Associate Professor & McKnight Presidential Fellow
Carlson School of Management – University of Minnesota
Soumya Sen is a prolific researcher, focused on information systems, data analytics, and societal good. Sen, who is a professor of information technology at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management represents the epitome of what we seek out in this 40 Under 40 recognition. With nearly 2,500 Google Scholar citations, he’s published a massive amount of impactful research. And with nearly two-dozen nominations, it’s clear he’s made an impact on his current students, colleagues, and former students, alike.
“My works have addressed the issues of bridging the digital divide in Internet access and improving healthcare outcomes,” Sen says of his research. “In particular, my research has provided insights into the creation of more affordable Internet data plans, better network congestion management, fairer and more efficient allocation of computing resources, etc. I have also worked on data-driven analysis for evaluating medical device safety and improving addiction treatment. At present, I am co-leading the efforts in the Carlson School’s COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project to provide data for informing public health policies during the pandemic, which has been used by numerous media outlets.”
Sen has won multiple research awards and his research has led to media mentions in major publications like The Wall Street Journal and Politico.
Current age: 39
At current institution since what year? 2013
Education: Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Information Technologies & Solutions
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… During my doctoral studies in computer science and engineering, I realized that many good technical innovations do not translate into viable business ideas due to a range of factors. That motivated me to conduct research to explore the intersection of technology and business. I started to investigate why some digital technologies succeed while other don’t, how do companies make digital infrastructure choices, how to allocate digital resources fairly and efficiently among users, how to design information systems that can address societal problems. It was through this process of discovery that I realized that I could make an impact as a business school professor.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
Much of my research has focused on using information systems and data analytics as a force for societal good. My works have addressed the issues of bridging the digital divide in Internet access and improving healthcare outcomes. In particular, my research has provided insights into the creation of more affordable Internet data plans, better network congestion management, fairer and more efficient allocation of computing resources, etc. I have also worked on data-driven analysis for evaluating medical device safety and improving addiction treatment. At present, I am co-leading the efforts in the Carlson School’s COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project to provide data for informing public health policies during the pandemic, which has been used by numerous media outlets. This project has received the 2021 AACSB Innovations that Inspire and was a finalist at the NIHCM Digital Media Awards. Through my research and teaching, I live true to the Carlson school’s motto of “business as a force for good”.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I would likely be a professor in the engineering school or leading the tech startup, DataMi, that I co-founded after my doctoral studies.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I design my courses through an interdisciplinary lens combining knowledge from engineering and business to help students appreciate how data and technology are transforming businesses today. I extensively use and experiment with new learning technologies and software, flipped classroom formats, and industry interactions to facilitate active learning. The classes I teach often engage students in innovative projects that include research and analysis of how technology companies culturally adapt their products to local markets around the world.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Learning (how to communicate effectively by experimenting with teaching styles)
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: I wish I had always known about the diversity of thoughts and disciplines that exist within a business school, and how receptive it can be to interdisciplinary research. Knowing that might have motivated me to switch from engineering to business school earlier on in my career.
Professor I most admire and why: Prof. Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University. His works on behavioral economics and decision-making have been very inspirational for me. I had the good fortune of attending his lecture while at Princeton, which further motivated me to conduct research that augmented human decision-making with technology. The late Prof. Herbert Simon of Carnegie Mellon is also someone I greatly admire for his immense contribution to advancing interdisciplinary research and impact on multiple fields including computer science, cognitive psychology, and economics.
TEACHING MBA STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
I enjoy the fact that many of our students bring interesting insights from their workplace to the classroom. I also like the fact that our students are very motivated and curious to connect academic concepts to real-world applications. Moreover, the diversity of courses I get to design and teach – from analytics to digital transformation to IT entrepreneurship – help me to keep expanding my own knowledge while experimenting with content and style. Recently I led a team of Carlson professors to develop a new online specialization on Analytics for Decision Making for Coursera, which was a great learning experience in online program development.
What is most challenging?
It can be challenging to maintain a work-life balance in academia. The demand for research, teaching, and service can be quite high in business schools, especially given the need to prepare course materials for several segments of the student population – undergraduate, MBAs, specialty MS, Ph.D., executive education, etc. Traveling with students in study abroad programs also requires staying away from home for several weeks at a time, which can be personally difficult when one has young children at home.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Motivated
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Uncurious
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… someone who is fair and impartial.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
How will you spend your summer?
