out – as these students strive to earn their place in the world and as they help their classmates whenever needed.  I am constantly inspired by the students and their ability to disregard the background clutter.

What is most challenging?

Everything I mentioned in why I enjoy teaching them also make them challenging.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Voracious

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

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


What are your hobbies?

Surf fishing, hunting, slow smoke bbq

How will you spend your summer?

Consulting with private and public clients (with as much surf fishing as I can squeeze in the schedule).

Favorite place(s) to vacation:

Definitely a tie between Kauai, Hawaii, and Etosha National Park in Nambia

Favorite book(s):

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (a MUST read for every business student and particularly compelling right now)

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

Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I know, it’s older… but a brilliant film.

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

Indigo Girls!  Loved them since I first heard them in 1990.  Their voices harmonize like no other and their songwriting is inspirational!  Jimmy Buffett is a close second.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…

One thing I love about UofSC’s International Business program is how much time our students spend overseas.  The world is only getting smaller.  I hope every business student across the U.S. gets the opportunity to study abroad during their undergrad years.  It is absolutely essential both for personal growth but also for professional knowledge given the rate of globalization, transnational trade and global demographic projections over the next 30 years.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Understanding the true costs of cyber economic espionage and malign influence operations are increasingly important.   In 2017, the U.S. Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated losses of $225B to $600B, annually.   Cybersecurity and resiliency in the face of orchestrated attacks require a robust and coordinated response.  We simply must get better at both prevention and mitigation measures.

I’m grateful for… The opportunity to stand in front of a group of young people – to earn their trust – and to help them make a bit more sense of the world around us.  I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention my boss, Dr. Kendall Roth, for the opportunity to stand in front of that classroom and for my family, for having my back.

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

Administrator, Dr. Kendall Roth, Senior Associate Dean @Darla Moore School of Business (UofSC):  Referencing one of the course evaluations he forwarded to P&Q:  “The instructor performance ratings are near perfect 5.0 across all dimensions.  The comments speak to the course, describing it as being the hardest ever, challenging, learning how to learn, and eye-opening; the personal attributes of Dan being inspiring, brilliant, supportive, caring, passionate, always available, etc.; and the experience being the best course and instructor at USC, in my college career, best professor I have ever had, etc.  His ratings are always consistent so I could have sent any course from any semester.”

Also from Dr. Roth:  “He is simply a gifted master teacher… And this performance is uniform across his ten years of teaching at USC.”

UofSC Alumni, Taylor Bilardello:  “He gave his all everyday, and students learned to follow suit, lest we bear the consequence of disappointing a professor that we deeply respected. The unique classroom culture he created allowed the most difficult of debates to be hashed out, biases to be challenged, and personal limits to be stretched. My classmates became more than people with whom to exchange notes; they became my colleagues and my family. Together, we were able to reap the most benefit out of his classes.”

Anonymous from Spring 2020 Course Eval:  “Dr. O is an amazing professor and I look at him as a mentor. He cares about his students more than anything I have ever seen. I have never met such a dedicated and caring professor. He is one of the smartest people I know and truly inspires me to be better. He is one of a kind.”

Anonymous from Spring 2020 Course Eval:  “Dr. Ostergaard is probably the most involved and supportive professor I have had during my time at USC. He goes above and beyond his classroom teaching and gives advice on resumes, jobs, and just about anything else in office hours or any time he is free. He is always ready to talk students through issues and worries pertaining to his class or life in general. This course would not be at the caliber is it without Dr. Ostergaard teaching the way he does. He challenges the students to think beyond the bounds of academics and truly enriches the lives of every student in his classes. I feel both my education and personal life have benefited from his class and I look forward to more classes and interactions with him.”

Anonymous from Spring 2020 Course Eval:  “Incredibly engaging and empowering. He made it clear to us that he saw extreme potential in each one of us and inspired us with ideas of what we could achieve. I’ve never felt so inspired by a professor and the fact that he was so knowledgeable about everything we talked about made him credible. Honestly I could go on for paragraphs, if not pages, about how fantastic Dr. Ostergaard is. I’m incredible thankful that I took his class and so thankful to have such a supportive professor. I can’t come up with an eloquent way to express my gratitude and appreciation for him and this course but for whoever is reading this know that having Dr. Ostergaard as a professor is a gift.”

Nancy Jones (UofSC Student): “He is the only professor I have ever chosen to take multiple classes with, not only for his teaching ability and content but also for the connection that he nurtures among the students themselves. My group chats with my peers from both of his classes are still active. We not only send things we find in our daily lives that are relevant to the content we learned in his class over a year ago, we check up on each other as friends. Dr. Ostergaard was the one who ignited those relationships to begin with, requiring us to swap seats and meet new people every class and going so far as to arrange out-of-class events…”

More from Nancy Jones:  “In all of his classes the readings “are measured in pounds, not pages”. He expects us to not only have mastered the nuanced and difficult texts every time we come to class but challenges us to make connections between seemingly disparate topics.”

Sekani Adebimpe (UofSC Student):  “Dr. Ostergaard fostered an environment that was conductive to the expression of distinct opinions, perspectives, and thoughts that heightened the richness of our curriculum.”

Gina Hollenbach (UofSC Student):  “My time in this class in-person was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the quality and rigorous nature of this class remained the same; if anything, Dr. Ostergaard held us to an even higher standard of class discussion and contribution. His communication was consistent and encouraging, and he constantly wanted feedback from his students about how to make his class more effective. Dr. Ostergaard actually spoke with me over the phone and asked for honest opinions about the effectiveness of our new online learning environment – this speaks volumes to the dedication and passion that he shows to his students.”

Peter Rumm (UofSC Student): “No other professor has pushed me to my limit during a class, taught challenging material, and made it enjoyable at the same time more so then Dr. Ostergaard. Every day coming into Dr. Ostergaard’s class was a journey of enjoyment and learning. The fact I only had him once as a professor was one of my biggest mistakes in college… he sees it as his duty to teach the next generation to prepare them for the real world and he excels at it.”

Loek Opinsen (Exchange student at UofSC from ESADE Business School in Barcelona):

Regarding COVID-19 in Spring 2020: “When crisis struck, and the second half of the semester had to be conducted virtually due to Coronavirus, it was Dr. Ostergaard that stood up, and again played the role of an exceptional leader. Not only was he extremely effective in transforming the course to the digital format…He stepped up in times of crisis to pull the community even closer to

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