2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ying Zhang, Rotterdam School

Ying Zhang

Assistant Professor of Organisation & Personnel Management

Associate Dean for China Business and Relations

Erasmus University Rotterdam School of Management


Ying Zhang_Rotterdam School of Management

Professor Ying Zhang of the Rotterdam School of Management is RSM’s Academic Director of the Chinese Economy and Business Master’s programme and associate dean for Chinese Business and Relations. As a teacher, this 33 year old takes a curiosity-based learning approach, opting to digest the latest literature rather than require any textbooks. Her classroom settings are dynamic and fluid. Learning happens in academic and industrial conferences, Chinese multinational companies in Europe, and partner Universities in China. Often, professor Zhang also has elites from governments, consultancies and professors in other fields attending her classes and sharing their knowledge students. Among her professional accomplishments, Zhang is the first assistant professor at RSM being granted the Dean’s scholarship for the most contributing professor.

Age: 33

At current institution since: 2012

Education: Doctor degree obtained in the area of entrepreneurship and Chinese Economy and Business from Eindhoven University of Technology and United Nations University-MERIT (UNU-MERIT) in March 2013

Courses currently teaching: Entrepreneurship and Innovation: in the context of China, Predicting China: Chinese Economy and Business

Professor you most admire: There are many professors that I admire from different angles. Professor Geert Duysters (from Tilburg University) who was my PhD supervisor is one of them. I was impressed by his capability in inspiring students to enthusiastically conduct a broad range of interesting research and his approach as not only an inspiring coach but also a good friend in lifetime. Another professor whom I really admire is professor Adam Szirmai (from UNU-MERIT). He encouraged me to believe in the important role of professors in society, in terms of the social responsibility in doing academic research and bringing implications to politicians in their effort to improve the lives of people from emerging market and low-income countries. The third one I really admire is Professor Steef van de Velde from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) who is the most modest but influential professor I have ever met (although his research field is completely different from mine). His expertise and attitude make me believe “where there is a will there is a way”. His ambition and endeavor in facilitating business school development, caring for students and alumni, and fully embracing the responsibility to bridge academia and industry, motivate me to believe that academic and business worlds should not be separated and must be mutually and closely working together.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” I did my research internship in UNU-MERIT after my master program. I experienced a very joyful summer with PhD students there and undertook studies with professors on a number of interesting topics. Since then I have been attracted by the magic of academic research and decided to leave behind the immediate chance to work in industry. During my PhD study, I set up a program of entrepreneurship education for Chinese engineers, students, and scholars in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, which gave me lots of opportunity to communicate with people from education, companies (both Chinese and western companies), and government officials. The whole entrepreneurial process of this program inspired me to think through how to resolve the problems in linking academia, education, and industry, and how to shrink the understanding bias and gaps between developed countries and emerging countries at multiple levels. There are three inner voices telling me that I want to be a business school professor. Firstly I want to be a responsible person to help transfer knowledge to a large diversified group of people; secondly I want to be a person who can inspire others as well as be inspired by others, by building multiple communication channels between academia, industry, and education. Thirdly I want to be a person who endeavors doing research to facilitate the understanding between developed countries and emerging countries in a broad range, not only at individual level, but also at corporate and national level.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor” I still believe that my personality and personal belief will push me to contribute widely in other fields. It could be possible to see me working in an international company as a consultant with a passion and social responsibility to help people and organizations, to develop things into a better shape and track, and to keep contributing values to society. Or it could be possible to see me acting as a “divergent” such as in an NGO to help people surround and help solve social puzzles there”.

