The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Business has named long-standing finance professor Jeffrey Brown as its 10th dean. Brown is also director of Center for Business and Public Policy at Illinois. Officially beginning on August 16th, Brown will succeed Larry DeBrock, who took over as dean in 2009 and will be stepping back into a finance professor role.
“I think this is a fascinating time to become a dean of a business school,” Brown told with Poets&Quants. “We spend our days in the classroom talking about competitive reaction and disruption and innovation and these are all happening within our industry and business education.”
After a nationwide search that included Boston-based search firm, Isaacson, Miller, Brown was selected over three other finalists who all interviewed on campus throughout the spring. Two of those finalists came from within—Jon Davis, who heads up the school’s accounting department, and Raj Echambodi, associate dean of outreach and engagement who was instrumental in the soon-to-launch $20,000 Illinois iMBA. The other finalist was John Delaney, who recently stepped down as dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business.
A ‘SOLID GOLD’ HIRE
B. Joseph White, a business professor and President Emeritus of the university, chaired the search committee and described Brown as “solid gold” in an announcement on Illinois’ website. Brown is getting a hefty raise over DeBrock. During the 2014-2015 academic year, DeBrock earned $378,626. Brown will be making $460,000 with a base salary of $380,000, an administrative stipend of $60,000, and $20,000 for his distinction as the William J. Karnes Professor of Finance.
According to a recent Poets&Quants report, the average salary for a business school dean from a top public institution is $431,563. Dean Alison Blake-Davis of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business pulls in the most out of public school deans—a whopping $597,212.
Brown knows the school well, having been at the College of Business for the past 13 years. He actually began his career as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble in 1993, but quickly returned to university life as a student in public policy at Harvard University. He began teaching public policy courses at Harvard in 1999 for three years before joining the University of Illinois as an assistant professor of finance in 2002.
FIRST CHALLENGE FOR THE NEW DEAN: FUNDRAISING
Brown says the first challenge he expects to tackle is funding. The University of Illinois has consistently received less funding from the state and on Monday a university provost announced a campus-wide task force to develop long-term budget strategies.
“Anybody in higher education today is working against headwinds in funding, particularly at a public institution,” Brown points out. “Being more creative and diversifying our revenue base needs to be addressed.”
Brown says it will be his job to find a way to make the College of Business a value to the state and local community and then “not be shy to tell people about it.” Continues Brown, “The general public, I think across the country, is looking at tight budget times and questioning what the universities add to the state in value. We want to find a way to be relevant to our local communities and states and be an economic driver to the state economy.”
DIFFERENTIATING THE ILLINOIS MBA BRAND
The first major priority, according to Brown, will be to create a compelling identity for the overall Illinois MBA program. “I think we have a high quality program that comes in lots of varieties,” Brown says. “But I’m going to spend time focusing how the MBA will be special and differentiated.”
Illinois currently has a full-time MBA, part-time MBA, an Executive MBA in Chicago, and its new $20,000 iMBA that made headlines in May.
“Any good brand identity needs to come from the strength of the institution and product we offer,” Brown adds. “The University of Illinois, broadly, is what we are associated with. And the campus has been home to an enormous amount of high tech innovation. We are going to leverage the strength of technology, innovation, bio engineering, and data and computer science and look for ways to partner to give our programs a distinctive niche.”
Brown says the initial media coverage surrounding the iMBA has led other schools to reach out with questions about the program but he thinks many will see how the program works before creating one of their own.
BROWN BRINGS GOVERNMENT, POLICY BACKGROUND, TOO
Illinois’ full-time MBA offering, ranked 40th in the latest Poets&Quants composite list, has a relatively small enrollment—around 160. But Brown says he doesn’t plan on making moves to expand that program anytime soon. “I want to maintain a high quality product,” he says. “We will focus less on specific numbers and growth and more about making sure we do this well and right.”
The undergraduate program, on the other hand, is massive, with nearly 3,000 students. What’s more, including all masters programs, the school has about 1,000 graduate students.
Brown, who earned a masters degree in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in economics from MIT, brings extensive experience from beyond business school walls. He was appointed to President George W. Bush’s Social Security Advisory Board and is a research associate for National Bureau for Economic Research.
“I’m really happy and know everyone says this, but I believe we have the best students and terrific faculty and a large and loyal alumni base,” says Brown. “And I’m very excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
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