Ravi Shukla, associate professor of finance at Syracuse University’s Whitman School, still has the teaching evaluations from the first statistics course that he taught to undergraduates as an MBA student.
“The university needed somebody and my supervising professors suggested my name” said Shukla. “Most of these students were taller and bigger than me, and I was in awe of the whole experience. It worked and I have taught pretty much every semester since then.”
Although that was Shukla’s first time teaching a course, he had been an educator from an early age. As a high school student in India, he tutored his classmates, helping them understand fundamental concepts in physics. Yet, his path to academia had unique turns. Shukla began with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, then he earned an MBA from SUNY Buffalo. Shukla soon returned to SUNY Buffalo to pursue a doctorate, hoping for more of an intellectual challenge. He found that challenge in finance.
Shukla was intrigued by the strategies and counter-strategies involved in human interactions, which differed from engineers’ interactions with inanimate objects. After earning his doctorate, he followed his interests in finance and teaching. This eventually led him to teach at the Whitman School.
During his 24 years at the Whitman School, Shukla has served as an associate dean and the finance department chair, a position that he currently holds. He mainly teaches graduate classes, including courses in investments and financial modeling. Shukla also travels internationally during the summer as a visiting professor.
“I’ve taught in China, Singapore, India, England, Columbia, Chile and Argentina,” said Shukla. “All you have to do is give me the opportunity and I’m there. I’m ready.”
When not teaching, Shukla pursues three ongoing research projects related to investments and portfolio theory. He studies why optimal portfolios fail, inefficiencies resulting from active portfolio management and methods for understanding parameter changes using data.
Shukla balances his many responsibilities by being extremely organized. He describes organization as part of his DNA. At the end of the day, however, Shukla is also fascinated by randomness, especially the unpredictability of sports.
“Sports are the best way for me to experience randomness,” said Shukla. “Things are going along one way and then boom, something totally unexpected happens and the outcome is completely different.”
Football is his favorite example. Shukla discovered American football around the time that he discovered finance. Today, he is a self-proclaimed die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who can easily list players from the team’s four Super Bowls.
Perhaps Shukla’s music preferences best illustrate his diverse interests: he loves Indian, classical and classic rock music—just as he seamlessly blends international travel, finance and football fandom.