Cornell’s Business School Mashup

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University

Cornell University today (Dec. 14) announced that it is proposing a mashup of three separate schools into a new and larger business school that would be headed by Johnson Graduate School of Management Dean Soumitra Dutta.

In a letter to the Cornell community, Provost Michael Kotlikoff said the change would bring together the university’s School of Hotel Administration, its undergraduate Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The decision is likely to be a controversial one. Indeed, the online carping about the plan has already begun. Some alumni of the hotel school, one of the best in the world, assert that the changes will undermine their school’s identity. Other naysayers complain that their schools will be harmed by the merger and the need to share resources. Some faculty already claim to have been blindsided by the announcement.


Yet while it’s not unusual for a university to combine its undergraduate and graduate schools of business, it is out of the ordinary to toss in a school of hospitality. Among the Ivy League business schools, few have both undergraduate and graduate business schools. Penn, however, has long combined its undergraduate and graduate schools under the Wharton name. And most other universities do the same. One prominent exception is the University of Virginia whose undergraduate and business schools are completely separate.

Not surprisingly, Provost Kothikoff spun a positive story on the change. “The new College of Business will be a top 10 business school in terms of scale and impact, with 145 research faculty and nearly 2,900 undergraduate, professional, and graduate students when it is launched in academic year 2016-17,” wrote Kothikoff in his statement to Cornell stakeholders.

Cornell’s full-time MBA program is currently ranked 14th best in the U.S. by Poets&Quants, behind such first class public universities as Virginia, Michigan and UCLA. This year Cornell’s most favorable ranking was tenth from Forbes magazine, while its lowest ranking of 16th came from both U.S. News and Bloomberg Businessweek.


Despite the three-school merger, which is expected to gain approval from the university’s board of trustees in January, Kothikoff said that each school would maintain its “unique identify and mission.” The merger is a big boost for Dean Dutta, who has had the deanship of Johnson for three and one-half years. 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 before his assignment at Cornell’s Johnson School.

While Dutta will become dean of the new College of Business, Chris Barrett, director of the Dyson School, will assume the role of deputy dean and dean of academic affairs. Each school will be presided over by a dean of the school who will have responsibility for that school’s academic program, explained Kothikoff, who claimed this layer of management would allow for what he called “an overall streamlined administration.” The school said it will continue to search for a new dean for its school of hotel administration and will also launch searches for deans of both the Dyson school and the Johnson school.

Kotlikoff wrote that the new College will “enable us to expand Cornell’s domestic and global initiatives, including further development and diversification of programs at Cornell Tech and educational collaborations with institutions across the globe. The combined College also will create a stronger and unified center from which to enhance recruiting and corporate relationships and expand executive education and faculty scholarship.”


The provost identified three other benefits of the new Cornell College of Business. They include:

·        “Enhancing Opportunities for Undergraduate and Graduate Students and Post Doctoral Associates: Students will have greater opportunity to learn across disciplines and collaborate with a broader network of faculty and fellow students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, creating even more knowledge-sharing opportunities for students.

·        “Fostering a More Collaborative Research Environment for Faculty:The cohesive College of Business will enable Cornell’s business and management faculty to collaborate more easily and effectively in cross-disciplinary research and grow the national and international influence of faculty scholarship and achievements.

·        “Establishing a More Effective Structure: Following the announcement, the leadership of the College of Business, CALS, Johnson and SHA will engage faculty in an effort to develop appropriate internal academic structures so as to enhance collaborations in teaching and research and coordinate faculty recruitment.”

Kotlikoff said that the need for integration among Cornell’s business schools “has long been recognized as an imperative by various Cornell constituencies, who believe as I do that a unified College will advance Cornell’s mission to apply knowledge for public purpose and educate the next generation of leaders and creators to benefit society and solve some of the world’s major challenges.”






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