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: Many moments are still deeply imprinted in my mind. It includes those fantastic moments that my students and I were discussing the emerging social problems and tried to link these to the academic studies. I remember the moments we made efforts together to help solve problems from a particular company or a social problem by developing an academic project. I remember the moments when I played the role of student in the classroom and challenged my students who were acting as a “professor.” I remember the moments of excitement when being challenged with such intelligence in the classroom by my students, as those without industrial experiences and those with practical experience were exchanging ideas and stimulated to think bigger and work together.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I am really proud that within one year as an academic director of one of the master programs at RSM Chinese Economy and Business, I managed to develop this program to be the highest evaluated program at RSM. I am proud that many of academic studies are highly evaluated by the fellows from the industry and helped many of them to understand better the different fields and different stages of economies. I am very proud that many times in the industrial conferences (such as Horasis Global China Annual meeting), I am one of the few professors being invited to have a voice and deliver the implications of frontier studies; I’m given the chance to facilitate the collaboration between academia and industry, and between developed countries and China.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Teaching for me is not only a process to deliver and transfer knowledge. For me, it matters much more as a learning process from my students, from diversified fields, and from distinguished perceptions. I love using my teaching opportunity to explore my research interests. I love discussing with my students and considering them as my colleagues and friends. I am very excited every time when a sparking question or solution emerges in the classroom discussion. Most importantly, I feel very happy when I see my work has given positive energy and impact to my students and their personal development.

What do you enjoy least? It is hard to recall what makes me enjoy least as a professor or as a mother. I enjoy every opportunity that was presented to me and gave me chance to add my value or positive influence. I believe that it is always matter of attitude and effort. Even when difficulties are encountered, it should be viewed as good fortune to help you become better.

Fun fact about yourself: Optimistic attitude to try new things and enjoy the discovery. Love teasing myself and keep healthy lifestyle.

Favorite book: “Thinking, Fast and Slow” written By Daniel Kahneman

Favorite movie: Forrest Gump

Favorite type of music: Light music

Favorite television show: CCTV NEWS SURVEY

Favorite vacation spot: Zeeland, the Netherlands

What are your hobbies? Bikram yoga, jogging, taichi.

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” More impact and contribution to society.

Students say…

In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of working together with Ying. She was my supervisor for my master thesis. From day one, I realized that she is a unique individual, both on a personal as well as on a professional level. Like any other student, I too went through some dips when writing my thesis. But somehow, through the conversations and almost rocket-science like brainstorms I had with her, my energy level and hunger for achievement would be restored. One day I stopped and thought to myself: “how is it that every time I talk to Ying, I feel like I can conquer the world”? I couldn’t immediately answer this question at first, but then it hit me. Ying has grit, or willpower and it is through this grit that she managed to motivate me to reach a different height, one that is above the one I thought I could reach before. It is really seldom that I meet someone who is as dedicated to her work and that is as involved and connected to her students as she is. It’s like her attitude and energy are constantly echoing, “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, which has trickled down to me. She has motivated me to get the most out of myself and to think critically. I believe that this attitude continues to have an effect on my daily life, whether it’s about assessing the methodology used in a research paper or when I’m trying to build a strong case for argumentation purposes.

– Anke Muryango

As we live in a globalized world and the importance of international business, working across borders/markets and cultures can determine ones business success it was great to see that Ms. Ying Zhang, who from RSM is educating us to be future business leaders. The content of the business course gives good insights of what working in an international business means. Thinking in strategically manner is something every employee needs, in order to be able to grow with the business, especially in the technology industry where advancements in innovation happens quickly. Ms. Ying Zhang gave current real-life examples. Most of those came from popular global news, which really attracted the students’ attention and be part of discussion. Her extensive knowledge and enthusiasm made the class a pleasure to attend and study for. She is innovative who worked closed with the enterprise like Huawei, and give the lessons in Huawei which make the content attractive to the students, and much more acceptable. Even Huawei staff joined in the class with big interest and had direct discussion which is the most direct way and can achieve the best effect. She interact a lot with the students during class which incentive the students motivation.  The idea is clearly expressed. She is also a charming professor and shows great passion during the class.

– Yang Wu

Dr. Ying Zhang has made a lasting impression during my Master studies at RSM. Her passion and determination to provide the students with the best academic and industry contact particularly impressed me. I remember that the first time I noticed this was during an RSM conference on leadership, where she was asking a participating CEO, who had just given a talk on leadership, quite bluntly about internship possibilities for her students in China. Something we definitely needed at the time. In addition to that, she used her network to enable our small group of Master students for Chinese Economy & Business to meet and interact with a diverse range of companies, academics and professionals. This made my experience at RSM much more valuable.

– Johannes Deselaers

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