Faculty Spotlight: Ram Ranganathan – General Management and Strategy

Written by Megan Tran-Olmsted

Professor Ram Ranganathan has travelled throughout the globe on various career expeditions. While he began his career in his home country of India, Professor Ranganathan has settled in the U.S. in various states to pursue his passions, exploring the intersectionality of the science of strategy, business management, and finally, academia.

Professor Ranganathan teaches the Business Honors Capstone class – Management 374/H. This class is one of the final BHP classes that students take during their time at UT. Professor Ranganathan says that this class is particularly insightful because it is not just another class where students learn a single subject. Instead, he believes that this class serves as a bridge between all the classes that students have taken – exploring how finance, accounting, marketing, and supply chain all work together to create successful businesses. Students are assigned to explore a single business of their choice, analyzing how business decisions made in various aspects of the company have contributed to the company’s success or the company’s failure.

Dr. Ranganathan says that a career in academia is unlike so many other careers. He is able to contribute to knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination. He says that he is able to create knowledge through the extensive research that he conducts with colleagues at McCombs, and he is also able to disseminate this knowledge unto others through the classes he teaches. Teaching is something special, says Professor Ranganathan. Not only does he get to interact with a younger generation of bright, insightful students, but he also gets to learn from students as they often challenge his research ideas, strengthening his work.

Professor Ranganathan joined The McCombs School of Business after finishing his Ph.D. in Strategic Management at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania. Prior to making the switch to academia, Professor Ranganathan worked for Deloitte as a strategy consultant in California. This job was particularly stimulating for Ranganathan since he had received his a dual-undergraduate degree in computer science and computer engineering, allowing him to contribute to problem-solving for some of the world’s largest technology companies.

In addition to teaching, Ranganathan conducts research with The University of Texas, focusing on how companies adapt to technological changes, looking at company responses and the factors that enable companies to control the evolution of technology. One of the main reasons that Professor Ranganathan chose to come to UT after finishing his Ph.D was because of the excellence of the research department, coupled with the strong culture, focus on professor retention, and the bright students.

If you want to get to know Dr. Ranganathan better, but need some conversation starters, consider asking him the about the following topics:

  1. His travel aspirations (He travelled to 5 countries this summer alone!)
  2. What he likes to do in his free time (Hint: he’s an outdoorsman as long as it’s not allergy season)
  3. How him and his neighborhood cricket team are doing
  4. Some of his favorite books (He most recently read Justice, a book by Harvard Professor Michael Sandel, that discusses philosophy and the criminal justice system)

Stop by Professor Ranganathan’s office in CBA 4.234 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30-2:30PM to get to know him even better.

Faculty Spotlight: Leigh McAlister – Principles of Marketing

Leigh McAlister – Marketing

Written by Maddy Rock, BHP Sophomore

Professor Leigh McAlister teaches Principles of Marketing (MKT 337H) for the Business Honors Program. She attended the University of Oklahoma before pursuing her M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Now, Professor McAlister is a highly-recognized researcher in her field, and brings her passion for her work to the classroom each day.

Professor McAlister lights up talking about her extensive research experience. Initially, she worked on variety seeking at the University of Washington for three years. Then, she moved to MIT, gaining access to state-of-the-art technology that she used to further advance her research and publish Grocery Revolution, a book Professor McAlister co-authored with Professor Barbara Kahn of Wharton. This is when she developed a relationship with H-E-B, which in her eyes, is “the coolest grocery store in the world.” Upon entering her office, students will notice a letter written by Charles Butt, Chairman and CEO of the company, hanging beside Grocery Revolution. Professor McAlister continued to study consumer behavior, regularly working with teams of students to conduct world-renowned research.

Professor McAlister aims to share her enthusiasm for marketing with her students in the classroom. She explains that her favorite aspect of teaching BHP students is their determination to succeed at the highest levels. She speaks highly of their ability to create academic goals and work their hardest to meet these aspirations. Professor McAlister strives to create a very interactive course, emphasizing the importance of each student speaking up and communicating their ideas. Additionally, she is thrilled to have “differentiated and fabulous” reading material for her classes.

