When Soumitra Dutta was initially contacted by a search firm about becoming a business school dean, he was instantly intrigued by the prospect. The Indian-born academic had been a professor of business and technology for some 22 years at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France, but he had never served as dean of a business school.
What particularly interested Dutta during that telephone call from a SpencerStuart headhunter last August was the school in question: Cornell University’s prestigious Johnson Graduate School of Management. “I was very intrigued because Cornell is a great brand,” says Dutta. “So I was interested in the possibility of exploring the opportunity.”
Nearly five months later, after four rounds of interviews via videoconference and in-person, Dutta was today (Jan. 9) named the new dean at Cornell, effective July 1. The university said that Dutta’s appointment makes Johnson the first major business school in the U.S. to hire a dean from another B-school outside the country. The School boasts a faculty of 49 full-time, tenure-track faculty along with 40 adjunct and visiting members, 73 corporate partners, an alumni network of more than 13,000, an annual operating budget of almost $70 million, and an endowment in excess of $160 million.
Though this is his first job as dean, Dutta has served in various administrative roles in at INSEAD as head of external relations, executive education, and technology and e-learning. But it is as an expert in innovation in the global economy that Dutta has made his mark. One of his public speaking agencies, the Leigh Bureau, describes him as “a dynamic, charming and confident speaker” who is the author of several books and Harvard Business Review articles.
Dutta, who once did a stint as an engineer at General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., is yet another example of an Indian academic named to a top business school post, following in the footsteps of the current deans at Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and INSEAD.
As part of the offer to Dutta, the university agreed to hire his trailing spouse, Lourdes Casanova, who will join the Johnson faculty as a senior lecturer of management. An expert in emerging markets in Latin America, the Spanish-born Casanova currently lectures in INSEAD’s strategy department. ‘The university offered the option naturally because her profile very much fits the emerging markets institute at Johnson,” says Dutta. The couple’s daughter currently studies at Oxford University.
Dutta earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, along with master’s degrees in business and computer science and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. He began teaching at INSEAD in 1989 and most recently was the founder and faculty director of a new media and technology innovation lab at the leading European business school.
Currently, the Johnson School’s full-time MBA program is ranked 13th in the U.S., just above No. 14 Yale University’s School of Management and just below the No. 12 University of Michigan’s Ross School, according to PoetsandQuants’ latest ranking. That’s an improvement of two places from Johnson’s ranking in 2010. Among the top B-schools, Johnson is known for having a smaller, more intimate and collaborative MBA program with a heavy emphasis on leadership. The school’s portfolio of MBA programs emphasize “performance learning,” whereby students apply theory to real business problems through their participation in first-year immersions, consulting projects, investment and venture-capital funds, and other activities. One distinctive feature of the MBA program is a student-run hedge fund.