Dr. Rajnandini Pillai Receives Highest Faculty Honor

Revering her outstanding contributions to students, the campus community, and her academic discipline, Dr. Rajnandini Pillai, a professor of management and marketing in the College of Business Administration (CoBA), has been honored with the 2010-2011 Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award, the highest faculty distinction at Cal State San Marcos.

Named after the former executive vice chancellor of California State University who was instrumental in the creation of the San Marcos campus, the Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award was established in 1998 to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding faculty.

"We are privileged to have excellent faculty at Cal State San Marcos and Dr. Pillai is one of our very best who exemplifies CSUSM excellence," said President Karen Haynes. "Dr. Pillai's passion for teaching is evident."

Teaching upper division and MBA classes in CoBA, Dr. Pillai's instruction spans a multitude of subjects including international business, organizational behavior, business ethics, as well as other management and leadership courses. Beyond the traditional classroom environment, Dr. Pillai integrates innovation in her teachings, challenging her students with applicable, real-world learning exercises. Since beginning her CSUSM career in the fall of 1998, Dr. Pillai has been a faculty advisor to more than 25 Senior Experience teams.

"I look forward to each new semester with its unique and exciting challenges with a fresh group of students," Dr. Pillai said. "This makes the teaching profession very rewarding because it causes professors to rethink our courses and reevaluate our teaching effectiveness on a regular basis."

Throughout her many teaching roles, Dr. Pillai's students have continually applauded her dedication to providing a learner-centered approach to education.

"(She) encourages her students to go beyond the traditional classroom requirements of research, reading, writing, and discussion and encourages them to fully enthrall themselves into the curriculum and the theories being discussed," wrote one of her former students. "(Dr. Pillai) exudes passion for her area of expertise and it is made evident in her teaching style, expression and attention to individual student differences and needs."

As a founding member and the current executive director of the Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB) at CSUSM, Dr. Pillai cultivates leadership development on campus through innovative research, collaboration, seminars, and mentoring programs. Through CLIMB, which was established in 2004, she helped develop a variety of programs including co-creating the Executive Mentoring Program, which pairs students with senior executives. Dr. Pillai is also heavily involved in the CLIMB Speaker Series and Leadership Workshops and is the co-professor of "In the Executive's Chair," one of the most popular classes offered by CoBA, which brings at least ten high-level executives to campus each semester to speak to students about their careers, their companies, and the critical business decisions they commonly face.

With research interests in charismatic/transformational leadership and cross cultural management, Dr. Pillai's record of scholarship is exemplary. She has authored and co-authored three books, four book chapters, twenty refereed journal publications, four non-refereed publications such as study guides, and twelve refereed proceeding publications. Furthermore, Dr. Pillai has presented more than forty lectures at academic conferences around the world and is a frequent speaker/facilitator on leadership for business groups, chambers of commerce, and other non-profit organizations, bringing respected visibility to the University and CoBA. In 2008, Dr. Pillai was honored with the President's Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity in recognition of her outstanding scholarship and creative activity among CSUSM faculty.

"Dr. Pillai is an extremely effective and innovative teacher as well as a caring and dedicated mentor and advisor," President Haynes added. "Her carefully planned class sessions coupled with the learning opportunities she facilitates beyond the classroom have enhanced the educational experience of thousands of CSUSM students and alumni. She demonstrates what we value most at our university - high-quality teaching, learning and service."

As a founding member and the current executive director of the Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB) at CSUSM, Dr. Pillai cultivates leadership development on campus through innovative research, collaboration, seminars, and mentoring programs.