Ralf Seifert

Management of Technology Section

For EPFL students doing a Master or Minor  in Technology Management (MTE), Professor Ralf Seifert’s course on Supply Chain Management is a very popular choice. The course is often oversubscribed and receives top ratings from students every year – and it’s the reason Seifert has been awarded the MTE prize for excellence in teaching.

“I try to teach in the same way as the professors I liked the most as a student,” explains Professor Seifert. “The classroom should be a place where students feel at ease. There are no dumb questions, and I encourage everyone to speak up as much as possible.” Seifert uses several teaching methods, including formal lectures, simulations, case studies and outside speakers. His focus is really on ensuring that students take part. “In my class, the students get up on stage. I push them to ask questions, present their arguments and discuss issues together. Professors can be tempted to dominate the conversation, but I think it’s important to listen to the students first and acknowledge their ideas and their contribution.”

Professor Seifert has published many business case studies designed for teaching, and he often uses them to bring the topic of supply chain management alive in class. “A lot of students like these cases, which allow them to participate more actively in class,” says Seifert. “Others find it hard at first to get around the idea that there is not one right answer but rather a gray area were they have to argue and defend their recommendations.” Seifert also thinks that the amount of information taught to students should not be the only metric of success. “I think you have to find ways to really engage the students instead of just giving them more work to do.”

In a fast-changing world, Professor Seifert tries to ensure that his course keeps up with the times and that his methods remain varied. “EPFL invests a lot in teaching. Our students do need to be trained to be rigorous in their judgment and analysis. In addition they need to be able to speak up in a group setting and related their analysis to a particular market context,” he concludes.