Ingenuity and Strong Work Ethic Earn Gihan Edirisinghe Recognition for Instruction and Research

By Eric Hollenbeck

Gihan Edirisinghe

Gihan Edirisinghe has a straightforward teaching philosophy: keep it relatable. The fourth-year operations management doctoral student says this has been one of the most important strategies for keeping his students engaged.

“I’m always trying to think about how I can make the topics more relatable to class,” he says.

This simple, yet effective idea helped guide Edirisinghe in the creation of an engaging guest-lecture series for his Introduction to Operations Management class. The series, which he dubbed the Guest Coug Series, brought WSU business alumni with notable industry experience into the classroom via videoconferencing to provide students with insights on industry practices of operations management concepts discussed in class.

Using LinkedIn, Edirisinghe reached out to upwards of 50 WSU alumni, and secured commitments from industry professionals at companies such as Amazon, Alaska Airlines, Bechtel, Boeing, Hilton Hotels, and Tesla to speak with his students.

The result of his efforts earned him high praise from students on his teaching evaluations. In addition, Edirisinghe received the 2018–19 WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association’s (GPSA) Excellence Award for Graduate Student Instructor and was selected to present his teaching strategies at the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) annual conference in Washington, D.C. in May 2019.

His presentation, “Engaging Classroom Discussions with High Quality Guest Speakers: Strategies for Rural Colleges,” was well received, and instructors from other colleges around the country approached him after his presentation eager to learn more.

“These are workable strategies for instructors and colleges operating on limited budgets,” says Edirisinghe.

Achieving success not only as an instructor, but also in research

In addition to his outstanding work as an instructor, Edirisinghe has also received accolades for the strength of his research. For his dissertation, Edirisinghe focuses on data-driven decision-making in online and brick and mortar retail. Part of his research includes analyzing shipping programs used by online retailers to make recommendations on the best shipping policies for different situations.

When Edirisinghe first started his research, he focused on the online retail marketplace to gain insights into e-commerce strategies. Eventually, it evolved into a more data-driven approach to help inform online retailers on which shipping strategies would be most advantageous for their businesses.

His research, titled “Data-Driven Analysis of Competitive Free Shipping Policies by Online Retailers,” received a top prize at the 2019 GPSA Research Exposition in the category of business, communication and political science. Edirisinghe also presented his research at the POMS annual conference and the 2018 Decision Sciences Institute conference.

“My goal is to contribute research that uses data to show whether free shipping programs are actually profitable for small business,” says Edirisinghe.

Small, online retailers can look at larger retailers, such as Amazon or Walmart, to help shape their own shipping policies to find the right mix for profitability and customer service, he says.