2019 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Yinliang (Ricky) Tan, Tulane University (Freeman)

Yinliang (Ricky) Tan

Assistant Professor of Management Science

Tulane University Freeman School of Business

When it comes to being a great teacher, Yinliang (Ricky) Tan has already proven himself over and over. After two Doctoral Student Teaching Awards from the University of Florida and several honorable mentions for his innovative teaching methods, Tan is the winner of Tulane University’s 2018 Dean’s Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award.

Tan’s research interests in digital goods pricing, business analytics, technology, and supply chain management have seen him traveling throughout the U.S., China, and Australia to share his work. He earned his Bachelor of Engineering in Logistics Engineering from Tongji University in Shanghai before moving on to work on his Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Ph.D. in Operations Management from the University of Florida. Tan’s work has been published in prestigious journals including Decision Sciences Journal, MIS Journal, and Production and Operations Management, where he is also the senior editor.

“One of the many advantages of being a student in the Tulane Freeman School of Business is the opportunity to observe the many different teaching styles of all the accomplished professors within this institution,” one nominator said. “As a graduate student, I have seen many professors teach with a plethora of leadership skills, and every single one is different. The one professor that stood out amongst all the others during my six years at Tulane was Ricky Tan. Professor Tan has a certain understanding for every single student within his class, along with the way he approaches them. Professor Ricky has a very good understanding for empathy and humility that resonates and speaks volumes.”

Current Age: 33

At current institution since what year? 2015


  • Ph.D. in Operations Management and Information Systems, University of Florida, 2015
  • MS. in Industrial Engineering, University of Florida, 2010
  • BE. in Logistics Engineering, Tongji University (China), 2009

List of current MBA courses you currently teach: Modeling and Analytics


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…

I never thought about being a business school professor until I got an internship at an educational publishing company while working on my master’s degree. My job was to test and find bugs for software designed for high-school students, which was extremely repetitive, tedious, and boring. When I finished the internship, I immediately applied for a Ph.D. program, drawn to the intellectual freedom I would have in academia. Being a professor, I can do creative research on the topics in which I am genuinely interested, share the knowledge with students to prepare them for their professional careers, and work with firms to improve their businesses.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?

Broadly, my research has been focused on how technology leads to transformation in business practices. Currently, I am working on a project to figure out what the optimal timing should be to show digital advertisements. Firms have long been able to personalize advertising content based on users’ browsing behavior, location, and search histories. However, finding the right moment to reach consumers remains a crucial but open question for the digital advertising industry. Our research tackles this problem against the backdrop that emotional tracking and wearable technologies can begin to monitor the user’s engagement in real time. The most significant discovery we’ve made: Compared to the prevalent practices, our proposed methods can not only increase advertising revenue by 20% but also improve the completion rate of consumers viewing the full advertisement.

If I weren’t a business school professor…

I would probably become an art dealer. Do you know that $450 million da Vinci painting was last sold at an auction in New Orleans for only $10K?

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I think I am quite good at explaining things in simple terms even for relatively complex subjects.

One word that describes my first-time teaching:

Connected. I was only 25 when I taught for the first time. Students considered me one of them, and we got along very well. I still keep in touch with several students from that first class.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor:

I wish someone would have told me that being a business school professor would be even better than I thought it would be.  Because I only had the perspective as a student, I wasn’t sure what it would really be like, but it has been a perfect fit.

Professor you most admire and why:

There are so many that it’s hard to single out just one!  A few people who influenced my early academic career would be my dissertation advisors, Anand Paul and Janice Carrillo at the University of Florida, who took a chance on me; my previous area coordinator at Tulane, James McFarland, who hired me for my current position; and my new colleague Xianjun Geng, whose extraordinary scholarship inspires me to reach higher. They all provide me with unconditional love and support while pushing me to be the best scholar, teacher, and colleague I can be.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?

