After nearly a year’s stint as interim dean, Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business announced on June 17 that Sanjay Gupta will officially become the school’s 11th dean. An accounting professor, Gupta assumed the interim role in July of 2014 after two years as associate dean of MBA and professional master’s programs. He was appointed to the deanship by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees last Wednesday (June 17) after a national search assisted by the search firm of Russell Reynolds Associates.
He will be taking over a school with a full portfolio of business degrees and programs. Broad boasts some 6,739 undergraduate business students, more than 900 students in a master’s program, including some 260 Executive MBAs, and about 180 full-time MBA students.
“It is a special privilege to have the opportunity to lead the Broad College of Business at a time when MSU is reimagining and reinventing itself to lead and effect change by challenging the status quo while remaining true to its core values of quality, inclusiveness and connectivity,” Gupta said in a prepared statement.
LIVING THE SPARTAN ETHOS
First on the list for Gupta is to maintain the “Michigan State University Ethos.”
“I think what we are really trying to do is not be just another MBA program or just another business school,” Gupta says. “We want to be authentic to the Michigan State University ethos. That is hardworking excellence and being willing to take on uncommon challenges that are just difficult challenges with grit and determination. We want to continue to expose the notion that entitlement doesn’t get you anywhere. These are fundamental, core values. We want the business students to not just understand, but embrace it and live it.”
So Gupta plans to continue to differentiate the school in a few ways. Broadly, he aims to improve what he describes and the “three R’s” of recognition, reputation, and rankings and make Broad a “top-of-mind” business school.
“We are serious about it and realize none of this will happen in and of itself,” Gupta explains. “We are thinking strategically about how to make sure the experience for the student is top-notch. What does it take for a top-notch student experience? That is what we’re asking ourselves deeply.”
A MASTER OF IMPLEMENTATION AND CURRICULUM ADJUSTMENTS
According to Gupta, this means a focus on developing curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities. And Gupta is no stranger to curriculum shifts and academic implementations. Perhaps Gupta’s most notable accomplishment as associate dean was establishing an intensive one-credit experiential course in the curriculum called BroadWeek. Each semester, MBA students have the opportunity to spend three days learning about a business challenge, working in teams toward a solution, and presenting their plan in a pitch competition before a panel of judges. The course is capped by a guest keynote speaker.
Gupta also facilitated the launch of new master’s programs in business analytics and management, strategy and leadership while leading a task force to re-evaluate and reinstate Broad’s Executive MBA program. Average GMAT scores have also risen 25 points during Gupta’s time as associate and acting dean. Over the past five years, no other school has raised its average GMAT for incoming MBAs more.
For the curricular shifts, Gupta says it’s essential to train students to think outside of normal business silos.
“We want to challenge the students in thinking across areas, functions, and disciplines,” says Gupta. “No business problem is in a silo. We have talked about this in business education for some time but implementation of this is not exactly easy. Getting the students to develop that mindset is not easy.”
And this is in-line with what Gupta says employers tell them they are looking for in MBAs. “It’s not just a matter of identifying the problem and going to find a solution to it, but an approach to do it faster, smarter, and better,” Gupta explains. “The employers are concerned about the speed at which it gets done, how in which it gets done, and what is the final outcome. But increasingly, employers are not even content with the ability to solve problems. They want to know if the individual can anticipate the next problem and anticipate how a business model might get wiped out, so they can plan to avoid it.”
THINKING LIKE THE OWNER
One of the ways Gupta plans to address this issue is through a new way of thinking about entrepreneurship. “All of the technical skills, we have done and checked that box,” says Gupta. “We are thinking about entrepreneurship as a spirit. And the phrase we are using is how can we get people to think like the owner? That’s what we are working on.”
Still, Gupta says the school plans on sticking with its highly personalized student experience. “That’s something we treasure and we are going to stay the course and make sure that becomes a point of differentiation,” Gupta says. “Every stage of the game, we try to make sure the personalization happens.”
Gupta cites the interview process prior to admissions, the team structure throughout the program, and a very involved career services office as the highlights of the personalization. Says Gupta, “There is a lot of one-to-one interaction with not only the students but the employers as well. We really try to get to know the students as much as possible and then get to know the employers in the same way and find the right fit for both sides.”
PLANS TO BUILD A WORLD-CLASS GRADUATE PAVILION
“We are focused on preparing the next generation of business leaders, and as part of MSU’s very ambitious $1.5 billion ‘Empower Extraordinary’ Capital Campaign, we plan to do this through building a world-class Graduate Pavilion; providing endowed chairs, professorships, and programming support for our faculty; providing support for creativity and innovation in research and teaching; and being an engine of opportunity by providing scholarship support to our students to help them reach their potential.”
Gupta received his PhD in accounting and taxation from Broad and then spent nearly two decades at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business before returning to Broad in 2007 as the Russell E. Palmer Endowed Professor in Accounting and chair of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems. In 2012, he was appointed associate dean of MBA and professional masters programs.
GUPTA HAS SPEARHEADED CONSISTENT RISE IN RANKINGS
The school has also inched up in most rankings since Gupta took over as associate dean. In the Poets&Quants ranking, Broad has quietly climbed every year from 43rd in 2011 to 35th last fall. During the same time, the school has also made gains in the Financial Times (39th to 27th), Bloomberg Businessweek (35th to 33rd), and U.S. News (44th to 37th) in the rankings.
“The positive direction, growth and momentum the college has experienced under Sanjay’s leadership as acting dean signal a bright future for the college in the coming years,” Michigan State University Provost June Youatt, said in a prepared statement.