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New Dean Named for Michigan’s Ross School

Alison Davis-Blake takes over as the new Ross dean in August.

Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, is playing musical chairs. The University of Michigan announced yesterday (Feb. 15) that she will become the new dean of its Ross School of Business, effective Aug. 22. In effect, she’s trading up, for a school ranked 13th from a school with a rank of 24th.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to lead the Ross School of Business,” Davis-Blake said in a statement. “Ross has long been among the top business schools in the country and the world. It has strong programs across the board and is housed within a great university. Its action-based learning approach is a unique niche that sets it apart from other business schools.”

She will take over the more well-regarded Ross at a challenging time, with the school’s surrounding industry in tough shape. The highest rank for Ross is its seventh place finish in the BusinessWeek survey, while it’s lowest rank comes from The Financial Times which puts the school 28th in its global MBA rankings. She leaves Carlson whose highest rank comes in the U.S. News & World Report Survey at 24th, and which has its lowest rank from The Economist as 50th.

“The generosity of Steve Ross and the leadership of Bob Dolan have positioned the school — with its spectacular new facility — for a very bright future,” she added. “I look forward to building on that success through collaboration and inclusion inside the school and within the university with faculty, students, and staff, and with the business community and hiring companies.”

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman described Davis-Blake as an exceptional choice to lead Ross in the future.

“Alison Davis-Blake is a known leader with strong ties to business communities,” Coleman says. “I am particularly impressed with her commitment to international experiences for students. Her strengths align perfectly with the mission of the Ross School to train leaders in thought and action.”

Since 2006, Davis-Blake has served as dean of the Carlson School, where she is the Investors in Leadership Distinguished Chair in organizational behavior. From 1990 to 2006, she rose through the professorial ranks to become the Eddy C. Scurlock Centennial Professor of Management and senior associate dean for academic affairs (2003-06) at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. She also was an Eleanor T. Mosle Fellow beginning in 1995, and served as chair of the Department of Management (2002-03) and co-director of the Executive Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development Leadership (1995-2001).

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brigham Young University in 1979, Davis-Blake worked as an auditor in the New York City office of Touche Ross and Co. She earned her master’s degree in organizational behavior from Brigham Young in 1982 and a doctorate in organizational behavior from Stanford University in 1986. She then joined Carnegie Mellon University as an assistant professor of industrial administration before going to Texas in 1990.

Davis-Blake’s research interests include the effects of outsourcing on organizations and employees, organizational promotion systems, and determinants and consequences of contingent worker use and organizational wage structures. Her teaching areas include organization theory, organizational behavior, strategic human resource management, and managing human capital. Her professional service includes editorial positions with the Journal of ManagementAcademy of Management Review, and Administrative Science Quarterly.

“Dr. Davis-Blake brings an impressive combination of scholarly achievement and administrative experience to Ross,” says Phil Hanlon, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “As a researcher, she examines important questions, such as the changing nature of work arrangements, which are critical today. As an academic leader, she has demonstrated a remarkable ability to envision the future of business education and connect it to business practice.”

Jerry Davis, professor of management and organizations and head of the Ross School’s Dean Search Advisory Committee, says the committee liked Davis-Blake’s depth of experience as a sitting dean at a business school with a full range of degree programs.

“She impressed the committee with her grasp of the broad competitive landscape of business education, its future trends, and the factors that distinguish Ross from the other top schools,” he says. “She has had great success working with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors at Carlson, and the school’s reputation has risen accordingly. She also has great experience with globalizing the educational experience of students at Carlson, managing alliances with schools in Europe and Asia, and implementing a required overseas experience for undergraduates.”

In her spare time — “what little bit I have,” she jokes — Davis-Blake enjoys musical theater, global travel, and spending time with her husband and two sons, one a college freshman at Stanford and the other a sophomore in high school.