Professor McAlister beams about her work, admitting that she spends an awful lot of time on it because it brings her so much joy. “I work a lot because it’s fun to me,” she says. “It’s discovery; it’s a puzzle.” She also loves to mentor doctoral students because it gives her the unique and rewarding opportunity to “shape the minds that shapes the minds”. When she is not on campus, however, Professor McAlister and her husband enjoy listening to local musical performances. In addition to regularly attending shows from a guitar concert series which brings in the world’s greatest musicians, Professor McAlister is a big fan of Conspirare, a Grammy award-winning choral ensemble based in Austin. She speaks about the concerts with great admiration, describing them as warm and soothing, “like it’s a cold night and I’ve gone to a campfire.”

Professor McAlister encourages her students to stop by her office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30-2:30 pm in CBA 7.228. She loves discussing her students’ big ideas and plans for the future as well as Austin’s unique music scene.

Faculty Spotlight: Rayan Bagchi – Operations Management

Written by Nandita Daga

Professor Bagchi may have made a circuitous path to the business industry, but he is no stranger in the field. He’s been teaching Operations Management for the last 39 years, with the last 36 years at UT. At McCombs, he teaches OM335H: Operations Management, OM337: Total Quality Management, and OM367: Strategic Supply Chain Management. Bagchi actually began his career as a Chemistry student; he received his B.Sc and M.Sc in Chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur), his M.S. in Chemistry at Washington State University, and a Ph.D in Operations Management from Pennsylvania State University.

He attributes this switch to Operations as a realization that “[I was] not happy at the prospect of spending the rest of my career life in a chemistry lab; hours are exceedingly long, you don’t see people, and spend a lot of time with only chemicals. I wanted something different and I wasn’t sure what. Business is an area you can come into from any other area, so I joined business school without knowing what I was getting into – so much for strategic planning.”

When asked why he chose operations, Bagchi stated, “Operations lends itself to mathematical analysis, which attracted me. I liked the flavor of operations, which is problem-solving. I’m not attracted to money. Not too keen about satisfying customers; marketing was interesting, but not particularly appealing. Operations is neutral; it’s about making things cheaper, faster, better.” He incorporates this flavor of operations into his research; most of his published work revolves around planning and scheduling models. His research interests look at how to make businesses more process oriented; getting good results consistently requires developing good processes. He is also interested in knowledge management, which looks at knowledge not easily captured in documents or archival – essentially, implicit knowledge. “Most of us have knowledge not readily available to others, but often times, that knowledge goes unused. I like to study how to put knowledge that already exists to use,” he smiles and says.

Professor Bagchi enjoys teaching OM335H the most; it’s the first course in operations for students, so “they have a clean slate,” he explains. BHP students are “alive” in class. He notes that attendance and engagement in classes are higher, and that students have a wider range of interests. “BBA students are more narrow in their focus; BHP students are more open to other things. Their minds are nimble and active.”

Professor Bagchi is always eager to hear from his students during office hours (MW 12-1 at CBA 4.304A); he says that “Anything the student finds interesting is likely something that would interest me,” and would love to engage in deeper conversation about likes, dislikes, regrets, etc. If you’re looking for conversation starters, consider asking him about:

1) the book he’s currently reading! Professor Bagchi enjoys reading 19th and early 20th century books, and has recently began Teddy Roosevelt’s biography.

2) his favorite movies! (He particularly enjoys a French director, Éric Rohmer, whose moral tales are “absolutely wonderful.”)

3) traveling: his favorite destination spots are London and Paris.

4) food: he enjoys Italian and French cuisines.

Faculty Spotlight: JJ Riekenberg – Business Communications

Written by Nandita Daga

JJ Riekenberg

“It’s a class.”

Every BA324H class, Professor Janet J Riekenberg, or JJ as students affectionately call her, leans against her desk, gives a smile, and utters this iconic phrase. JJ teaches honors and non-honors sections of BA324, a Business Communication course all McCombs students are required to take. She is a non-tenure lecturer within the Management Department and describes her focus as “creating teaching situations to facilitate learning.”

After graduating UT as a RTF major, JJ started her career in corporate communications and worked in public television as a Floor and Operations Manager for ten years. From there she co-owned and managed a film and video production company before coming back to UT for graduate school. Here, she received her Master’s degree in Educational Psychology, focusing on higher education counseling. She also received her Doctorate degree from UT in Educational Psychology, with a concentration in Learning, Cognition, Motivation, & Instruction. She utilizes all three of her degrees as a professor.

