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Dean Of The Year: Europe’s Business School Maverick

Santiago Íñiguez de Onzoño of IE University

That was the impetus behind the school’s unusual EMBA partnership with Brown University. A newly appointed vice president for international initiatives at Brown initially reached out to IE to explore a potential collaboration. Invited to Madrid to meet with Iñiguez, Brown’s Sibley was quickly taken by the man. “We immediately hit it off because we are both idea people and inventors,” she says. “He believes in this notion of the Renaissance person who is better prepared to live and lead but also enjoys a quality of life that is much fuller than just being just focused on the end results.”

DATING FIRST, THEN MARRIAGE WITH BROWN UNIVERSITY

Initially, she remembers, the partnership started as a shared degree experiment to integrate business and liberal arts learning. “There were no examples of that at Brown at all,” she says. “Santiago described it as dating. Then, we went through a deep review and we got married. We delivered a quality program and made the case for a joint degree.” The first cohort of the jointly awarded IE Brown Executive MBA graduated in 2012.

“When we collaborated with Brown, it was the complete opposite of a business school for him,” adds Boehm. “The standard stuff would be to collaborate with yet another business school. For him, it was very much in line with the importance of the humanities and believing you should collaborate with someone who complements your strengths but also allows you to do something completely new. His style is disruptive. He goes against the stream and tries to be different.”

Similarly, his two-year-old partnership with the Financial Times to offer customized executive education programs was another unusual move. Revenues from the joint venture rose by 136% this year. “We are now present with projects in Spain, the Middle East and elsewhere in Europe and Latin America,” says Iñiguez. “We plan to enter the Asian markets with Japan next year and in two years time we may jump into the U.S. market. But we need to be very prepared for that move because the U.S. is very competitive and you cannot enter it in a shy way.”

WALKING THE TALK

At this time of the year, during the Christmas break, the dean indulges one of his great passions: Spending time at hisvacation home on the northeast coast of Brazil, a place of solace with sandy beaches, dolphins and tortoises. “What he simply does is try to disconnnect, read a book and come up with these crazy ideas,” laughs Boehm. “He typically comes back from the holidays with a long list of things for us to work on.”

With his forthcoming position as executive president of IE University, this year’s list is likely to be especially long. Though his successor as dean of the business school is expected to be announced by mid-January, the new dean will report to Iñiguez. In his new role, the kid who once lectured his siblings will be playing a larger role in IE University, which itself results from the highly unusual acquisition in 2006 of SEK University in Segovia two years after he became dean. It is the only time a business school has ever acquired a university.

During one of her visits to Spain, Sibley remembers the time Iñiguez proudly showed her the Segovia campus, partially housed in the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real, a historic building declared a national heritage site in 1931. “They have renovated this place and preserved the architectural elegance of a monastery,” she explains. “We walked across glass floors over an active architectural dig. I asked him what the story behind it was and he said, ‘If we did things the traditional way, going through regulators in Spain, it would take us a dozen years. But we are an entrepreneurial business school so we just bought a university.’ He walks the talk.”

And talks the walk. Some 46 years after sitting down with his sisters and brother as an eight-year-old teacher, he still talks about Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Related Stories:

2015 Dean of the Year: Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder of Yale’s School of Management

2014 Dean of the Year: Paul Danos of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business

2013 Dean of the Year: Roger Martin of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School

2012 Dean of the Year: Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business School

2011 Dean of the Year: Robert Bruner of the University of Virginia’s Darden School

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