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Spotlight on faculty: Mahesh Subramony

January 22, 2016
Mahesh Subramony

Mahesh Subramony

Management professor Mahesh Subramony keeps a student’s note in his office: “Dr. Subramony pushed us to think differently.”

He views this as the ultimate compliment because of his focus on imparting thought leadership – clear and rigorous thinking that drives excellence in action.

Through experiential learning and vibrant, analytical class discussions, Subramony prepares each of his students to be not just the smartest person in the room but actually to be a thought leader. His teaching approach is engaging, involving a mix of case discussions, role playing, data collection and analysis, and discussions on theory.

He encourages his students to work through problems and dig beneath surface issues – for example, how to increase employee retention – to more systemic issues, such as how a company’s culture leads to employee turnover.

It is this attention to engagement that generates enthusiasm and energy, hallmarks of Subramony’s teaching.

“Teaching is a process of co-creating knowledge. While it is entirely possible for us to provide students with sound information regarding content, it is their engagement with, and interpretations of, the content that creates knowledge.”

Because Subramony believes students learn what is relevant to them, they discuss the personal implications of key management theories and findings. For example, in his training and development course, students participate in a 360-degree feedback process and work up personal development plans.

Experiential learning also creates relevance. To that end, in Subramony’s management consulting course, students work in consulting teams with public and private sector clients to diagnose and solve organizational problems.

Recent graduate Adrian Mascote worked on a project in which he and his teammates were charged with building a program to onboard top-level executives to new roles at Caterpillar. After designing, administering and analyzing the results of an extensive survey, his team provided recommendations to the leadership at that company – most of which were accepted and implemented, Mascote said.

subramony-mugThe class was involved in every step of the process, with Subramony acting as an engaged coach.

“He’s the type of professor who guides you. It was like you were at an actual consulting firm. He was open to suggestions. He was never forceful. He let you veer off a little bit, but would say, ‘Maybe look at it this way,’ ” Mascote said.

Mascote, who earned his bachelor’s in management with an emphasis on human resources, said Subramony’s high standards serve students and NIU well: “You can tell he wants the best, and he wants companies to see the best students come from Northern.”

In addition to teaching courses, Subramony conducts research in strategic human resource management and customer service. He is also the associate editor for the Journal of Service Management.

Additionally, he is director of NIU’s Center for Human Capital and Leadership which provides a wide range of analytics and consulting services aimed at improving organizational effectiveness. Through this work, Subramony pursues his interests in identifying and fostering cutting-edge research, and keeps current on business trends.

Educating students to become thought leaders is important as the workforce changes, Subramony said.

“It’s a myth that leaders come in riding on a white horse. Leadership takes place in a collaborative environment,” he said. “Thought leadership is the spark to great ideas. We need folks who can work with others and change the conversation.”

Subramony’s teaching practices represent what NIU’s College of Business stands for, Dean Denise D. Schoenbachler said.

“Dr. Subramony truly lives the NIU College of Business positioning statement, ‘Where the Classroom Meets the Business World,’ ” Schoenbachler said. “He makes sure that his students, both undergraduate and graduate, have experiences in and outside the classroom that help prepare them for the world.”