Operations and supply chain professor Sanjay Ahire was named among the 2021 Top 50 Undergraduate Business Professors by Poets & Quants today.
Ahire was one of more than 1,000 faculty members from the world’s top business schools to be nominated for the Poets & Quants distinction.
More than 25 recommendation letters for Ahire came from Moore School and university colleagues, administrators and industry leaders. More than 100 testimonials were submitted by his previous and current students.
“Ahire has impacted countless lives from the OSC program with his remarkably focused teachings, while also bringing along his humor and positive aura,” said Andrew Suther (’18 finance and operations and supply chain), a senior pricing analyst for Lowe’s home improvement. “I think very few professors in the world are able to run a large organization, deliver a renowned program that truly prepares students for the next step and still be able to connect with students one on one.”
Ahire, who is also the co-director of the Operations and Supply Chain Center, said being named to the top 50 undergraduate professors list is “humbling news.”
“This recognition is the highest external validation of my unwavering focus on our
most valuable stakeholders — our undergraduate students,” he added.
Growing the UofSC Operations and Supply Chain program
One of the co-founders of the Moore School’s Operations and Supply Chain undergraduate program, Ahire has been with the school since 2006; since then, he has assisted in growing the program to 700 students from the initial cohort of less than 50.
In just over a decade, Ahire and his colleagues have led the program to rank No. 5 in North America, according to Gartner’s Top 25 Supply Chain University Programs for 2020.
Ahire is considered a beloved teacher by his undergraduate students, and while supporting their growth, he challenges them to achieve their highest potential while in the Operations and Supply Chain program.
“I firmly believe that undergraduate students are victims of low expectations and lower priority — if only a professor ignites the passion for learning in students, they are inspired to develop capabilities and do wonderful things that neither they themselves, nor others, expect of them,” Ahire said. “It is this belief, combined with a singular passion for my field of operations and supply chain improvement, that has allowed me to teach and mentor our undergraduate students to accomplish unprecedented things.”
One of his former students, Maria Baptiste (’12 marketing and operations and supply chain), now works for Intel Corporation as a supply chain technical program manager.
“Because of Ahire, and despite the delay to my graduation by more than six months and the added considerable effort and expense, I made the decision to pursue the Operations and Supply Chain program as a second major in addition to Marketing,” Baptiste said. “Looking back, I often forget I have a marketing degree because every opportunity that has come my way and every success I’ve had are due to the operations and supply chain degree Ahire so strongly encouraged me to pursue.”
Noting his students’ success as one of Ahire’s accomplishments, Moore School Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Janice Bass said Ahire is one of the rare professors who can give 100 percent effort to all three dimensions in academia — to teaching, research and service.
“In academia, faculty often place a weighting in their effort across the three core
academic areas; Sanjay has not,” Bass said. “As a result, his efforts have not only
led to the creation of new and innovative programs that have positively impacted our
school’s reputation and the opportunities and success of our students but have also
yielded positive impacts on corporations and nonprofit entities in the local and regional
community. His accomplishments at the Moore School are unparalleled.”
Mastering concepts by helping real organizations
One of the innovative programs Ahire has created is the real-world project undergraduate OSC majors complete over a semester their senior year. Students have worked with companies that range from smaller South Carolina organizations to multinational Fortune 500 companies like Johnson & Johnson, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Siemens, UPS and Walmart.
The senior capstone projects’ goal is to help partner companies’ processes become more efficient and effective.
“Ahire provides operations and supply chain students the unique opportunity to apply in-class learnings to solve real problems major companies are facing,” said Casey Tilles (’18 finance and operations and supply chain), who is a strategy and operations manager for The Children’s Place apparel company.
Since the launch of OSC undergraduate capstone projects in 2008, more than 300 have been completed by student teams mentored by Ahire and his colleagues, with cost savings for the participating companies reaching close to $290 million.
With the understanding that companies are greatly benefiting from completed OSC projects, Ahire has been building a humanitarian initiative that focuses on nonprofits, so they can also provide their vital services more efficiently and hopefully serve even more South Carolina citizens. Ahire has personally mentored more than 40 undergraduate projects in socially missioned nonprofits, including food banks, hospitals and homeless shelters.
A notable innovation of the OSC program is the Sonoco Products Company/Operations and Supply Chain Center Lean-Six Sigma Green Belt Initiative, a qualification Ahire implemented when he first began at the Moore School. The green belt is typically attained by industry professionals with years of experience; Ahire found a way to weave in the qualifications to the OSC curriculum.
To date, Ahire has personally supervised more than 100 green belt-qualifying capstone
projects at UofSC with his students. In collaboration with his OSC colleagues, Ahire
has certified more than 1,400 students (including 400 students under his own mentorship).
This scale of green belt certifications at the undergraduate level is unmatched by
any other academic program.
A lifelong mentor
While Ahire does all he can to set students up for successful careers, his support for undergraduate students doesn’t end when they graduate.
“I become a lifelong career coach and mentor to each of my students, and they ask for my counsel years after graduation,” Ahire said.
Indeed, Tilles agrees that she and many of her classmates consider Ahire one of their lifelong mentors.
“My story is not the first one — nor will it be the last one — of how many OSC students’ lives have been transformed positively by Ahire’s competence and passion to make his students the best they can be in their operations and supply chain careers,” Tilles said.
Baptiste resounded the notion that Ahire prioritizes his time, energy and passion for his students.
“Ahire engaged at every stage of my education, internship, career search and start at Intel and continues to engage to this day,” Baptiste said. “He cares about my success as much as he did when I was a student. More incredible is he engages to this extent with all of his students. I have stated on many occasions that my great luck in landing Ahire as a professor, and later as a personal and professional mentor, changed my life.”
Ahire’s dedication to his students, research and service exemplify why he’s one of Poets & Quants top 50 undergraduate professors in the world.