News Details | 18-Jun-2013

NTU picks academic heavyweight with strong East-West experience to head Nanyang Business School

After a two-year global search, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has found an academic heavyweight with a good blend of East-West experience to lead Nanyang Business School as its Dean.

A passionate professor who believes in embedding ethics in his curriculum, Professor Ravi Kumar, 61, comes from the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School where he held several key leadership positions, including that of Vice-Dean for international programmes and Vice-Dean for graduate programmes.

His academic experience in the East comes from his two years as Dean of the College of Business at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology while on a leave of absence from University of Southern California. There he introduced reforms that saw the Korean college break into the top 100 of the Financial Times global MBA rankings.

Looking back on his East-West experience, Prof Kumar said: "Maybe it has to do with the Confucian tradition or Asian thinking; Korean students thirst for learning, work very hard to succeed in being educated and really prize education, and their professors. But they are also less likely to question their professors’ ideas or come up with alternative viewpoints.

“The non-Asian students in the US, however, have that native irreverence and vitality, so they are very happy to question anything and everything the professors say!”

Prof Kumar also has a strong industry network from his extensive international consulting experience, including projects with Nike, Rolls Royce, BMW, Ericsson, Reuters, and Infosys.  He serves on the board of several major corporations, such as Korea Exchange Bank.    

Commenting on his big move to NTU, Prof Kumar said, “NTU has an ambitious leadership that has been consistently building its brand worldwide. As one of the pillars of the university, the Nanyang Business School has a great reputation for thought leadership. It recruits excellent students and faculty, and aspires to be a global leader in business education. My predecessors have laid a strong foundation and I plan to build on these strengths and bring NBS to greater heights.”

On the appointment of Prof Kumar, NTU Provost Prof Freddy Boey said: “Prof Kumar has a strong record of global and cross-cultural business leadership spanning many continents. As an information and operations management professor, he is known widely for his expertise on global operations, particularly in improving operational performance through cellular design and in integrating decision-making with marketing and information technology.

“NTU had conducted an extensive global search for the dean of Nanyang Business School. It has taken two years, as the person chosen as Dean of Business must have accomplishments that commensurate with the school’s reputation as one of the world’s finest business schools. Prof Kumar was a clear and compelling choice.”

The Nanyang Business School is ranked first in Singapore for its Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme by both the Economist and the Financial Times. For the past five years, it has been ranked among the world’s top 35 by the Financial Times. Its Accountancy and Business undergraduate programme is also highly sought after by top students in Singapore, second only to medicine.

The School has more than 160 professors, representing over 20 nationalities who are top educators, researchers as well as active consultants for global and regional corporations. In March this year, NBS professor Vijay Sethi beat 222 business professors worldwide to be named Business Professor of the Year by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Champion of business education

A strong advocate of global learning, Prof Kumar had, during his 27 years at University of Southern California's Marshall Business School, initiated many programmes to give his students international exposure. As executive director for the school’s experiential learning courses for MBA and undergraduate students, he co-ordinated faculty across diverse disciplines, and over 150 companies in Asia-Pacific and Latin American countries every year.

“The world is not just becoming more global, it is becoming more mobile and interconnected. Our children are growing up with technologies that surpass any capability that we may have imagined just a few decades ago. And they are becoming more aware of the big gaps between the haves and the have-nots, and are thirsting to do something about this. They also see a world beset with the fears of climate change, global warming and the need to embrace sustainability.

“Because of all these seismic shifts in technology, culture and the entry of Gen Y into the business world, companies are increasingly looking for ethical problem solvers with strong digital and entrepreneurial skills, who are team players and work well in diverse environments. Business schools therefore have to redesign and reframe teaching, such as incorporating more collaborative models into their curriculum, technologies and pedagogy.  Business schools also need to chart a new course on research and thought leadership to make them more relevant and meaningful to business and society,” said Prof Kumar. 

He feels that while ethics start at home, educational institutions have the responsibility to solidify these values.

“Business schools should highlight the pitfalls of unethical behaviour and its impact on business, community and society, and most importantly, on the individuals themselves. It is not just about offering a required course on ethics that is needed, but a comprehensive way in which ethics is incorporated into all that we teach,” he said.

When asked what his biggest personal achievement is, Prof Kumar, the ardent champion of business education said, “I feel most proud when some of my former students, who have become successful executives of commercial and non-profit companies, come and say “thank you, you made a big difference in my life.” As an educator, nothing matters more than helping your students to realise their potential and know they have made good.”

A table tennis champion and player for the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras in his young days, Prof Kumar received his Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering from the institute in 1974. He holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Texas, and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences Department at Northwestern University.

Prof Kumar’s appointment followed a comprehensive review of international candidates by a six-member search committee led by INSEAD Professor Gabriel Hawawini.

Professor Gillian Yeo, who had been the Interim Dean in the last two years, will assist Prof Kumar in administrative and external relations matters in her new role as Associate Dean.

“I would like to thank Prof Gillian Yeo for her commendable work as Interim Dean since 2009. During this time, despite strong competition from other business schools, NBS continued its climb in the rankings among the world’s foremost business schools, gaining global reputation for both its undergraduate and graduate programmes,” said Prof Boey.

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Media contact:

Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to four world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and is setting up a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.
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About Nanyang Business School

Consistently ranked among the world’s premier business schools, we nurture leaders for business and public service, advancing global management knowledge and practice. Our curriculum melds rigorous academic theory with real-world business practice, while our faculty leads global thought and research in several fields of business and finance. As a college of Nanyang Technological University, a research-intensive university, we draw on the strengths of the fastest-rising university in the world’s top 50 to provide enriching opportunities for interdisciplinary study. Our 35,000 alumni hold positions of responsibility in business, government and public service in 45 countries. At NBS, we believe that responsible leadership in business and government is crucial to securing a sustainable future for our world. Through teaching and research, we are grooming a new generation of leaders with the knowledge, skills and passion of pursuing lasting success that seeks not only economic profit but also the interests of the community and environment.

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