Chicago’s New Dean Pursues Globalization, Stronger Alumni Network

The new look at global strategy will give Chicago an opportunity to make Booth’s curriculum and the MBA experience more international. Kumar says he generally agrees with a recent report by a group of deans that globalization is a major opportunity for business education. “There definitely is a opportunity, but how much of the opportunity should be taken of is a question in my mind,” he says. “The answer is not fully clear to me. Schools are thinking about it. We are, and others are, too.”

Asked if he believes that the world’s business schools have lagged behind business itself in embracing globalization and understanding its implications, Kumar responds with a question. “Is there more global activity for a typical firm than a typical university?” he asks. “The data speaks for itself. It is probably true. A university’s operations do not lend itself to be in geographically separate locations. It’s not as easy as saying let’s do half here and half there.”

Insiders at Booth will closely watch the outcome of the global review, in part because the mainstream MBA program is not known for having especially strong or innovative global content (though oddly, the school’s Executive MBA program was an early pioneer in global business and has campuses in London and Singapore). Indeed, when it comes to international business, Chicago’s reputation trails such major U.S. schools as Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, Michigan and Northwestern, among others, as well as specialty players such as Thunderbird and the University of South Carolina. So navigating the global strategy issue with a strong and involved faculty possibly resistant to change could become Kumar’s first public challenge as dean.

Meantime, his highly successful predecessor will become dean of his third major school–Yale University’s School of Management—this July after leaving Chicago in as good a shape as it has ever been. Kumar is still settling into his office and his new life as dean. His wife, a biologist at the biotech company Genentech, is now looking for a job in Chicago and trying to sell their California home.

Would Kumar have preferred to take the reins of an institution in need of significant change? “I don’t agree that that’s the only way you can make a mark on an institution,” he says calmly, looking out the window at all the snow. “But the school is in terrific shape. There’s no doubt about it.”

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