Prof's lectures part Broadway, part EMBA

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am

Milind Rao is a force of nature as he imparts yet another life story to illustrate the complicated financial model to his audience of Kellogg-Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Executive MBA students. An energetic presence, the former Columbia University professor recently received the 'Professor of the Year' award from the 2008 Kellogg-HKUST (KH) Executive MBA programme.

Professor Rao walks through the hallway during the hectic lunch break amid a chorus of congratulations from students. He acknowledges each with a joke, a vigorous handshake and a beaming smile.

'This is a great honour,' said Professor Rao, who was chosen by the KH10 class of 55 students.

'I enjoy teaching and am passionate about the material. The EMBA class is always demanding, stimulating and challenging. It is truly a treat to be here.'

The programme is not for the faint-hearted as Professor Rao explains the students play by the rules and show up on time expecting to learn not only from the professors but from each other's input.

'The students are motivated despite their different backgrounds,' he said. 'They want to learn and they don't mind showing their ignorance and patiently wait for others to ask their questions. You can see they think, 'I want to get something out of this' and they show up for class and pay attention. As a professor, this is engaging and challenging.'

The fast track EMBA programme is for executives who are on the run, often juggling work, family and university commitments. Professor Rao plans his two weekend courses throughout the year, building up his repertoire to engage and titillate the demanding class.

'I am always impressed by the drive, dedication and motivation of the EMBA class who are there simply to learn. It is my job to rise to the occasion.'

KH10 student and Nokia Taiwan technology marketing manager, Cindy Tay Gek-fang, says Professor Rao brings commercial experience to the EMBA programme.

'Classes are not just from the books and theory for Professor Rao,' said Ms Tay. 'Sometimes you meet professors and they can't explain in laymen's terms complicated models. Professor Rao has the ability to relate to beginners and professionals alike.'

Director of CIBC Oppenheimer World Markets, Tomer Feingold, is equally impressed with Professor Rao and his hands-on experience of events such as 'Black Wednesday' in September 1992.

'He has been there and done it with the likes of George Soros,' said Mr Feingold. 'He has a passion from the field and can tell us about his first hand experience with flair. Watching and learning from him in the lecture hall is part Broadway production, part EMBA class.

'One can not walk away without feeling that Professor Rao is a good leader, has academic knowledge and has special teaching methods. His knack of relating to people from different nations and different cultures is amazing.'

The son of a diplomat, Professor Rao was born in India, lived in China but has spent most of his life in the US. For the past five years, he has lived in Hong Kong and has no plans to leave.

'The EMBA class is a select class of heavy hitters who are here to expand their knowledge,' he says. 'They are mature enough to have modified expectations. At this stage in their lives, there is no need for competition. They are motivated to bring their general knowledge up to par. 'They expect a lot and in return, give a lot. It is a learning experience on both sides.'