2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan-Narasimhan, University of San Diego

Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan-Narasimhan of the University of San Diego School of Business is a 2020 Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor

Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan-Narasimhan

Professor

University of San Diego

Rangapriya (Priya) Kannan-Narashimhan’s inclusion on this year’s Best Undergraduate Business School Professor’s list was a no-brainer. Not only is Kannan the chair of the innovation and entrepreneurship department at the University of San Diego, she is the founder of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Catalyzer at the School of Business. Kannan is also a faculty member for the USD Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies and a faculty advisor for the university’s Center for Peace and Commerce.

Born in India, Kannan says her passion for teaching began when she was just five-years-old. “In Kindergarten I saw that my teachers were all powerful,” Kannan says. “They knew everything and everyone listened to them! This made a strong impression on me.  I became a teacher at five, teaching alphabets to my grandparents who lived with us then. As I grew older, during my teenage years this passion morphed into being a trainer, and a professor who encourages students to bring out their best, to create a positive change around them.”

Not surprisingly, Kannan’s research revolves around entrepreneurship. Through that research, Kannan says successful entrepreneurs are able to flex the three Rs — Resilience, Resourcing, and Reframing.

At current institution since what year? 2011

Education: Ph.D., UCLA Anderson School of Management

List of courses you currently teach: Strategic Management, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was in my teens. My passion for teaching actually started when I was 5. In Kindergarten I saw that my teachers were all powerful. They knew everything and everyone listened to them! This made a strong impression on me.  I became a teacher at 5 teaching alphabets to my grandparents who lived with us then. As I grew older, during my teenage years this passion morphed into being a trainer, and a professor who encourages students to bring out their best, to create a positive change around them.

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

My research interest has been in innovators and entrepreneurs- people who successfully innovate to create positive change despite the challenges that they have faced. I find that the three Rs of successful entRepReneuRs are Resilience, Resourcing, and Reframing. We know that successful entrepreneurs are resilient and prevail in the face of challenges. In my research I find that are also equally good at resourcing- which is using available assets at hand in unexpected ways to pursue potential opportunities, and at reframing; metamorphosing existing, taken for granted notions to accommodate their creative ideas.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… an entrepreneur or a documentary filmmaker

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? Over the years, students have mentioned that they appreciate my energy and passion for the classes, the real-world applications of what they learn in my class, and the personal care that I exhibit towards my students and their success. I always say that my students should be the best prepared in the subjects I teach as compared to anyone, anywhere in the world. That is my personal mission. Furthermore, I would say that rather than teaching, I facilitate learning by looking into how each student learns best.

One word that describes my first-time teaching: Anxious! I did not complete my undergraduate studies in the US. Previously, I had taught in India and had conducted training sessions in Silicon Valley. I had zero experience teaching undergraduates in this country and I was extremely anxious during my first class here at USD.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: That grading is a part of life. It is the least favorite aspect of my job.

Professor I most admire and why: It is hard to pick one because it is most of my colleagues at USD. Our professors here view teaching as a calling and are dedicated to ensuring student success. Their passion for teaching is unparalleled. I learn from them every day.

TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

I love it when the real-world applications of the research I conduct are brought to life by my students through their work experiences. I enjoy when students apply things that they learned in my classes into their business contexts and come back to give me feedback on how it worked. I am also challenged when they bring in interesting stories from the trenches that are not really covered by existing theory.  I use that to kickstart my thinking process about the next set of research questions.

What is most challenging?

To keep students keenly engaged throughout an 80-minute session throughout the semester.

The pandemic situation with online teaching has exacerbated this challenge. The second challenge is when they ask questions in class for which we do not have satisfactory theoretical answers. As we know it takes a while in academia to publish anything so theory is usually not caught up with the phenomena in the field.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Enthusiastic!

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

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

LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? Reading, Singing, and Meditation

How will you spend your summer? Traveling, spending time with my family, and research.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: India

Favorite book(s): The Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Game of Thrones. It combines my interest in fantasy fiction with fascinating characters. Each character has several layers and dimensions that manifest in unique ways in different settings.  I am one of those fans that did like the way the story was rushed in the last few seasons and the HBO ending, so I am reading the original books to make up my own ending in my head!

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

I am a trained vocalist in Indian Classical Music. I like all music from around the world regardless of their origins because each unique in its own way. Music is universal and has no barriers. I specifically enjoy fusion music because it is combining distinct types of music in creative ways.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… learning that is seamlessly but tightly integrated between classrooms and the business world to offer an experiential learning opportunity to students, enhanced by latest technology to provide the best possible learning outcomes.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… creating a strategy based on a sustainable business model in the true sense where making profits is incumbent upon their social and environmental impact. What I see is that although many companies are focusing on the triple bottom line, they can earn profits even if they do not take into consideration the impact of their businesses on the broader society and environment. Thus, societal and environmental considerations are a nice to have rather than a must have. I would like to see business leaders walk the talk by developing business models where it is impossible for businesses to earn profits unless their business models take society and environment into consideration. This is a much more challenging task than just focusing on profits and requires creative thinking. However, this is the future that businesses must build for our next generation.

I’m grateful for… everyone and everything in my life! My parents, my spouse, my children, my extended family, my friends, my students, and my colleagues. I am extremely fortunate for a full life and a dream career. I am grateful for many things in everyday life like a rainbow when driving a car in the rain, an unexpected call from a friend, a surprise hug from my children, or seeing beautiful flowers bloom in spring.

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

Student quotes from class evaluations

This was the best class I have taken at USD. I love the real-world examples and how the professor correlates it to the real world. However, the theory she teaches, as well as, her teaching style to prepare us for the real business world is spectacular.”

“Dr. Priya is passionate about what she does and cares that each student learns. She is always available for help and keeps the class relevant and interesting.”

I have never taken an undergraduate course that has affected the way I perceive business more than this one. Strategic Management (instructed by Dr. Priya) has drastically changed my level of awareness, inquiry, and scrutiny and has definitely expanded my thinking.

Dr. Priya is a fantastic professor who supports all of her students equally. She is one of a kind.

“I really enjoyed this class, it was honestly one of the classes at USD that I think I will take the most from and is applicable. Dr. Priya is also awesome! The projects were very helpful in seeing/ understanding how to use concepts in real business life.”

Dr. Priya’s energy and passion for this course inspired me.

I think the way this course was taught and structured was excellent. I think that this is one of my most favorite courses that I’ve ever taken at USD. All the information that was presented was useful and I see myself referring back to it as I embark on my professional career. A great professor and a great course.

Dr. Priya is an amazing teacher and knows the course very well. Love her entrepreneurial Spirit!

This was an amazing class & Doctor Priya is an excellent professor. She is kind, knowledgeable, reasonable and a great person to be around! Thank you!!

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