INSEAD Prof New Cornell B-School Dean

by John A. Byrne on

INSEAD professor Soumitra Dutta named new dean of Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management

When Soumitra Dutta was initially contacted by a search firm about becoming a business school dean, he was instantly intrigued by the prospect. The Indian-born academic had been a professor of business and technology for some 22 years at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, but he had never served as dean of a business school.

What particularly interested Dutta during that telephone call from a SpencerStuart headhunter last August was the school in question: Cornell University’s prestigious Johnson Graduate School of Management. “I was very intrigued because Cornell is a great brand,” says Dutta. “So I was interested in the possibility of exploring the opportunity.”

Nearly five months later, after four rounds of interviews via videoconference and in-person, Dutta was today (Jan. 9) named the new dean at Cornell, effective July 1. The university said that Dutta’s appointment makes Johnson the first major business school in the U.S. to hire a dean from another B-school outside the country. The School boasts a faculty of 49 full-time, tenure-track faculty along with 40 adjunct and visiting members, 73 corporate partners, an alumni network of more than 13,000, an annual operating budget of almost $70 million, and an endowment in excess of $160 million.

Though this is his first job as dean, Dutta has served in various administrative roles in at INSEAD as head of external relations, executive education, and technology and e-learning. But it is as an expert in innovation in the global economy that Dutta has made his mark. One of his public speaking agencies, the Leigh Bureau, describes him as “a dynamic, charming and confident speaker” who is the author of several books and Harvard Business Review articles.

Dutta, who once did a stint as an engineer at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., is yet another example of an Indian academic named to a top business school post, following in the footsteps of the current deans at Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and INSEAD.

As part of the offer to Dutta, the university agreed to hire his trailing spouse, Lourdes Casanova, who will join the Johnson faculty as a senior lecturer of management. An expert in emerging markets in Latin America, the Spanish-born Casanova currently lectures in INSEAD’s strategy department. ‘The university offered the option naturally because her profile very much fits the emerging markets institute at Johnson,” says Dutta. The couple’s daughter currently studies at Oxford University.

Dutta earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, along with master’s degrees in business and computer science and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. He began teaching at INSEAD in 1989 and most recently was the founder and faculty director of a new media and technology innovation lab at the leading European business school.

Currently, the Johnson School’s full-time MBA program is ranked 13th in the U.S., just above No. 14 Yale University’s School of Management and just below the No. 12 University of Michigan’s Ross School, according to PoetsandQuants’ latest ranking. That’s an improvement of two places from Johnson’s ranking in 2010.  Among the top B-schools, Johnson is known for having a smaller, more intimate and collaborative MBA program with a heavy emphasis on leadership. The school’s portfolio of MBA programs emphasize “performance learning,” whereby students apply theory to real business problems through their participation in first-year immersions, consulting projects, investment and venture-capital funds, and other activities. One distinctive feature of the MBA program is a student-run hedge fund.

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  • Alois de Novo

    This guy makes Tufano look substantive.

    He wrote an article in HBR titled “Marketing Yourself: What’s Your Personal Brand Social Media Strategy?” Maybe that’s why I don’t read HBR.

    Look, this is dangerous advice for MBA aspirants, MBA students, and MBA grads. Senior people at investment banks, private equity funds, consulting firms, and Fortune 500 corporations don’t have Twitter accounts. They don’t use Facebook. And they don’t bother with Linkedin.

    People who aspire to senior positions, as I think all MBAs do, should be careful to minimize their Internet visibility. Time spent surfing Facebook would be better spent keeping their names off the Internet.

    Then there’s all that blather about “mobilizing the various stake holders stakeholders to get the school known for its own strengths.”

    It can’t be that Nitin Nohria is the only guy who’s focused on doing his own job and all the other guys are worrying about using “social media” to solve reputational and brand issues.

    Cornell, not unlike Harvard, has a research and instructional mission. If it takes care of those, all the brand and reputational issues will take care of themselves. In the alternative, all the Twitter and Facebook in the world won’t raise Cornell above Ashton Kutscher and Paris Hilton.

  • Birchtree

    Sounds like a very exciting choice! Strong potential fit with Mr. Dutta’s bacground/interests and the recent announcements regarding the Cornell/Technion Roosevelt Island NYC Campus whose focus will be on Innovation and Technology and their interaction with global Commerce. Johnson at Cornell has the potential in my opinion for an upward trajectory in the coming years within the rankings publications. It will be one to watch…

  • new guy

    It’s interesting how many south Asians are dean’s of prominent business schools – HBS, Chicago, INSEAD, Cornell

  • Elisabeth

    Unconventional choice: Academic from Non-US BSchool without prior senior administrative experience. The job responsibilities list quality, reputation, distinction and influence along with global outlook. He will also have to fundraise to boost endowment. Good luck.

    School culture is different at Johnson than Insead. I wonder why Johnson does not pick candidate from current faculty? Well, Mr Dutta will start with comprehensive review, just like any incoming CEO. Current dean Thomas has done a decent job with emerging market & entrepreneurship initiatives during his tenure. But even with its immersion sell, Johnson’s curriculum does not wow. Unfortunately Johnson could have done somewhat better in international influence. According to students and alumni, career opportunities and student intake from some regions are meagre.

  • Alois de Novo

    Don’t forget Yash Gupta, who was dean at Hopkins until May 16th of last year.

    Was there a connection between Wm P Carey’s $30mm gift to UMaryland law school on April 25 and Gupta’s resignation 21 days later? As in, an extra $30mm had been earmarked for Hopkins, but Carey found out that Gupta was interviewing all over the place and gave the money to Maryland in a huff?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/rsupreme/ Ruler Supreme

    That’s possible. I thought Carey wanted to give money to UM Law because his grandfather went there, though.

  • Alois de Novo

    Carey has extremely close ties through several ancestors to the men who founded Hopkins. It would be impossible to overestimate the significance of Hopkins to people of his sort in Baltimore. Hopkins matters to them in much the same way as Harvard matters to Bostonians, even if Gilman alumni nearly always prefer Princeton. Notice also Carey’s continuing close involvement with Delta Phi, which is a secret society at the Hopkins chapter. As for Maryland law, it has always been an afterthought — a serviceable, but not particularly glamorous, training in law for men who intended to remain in Maryland.

    For these reasons and the mere three weeks between Carey’s gift to Maryland and Yash’s resignation, that Yash was forced out after it became clear that his conduct had caused the forfeiture of additional funds from Carey.

  • Elisabeth

    If Gupta’s conduct was true, he would be the first dean to lose $30m donation. This must be a record and forced resignation is a rather mild penalty given what it costs Hopkins. Normally, we hear from dean who spearhead a multi million fundraising drive.

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