There’s a photo outside Dr. Srikant Raghavan’s office at Lawrence Tech that reveals what motivates this ardent business professor. It says simply, “Our students come first. While research and teaching go hand in hand, Lawrence Tech’s primary focus is on teaching.”
Having joined the University in 1987, Raghavan, an associate professor, is the longest serving member of the College of Business and Information Technology. But he didn’t start out wanting to be a college professor. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Madras in Madras, India, because, well, his older brother did. However, he realized that physics wasn’t for him. What did fascinate him was operational research, a field that allowed Raghavan to solve problems. Born out of the Second World War, the Allied forces were faced with the dilemma of coordinating multiple armies to function in a strategic way. All disciplines were brought together to achieve the goal of winning the war. It was all about logistics. Following the war, a task force was created to study what and how it all came together and, from that analysis, a new profession, and a new university-level course of study, arose.
He received two Master of Science degrees in operational research, one from the University of Delhi and the other from Case Institute of Technology. His doctorate is in Business Administration from the University of Houston.
After his PhD, Raghavan went back to India to work for Tata Consulting in operational research creating a more efficient train system for the Mumbai government. The convergence of hundreds of thousands of suburban workers to the city meant that the trains were overcrowded and dangerous. He and his Tata colleagues studied where the people were coming from and at what times. They recommended staggered start times for Mumbai businesses and the government, which solved the problem. Of operational research Raghavan says, “There’s theory and then there’s practice” … a tenet of Lawrence Tech. “Normally, research is done with no idea of how it will be used. In the case of operational research, we know the problem. We do research on how to solve the problem.”
He returned to the US in 1982 with his young family. As fortune would have it, he attended a conference of the Operational Research Society of America and met people from the General Motors Research Labs, who were taking a proactive look at society and trying to solve problems before they occurred.
Raghavan thought that was ethical and forward-thinking for a company the size of GM. He came to Detroit in 1983 and stayed. While working for GM Research Labs from 1983 to 1986, he taught part-time at the University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne State University. He found that he loved teaching and began looking for a full-time teaching position. At the time, LTU, known then as Lawrence Institute of Technology, wanted to start an MBA program and he was tapped with three other professors to develop a brand-new MBA curriculum. Raghavan said, “The challenge was attracting MBA students to an engineering and technical school.”
– Dr. Srikant Raghavan
Professor Dr. Patricia Castelli was one of the eleven students who did come to LTU for their MBA that first year. As fate would have it, Castelli not only graduated with her MBA from Lawrence Tech, she returned to teach in 1995. She is the second longest serving faculty member behind Raghavan. Of her former professor, now colleague, she says, “Dr. Raghavan really believes in his students. He’s always had an open-door policy. Even though I already had a successful consulting practice, I was afraid of the MBA program because of the advanced statistics. But Dr. Raghavan gave me confidence to go on. I learned a lot about leadership and how to coach and support students as a result of Sree’s belief in me.” Castelli credits Raghavan with her career and life change. “Thanks to Sree and my other professors at LTU I decided to become a college instructor and went on to become a tenured full professor. He has made a such an impact on my life!”
The architects of LTU’s Master of Business Administration degree with Raghavan were Dr. Steven Harris, Dr. Lee Lahr, and Dr. Lou Petro, all of whom have retired. Over the next three years, Raghavan will be doing the same. Beginning this academic year, Raghavan has elected to reduce the number of courses he’s teaching over the next three years with full retirement coming in 2025.
In addition to teaching, he has devoted his time to researching how to better teach the quantitative academic disciplines, like statistics, and the practical application of Operations Management. His research interests also include the role and accountability of governance in business and academic institutions.
Castelli’s litany of Raghavan qualities: “very personable and down-to-earth; great sense of humor; kind; a fantastic professor who knows how to engage and motivate students; a wonderful human being.”
by Renée Ahee