JJ’s favorite thing about teaching BHP is undoubtedly the students. “The BHP culture emphasizes learning. You come out of college a learner. Students in BHP own their education; they are invested in making the most of their experience and taking as much knowledge as they can,” she said. She actually wanted me to interview her students instead of her – as an accurate reflection of who she is as a teacher.

According to Nicholas Kuehl, a BHP sophomore, “JJ has an incredible sense of humor and makes bland content funny.’” Another sophomore, Rebecca Ortiz, says that JJ structures her classes really well and incorporates lots of “quirky, haha” moments.

“She’ll take a look at your paper, and tell you five things you did wrong in a glance, and is always honest and helpful. JJ also takes in interest in students’ lives; if you’re dressed up professionally, she’ll always ask what you are up to. She’ll pause presentations and physically fix your posture if it needs work. She’ll pull people up to the front of the classroom and do in-class examples.”

JJ’s always very engaging in class, but students really get to know her through her office hours (MW 10-11, T 1:30-2:30 in CBA 4.202). The best piece of wisdom upperclassmen pass down is simply that: go to office hours. She will clarify minute details of the assignment, find resources to verify doubts, give helpful suggestions, and share her own experiences. But don’t just visit for assignment help! “[I wish] students came to ask how to learn more effectively,” JJ says. To make the most of office hours and JJ’s broad depth of knowledge, try asking her about some of her hobbies and interests. If you don’t know where to start, here are some ideas:

  • How did you get into photography, and what subject matter is your favorite to capture?
  • What’s the most valuable skill you learned from managing your own business?
  • What interests you about ornithology, and what is your favorite bird?
  • What is your favorite story about miscommunication?
  • Where have you traveled recently, and where would you like to go?

Faculty Spotlight: Joe Hahn – Business Finance (FIN 357H)

Written by Nicholas Kuehl

Dr. Joe Hahn teaches FIN 357H, which is Business Finance – Honors, in the fall semester. Along with teaching FIN 357H, Dr. Hahn also teaches FIN 372, FIN 374C, and he serves as the director of the MSF (Master of Science in Finance) program. One of Dr. Hahn’s favorite parts of teaching BHP students in FIN 357H is that BHP students are usually quite inquisitive, which helps foster lively discussions in class. Also, FIN 357H is one of the only Finance classes that BHP students who aren’t also majoring in Finance will take, so Dr. Hahn enjoys challenging these students’ assumptions about Finance and exposing them to the interesting theories and applications that could apply to their own fields of study.

In addition to teaching, Dr. Hahn also partakes in research. Since his background is in petroleum engineering, a significant portion of his research is focused on commodity pricing and forecasting, and utilizing these insights in investment in both fossil fuels and renewable sources of energy. Dr. Hahn particularly enjoys research problems involving important decisions coupled with uncertainty, as modeling this uncertainty can lead to exciting insights.

Dr. Hahn began his time at UT Austin as an undergraduate majoring in petroleum engineering. However, once he graduated, the market for jobs in the energy sector wasn’t good, so he went back to school to receive a Master’s in Civil Engineering. After going to graduate school, Dr. Hahn held several jobs in the energy sector, including an environmental engineering job where he was tasked with decommissioning a cooling tower. He worked on an Acquisitions & Investiture team where he picked up economic modeling skills. Eventually, he decided to come back to UT Austin to get an MBA, and he stayed on to get a PhD. After returning to the energy industry for a year, Dr. Hahn realized that his love for working with interns could translate to working in academia, so he left the energy industry and became a professor.

If you aren’t sure about what to ask Dr. Hahn about in office hours, he says that he is willing to talk about almost anything. He loves when students ask him about his family, his background, and, of course, UT sports! He also loves to give advice, and encourages student to learn how to become good at identifying opportunities. Coming from a small town where several people discouraged him from going to UT Austin, Dr. Hahn understands the value of thinking longer-term and evaluating opportunities, and he wants BHP students to think about decisions in a similar way.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Hahn, he invites you to come by his office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM. His office is CBA 6.228, which is located in CBA North, near the Hall of Honors. Dr. Hahn loves to get to know his students, and he believes his office hours are the perfect opportunity for students to get both their academic and non-academic questions answered. After all, the students that Dr. Hahn sees the most in his office hours are often the students who end up doing the best in his class, so come on by, even if you just want to chat!