Faculty Spotlight: Brad Ashbaugh and “All Hands on Deck”

Professor Brad Ashbaugh prepares his students to bring their unique perspective on day one in the real world.

Brad Ashbaugh, a lecturer in Business Management, focuses on preparing his students to be effective workplace leaders from day one. “What I see in the future is that it’s going to take all hands on deck. It’s going to take people from different ethnicities, different backgrounds, people from different countries…because the market is worldwide,” he says.

Ashbaugh looks for ways to educate his students in understanding business processes and how to approach them with an end goal in efficiency and effectiveness. “How do we get our students to have that passion and confidence to be able to help companies from day one? If I’m able to inspire students to be able to do that, then I’m doing my job,” he says. Confidence can be difficult to cultivate within an online teaching setting, but Ashbaugh is determined to see his students succeed and excel. 

How do we get our students to have that passion and confidence to be able to help companies from day one?

His philosophy includes merging one’s personal experiences and professional skills to pursue improvement in the supply chain industry. He wants to see his students leave the classroom knowing how “to create solutions that really directly improve productivity for an organization” while bringing their diversity with them. Considering his background in industrial systems and engineering and business management, he knows both the ‘what’ and ‘why’ for supply chain systems. 

While he studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, Ashbaugh found that his passion lied with the intersection of economics and engineering. He pursued a master’s degree in industrial engineering at NC State University directly after finishing his bachelor’s degree. During this time, the program overlapped with management classes, which allowed him to learn both how and why things work.

“I see the big picture. I see how what we do integrates with business…I can see how tools fit in,” he says. While his students don’t need to know that information, he is able to provide them with a deeper understanding of the material they interact with. “Industrial engineering is really supply chain on steroids. It’s a much more mathematical version of supply chain management. It’s given me a lot of tools, and when I teach students, I can go back to the roots, because I have the more technical background…In a way, I’m bringing some engineering to the business school.” 

I see the big picture. I see how what we do integrates with business…I can see how tools fit in.

Ashbaugh gained more insight into what was needed for being in the workforce through his field experience. In the late 90s, he accepted a role at SABRE Decision Technologies, a consulting firm where he was asked to improve the productivity of the reservation technology for different clients by streamlining and automating their processes. One company faced two major challenges at the time: the inability to provide full service to the current consumers and a doubling in consumer capacity. 

Drawing on his multi-faceted technical and business background, he successfully created the first automated booking system for the airline reservation system. When the system was implemented, “the workers had free time to look at cost structures and to improve customer service, and capacity was still doubled”. This success led to many other opportunities to strengthen business processes for other companies. He strove to “improve processes wherever I saw a need.”

These experiences affirmed this cycle he strongly hopes for and desires to see in his students’ lives: the more passionate a student is about using material in the workplace, and the more companies succeed — the more our economy flourishes. The student needs to transition into the workforce with confidence to make change and improvement immediately in order to start this “virtuous cycle.”

After years of being in the field, Ashbaugh draws from his well of knowledge and experience to teach his students to be confident, passionate leaders. He desires to see the skills people bring that help propel them into something great. “Some [students] are more predisposed to supply chain, and some bring something else with them on the way. Those ‘something else’s’ can be what makes someone or a company more successful. But we need all the ideas. We need all hands on deck if we are going to compete with worldwide markets,” he says of his long-term vision.

“I love the teaching,” he says, “I love the light turning on when the student gets it.” Teaching provides a front-row seat for students who leave the university with an onset of confidence in their field and workplace. That’s his goal. Despite the pandemic surge, “where I want to go next is to where [my students] have the confidence to take the next step” without hesitation. Ashbaugh teaches with a desire for his students to propel into the world, ready to face challenges and competition of the worldwide market.

I love the teaching; I love the light turning on when the student gets it.

With classes continuing virtually, in person, or a hybrid format, Ashbaugh looks forward to doing more in-person classes. He recognizes the challenges that come with virtual learning. “Virtually, it is hard to give them the confidence,” he says. Despite that reality, he seeks to prepare his students for the real world, teaching them how to bring their perspectives confidently. 

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