Dr. Rajnandini Pillai: Born to Lead
By David Ogul
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary, we salute the faculty who are making a difference in our students' lives every day.
Dr. Rajnandini Pillai is a leader. And the Cal State San Marcos professor of management—who also serves as executive director and founding member of the University’s Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB)—has been steering students to success for nearly 17 years.
“I have always believed that one person can make a difference,” Pillai said. “I’m passionate about teaching and I hope to maintain that passion, excitement and enthusiasm until they have to pull me out of the classroom.”
Leadership and cross-cultural differences are the focus of Pillai’s award-winning research. Her students are Pillai’s biggest supporters.
“She inspired me, she encouraged me to stretch beyond the boundaries I had set for myself, she helped me to gain the confidence to resume a career in international business,” wrote former student Lynn Anderson in recommending Pillai for the 2010-2011 Harry E. Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award, the highest faculty distinction at CSUSM.
Pillai was influenced by devouring biographies of leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Abraham Lincoln while growing up in Mumbai. She worked at the State Bank of India, earned her MBA, and then secured her Ph.D. at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1994 focusing on charismatic leadership. She arrived at CSUSM a few years later.
“We have accomplished a great deal at CSUSM over the past 25 years, and I am so looking forward to continuing on that trajectory over the next 25 years,” Pillai said.
I have always believed that one person can make a difference.