New York University’s Stern School of Business today (Dec. 20) tapped one of its long-time professors and the current vice dean of its MBA programs to become the school’s new leader. Rangarajan “Raghu” Sundaram, a finance professor who has been on the Stern faculty for more than two decades, assumes the deanship on Jan. 1.
Sundaram, who has been vice dean since 2016, will succeed economist Peter Henry, who is stepping down after an eight-year run as dean starting in January of 2010. The 48-year-old Henry, who had been the youngest dean in Stern’s history when he started the job in January of 2010, said he wanted to re-engage with public policy and re-commit himself to scholarship on the fortunes of advanced and developing economies. He had led President Obama’s transition team in a review of international industry agencies, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
In naming an insider to succeed Henry, NYU is going with a highly talented and well-liked professor who has been behind some of the more innovative changes at Stern in recent years. He is also yet another example of a highly successful Indian-born scholar who has moved up the ranks to head one of the world’s best business schools, following in the footsteps of Nitin Nohria at Harvard Business School, Sumatra Dutta at Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business, and Sri Zaheer of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
He is a strong advocate of experiential learning, wanting to elevate Stern’s commitment to experiential learning through its “Stern Solutions” program. His vision, he says, is to intensify the program’s emphasis on developing leaders who can grasp the big picture, turn transformation into opportunity, and thrive in an ever-changing global climate.
“We will provide more students with more opportunities to participate, while deepening our relationships with companies that value the fresh insights Stern MBAs can bring to the table,” he told Poets&Quants in an earlier interview. On the day of this announcement, he was outside the country. “Stern Solutions projects will pair students with faculty to work with actual organizations in tackling their most pressing business challenges – real-world, real-time learning with real impact. In the past, Stern MBAs have engaged with companies ranging from Diane Von Furstenberg to MasterCard to the NBA to HBO and more, with student participation in projects growing by more than 130% in the past two years alone. Students gain incredible experience while building relationships – and contributing value – to organizations.”
‘WE FOUND THE BEST CANDIDATE HERE IN OUR MIDST’
Sundaram was chosen after a major search led by Batia Wiesenfeld, the chair of Stern’s management and organizations group. “Stern’s reputation is such that it had an outstanding group of candidates for the dean’s post,” said NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a statement. “But in the end, the search committee found the best candidate here in our own midst. And rightly so. Raghu Sundaram has a strong, highly-regarded record of leadership and innovation, scholarship and teaching, and collegiality and service to both Stern and the university. In a field of distinguished candidates for Stern’s deanship, Raghu stood out.”
As vice dean of MBA programs, the professor launched two new specialized one-year MBA programs in technology as well as fashion and luxury and a unique specialization in fintech within the existing two-year MBA program. He also helped in October to establish a Creative Destruction Lab in a partnership with the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The lab brings together serial entrepreneurs and angel investors; founders of pre-seed stage startups in science and technology; and Stern faculty and MBA students in a nine-month program to pursue new ideas and companies.
The university said Sundaram also gained the support of business leaders from companies such as Amazon, Jigsaw, Microsoft, IBM, PayPal, and others to join a newly created Tech MBA Advisory Board, and he was behind the extension of Stern’s Executive MBA program to downtown Washington, D.C. The professor also was credited with Stern’s entry into online education, including launching the first in a series of online certificate programs.
NEW DEAN WILL BE LEADING A SCHOOL THAT IS IN BOUNCE BACK MODE
The new dean will have his work cut out for him. The 2016-2017 academic year was a bit of a bounce back period at Stern, which had plummeted to 20th in the 2016 U.S. News business school rankings courtesy of a reporting error. Whether a correlation or a causality, the result was a 10-point drop in average GMAT average for the Class of 2018 over the previous year. That decline was rectified, to an extent, with the incoming class – where the average GMAT rose from 710 to 714. Still, the number is the second-lowest in nine years…and represents a seven point decline from the Class of 2016’s 721 heyday.
Even so, this year Stern moved back to a more familiar place in U.S. News’ rankings, 12th place, a development that the new dean should be able to capitalize on. Applications again rose in the 2016-2017 cycle, up 4% over the previous year. In fact, Stern’s 3,927 applications were its most in six years and represented the third consecutive year of application growth. By the same token, the school’s 21% acceptance rate made it one of the most selective MBA programs in the United States. By the numbers, it was harder to get into Stern’s 402-member incoming class than it was to land a seat in stalwart programs like Chicago Booth and Michigan Ross.
During his years at NYU Stern, Sundaram has also had to deal with some personal tragedy. Nearly six years ago, his wife, Urmilla, passed away at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on Jan. 2, 2012. She left her husband with two sons Kartik Ganapathy and Pavan Ganapathy of Bangalore, India, and a daughter Aditi Sundaram, who was then in the tenth grade at the United Nations International School in New York.
WON STERN’S FIRST DISTINGUISHED TEACHING AWARD
Sundaram received his BA in economics from the University of Madras in 1982, and received his MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Ahemedabad in 1984. He received his MA in economics from Cornell University in 1987, and his PhD in economics from Cornell in 1988. He joined the faculty of the University of Rochester in 1988, and remained there until 1996, when he joined Stern’s faculty. Sundaram has been the recipient of research grants from the National Science Foundation and other organizations. He has won the Jensen Prize, was a finalist for the Brattle Prize, and was the recipient of the Stern School’s inaugural Distinguished Teaching Award.
His scholarly interests include agency problems, executive compensation, corporate finance, derivatives pricing, credit risk, and credit derivatives. He has published extensively in these areas as well as in mathematical economics, decision theory, and game theory, with articles appearing in such journals as Econometrica, Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of Business, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of Finance, and Review of Financial Studies. He is also the author of A First Course in Optimization Theory (Cambridge University Press, 1996) and Derivatives: Principles and Practice (Mcgraw-Hill, 2010).
In 2016, he was selected by Dean Peter Henry to join Stern’s leadership team as Vice Dean for MBA Programs, overseeing the school’s full-time MBA program; the Langone part-time MBA program; multiple dual degrees, including seven offered in partnership with the University; the Executive MBA program; the MS in Accounting program; and Advanced Professional Certificate programs.