UCLA Dean To Leave For Top University Job

UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian is stepping down to become president of Quinnipiac University

After more than a dozen years as dean of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Judy Olian today (Jan. 29) announced that she will leave her post at the end of the academic year to become president of Quinnipiac University.

For the Australian-born Olian, who has led Anderson since January of 2006, the new opportunity will allow a return to the East Coast. Before starting at UCLA, she had been dean of Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business as well as acting dean and senior associate dean of the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business.

In a message sent today to administrators, faculty and staff, UCLA Provost Scott L. Waugh said Olian has left “an indelible mark on the school.” Olian successfully led a hard-fought effort through bureaucratic battles and faculty politics to gain self-supporting status for the school’s full-time MBA program. She has raised $400 million in philanthropic support at a public institution with little history of fundraising, bringing in a record $100 million gift from the late Marion Anderson.

‘A BITTERSWEET DAY FOR UCLA ANDERSON’

During an era of significant cutbacks in state aid, that money has allowed Olian to name three research centers, fund 13 term and endowed professorships, launch numerous student fellowships and programs, and begin construction of the new four-story, 64,000-square-foot, $80 million Marion Anderson Hall. More than half of Anderson’s current faculty were hired under Olian’s watch, and she has significantly increased gender diversity among both faculty and students.

“This is a bittersweet day for UCLA Anderson,” said Robert Murley, chairman of Anderson’s Board of Advisors and vice chairman of Credit Suisse. “We are proud of Dean Olian and the opportunity that she has been given to leverage her many capabilities and assume the leadership of a wonderful university. At the same time, we are sad to see Judy leave. She has been an exceptional dean for Anderson, and the school has flourished under her vision and inspirational leadership.”

Along with Northwestern Kellogg’s Sally Blount and Michigan Ross’ Alison Davis Blake, Olian helped to break the glass ceiling hanging over the deanships of highly ranked business schools. Blake stepped down in 2016, and Blount will leave her job at the end of the current academic year. Olian is hopeful that there will will be more. “I see change happening, perhaps more slowly than I would like,” she says. “But I see it happening and I wouldn’t read anything into the confluence of the three of us leaving because each of us have another act. I am certain we’ll see more progress because there is a strong mix of women who are available and I am sure interested and it’s not just the women deans, it’s the senior associate deans.”

OLIAN TO SUCCEED A UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT WHO HAS BEEN IN HIS JOB FOR 31 YEARS

There are, of course, still several other highly prominent women in major deanships, including Idalene Kesner of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Erika James of Emory’s Goizueta Business School, Sri Zaheer of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and Amy Hillman of Arizona State’s W. P. Carey School of Business. And there are now four major searches for business school deans underway at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Kellogg, Anderson, and the Wisconsin Business School.

At Quinnipiac, Olian will succeed John L. Lahey, 71, who is retiring at the end of June after 31 years in the job. Lahey transformed the Connecticut school from a small college with 2,000 students to a university of nearly 10,000 students. What was once a small liberal arts college with 2,000 students on a single 100-acre campus has since become a university with three campuses with nearly 10,000 students on over 700 acres. Quinnipiac now has a school of medicine, law, engineering and business along with an endowment that has grown to about $500 million, from under $5 million when Lahey assumed the leadership of the school.

Olian says she is thrilled to get the chance to lead the university, in no small part because of her belief that much of higher education is failing to best prepare students for future needs. “I have been in these major research institutions all my life,” Olian told Poets&Quants. “They are incredible. They move the planet. They change the quality of our well being. They are critical for the future of society. Yet there is also a part of the higher education landscape that addresses the here and now, and I am afraid that many of these institutions miss the needs of the marketplace of the 21st Century.

‘AN OPPORTUNITY THAT GREW ON ME UNTIL I BECAME VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT’

UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian

“We have six million jobs unfilled. By any estimate, 40% of college graduates are either under employed or unemployed. And when you think about it longer term, many graduates are struggling to keep up with what they need to know relative to what they have learned. I think that is a huge need and it is not addressed everywhere in higher education. Quinnipiac has been focused on that tight alignment and they are well positioned to prepare students for 21st century careers.”

She was initially approached for the job by the search firm Spencer Stuart and William Weldon, chairman of Quinnipiac’s board of trustees and the former chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson.  “It wasn’t an initial ‘I’ve got to do this,’ but it grew on me. I thought about the role of that institution in the higher education landscape and I was really impressed with the board chairman who has taken an active role with the board in advancing what Quinnipiac is. The speed of the university’s trajectory is truly impressive, and the president is a visionary who deserves a lot of credit for it. So the opporunity really grew on me, and I have become very excited about it.”

Anderson, Olian says, shaped her life in many ways. “I will forever and ever love the school and have been honored by it,” she says. “It has changed me. I have deep personal connections to the people on my team. I love the faculty and I love the students. I have a remarkable set of boards and close relationships to the administration. It gets in your blood. I am going to be in touch.”

‘EVERYBODY NEEDS TO PERIODICALLY REPOT THEMSELVES’

Ultimately, however, with this month marking the start of her 13th year as dean, Olian believed that both Quinnipiac and Anderson would benefit from a set of fresh eyes. “One of our great board members once said to me that everybody needs to periodically repot themselves. I think this is a moment of repotting and taking everything you’ve done and learned and starting something with fresh eyes.”

After repotting herself to UCLA from Penn State, Olian led significant changes at Anderson. While the school was already known for having a superb faculty, Olian had to face the challenge of maintaining the quality of Anderson’s professorial talent at a time of diminished resources. “Everyone of them are as good or better than the founding generation of faculty at this school,” she says with pride. “We have become very, very student centric and created an intimate, caring and purposeful culture. I am very proud of the high student satisfaction ratings we get. So many parts of this experience have been designed around students and they feel ownership of that.”

The school also has made great strides toward globalization and now has an entire portfolio of international immersions for students, while the alumni network outside the U.S. has grown to 25 chapters and affiliates from just two when Olian got to the school.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.