Masha Shunko, an assistant professor of operations management at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, has won the 2020 PACCAR Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The school’s highest teaching honor was established in 1998 by PACCAR Inc, the Fortune 200 global technology company based in Bellevue, Washington. The PACCAR Award’s annual recipient is selected by Foster MBA students.
Dr. Shunko has distinguished herself as one of Foster’s most indelible educators. She teaches the MBA core course in Operations Management and an elective in Global Supply Chain Management.
Students describe her as “passionate,” “dedicated,” “captivating” and even “amazing.”
“I have constantly been amazed by Masha’s passion for her subject,” wrote one MBA in nominating her. “She is an amazing instructor who understands how to communicate not only the information and knowledge needed for success in the course, but also the genuine joy she gets from her subject.”
From audit to operations
That subject—operations management—did not come directly to Dr. Shunko.
The native of Estonia began her career at Deloitte, providing audit and consulting services out of its office in Tallinn, the charming capital of the small-but-dynamic nation on the Baltic Sea. She came to the U.S. to complete her accounting degree at Indiana University and pass the CPA exam before returning to Deloitte. But she ran into an irresistible detour. “I took one operations management course and decided that’s for me,” she says.
Dr. Shunko’s flash fascination with operations drove her doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University. After serving on faculty at Purdue University for four years, she joined the Foster School Department of Information Systems and Operations Management in 2015.
Her Deloitte experience sparked her initial research into tax-efficient supply chain management. Ever since, her work has married the efficiency of engineering with the insight of the behavioral sciences in several domains—including designing more responsive healthcare operations and mapping the effects of different queuing systems on employee and customer behavior. Recently, she demonstrated that instant feedback can actually induce worse performance.
The PACCAR Award, however, is all about teaching.
“Masha is a challenging professor—appreciated!—but really cares and is clearly passionate about her subject! She knows her stuff and is looking to elevate us all,” noted a Foster MBA.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the school into a virtual learning environment, she somehow elevated her own performance. She deftly translated her material online, developed additional study materials, expanded office hours and made time to support student initiatives and attend student events.
“Professor Shunko leveraged technology to promote student learning that went above and beyond everyone’s expectations for remote learning,” wrote another of her students. “Her willingness to lean into virtual teaching embodied the growth mindset that we all seek to develop in our time here at Foster.”
“Masha’s contagious passion for operations made the classroom experience both inviting and digestible,” added another fan. “It’s clear from the degree of her preparation that she cares a great deal about the success of her students.”
Returning the honor
As if to prove this point one more time, Dr. Shunko turned her acceptance of the PACCAR Award into an homage to the students who nominated her.
“The Class of 2020 is special in so many ways,” she said at the MBA Program’s virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday. “This has not been quite the quarter you expected in your last year. I know you faced a lot of difficulties… But what I saw made me very glad. Academically, you were very strong, logging into classes, participating, staying engaged, challenging each other and yourselves. But even more important than that, I saw that you were there for each other, you were supportive, you were flexible, you were compassionate and you were very resilient.
“With this attitude and the education you got—and, of course, some operations tools from my class—you are ready to open this new chapter and go and make the world a better place.”
PACCAR and its founding Pigott family are longtime supporters of the Foster School. In addition to the PACCAR Award and three endowed faculty positions, support from the Pigott family and company was instrumental in building PACCAR Hall, the Foster School’s 135,000-square-foot classroom facility that was completed in 2010.
Previous PACCAR Award Winners
Karma Hadjimichalakis (1998)
Stephan Sefcik (1999)
Elizabeth Stearns (2000)
Jennifer Koski (2001)
Ali Tarhouni (2002)
Robert Higgins (2003)
Jane Kennedy (2004)
Daniel Turner (2005)
Mark Forehand (2006)
Mark Hillier (2007)
Jennifer Koski (2008)
Shailendra Pratap Jain (2009)
Thomas Gilbert (2010)
Lance Young (2011)
Erich Studer-Ellis (2012)
Mark Hillier (2013)
Frank Hodge (2014)
Jennifer Koski (2015)
Kathy Dewenter (2016)
Thomas Gilbert (2017)
Ed deHaan (2018)
Crystal Farh (2019)