The B-School Dean Who Didn’t Want To Be Dean

Yash Gupta at a local Baltimore version of the TED conference.

MANY COMPLAIN HIS FOCUS ON THE NEXT JOB HURT THE SCHOOL’S OPERATIONS

Many in the Carey community still praise the dean for getting their school up and running and promoting it so effectively, but complain that his focus on getting a better job had an impact on the school’s operations. “I can’t fault him for taking the type of private sector job that I aspire to perform one day,” says Jack Hirsch, a Carey MBA student. But “I feel this recent move solidifies his role as a visionary, and not necessarily as a builder.” Believes another MBA candidate at the school: “While he is a good salesman, what the school really needs at this point is a good administrator. There have been several administrative shortcomings in the last six months from basic planning of schedules to securing internships that have really hurt the atmosphere of the school. I am not sure Gupta wanted to stay around to improve all of that. He was clearly more focused on getting a top job elsewhere, and that led to disintegration of our internal culture at the top-level until he had no choice but to flee.”

A headhunter who knows Gupta believes the dean was unsuccessful in his job searches largely because he lacked the resume to get the jobs. “He’s a visionary, a globalist who has progressive views of higher education,” the search consultant said. “He’s unbound by convention, and he makes things happen. But the biggest barrier to Yash getting a top university job is that he was trying to leapfrog from the deanship of a small business school to president or provost of a complicated system-wide university with multiple campuses. It also was difficult because faculty, in every other discipline, are deeply suspicious of people who come out of business schools. He was looking for the wrong job and looking from the wrong job.”

How unrealistic were Gupta’s ambitions? The University of Tennessee, where he sought the presidency, boasts an annual budget of $1.8 billion, more than 50 times the Carey School’s tiny $34 million budget.  Tennessee has 3,609 faculty members on its payroll, versus fewer than 35 at Carey. It has more than 13,000 employees and 48,600 students, respectively compared with Carey’s 100 employees and 1,600 part-time and 80 full-time students. Making things even more difficult, Gupta had been moving in the wrong direction: At USC’s Marshall School, he oversaw a $172 million annual budget, five times the size of Carey.

CLAWING HIS WAY TO THE JOB OF BUSINESS SCHOOL DEANSHIPS

In all probability, Gupta’s resignation will put a halt to a remarkable career in higher education. A native of India, he viewed the university as the path out of a modest upbringing. “Nobody ever could have thought I would be a professor, never mind a dean,” he said in an earlier interview with Poets&Quants. “My mother could not even write her name. My father worked for a finance company in a clerical role.”

As a student and later a professor, he clawed his way through a series of institutions that are not part of the elitist old boy network. There would be no stops at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Cambridge, or Harvard. Instead, he earned earned his undergraduate degree in production engineering from Panjab University in 1973. A year later, he graduated with a master’s in production management from the Brunel University of West London in the U.K. He gained his Ph.D. in management sciences from the U.K.’s University of Bradford in 1976.

He tried consulting with Coopers & Lybrand for a couple of years before landing his first teaching job at the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada as an assistant professor of information systems and management science. After a two-year stint, he jumped in 1982 to the University of Manitoba as an associate professor. Over a six-year period, Gupta became a full professor and the head of the university’s department of actuarial and management sciences.

In 1988, he came to the U.S. after the University of Louisville offered him a job with its School of Business. Four years later, Gupta was on the move again—this time to his first deanship at the University of Colorado’s College of Business in Denver. With 76 professors and 2,600 students under him, the post was Gupta’s first leadership test and he seemed to pass it well. Among other things, he was a passionate promoter of the business school. From 1992 to 1999, the school was featured in more than 100 articles in the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Denver Business Journal.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.