Dr. Hari Rajagopalan stands in front of Founders Hall sign

FMU’s new Dean of the School of Business hoping for smooth transition

Dr. Hari Rajagopalan, newly appointed Dean of the Francis Marion University School of Business, has lots of plans and ideas for the years ahead. But what he would like to do most is simply continue what he calls the “legacy of collegiality,” fostered by his predecessor, Dr. Barry O’Brien.

O’Brien served as FMU’s dean for 13 years before moving to the same position at his alma mater, UNC Pembroke, this summer. O’Brien’s gift to those he led was the recruitment and retention of the best and the brightest faculty, and the creation of a pleasing work environment.

Rajagopalan says his focus will be to maintain that culture.

“Barry built up a culture where people like coming to work,” says Rajagopalan. “We’ve been through a bit of a transition, and I would really like to for the next four years to kind of keep things stable to make sure the culture is sustained. I think that if faculty are happy, they will automatically take care of the students.”

Rajagopalan will continue to teach. That’s good news for School of Business students, although not all of them may feel that way all the time. Rajagopalan’s courses are noted for their rigor.

“If you don’t put in the time, you’re not going to do well,” says Rajagopalan. “It’s as simple as that.”

He teaches management science, operations management, and statistical model building. Rajagopalan’s research interests include location models, supply chain management and complex adaptive systems.

He’s been published in numerous academic journals.

Rajagopalan is somewhat new to academia. Like a lot of faculty in the School of Business, he has significant non-academic experience. Before coming to the United States 15 years ago, Rajagopalan was a senior project manager for two firms in India. He earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Anna University in India, and a master’s of business administration in finance from Delhi University in India. At age 28, he moved to the United States and earned both a master’s of science in computer science and a PhD (Information Technology) from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Rajagopalan has been in academics, at FMU, since 2006. He enjoys observing the trends in American higher education.

“One of the greatest challenges is to take a strong look at how we are doing things,” says Rajagopalan. “Higher education is changing. I would like for us to cautiously explore the opportunities to provide an online education for nontraditional students who are actually working, in the undergraduate program. At the same time, I want to sustain, maintain and even grow our existing face-to-face undergraduate program.”

FMU has an online MBA program. It is a 30-hour graduate program offered primarily online. Students attend no more than three on-campus classes a semester through the online hybrid class.

“That’s an excellent program,” says Rajagopalan, but, he adds, “I don’t think that model can be replicated directly (for the) undergraduate (program).”

It is a plan to consider. A more certain event is that Rajagopalan will enjoy his new responsibilities.

“I’ll have fun, anyway,” he says. “Whatever I do, I have fun.”