2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Damian R. Beil, Ross School

Damian R. Beil

Associate Professor of Technology and Operations, Faculty Director, Full-Time MBA Program

Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan


Damian Biel

Last year’s graduating global MBA class at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business gave operations management professor Damian Beil a teaching excellence award, after BBA graduates awarded him that honor in 2007. A researcher in the areas of online auctions, health care, and procurement and strategic sourcing, Beil has also won honors for his research. With a PhD in operations research from MIT, it’s no surprise that Beil develops mathematical models to examine complex procurement problems. His interest in health care has led him to analyze cancer therapy treatment scheduling and national organ-allocation policies.

Age: 37

At current institution since: 2003

Education: PhD in Operations Research, MIT, 2003

Courses currently teaching: Operations Management (MBA Core), Strategic Sourcing (MBA elective), various Supply Chain Management short courses (Executive Education)

Professor you most admire: I have so many great colleagues and mentors, it’s impossible to pick just one.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…” I realized that as an academic I could study virtually any topic, as long as it was relevant. I have the freedom and time to delve into what interests me, and then the opportunity to share it with others through papers and teaching.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…” I’d probably be a marine biologist. I’ve always loved scuba diving, and my first real job was a naturalist at an aquarium.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor:

I created a negotiation game for my elective that brings out the good in people, the bad in people (water bottles have been hurled – they were empty), and culminates in students sharing their war stories. I learn as much as my students do each time I run it.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Launching the Master of Management Program. It was a soup-to-nuts endeavor with a team of colleagues, covering marketing to admissions to curriculum. Seeing our students enjoying the program and getting jobs is very gratifying.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I’m curious, and I love asking questions. It’s energizing to see that same curiosity in others, and it’s intellectually challenging to lead discussions that start open-ended and finish with some tangible ideas. Each group of students is different, that’s what keeps me interested and makes it fun.

What do you enjoy least?

Grading. I purposefully avoided grades as much as possible in my own education, even choosing an undergraduate school that didn’t use grades. Now I agonize over the whole process when I have to give them out.

Fun fact about yourself: I backpacked across China when I was 17.

Favorite book: I’m mostly a newspaper and magazine guy, but the book I’m reading now is Rome Inc., a light but original take on the Roman empire as a corporation.

Favorite movie: Fargo

Favorite type of music: Anything on KEXP.org

Favorite television show: The Wire

Favorite vacation spot: Hawaii for the ocean, Paris for everything else.

What are your hobbies?

Traveling, cycling, hiking… and for the past 10 years I’ve been trying to master beef brisket, the Mt. Everest of BBQ. It requires tending every 3 hours for 24 hours, so not on school nights.

Twitter handle: I confess, I’m not on social media. But if you want to chat, stop by my office!

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…” the finite-duration degree program become the start, not the finish, of learning, with engagement of students over the course of their careers in a just-in-time fashion.

Students say…

Damian’s classes kept me on the edge of my seat in a subject that I was not expecting to be enthralled by — supply chains and operations. Damian not only was fantastic at teaching the fundamentals of operations and supply chain management but he was also able to tie these subjects into environmental sustainability and social impact on a global scale. Damian takes the time to get to know his students and keeps them energized and enthralled throughout the class. He is funny, energetic and makes operations and supply chain management and approachable and fascinating subject.

– Ursula Jessee, MBA/MS ’15

Damian’s class was one of the highlights of my Ross experience. He engages the class, posing great questions and using humor as a tool to keep the class focused and challenging each other. Damien offers fantastic insight into the value of the strategic sourcing function, the entrepreneurial mindset required to be successful, and some great lessons and callouts for the future leaders. I would be amazed at some of the lessons Damian offered up – because often they were lessons I learned the hard way over 10 years in the trenches. Damian was able to distill these lessons down into easily relatable messages. I wish I had this course at the beginning of my purchasing career, and I’m jealous of my classmates who will have that opportunity to leverage the knowledge and insight of the course to their future careers.

– Ankur Agarwal, MSCM ’14

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