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January 11, 2022

Five New Faculty Bring Vast Expertise to Nebraska Business

First Hire Named as Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair
Five New Faculty Bring Vast Expertise to Nebraska Business
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business added five new faculty during the 2021-22 academic year, including the first faculty member to hold the new Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair of Business.

Five new faculty joined the College of Business this academic year, including the first faculty member to hold the recently established Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair of Business. The new hires provide expertise in economics, entrepreneurship, marketing, sales and supply chain management.

“I am excited about the many ways our new faculty will positively impact not only the College of Business, but also our entire Nebraska Business community. Their expertise touches an array of areas which will drive discovery, create opportunity and empower individuals to lead the future of business.” said Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean and professor of finance. “They also will further enhance offerings for students across the university, especially in our Center for Entrepreneurship and Center for Sales Excellence and we are particularly proud to introduce our newly endowed chair.”

Esma Gel, Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair of Business and professor of supply chain management and analytics
The first to hold the new Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair of Business, Esma Gel serves as a professor of supply chain management and analytics. Initiated through a matching gift from Jim and Georgia Thompson of Minnetonka, Minnesota; the endowed chair was named and established through Milligan’s match.

“The endowed chairs fulfill the critical need to remain competitive in the higher education space through our teaching, research and outreach at the college. We’re grateful to all of our contributors who invested in business education in Nebraska through an investment in our faculty. We’re excited to welcome Esma into our suite of renowned faculty and look forward to the impactful work she’ll accomplish here,” Farrell said. Additional endowed chairs made possible through the Thompson’s matching gift include the Steve and Jennifer David Chair in Business, Alice M. Dittman Chair of Banking and Finance; Amy and J.E. Van Horne Jr. Chair and Van Horne Chair.

Earning her Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Northwestern University, Gel’s research interests include stochastic modeling and control of manufacturing and service systems, health care delivery systems, supply chain management and multiple criteria decision making. Her work uses prescriptive analytics techniques that address important decisions that organizations face to be competitive in today’s marketplace.

“I truly believe that the next generation of business leaders will have to possess a solid understanding of various analytics techniques, ranging from descriptive to predictive to prescriptive analytics. While companies are getting increasingly mature in using descriptive and predictive analytics tools, they have increasing needs in prescriptive analytics techniques that go beyond assessing current performance to improving performance through optimized decision making,” Gel said.

Gel’s work focuses on collaborations between industries and the public sector, including practitioners from health care, manufacturing, agriculture and airlines. With her work published in several academic journals, including Decision Sciences, European Journal of Operational Research and Operations Research, she has more than 20 years of experience researching and teaching in relevant topics in supply chain management. 

“Gel has a world-class reputation for conducting rigorous, interdisciplinary, collaborative and impactful research in two areas of critical importance in today’s world – logistics systems and health care delivery systems. Her research seeks to find innovative and relevant solutions to important practical problems, particularly those related to the negative impact of uncertainty on system performance,” said Jennifer Ryan, department chair and professor of supply chain management and analytics and Ron and Carol Cope College Professor. “Gel’s research record and publication output will enhance the reputation and contribution of the department and college in areas of high practical relevance and societal impact, and Gel will serve as an excellent role model, mentor and potential collaborator for the SCMA faculty and Ph.D. students.”

Utilizing her resources to promote research programs and various educational initiatives, she also plans to expand her research in health care working with her university colleagues, as well as with local and state-wide businesses facing supply chain management issues.

“I am truly honored to be named the Cynthia Hardin Milligan Chair of Business. Dean Milligan made tremendous contributions to the college and the University of Nebraska, and I find it particularly meaningful and inspiring to be coming to the University of Nebraska with this distinction. I will try to live up to her and her family’s legacy in supporting the college and university’s mission and growth,” she said.

Robin Garewal, assistant professor of practice in marketing
With sales and marketing experience in both the U.S. and India, Robin Garewal came to Nebraska after 15 years in the industry. His background working in business-to-consumer and business-to-business environments highlight his proficiency with driving sales, building strong customer relationships, setting up and scaling new products, reaching sales quotas and starting new business ventures.

“Robin brings more than 15 years of expertise in national and international marketing. His strong background in sales management, strategic sales and business development makes him an asset to students in the classroom and the sales center, which offers two certificates of sales excellence for students throughout the university,” said Ravi Sohi, Department Chair and Professor of Marketing, Robert D. Hays Distinguished Chair of Sales Excellence and Executive Director of the Center for Sales Excellence.

