Rutgers Business School
“Teaching analytical content at a public business school with many first-generation students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds is a challenge which Rosa Oppenheim, in her nearly 50 years at Rutgers, has met as a distinguished leader and outstanding educator. Noteworthy are her efforts in helping students beyond the classroom. She has conducted workshops for new Teaching Assistants on ‘When Students’ Problems Become Your Problems.’ She recently launched a pilot program addressing the lack of mathematical preparedness among undergraduates and recorded a series of videos which are being used to prepare our undergraduate students in both Newark and New Brunswick.” – Shen Yeniyurt, Vice Dean of Academic Programs and Learning Assurance
Rosa Oppenheim, 73, is Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management at Rutgers Business School.
In 2016, Oppenheim was named Dean’s Professor of Business at Rutgers Business School. She previously served as acting dean, executive vice dean, associate dean for faculty and research, and associate dean for academic programs. She also served as founding director of the Teaching Excellence Center at Rutgers – Newark.
She is the recipient of numerous awards for excellence in teaching, including Teacher of the Year, Rutgers Business School; Teaching Excellence Award, the Academy of Business Administration; Teaching Excellence Award, Rutgers Executive MBA Program; and Faculty Teaching Award, the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools.
Her research interests are in statistical process control, total quality management, and related areas of supply chain management. She is the author or co-author of many articles and several texts including, most recently, a co-author of Managing Supply Chain Operations and a co-author of Quality Management (now in its 4th edition), and has conducted training programs for major corporations in Total Quality Management. She received a Decanal Research Award from Rutgers Business School.
At current institution since what year? 1973
- B.S. Chemical Engineering, Polytechnic University (now NYU Tandon School of Engineering)
- M.S. Operations Research, Polytechnic University (now NYU Tandon School of Engineering)
- Ph.D. Operations Research, Polytechnic University (now NYU Tandon School of Engineering)
- M.A. English, Rutgers University
- M.A. Liberal Studies, Rutgers University
List of Undergraduate courses you teach: Demand Planning and Fulfillment, Production and Operations Management
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I took my first Operations Research course in the second half of my senior year of college. I was a Chemical Engineering major, about to accept a job in the chemical industry and, with room in my schedule, decided to enroll in a course in a discipline I knew next to nothing about. Within weeks I had discovered my academic passion, and was fortunate to be able to secure an NSF Traineeship and enroll in a graduate program in Operations Research, earning M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, and embarking on a fulfilling career in academia.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? In response to the many challenges to academia brought on by the global Covid pandemic, I am working with RBS colleagues to apply the principles of supply chain management to the management of higher education and its multiple stakeholders, with the goal of building agility, resilience, and sustainability. In particular, large public universities, because of their size, scope, variety of stakeholders, divergent and often conflicting objectives, regulatory pressures, and financial constraints, are often unable to respond quickly to disruptions. Our focus is to provide a roadmap to university leadership for rapid and effective adjustment to a changing environment. The supply chain strategies that have been used to innovate production systems in the business world can be implemented to address the current challenges to higher education; these strategies include supply chain risk pooling, product customization, supply chain cost reduction, supply chain alliances, and demand-driven action.
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be… host of Jeopardy (I wish!). Or, more likely, I’d be working in industry as a Chemical Engineer, hopefully enjoying the challenges and rewards of that career as much as I have those of a business school professor.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I hope it’s the empathy that I have for my students, many of whom, like me, are first generation Americans and first generation college students, often from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. I have had the good fortune to enjoy not only a long career as a teacher, but also many years as an administrator and, as a life-long learner, as a student. These experiences have allowed me to develop skills that I try to bring to my classroom and impart to my students, but most of all, especially as an adult student, they have helped me to understand, first-hand, the pressures my students are under (my “aha” moment came after about 10 years of teaching, when I was taking a graduate class on Shakespeare, and heard myself asking “Is this going to be on the exam?”) – I try to remember this every time I hear the pleas from my students!
One word that describes my first time teaching: Terrified!
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: How important and valuable it is to be open to change and new opportunities as they occur. I never envisioned myself, early in my career, spending two decades in educational administration, or traveling to Asia every year to teach, or developing and delivering training programs for corporate executives – experiences that have enriched what I can offer my students in the classrooms of Newark, New Jersey.
