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Raghu Santanam: Imparting knowledge, inspiring minds

Faculty Sketch

Raghu joined ASU fresh out of his PhD program at SUNY Buffalo in 1998, and has been at W. P. Carey for two decades. He is the McCord Chair in Business and currently serves as the Information Systems Department Chair.

“This was my first faculty job, and I’ve enjoyed it so much, I never left,” laughs Raghu.

“In academia, you’re imparting your knowledge to others, and you are building new knowledge,” he says. He’s passionate about helping young minds and inspiring them.

“There are very few jobs where you have that privilege,” he says.

Raghu grew up in Mysore, India not too far from Bangalore, in the south. His father was a teacher, then an administrator in Education Department, which may have influenced Raghu’s career choice to an extent.

“The creation and dissemination of knowledge is what really drives me,” says Raghu. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day seems to be Raghu’s motto.

Raghu received his bachelor’s degree in electronics and communications from the National Institute of Engineering, and his master’s degree in industrial management from the Indian Institute of Technology, before moving to the U.S. to pursue his PhD. Raghu was named chair of the Department of Information Systems in 2015.

When Raghu is not busy hiking Piestewa Peak, playing racquetball, or cooking, he is busy teaching business process management and the MSIM and MS-BA applied projects courses.

“That’s really where students really get a comprehensive view of working on practical problems. It’s a great example of industry/academia collaboration,” he says.

One thing Raghu likes about working at a university is the opportunity to work with multiple generations.

“From faculty who are several decades older than you to younger millennials, you can learn a lot from them,” he says.

Raghu is proud of the work he’s put into guest editing a special issue of the journal Information Systems Research, focused on augmentation. “It’s really exciting because I proposed the topic and got it.”

Raghu is fascinated with AI, but doesn’t think that robots will ever replace humans.

“There are lots of hurdles to overcome before a general intelligence machine that will take over the planet can ever become a reality.”


What is one interesting or fun fact about your team/office?
The Department of Information Systems gathers for lunch every day to exchange ideas, and share thoughts about the market, politics, the economy. It’s so much fun.

What’s your favorite W. P. Carey School event?
Commencement and convocation are my favorite events. It’s the culmination of the hard work students have put into earning their degree. It’s a joy to see them accomplish their goals, and to see the happy faces of the families and friends supporting them.

What was your first job and what did it teach you?
In the mid-90s, I worked at a software company in India. It was the first time I was involved in such a large scale project. I was able to see it emerge holistically from inception to completion. From strategic decisions on how we positioned ourselves for the market to the selection of specific technologies and tools we wanted to implement to the beta. It was a valuable experience. It gave me exposure to the entire lifecycle of a product.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
A lot of students come to me for advice about what job offers to take. I tell them to visualize themselves in five or 10 years. Where do they want to be? Then work backward from that.

What is something in your field that you’d want to learn more about? The emergence of AI. It’s really taken off. It has a lot of implications on the way we work and the way we do business. It’s already revolutionizing many domains. We’ve brought AI into graduate-level curriculum, and I’m looking forward to bringing it to undergrads soon. AI is not about replacing human workers, but about augmenting what we do, so that we can become more efficient and productive.


What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
I took a wildlife safari while I was in Africa. The most fascinating thing was when I was traveling through the Serengeti, at one point I was three feet from this huge male lion. Photos don’t do it justice. It was the experience of a lifetime.

If you could be in any other career, what would it be?
I think I would enjoy practicing international trade law.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Iceland or Alaska. I’m entranced by the raw nature.

What book can you read over and over?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The great thing about science fiction is you can let your imagination run wild.

What is something absurd or unusual that you love?
Is there anything cuter than baby elephants? I don’t think so.


Salty or sweet? Salty
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Soda or energy drink? Neither
Cat or dog? Cat
Truck or car? Car
Board games or video games? Board games
Fiction or non-fiction? Fiction
Facebook or face-to-face? Face-to-face
Breakfast or lunch? Lunch
Morning person or night owl? Morning person