2020 Best Undergraduate Professors: Surinder Kahai, Binghamton University

Surinder Kahai of Binghamton is a Poets&Quants Best Undergraduate Business School Professor in 2020

Surinder Kahai

Associate Professor

Binghamton University

Surinder Kahai of Binghamton University is a publishing machine. Kahai, who has been teaching at Binghamton since 1991 has nearly 6,600 Google Scholar Citations and nearly 3,000 since 2015. He’s also an award-winning professor, winning the Chancellors Teaching Excellence Award at Binghamton University in 2002-2003.

Kahai focuses on management and information systems and the intersection of leadership and technology. “Technology is making a huge difference for leadership,” Kahai says. “At the same time, leadership is making a difference for technology.”

Current age: 59

At current institution since what year? 1991

Education: Ph.D. in Business Administration (U of Michigan, Ann-Arbor), MS in Chemical Engineering (Rutgers University), BTech in Chemical Engineering (Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India)

List of courses you currently teach: e-business, Introduction to MIS, Projects in MIS


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I experienced the intrinsic satisfaction from making the eyes of others light up as their teacher.

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

Much of my research focuses on e-leadership – or the intersection of leadership and technology. What I have learned is that leadership cannot remain the same as before. Technology is making a huge difference for leadership. At the same time, leadership is making a difference for technology.

If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… a physician

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

This is tough. I believe it is my students who are best equipped to answer this. What I typically hear from them is that I care about my teaching and them.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Fear. (fear of failure)

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It will be very difficult to satisfy everyone.

Professor I most admire and why: Professor Dennis Severance of The University of Michigan. His teaching inspired me to treat my students with respect while having high expectations of them. He taught me to not lecture but, instead, to have an interactive exchange with my students while making sure that I help them get to where I wish to take them.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

They are willing to interact with you!

What is most challenging?

Their focus on grades!

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

If you want more words: One who gives me energy with great questions during class. Such a student has done all the readings before class, has tied them to happenings in the world, and is curious about what else is happening and how things will pan out.

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

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


What are your hobbies?

Photography. Travel. Cooking.

How will you spend your summer?

You are talking about the summer of 2020, right? Well, is there any other way than staying at home and continuing my work? Joking aside, here is a more serious answer. I plan to continue working on my research. There is a lot of writing to do. I will also be preparing a new course on blockchain technology and applications that I am offering next semester. Traveling is ruled out. And so is travel photography. But it is not all bad news for these activities. I hope to travel to the outskirts of Manhattan to take pictures of the skyline. I have a lot of travel photographs that I continue to process. Plus, summer is a great time to take pictures of flowers and birds. I do my best to make something for the family every once in a while. It ends up being a nice break from work for me. This year we expanded our vegetable garden. Until the deer from nearby decimate it, it gives me the opportunity to leave my desk and tend to it.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Europe.

Favorite book(s): I know that is not what a professor should be saying but I am not into reading books. I am quite busy reading academic articles.

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

This is a tough one. My wife and I stream many things and, in most cases, we don’t even remember the titles. We go through the synopsis and look at the ratings to decide what to watch. The titles don’t even matter and probably that is the reason why we don’t even remember them. But among the more recent (and more memorable) titles, I liked Babies on Netflix. I love children. It does not take much to bring a smile on a child’s face. They don’t care about how you look. They don’t care about where you have come from. They don’t care about what language you speak. It is so easy to connect with them and make them smile. And there is nothing that gives you more joy than that.

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

Pop music. Very simply because it sounds pleasant to your ears and manages to lift your spirits.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… caring for its students as humans who are trying to figure out who they are, what to do in life, and how to find happiness while facing their own and unique set of challenges one rarely hears about.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… caring for their people.

I’m grateful for… my students who let me become a part of their lives.

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

“Amazing Professor, had such an impact on all of his students. Truly cares about the work he does and puts so much effort into making the course beneficial for all!”

“I am a 2017 alum – His teaching style and attentiveness to his students’ needs made his classroom the most memorable in my 4 years at Bing. His class was interactive and was taught more as a case study than lessons from a textbook. And lets not forget to mention he even baked us cookies once! A great man and a great educator!”

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