Professor I most admire and why: I have spent 50 years surrounded by engaging and accomplished scholars, inquisitive minds, and caring individuals who have served as role models for me and for other academics. Pressed to identify one professor whom I most admire, it would be the late Professor Julius Surkis, who taught the first Operations Research course that I took as an about-to-graduate Chemical Engineering undergraduate, and introduced me to what became my life’s work. Coincidentally, we reunited on the faculty at Rutgers Business School and spent many years as colleagues and friends, and I owe much to his inspiration.
TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? Their curiosity and ambition. Many of our students struggle to balance school, jobs, family obligations, and financial challenges, and I am in awe of their resilience and their will to succeed.
What is most challenging? Achieving balance in my own life – and not letting the short-term pressures and deadlines of an academic career distract me from the importance of being there for my family and friends as well.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Inquisitive
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Apathetic
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… “Cruel But Fair” – in my efforts to combine theory and practice in my courses, I try to be a rigorous, yet caring and compassionate educator. In homage to Monty Python, I wear a “Cruel But Fair” shirt to my final exams, which inspired a YouTube “Ode to Rosa Oppenheim” from my students!
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? Attending the theater and classical music performances, playing the piano (not well, but enthusiastically), reading, traveling, playing bridge, volunteer mathematics tutor for homeless elementary and middle school students.
How will you spend your summer? Hopefully resuming international travel after a three-year pandemic-induced hiatus; updating materials for my fall courses; and continuing to work on a revision of the most recent edition of my book on quality management.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Galapagos Islands – the opportunity to meet people in environments so unlike my own never ceases to fill me with wonder. Many years of annual travel to China and Singapore to teach in Rutgers programs there have taught me the value and importance of expanding my horizons and getting out of my comfort zone.
Favorite book(s): I’m currently reading A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano by Katie Hafner, a fascinating and inspiring story of this quirky musical genius’s love for his piano, an education in building and tuning this beautiful instrument, and the remarkable history of the venerable Steinway & Sons. As far as my all-time favorite great read, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, while not high literature, is a book that I couldn’t put down and didn’t want to ever end.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? I am a Jeopardy junkie – I love the challenge of quickly retrieving long-buried and often trivial information and enjoy watching others who are so successful at it!
My favorite show of this season is the current production of A Raisin in the Sun at the Public Theater in New York – as timely and tragic today as it was when it was first produced in 1959.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? I love listening to classical music and opera, and the emotional connection the music brings. Not to mention the nostalgia brought on by blasting classic rock while I’m driving.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Along with an increased focus on the technical skills and solid grounding in the liberal arts that students preparing for the careers of the future need, business schools will have to make significant changes in mission, curricular structure, and pedagogy to remain competitive, particularly in the face of educational and career preparation opportunities being offered outside the traditional degree-granting university setting. One approach, which we’ve begun to implement at Rutgers Business School, is stackable programs, comprised of courses that lead, incrementally, to credentials (certificates and/or degrees), at the student’s pace. Such programs give students flexibility in designing individualized curricula relevant to their evolving needs; offer cutting-edge courses, incorporating experiential components, in person, online, and in hybrid form; and allow transitioning from non-matriculated to matriculated status as well as temporary suspensions in response to changing financial, career, and family obligations. Programs like this help to address declining enrollment trends by attracting non-traditional students, including lifelong learning students, underserved and disadvantaged students, and undecided students.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at…being sensitive to the emotional needs of their employees. Faced with the health and political upheavals of the last few years, organizations must do more to ensure that all stakeholders have the support and resources to be productive and find joy in work while at the same time maintaining work-family balance. And while there have been noteworthy increases in the diversity of the workforce, companies need to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion applies to all levels in the organization, from entry-level to C-suite positions.
I’m grateful for… the opportunities Rutgers University has given me to explore all sides of the academic life while helping to educate new generations of young scholars from whom I can continue to learn; the lifelong friendships I’ve made among colleagues and students; and, most important, the encouragement, love, and support of my family.
And while I’m not at all grateful for the horrors of the last three years, after decades of being asked “What’s supply chain management?” it’s nice to now be viewed as part of a “cool” discipline!
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