Hard work and humility
Sanjay Ramchander draws on lessons learned from his father in his role as dean of McCoy College of Business
By Mark Wangrin
It was early September 2020 and barely a week since Sanjay Ramchander’s father had died. It was a time to mourn, a time to come to peace with his father’s death, and a time to quietly reflect on what his father had meant to him.
For the new dean of the Emmett and Miriam McCoy College of Business Administration, there was an overwhelming feeling of being blessed that his father had lived to see him join the administration at Texas State University and that he knew of the vast impact he’d had on his son.
His father’s name was Ramchander Ganesan. In the region of southern India where young Sanjay grew up near Hyderabad — the capital and largest city in the state of Telangana — sons traditionally take their father’s first name as their surname. “It reminds me that my father is always here,” he says softly.
Ramchander Ganesan, like his father before him, ran a gas station. For almost 40 years, he dealt with price controls, labor issues, inventory shortages, and huge demands. He wanted better for his son, insisting that he finish college but still requiring him to work at the gas station during school breaks.
“It was so much fun to talk to people and dispense petrol,” says the dean. “It taught me the importance of work ethic and being there on time with somebody in a way that made other people happy. He used to make me go to the banks. It was a cash business. No credit cards. His rule was you go to the bank when the bank opens. He would send me at 8:15 in the morning to deposit the previous night’s proceeds and make sure the accounts were tallied.
“It seemed like grunt work, but I learned so much in terms of cash flow and got a better appreciation for someone who was supporting my spending habits.” It instilled a work ethic. “His motto was never leave a job half done,” Ramchander says. “The whole notion of coming to work, showing up on time, with the right attitude, and getting it done.
“He was also pretty good at instilling humility —never try to act out or misbehave or put anybody else down but have this humility in you to want to learn, help, and be humble around people.”
These are the attributes of Dr. Sanjay Ramchander. They don’t show up on his curriculum vitae, next to the degrees from Osmania University in India (bachelor’s degree in commerce), Saint Louis University (master of business administration), and Cleveland State University (doctorate in business administration). There is the Fulbright-Nehru Scholarship, the title of senior associate dean for Academic Programs in the College of Business at Colorado State University (CSU), where he was responsible for managing the strategy, innovation, and partnership development for academic programs in the business school.
Yet they may have done the most to shape the 52-year-old cricket fan, husband, and father on his journey to his current positions as the McCoy dean, professor of finance, and Darren Casey Endowed Professorship in Business.
Moving to America
Ramchander was born about 20 years after Indian independence when the country was rebuilding. “The long hand of the public sector was in every aspect of your life,” he recalls. “Therefore, the economy was growing at what we jokingly call the ‘Hindu rate of growth,’ which is just slow, steady. But we knew the economy had to grow at a much faster pace because of the needs of the huge population and its demographic challenges.”
He looked to the United States, where his early impressions were formed by watching movies with Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson and reading about the legacy of President John F. Kennedy and American politics.
“That all sculpted an imagination of what could be in terms of learning about private enterprise, about how businesses worked, a new culture, an exciting place to be,” Ramchander says. “That drove my desire to come to the U.S., which I did in the late 1980s.”
He arrived in Boston and saw his first baseball game on an airport TV before traveling to Saint Louis University, where he would earn his master’s degree. Along the way, he lived and worked in urban and rural communities and small and large institutions, including Coppin State University, a historically black university in Baltimore. None of it was scripted. It was just where life took him.
“Each one of these experiences reinforced something that was important in terms of a life lesson that the value of higher education brings in terms of transforming lives, building social and intellectual capital, and providing pathways to prosperity for students,” Ramchander says. “It is something that motivates and is deeply engraved in me, in terms of how I try and find purpose in what we do and why.”
A good place
As an associate dean at CSU, Ramchander felt he was at a good place in his life. Well accomplished, he and his wife, Jan, a social worker, were now empty nesters with two children in college (daughter Naitra and son Jai) and a 5-year-old chocolate lab named Watson. Still, Ramchander felt the need to put all his experience, education, and life lessons to work toward a new challenge. He found that at Texas State, intrigued by the university’s impressive and ambitious growth trajectory, its location, its forward-looking orientation, and its goal to become a top-tier research university.
“That seemed to just speak to me,” he says. “You come to this realization when you pay attention to it. A lot of things in life are just listening and paying attention to things around you.”
Dr. Gene Bourgeois, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, was paying attention. Bourgeois, who spearheaded the job search, was taken in by Ramchander’s vision for the McCoy College, focusing on several University Plan priorities and ways he thought he could provide leadership to move the college forward. Ramchander joined the university following the 2020 tenure of Dr. Denise Smart, who as dean steered the McCoy College for 20 years.
“He identified the existing strengths of the college while proposing areas that could be enhanced and specific initiatives that might be pursued to ensure it would be contributing to the university’s strategic goal of becoming eligible for the state’s National Research University Fund status and ultimately R1 status,” Bourgeois says. “He also focused on growing graduate enrollment, especially in the M.B.A. program, and connecting with corporate partners especially in the Innovation Corridor.”
Connecting to Big Ideas
The McCoy College has five departments, all organized around functional expertise and with common threads, such as data analytics, business leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation, and what Ramchander describes as human competency, digital proficiency, leadership, and workforce development.
“These are several deep pockets of research excellence that exist in these departments,” Ramchander says.
“My job is to bring to light this expertise and connect with some of the university’s Big Ideas.”
The Big Ideas are high-impact research initiatives shaping the future of Texas State and the Central Texas economy.
As for the student body, he sees them as diverse, hardworking, and full of ambition.
Ramchander believes the university is in an excellent position to recruit new talent to supplement the expertise that already exists on the McCoy faculty. “I feel that we should, for good reason, be screaming and shouting about all the wonderful things we do across the community, state, and region,” he says.
“I feel this is a great opportunity to highlight who we are, boldly articulate our value proposition, and build our unique brand around our mission and values.” ✪