During Rajagopalan’s first term, he continued to lead the exceptional work of the college’s Strategic Planning Council. Under his leadership, the college recast its vision, mission and core values, and developed five themes as the foundation of initiatives to focus on the impact created by technology. The themes also address soon-to-be-realized changes in the way we live that are anticipated when life enters the next great technological age called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by a wide range of advanced technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological worlds.
The first theme, “Culture of Innovation,” inspired many ideas across the college. Exemplifying the theme’s spirit, an Innovation Lab will launch in 2021 and foster collaborations across the university and community. Under the aegis of the second theme, “Distinctive Student Experiences,” Rajagopalan’s tenure saw expansion of experiential learning opportunities for students through many initiatives including the IGNITE program. IGNITE connects students to local companies, startups and nonprofit organizations for paid, professional positions during the academic year.
The third theme, “Faculty Professional Development and Research Impact,” focuses on enhancing support for scholarly work to advance the reputation of the College of Business. Rajagopalan experimented with grants for interdisciplinary research, launched Dean’s Distinguished Professorships, the Dean’s Distinguished Junior Professorship and the Dean’s Instructional Innovation Fellowship.
Aligned with the fourth theme “Mission and Market-driven Program Transformation,” the college crafted an online strategy that resulted in four graduate program offerings; three of which were designed in the last three years. With Rajagopalan’s guidance, the college has significantly shortened the cycle time for creating curricular content and new delivery models, such as long-standing, traditional delivery systems and a growing roster of fully online courses and programs — including the Master of Science in data analytics, Master of Science in digital marketing, and NIU MBA that serves markets as far away as China. Online program enrollment accounts for almost 50% of the total enrollment in graduate business programs.
Recognizing that the college’s efforts and initiatives under the umbrella of the four themes are most meaningful only if they impact a diverse student body, Rajagopalan emphasizes the importance of the fifth theme – “Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.” In addition to attracting a diverse student body, the theme also stresses workforce diversification and creating support structures for all students to be successful.
Rajagopalan has also reinstituted and reinvigorated the long-dormant Young Alumni Network, a club initially created in the early 2000s of young alumni focused on supporting early career development. During COVID-19, he supported the creation of Wednesday Night Wisdom, a twice-monthly professional development seminar that features the talents of the NIU business alumni community and allows current students to glean important lessons learned while interacting with accomplished individuals.
Through it all, the college’s reputation is continually acknowledged nationally with continuous ranking since 1987 among the best undergraduate business programs as determined by U.S. News & World Report, and a five-year consecutive ranking among the top 100 best undergraduate business programs as determined by Poets&Quants.
In 2018, Rajagopalan served on the board of directors for WorldChicago, a nonprofit organization dedicated to citizen diplomacy. Currently, he serves as a director of the Northern Illinois Research Foundation and is a member of the Research and Innovation Advisory Council.
Balaji Rajagopalan joined NIU in 2016 after serving as director (dean) of the Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend. Rajagopalan holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in management information systems from the University of Memphis, and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Andhra University, India.