A devoted teacher and cutting-edge researcher, Sanjay Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of information and decision science, joined the College of Business faculty in 2014 along with his wife Jiangzia Liu, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting. He has since made a second home at Valpo — he embraces the Valpo ethos, shares his love for teaching, impacts students through his innovative teaching style, and prepares the College of Business for the future.
“His teaching ability and his passion are unparalleled,” says Michael Kinsella ’17, a finance major who has taken several courses Professor Kumar teaches. “He cares deeply about his students, connecting with them on an impressive intellectual level and forcing them to think critically.”
After five years at a large public university, Professor Kumar joined the Valpo faculty in a comparable role, teaching complementary courses and continuing similar research in supply chain management. However, it became immediately apparent to him he was in an entirely different environment. At Valpo, everything he sees is “positive”— small, open environment; collegial, welcoming faculty; and students who are hard-working, respectful, and engaged in and outside the classroom.
“I decided to come to Valpo based on the University’s reputation and a day-long visit, but there remained many uncertainties,” Professor Kumar says. “I’ve been here about two and a half years now, and what I felt in that one day was right — this is a good place to be, a wonderful environment. I wake up every morning wanting to come to work.”
While Professor Kumar jokes that everyone should take his supply chain management course “because it’s the best class,” he considers it to be the most important thing to learn in the business world. Most people are unaware of what occurs in supply chains, so he teaches students to see the world from a completely different perspective — through supply chain lenses.
“Supply chain management examines multiple companies, interconnected to provide a product or service, to ensure they are operating efficiently,” Professor Kumar says. “We need to understand how companies operate, how they are interrelated, and how we can make decisions that can shield them from disruptive events.”
Professor Kumar is currently establishing a minor in global supply chain management at the University, eventually leading to a major. With the support of faculty coupled with a strong student interest, he is confident this program expansion will positively impact the University, and most important, students.
His research is focused primarily on reducing the effects of adversity, such as hurricane, terrorist attack, bad policy, or worker strife, on supply chains. In the near future, Professor Kumar hopes to collaborate with Valpo students on this high-quality research. This research is on the cutting edge of supply chain management and has been cited in influential publications such as the Washington Post. Research productivity is one way in which Professor Kumar measures success in his career, but he considers the achievements of his students, who can be found at companies such as Google and Amazon, to be a major component of his own success.
Professor Kumar is most at home in the classroom and feeds off students’ energy and enthusiasm to learn. Rather than approach his courses from a content perspective, he finds great benefit in focusing on the students themselves. He uses more student-oriented, instead of textbook-oriented, examples, enabling students to connect to the material and truly grasp the ideas being conveyed.
“What impressed me most about Professor Kumar is his ability to present course material in both an engaging and informative manner,” says Reid Zimmerman ’17, international business major. “He constantly gauges student understanding of the material and adapts his teaching to meet the needs of his students rather than pursuing his own predetermined agenda.”
One of the reasons Professor Kumar was drawn to Valpo was based on the College of Business’ mission to cultivate values-based leaders in a dynamic and global environment. Through his lectures, he stresses the importance of making decisions that are good for a company and society in the long-term rather than making short-term, reward-driven decisions. He brings a different perspective to the business world as he has extensive international experience, including 24 years in India. He emphasizes the global nature of business and encourages his students to embrace opportunities to gain exposure to business in all areas of the world.
“As a result of Professor Kumar, every time I approach a problem I delve a little deeper,” Michael says. “I will forever be grateful for having had him as my professor, for his insight both inside and outside of the classroom, and for making my Valpo experience both special and indelible.”
In fall 2016, Professor Kumar assembled and coached a team of four Valpo College of Business students for the first-ever Conexus Indiana Logistics Case Competition, an event sponsored by Conexus in collaboration with leaders in Indiana’s logistics industry in order to increase awareness and interest in logistics careers. The competition included students from the top universities across the state, where, unlike Valpo, substantial programs in supply chain management exist.
“These other students may have taken more classes, but you just can’t compete with the education received in Valpo’s College of Business,” Professor Kumar says. “I truly believe the education we provide students is much better than that at most major schools. At Valpo, a student cannot hide. They see that the faculty is invested in them, that they care, which really impacts the student.”
This team of Valpo students won first prize and walked away with a trophy and $5,000, “impressing” the event’s organizers in the process. Professor Kumar attributes the win to the personal attention received at Valpo, which enables professors to instill in their students the confidence to succeed.
“I am proud to call Professor Kumar my professor, mentor, and friend,” Reid says. “As a relatively new professor, he is already making his mark, and I look forward to seeing the continued impact he will have on the supply chain and logistics program at Valpo.”