University of California, Riverside

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Opening Doors for First Generation Students 

Dr. Singh knows the challenges of navigating through higher education as a first generation student. Now, as a professor at the UCR School of Business, his vision is to play a role in their success. 

 

“My mindset changed. I thought engineering was the only way to succeed, but I learned from all the years of doing different kinds of work that you can succeed in many ways. You can be successful in whatever you chose, you just have to love what you do.”

- Raj Singh

 

 

Students flock outside of Professor Raj Singh’s office, each of them yelling a quick, “Thanks, Professor!” when they head out. In the flurry of midterm and grade concerns, Professor Singh listens attentively with his hands folded on his lap. He nods occasionally and when he speaks, it’s friendly and soft.

Dr. Raj Singh graduated with a BS in Engineering from the University of Allahabad, India and completed a Master of Engineering in Industrial Development & Management from the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand. Since then, Dr. Singh’s career has ranged from professional engineering to management to consulting for Rockwell, Northrop, ITT, Litton, and Hunter Industries. However impressive his professional history, there was little to indicate that his path would turn towards a career in education and teaching. So how did Raj Singh go from managerial positions to becoming the professor he is today?

“A professor in Thailand influenced me to do the things that I wanted to do in life. He encouraged me to get my visa and was instrumental in helping me achieve what I wanted to do – to teach.” Once Dr. Singh talked about teaching, he couldn’t stop. “I really wanted to teach someday. It motivated me to get my PhD - even though I didn’t have too - but I wanted to teach and I wanted to be in a good place.”

A good place. The words were heavy with implication. Growing up in a small rural town in India, Singh was full of curiosity, craving for new things. The diverse environment of his college inspired him to study in England and Thailand, before finally settling in Michigan, United States of America with a labor certificate and green card.

“It was so cold, I thought I would die.” Singh said with a laugh. “A woman I met through the Peace Corp let me stay with her as I searched for jobs. I worked at McDonalds and as a high school teacher. I was really motivated to get my own place.”

And he did. He got a job as a program manager leading engineers, co-authored a textbook in Crime Analysis, and completed his masters in Industrial & Systems Engineering with a PhD in Policy Planning and Administration. From there, he decided that management was “too constant” and sought out a new path in life.

Dr. Singh decided to teach. “I look forward to coming to class, seeing all of these ambitious students. It’s a lot of fun and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.” He paused, just for a second, and softened. “It really gives me extra motivation to support first-generation students. I was in a similar situation myself, when I was young.”

There is a vision that Dr. Singh has: A student group, dedicated to first-generation students, that comes together to help understand their issues. Himself, being available to open doors for these students and connect them with companies, good jobs, and opportunities. 

“It’s very difficult for first-generation kids to digest this whole environment and I want to contribute something in a significant way. It’s about what you can do for your students to succeed - what you can give back.” His voice is sincere and his eyes determined. “At this stage in my life, it’s not about the career or the money, it’s about what makes you feel good. Teaching makes me feel good. It’s not really work, it’s enjoyable.” 

In 2016, the UCR School of Business rewarded Raj Singh with the Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Instruction. Business students were eligible to vote, taking into consideration the effectiveness of a professor’s teaching, spirit and enthusiasm in teaching, and the fostering of student independence and creative work.

There are a few knocks outside his office door; some more students with inquiries.

He says, as an afterthought, “My mindset changed. I thought engineering was the only way to succeed, but I learned from all the years of doing different kinds of work that you can succeed in many ways. You can be successful in whatever you chose, you just have to love what you do.”



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