2017 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Ting Li, Rotterdam School of Management

Ting Li

Associate Professor in Information Systems

Rotterdam School of Management

If you had to describe Li in one word, you’d probably choose “pioneer.” After working for IBM and General Electric, Li followed her heart to academia, earning a Ph.D. from the Rotterdam School of Management in 2008, where she was immediately hired as an Assistant Professor. In the decade since, her impact has reverberated in every corner of the school.

She became the youngest Academic Director for the MSc in Business Information Management. That only tells a fraction of the story, writes one of her administrative peers. “She has revamped the MSc in Business Information Management by changing the curriculum, aligning it more closely to strengths of the faculty, the desires of students and the needs of the labour market. She’s introduced a number of innovative teaching elements such as writing blog posts, creating video assignments, and introducing peer evaluation/grading. The results of all these changes have been spectacular. The program has grown to be the largest master program at RSM and one of the largest Information Systems programs in the world. We have seen an increase of 75% in the number of students with satisfaction scores to match….This is a remarkable achievement, the likes of which we’ve not seen before.”

Li’s research prowess is equally impressive. A prolific researcher and expert in customer value chains and business analytics, she helped to formulate the Infomedness Theory, while also publishing in such prestige academic journals ranging from the International Journal of Electronic Commerce to the Journal of Business Ethics. Yet, in the end, it is her teaching that has left a lasting impression on students.

Her teaching style stood out from other professors, due to her lively use of analogies, making complex matter comprehensible,” praises one student. “To this date, her instructions on how to analyze complex data are the basis for my work. Ting Li is more than a professor. We have remained in contact after my graduation, and I highly value our conversations on the business and the future of technology.”

Age: 39

At current institution since: 2004

Education: PhD in Management Science, Erasmus University, 2009; MSc in Computational Science, University of Amsterdam, 2002

List of courses you currently teach: Information Strategy, Social Media and Social Networks, Honors Program (Business Information Management)

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research focuses on understanding how information technologies and the associated digitization of information impact consumers, businesses, public policies and design. Currently I’m researching online personalization and related privacy concerns in both social and mobile commerce settings. My favorite academic discovery is my work on “consumer informedness and firm information strategy”, which is based on my doctoral thesis, and published in Information Systems Research in 2014. In that study, I find that firms’ online information-based strategies may not be effective for all consumers, even for the same product offerings. The effects vary depending on the match between the type of information offered and consumers’ price and value sensitivity and information needs. In fact, price and product information could have polarizing effect on consumer choices.

Professor you most admire: There are no other scholars that shaped my way of approaching this profession as much as my advisor Rob Kauffman, Professor of Information Systems and Associate Dean of Faculty at the School of Information System at Singapore Management University. He inspired me to study information technology and competitive strategy with his incredible passion for high-quality research and his amazing ability to engage students in the classroom.

“I knew I wanted to be a B-school professor when…It’s been a process instead of a single moment. I received an IBM scholarship for my master study in computational science at the University of Amsterdam and worked for IBM in a group called Technology Architecture & Innovation. I was surrounded by people who were passionate about research, which triggered my interest in pursuing a PhD. However, I was not sure if I’d like to do a PhD in computer science. Later, I went to work for General Electric. That two years of working across different functional departments in a B2B business made it clear to me what I really want to research on is the impact of IT on individuals and organizations. That brought me to start my PhD in management science in a business school; and then it didn’t take me long to realize a business school professor is who I wish to become.”

“If I weren’t a B-school professor…I would like to be a social entrepreneur. Rather than focusing on digital innovations and transformations for what I do today, as a social entrepreneur I want to build social innovations and transformations that create changes in education, environment, health, economic development, and society.”

One word that describes my first time teaching an MBA class: Anxiety

Most memorable moment in the classroom, or in general, as a professor: Get emails from students, sometimes right after a course, sometimes can be a few years after their graduation, stating how much they appreciate me translating theoretical concepts using my own industry experiences, or driving engaging discussions in the classroom, or challenging them to work closely with industry leaders (in the form of company challenges), or aiding businesses to identify with academic insights (after a panel discussion), or bringing alumni, students, professors and industry professionals together through organizing a series of Frontiers of BIM lectures.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I’m proud of my thesis work on smart ticketing in public transport, which was recognized with two thesis awards and received multiple grants from Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO) totaling over € 750.000 to extend the work which is seen as critical for tomorrow’s smart cities. Even today, I’m receive calls to give expert opinions on issues that are related to what I wrote in my thesis. I’m also proud of being the Academic Director of one of the largest master programs in Information Systems in the world with +350 students.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? I find a huge inspiration in making a contribution via research and teaching to make real impact on business practices, which is of high societal relevance and provides powerful fuel to my aspirations. I also enjoy the fact that I can make a difference in other people’s life through teaching and mentoring others.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? Perusal (after grading exams), in which students come to ask for a higher grade.  

Fun fact about yourself: I worked as a volunteer radio host in Amsterdam for a number of years, had numerous fun interviews with film directors, documentary producers, artists, musicians, dancers, civil rights activists, and entrepreneurs.

Bucket list item #1: take up dancing

Favorite book: non-fiction (autobiographies, biographies, memoirs); recently I enjoyed reading technology journalist Ashlee Vance’s new book on Elon Musk

Favorite movie: I love watching drama: Good Will Hunting, The Shawshank Redemption, Flight, Beasts of No Nation, The Help, Julie and Julia, Hachi

Favorite type of music: Jazz / blues (Norah Jones, Natalie Cole, Eric Clapton), and also pop/ folk (Sarah McLachlan, Vienna Teng, Adele)

Favorite television show: The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, Sex and City, Gilmore Girls, 24, Prison Break

Favorite vacation spot: Wherever we go as a family with my husband and two kids

What are your hobbies? Tennis, hiking, reading, traveling, last winter I developed a passion for skating

Twitter handle: @tinglinl

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…more personalized learning, more experiential learning, more new courses that allow students to work with real business problems and interact with practitioners so that there is greater opportunity to create positive impact on society.”

Students say:

“Ting’s personal touch and focus on making you exceed as a student is extraordinary. Next to sharing her own knowledge she did a great job at getting people from different businesses in the class to discuss share their experience on specific subjects. This is what got me interested and successfully working in the industry I’m in now. Her courses and her learnings has been invaluable for me.”

“Her passion is one thing that is unique and valuable. She is someone who makes a difference, who knows everything about the digital world and mobile-analytics. Her curiosity and passion triggers students to give an extra mile and to think outside the box. Despite Ting being responsible for many things, she thinks the personal touch and interaction is key. This is why her teaching style is remarkable and fun and this way students are learning fast and dare to ask question to start great discussions.”


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