It’s a very fulfilling experience to teach business students. While I bring knowledge and expertise from my academic training, they complement it with their diverse professional experiences.  The different perspectives from their varied backgrounds greatly enrich our classroom discussions.  I am continually learning from my students, both in the classroom and as I keep in touch with them over the years and learn about their careers, personal lives, and other adventures.

What is most challenging?

It is always bittersweet to see my students graduate.

Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student:


Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student:


When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…

Generous and fair 


What are your hobbies?

Collecting art and antiques, with an emphasis on 20th-century Vietnamese art.  I find the French influence very interesting.  I attend a lot of auctions, visit antique shops when I travel, and scour estate sales for hidden gems.  In fact, at the first estate sale I went to, just 5 minutes from my house, I bought a pair of inlaid Pietra dura panels for $40 that I later sold for $2200.

How will you spend your summer?

Working on my research, spending time with family – including my newborn! – and pulling the weeds from my backyard.  They grow so fast in the New Orleans summer.  

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Sydney, Australia

Favorite book(s): Novels by Jin Yong.

What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?

I enjoy watching Mad Men a lot. It teaches me how to dress appropriately. Anything Don Draper wears is a classic!

Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist:

New Age Music, Liz Story is my favorite so far.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…

Experiential education. Learning by doing is the most effective way to prepare students for their careers.  Instead of taking notes and attending lectures in a traditional classroom, experiential education infuses the students with direct experience they can transfer to their business environment. It helps the students to be immersed in the real world while they are still attending school. However, because integrating experiential learning into a course requires major effort and coordinating many logistics, business schools should allocate additional resources and reward the faculty members who incorporate experiential education.

In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what?

Data management. This is an ongoing problem facing many small- to mid-sized firms. At this time, companies understand the value underlying the data they have, but data management remains a critical challenge. What data do we need to collect, and how should we collect this data? Where should we store the data from different sources and integrate it into our business decisions? Who should I share the data with? The answers to these questions may sound like they would be obvious, but it’s actually a very complex process.

Faculty and administrators say:

“To start, Ricky is among the most sought-after MBA professors at Tulane University, and is the sole winner of 2018 Dean’s Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award at the Freeman School. In research, Ricky is extraordinarily prolific: only 4 years since earning his Ph.D., Ricky has already published 9 papers in the prestigious Financial Times 50-journal list. Among scholars studying the digital economy, this high level of productivity, at this early stage of his career, is very rarely seen. His research is already impactful – he is widely considered a leading authority on the economics of agency pricing, and recently won multiple research awards for his work in this area.” – Xianjun Geng, Norman Mayer Professor of Business, Tulane University

“Dr. Tan leads his peers implementing cutting edge Data Science modeling practices. As such his research and papers reveal quantitatively based insights which are teachable and repeatable. He just received the 2018 Decision Science Institute Best Paper Award. This research teased out the problems encountered in the online marketplace when upstream and downstream channels must choose between agency and wholesale contracts. His model identifies the variable thresholds which must be controlled to ensure the contract choice is a win-win for all stakeholders. Dr. Tan’s “significant research accomplishments” have seen him recognized with receipt of the Irving H. LaValle Research Award. He has published in 9 top-tier journals listed in Financial Times. His superior instruction has seen him attain the 2018 Dean’s Excellence in Graduate Teaching Award at Tulane University, and Honorable Mention for Instructional Innovation from The Decision Sciences Institute.”

“Professor Ricky has been my graduate school teacher for the last nine months and has quickly become one of the most influential people in my life. Ricky shows immense passion for the subjects and students he teaches. He inspires me to try my hardest and thrive for more knowledge and a greater understanding of whatever subject I studied. Professor Ricky always allows us to go ask questions if we ever need help, even if it is not for one of his classes. If we struggle, he is always there to offer his wisdom and encouragement. He also gave his time to listen and console me whenever a friend and fellow student died last semester. Professor Ricky is a brilliant, kind, caring, and helpful man and educator. He deserves to be in the 40 under 40, and I believe it would be a mistake to not choose him for this honor.”


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