I will be teaching two courses this summer, so that would keep me engaged for the better part of summer. However, I am hoping to find some time in the weekends to do a bit of gardening and reading.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Europe & Caribbean islands
Favorite book(s): Thinking Fast & Slow (Daniel Kahneman), The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell), Freakonomics (Levitt and Dubner)
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
I have been watching the Netflix documentary series “Inside Bill’s Brain” which explores the mind, workings, and motivations of Bill Gates, and how his vision and priorities have evolved over his lifetime as he transitioned from a tech entrepreneur to a business leader to a philanthropist.
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
On my daily drive I usually listen to classical music by Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and many others on public radio. It has a relaxing and inspirational quality that helps to get the day started with positivity and freshness.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… I would advocate for more quantitative and data analytics skills for business school students and stronger collaboration with industry partners to source real-world projects for experiential learning and internships. Fortunately, at the Carlson school we already have a lot of it due to the close ties our school has with the several fortune 500 companies that are headquartered in the twin cities area.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Most companies and organizations need to do a better job in two areas. First, they need to proactively address societal issues and challenges – from climate change to poverty to racial injustice. Businesses cannot continue to grow and deliver value in the long run without addressing these underlying issues and threats that the communities they operate are facing everyday. Second, they need to improve their information technology infrastructure and adapt business processes to undertake a digital transformation journey that would position them strongly for the future. This requires hiring and promoting talent with academic training for technology application in business. Ideally these professionals will have a broad exposure to digital technologies, data analytics, business value realization and alignment, technology governance, and change management.
I’m grateful for… All the mentorship, guidance, and opportunities I received from various mentors and colleagues, and the support I have had from my family members over all these years.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Prof. Sen taught me Modeling and Heuristics and supervised my Experiential Learning Project (ELP) with Hennepin County. He simplified advanced topics in Analytics and decision-making that helped me grasp the fundamentals easily. He helped me to appreciate real-world application of concepts I was learning in school. Prof. Sen’s classes were always enjoyable as he brought a lot of positive energy to them and engaged everyone through thoughtful discussions. During my ELP, Prof. Sen did an incredible job of mentoring me on a high social impact project for Hennepin County. His guidance and motivation helped me to push harder, believe in myself and set me up for success. Ultimately, I was able to deliver a great consumer-focused, data-driven solution to Hennepin County that received great recognition and accolades.”
“Soumya is one of the smartest professors I have ever had. Along with his incredible intelligence he was able to transfer this knowledge in explicit detail to his students with ease. I have often told people that Soumya taught me more about advancing technologies in one semester than all other years of MIS learning combined. Additionally, I found him to be an excellent mentor, as he was very approachable and insightful when talking about anything from career advice to his opinions on the future of technology.”
“Prof. Sen ticks all the boxes. In terms of teaching, he has always been a proponent of incorporating technological and online innovations in the classroom. His MBA online curriculum developments served as examples for subsequent schoolwide online teaching initiatives. Due to his expertise in educational technology, Soumya was asked to serve on (and chair) the important “University Learning Technologies Advisory Council to the Provost.” Soumya is a true interdisciplinary researcher, who has published in premier business, engineering, and medical journals. Much of his work is on designing mechanisms and systems to improve the allocation of technological resources, focusing largely on innovative, Internet-enabled, practical IT systems. Also, Soumya is part of “COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project,” which has attracted significant attention from academic community and media. Soumya’s contributions have been acknowledged with numerous grants and awards, including the university-wide McKnight Presidential Fellow Award. I wholeheartedly support his nomination to this prestigious list.”
“Soumya Sen uses innovative teaching practices and emerging technologies to engage learners around the world. He was the first faculty member in the department of Information and Decision Sciences (IDSC) at the Carlson School of Management to teach an online MBA course. His learners gave that first course rave reviews, as well as the many other online courses that followed. Soumya then led the IDSC department in its first Coursera Specialization: “Information Systems.” This specialization was enormously popular and inspired learners everywhere. Soumya is currently leading a second Coursera Specialization in “Analytics for Decision Making,” which will be launching mid-2021. Soumya Sen is tireless in his commitment to teaching. His enthusiasm for teaching excellence demonstrates he is a rising star in his field.”