Moore School management science professor Sanjay Ahire was awarded this week the Michael J. Mungo Distinguished Professor of the Year award by UofSC. Ahire received numerous recommendations for the award from Moore School senior leadership, students, alumni and industry partners.
Also the co-director for the Operations and Supply Chain Center, Ahire is the first business professor since 1995 to earn the distinction.
One of the co-founders of the UofSC operations and supply chain undergraduate program in 2007-08, Ahire is said in his award announcement to have “played a prominent leadership role in designing, implementing, growing and propelling the program within just 12 years to rank No. 5 in North America” in the Gartner Top 25 Supply Chain University Programs for 2020.
While he holds his students to high expectations, Ahire takes pride in instilling a passion for the operations and supply chain field in each of his students.
“Ahire definitely deserves this award — it’s remarkable how much he cares about this program,” said Julia “Lane” Herlong, a graduating operations and supply chain student who will begin working with Deposco, a supply chain software company in Atlanta. “When I was looking for a job, he sent me 10 alumni to contact. He gives his cell phone number out and means it. He’s the busiest professor I have and the first one you get a response from.”
Herlong’s peer, Anderson Allgeyer, a graduating operations and supply chain, accounting and finance student, said Ahire dedicates copious amounts of time to all of his students to ensure they’re successful. Allgeyer has accepted a position at Lockheed Martin in their Operations Leadership Development Program.
“Ahire's been a mentor to me and challenged me to continually improve my skillset,” Allgeyer said. “I understand not only how to use sophisticated tools but also how to apply them to the correct problem.”
Another graduating operations and supply chain student, Amelia Leahy, said Ahire has made her confident in her abilities to be a leader in her field and has continuously motivated her to excel. Leahy, also a marketing major who has completed the Business Analytics Undergraduate Concentration, has accepted a full-time offer with Amazon to be an associate account executive.
“After completing one business process management project and a capstone project alongside [Ahire], I have never felt more prepared to kickstart my career following graduation next week,” she said. “The operations and supply chain program has given me invaluable professional and personal skills — one of those skills I have proudly developed is the ability to collect, analyze and interpret data.”
Herlong, Allgeyer and Leahy presented their capstone consulting projects in this week’s virtual Industry Summit, the twice annual event where operations and supply chain students spend a semester working with an organization and make recommendations for more efficient or better processes and share their findings at the end of the semester.
Over the years, Ahire has developed close working relationships with industry partners who participate in the Industry Summits. One such connection began when Ahire first came to South Carolina; Leslie Pemberton ('89 MBA) and Ahire worked to create the Sonoco Products Company/Operations and Supply Chain Center Lean-Six Sigma Green Belt initiative.
Pemberton, who was at the time working for the Sonoco Products Company, co-wrote the curriculum with Ahire for the renowned initiative, which is highly regarded by prospective employers. In 2008, UofSC was only one of three institutions in the U.S. who implemented the green belt offering. Today, UofSC is the only academic program that has had more than 1,400 graduates with this industry-validated qualification.
Ahire "is tirelessly developing his students, spending time with them, helping them do their projects," she said. "He's a perfectionist — if a company hires his students to do a project, it will be done to perfection. He makes sure the companies are 100 percent satisifed with the work."
Currently the head of operating excellence and quality for Kennametal, Pemberton served on the Moore School's Business Partnership Foundation Board of Advisors for 12 years. She recruited many operations and supply chain students to work with Sonoco as interns and for full-time positions.
"For more than five years, I got the cream of the crop (from Ahire's class) to hire in my department — [Ahire] really makes sure these students know what they need to know to get the best job they can possibly get," she said. "He's very involved to get the best from his students so they're well armed to get good jobs when they graduate."
A mentor, career advisor to alumni
Oftentimes, today's industry partners are alumni of the operations and supply chain program. Operations and supply chain alumni keep in regular touch with Ahire years after graduation for career advancement advice and to share career opportunities for current students.
One of the visitors to this week’s Industry Summit was Justin Ide (’13 global supply chain and operations management), who has worked for several entities with increasing responsibility. He is currently the director of operational excellence for Prologis, a real estate investment trust company.
“Ahire has mentored me throughout my entire career, providing advice and guidance on my career path and supporting me in all of my endeavors,” Ide said. “The operations and supply chain program prepared me for working outside of an academic arena — it allowed me to walk into my first job and be a value-add contributor on day one and begin accelerating my career path.”
Another attendee to the Industry Summit, Rony Ruiz (’08 global supply chain and operations management) was among the inaugural class of Ahire’s.
Currently a manufacturing unit manager for ABB automation company, Ruiz still stresses the importance Ahire has had on his career.
“Ahire’s passion, care and determination for the success of his students is what impacted me,” Ruiz said. “In my career, I have incorporated those mentioned attributes to my leadership style, and it is a recipe for building high-performing teams.”
As a member of his company’s hiring team, Ruiz continues to engage with current students and recent alumni for events like the Industry Summits. While Ruiz recruits from the Moore School’s operations and supply chain program because he knows they are high-caliber professionals, he said one of the other reasons is that Ahire has always taught him to pay forward his own success.
Making a difference for nonprofits
This sense of a bigger purpose has impacted Ahire’s approach to teaching students. In recent years, Ahire’s undergraduate courses have focused their projects on helping socially missioned nonprofits become more efficient so they can serve more of their vulnerable populations.
This service sparked an idea for Ahire to create a pipeline for socially missioned nonprofits to participate in the Industry Summits. Companies pay to participate in the semester- or year-long projects; some nonprofits are now being sponsored by larger corporations to participate.
While he prefers for the focus to be on the organizations he hopes to help with the new Operations and Supply Chain Humanitarian Initiative, Ahire sees the humanitarian initiative as an opportunity to give back to the community and personally do some good.
Ahire’s former department chair, Mark Ferguson, credits Ahire for the exponentially increasing number of students who are joining the program. Ferguson is currently the Moore School’s senior associate dean for academics and research and the Dewey H. Johnson Professor.
“When Ahire joined the Moore School back in 2007, you could fit the number of operations and supply chain majors in a closet. Most high school students have no idea what supply chain management is, so the Management Science Department has to win over students after they already have started at the university,” Ferguson said. “Sanjay’s passion for the profession is contagious and is a major reason the operations and supply chain major is now the third largest major in the Moore School, with some of the most impressive placement outcomes.”
When Ahire joined UofSC in 2007, there were less than 50 students enrolled in the operations and supply chain program. Today, there are more than 700.
Along with enrollment, Ahire has certainly impacted the placement rates — which in 2020, saw the reported job placement rate 90 days after graduation land at 87 percent for graduates with just the operations and supply chain major; many students opt for a second major or add a concentration. Ahire uses his robust industry and alumni network to help students land internships and jobs.
As his students, former students and colleagues can attest, Ahire’s passion for teaching, caring nature and his ability to challenge students to be their best while also providing unwavering support exemplify why the UofSC’s Michael J. Mungo Distinguished Professor of the Year award is well-deserved for Ahire.