Karl Ulrich


Faculty Position: CIBC Professor; Professor, Operations and Information Management; Vice Dean of Innovation

Education: ScD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1988; SM, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985; SB, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1984

“I like having students who are vocal and willing to express their thoughts. And I like the fact that students play a very active role at Wharton.”

On teaching executive MBA students
With my MBA students, there is a real motivation to build professional skills and practical capabilities. I like having students who are vocal and willing to express their thoughts. Ongoing relationships with students have influenced my research — I’m currently working on a project in product development at Merck that was initiated by a Wharton grad who works there. When students leave here, they stop being students and become colleagues.

On teaching style
My personal teaching style is fairly structured. I start with a detailed syllabus and put outlines on the board every day. Students know what we’re doing, and they seem to appreciate this because it shows that I’ve thought things through. For me, teaching core courses is a little more formal than teaching electives. There’s a lot more material that I know I need to cover, and it feels like things happen a lot faster. I generally wear a tie. I don’t lecture much — my class is very discussion-oriented. I use a lot of examples, and no pure theory to speak of. Because I teach technology-related classes, they are very hands on. In electives, I’m teaching a self-selected group, and therefore I don’t feel I need to sell the material at all. I get to know the students better, probably because they, as second-years, are much more relaxed.

On being a professor
I was trained as an engineer and was headed toward a faculty position in mechanical engineering, but I began to realize that engineering schools were not focused on real technological development. They seemed more concerned with applied science. And that was not what I wanted to do. I had always been interested in innovation, and I found a much more natural home in business school. Business schools are eclectic and focused on answering interesting questions, which is right where I want to be.