Garewal earned his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Nebraska in 2021. Prior to joining the college, he held different roles in sales and marketing at organizations like Nelnet in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Next Education in India. He now utilizes these experiences in his teaching and through the Center for Sales Excellence, named a “Top University for Professional Sales Education” by the Sales Education Foundation (SEF) since 2015. 

“I want to ensure that students learn from my rich experience in sales. I am strong believer that experiential learning is far different from theoretical learning. I want to learn and teach new things in the world of sales and marketing. With highly decorated scholars in the Department of Marketing, it’s the right place to learn and grow with people from all around the world,” he said.

Yifan Gong, assistant professor of economics
Yifan Gong received his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, in 2020, and joined the college virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic and came to Nebraska in person this fall. His research interests include labor economics, public economics and urban economics, and he published an article on the uncertainty of future income in Quantitative Economics in 2019.

“Yifan adds depth in our department to provide advanced statistical analysis. He also strengthens our research and teaching capabilities in labor economics,” said David Rosenbaum, Department Chair and John T. & Mable M. Hay Professor of Economics.

Gong, who looks forward to accessing restricted-use versions of important datasets provided by the Central Plains Federal Statistical Research Data Center at Nebraska, said, “Data access is very appealing to labor economists because we are interested in bringing economic theory to the data and studying empirical issues. For example, the geographic information contained in these datasets is very important for understanding variation in individuals' educational and labor market outcomes.”

He specializes in analyzing how perceptions about future outcomes affect individuals' decisions and how to effectively elicit or infer these perceptions.

“My skills can help design policies to assist people during the pandemic. Policymakers need to know people's perceptions about their future economic and health conditions and how these perceptions can be affected by public policies. Because of the lack of understanding about and prior experience with the current pandemic, people's perceptions can be very heterogeneous and are difficult to characterize using traditional methods. The methods I learned and developed during my Ph.D. study can be helpful in this case,” said Gong.

Andrew Hanna, assistant professor of practice in management and entrepreneurship, ’09, ’16 & ’21
A three-time graduate of Nebraska, Andrew Hanna joins the Center for Entrepreneurship and Department of Management with years of experience as chief operating officer for a local retail startup. Earning his Ph.D. from the College of Business in 2021, he leans on his experiences with the center to help continue to grow and develop the entrepreneurship community at Nebraska and beyond.

“I am really looking forward to helping students realize their potential as members of the creative community in Lincoln and to get our students excited about taking a chance on themselves. With my long-standing relationship with the Center for Entrepreneurship, it is a special opportunity for me to show my gratitude by helping to grow our center and make this as outstanding of an entrepreneurship program as possible,” Hanna said.

With multiple awards from the college for his teaching, Hanna strives to bring a personal and relatable touch to the classroom. His research interests pertain to informal/emergent leadership perceptions, multiple team membership and structural equation modeling (SEM)/latent variable measurement, with publications in the Journal of Management and Academy of Management Proceedings.

“Students flock to take courses taught by Andrew because of his personable demeanor, and he consistently scores positive marks on his teaching. Beyond his work in the classroom, Andrew also elevates the college’s research efforts in management, having helped create a conceptual explanation for a phenomenon called emergent leadership. His work here at the college will only leave a positive and lasting impression,” said Samuel Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management.

Lindsay Thomsen, assistant professor of practice in management and director of business development, ’01
Lindsay Thomsen earned her Ph.D. in business psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. As a co-owner and managing partner of Franchise Per Performance Groups (FPPG) and Thomsen Consulting, she brings a wealth of experience as an entrepreneur, business owner and franchisee to the Department of Management and the Center for Entrepreneurship.

“The best part about being an entrepreneur is constantly searching for opportunities to elevate people and ideas. Some of my strengths include communicating, connecting and collaborating; I want to use these skills with others in the College of Business to find ways to expand and innovate programs that support students pursuing and achieving their entrepreneurial dreams. This is important because every time we help a future entrepreneur, we also support their employees and families, communities and more,” said Thomsen.

With a background in counseling and psychology, Thomsen taught several courses on subjects like gender theory and human sexuality. A Nebraska native, she plans to use her entrepreneurial experiences when teaching a new franchise course this spring. In the course, she will help students collaborate and connect them with franchisors across Nebraska. She also plans to focus on franchise-based research.

“Lindsay is an entrepreneur at her core and brings her expertise to the center and the classroom. She will not only lend her experiences as an entrepreneur to students in her classes, but with local business owners in the community through workshops hosted by the center. We look forward to the impact Lindsay will have here at the college and Center for Entrepreneurship,” said Nelson.

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