The First 100 Days of a New Kellogg Dean

So when Blount was first called about the job by a search consultant, Blount resisted every entreaty to meet. “They called me for five months and I kept telling them I’m not interested,” she insisted. Finally, after innumerable calls, Blount agreed to a meeting at an airport club room at Chicago’s O’Hare on a Saturday afternoon. She thought she would help the search by tossing the consultant a few names of other candidates and simply offer her thoughts as an alum about the school. Instead, over the course of an hour and one-half interview, she says, “the conversation changed me. I remembered how much I loved Kellogg as a student. If you can help shape what it will be in its second generation, imagine doing that at a school that has meant so much to you personally.”

Blount flew back to New York thinking that perhaps this was a job made for her. On March 30th, she was named dean. “I came back to Kellogg,” she says, “because the study of markets with the study of management are allowed on the table at once. I believe that’s what business is about. You marry the function of markets with the meaning of words.”

“We’ve had magnificent leadership here. Part of what makes Kellogg different is what is underneath the words ‘team’ and ‘collaborative.’ We ask what can we do to make everyone in the room more productive? We believe you get ahead in the world by having everyone win, not by eating someone’s lunch. We have that collaborative mindset that is deep. It’s not just words.”

Blount appears to comfortably fits into that collaborative model. “She has done a really fantastic job of getting in front of all the stakeholders, and she’s asking the right questions,” says Zach Hollander, a second-year MBA student who is president of Full-time Kellogg Student Association. “We’ve had some great conversations around the broader sustainability of the business school model, like the cost of higher education. ‘If the tuition at elite business schools continues to outpace inflation, what kind of business leaders are going to be able to afford to come?’ She asks questions like that which give a good indication of the values she brings to the school.”

Despite recent criticism of business schools and MBAs triggered by the recent economic collapse, Blount sees no lack of demand for the degree. “Do I think the need for well-educated people in the business world is any less in our society?” she asks. “No. In fact, I could argue it’s more because the world is much more complex than it was 20 years ago. We are reaching the limits of human capability to deal with complexity.”


Though, she does concede that today’s crop of MBAs seems more focused on getting a job than going to class. “One thing that is true at business schools is increasing pressure from vocationalism,” Blount says. “Parents want to know how you are going to get their kids jobs. This is happening at undergraduate and graduate schools. Corporate recruiters will influence whether students go to a class or not.

You see a lot of people using education functionally as a job service. I dare say that the average MBA in the U.S. would go to a recruiter presentation rather than to office hours for a Nobel Laureate.”

What does she think of her cross-town rival school, Chicago’s Booth? “Worrying about what Booth is doing is so 20th Century,” she says. “If we do that we’re missing what’s happening in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I get competitive, but the danger of competition is that you can pick someone to compete with and end up becoming more like them.”

So far, so good. “There is a sense of excitement,” adds Professor Petersen. “Kellogg has grown in the last 30 years from what I call a small local grocery story into an international conglomerate. It has had good fortune and wonderful leadership. You always fear that you’ll get cocky and ride on your successes. One of the things I see with Sally is that she understands you just can’t go on doing what you’ve been doing for the next decade and still expect to be successful.”

When her first 100 days came to an end earlier this month, Blount dashed off her last blog post on Nov. 2. “These 100 days have flown by,” she wrote,” and I have to be honest—I am still not fully settled in. The last of my boxes and furniture only arrived in Evanston last week, and my suitcase has been packed and on planes with me every week. But despite the frequent travel and hectic pace of the transition, I find myself deeply energized and excited by the challenges and victories that lay ahead.”

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