UCLA Dean To Leave For Top University Job

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The UCLA Anderson School of Management


While vast improvements were made at Anderson during Olian’s time as dean, she also had to overcome two especially difficult hurdles. Her decision in 2011-2012 to move the full-time MBA program to self-funding created an uproar, particularly among faculty outside the business school. The change in status made it easier for the school to raise money from donors and keep tighter control over how those funds were used. But critics of the plan considered it a step toward privatization that would start a trend that could spread to other business and law schools in the UC system. They warned of significantly higher tuition fees that would force graduates to go into severe debt to finance their education.

“The move toward self support was difficult, but it was a very understandably emotional moment,” recalls Olian. “It was much more about money. It was about the ethos of what a public supported institution is. None of that has changed today because we still believe strongly in our public mission. But it happened right after the recession. The state was $27 billion in the hole. Those were difficult times and there was a concern that this would change the whole nature of the relationship between the University of California and the state. That this would open the dyke. I understand it. I felt this was a much bigger shock to beliefs and values than just money. But I get it more in hindsight than I did then.”

The fight was worth it. The record $100 million gift came in after Olian’s plan was approved. and it opened the door to more fundraising. “We were very much a part of the legacy of the University of Califormia. We only started the tradition of fundraising fairly recently. That has happened across the university but also the move toward a self-support model really broadcast the message that we need engagement and support from alumni.”


Anderson School Dean Judy Olian

Then, in 2015, Olian commissioned a report on gender diversity that ended up being fairly critical of the school. The report by Korn Ferry claimed there was “little real progress has been made. Today, in fact, some feel that the situation is worse than it has been in the past.” Korn Ferry said the school’s “culture and climate” serve to reinforce the status quo, making it difficult for meaningful change. The study also slammed Anderson leaders who Korn Ferry charged “have not demonstrated the focused intention and proactive behavior required to increase diversity.”

The report’s conclusions were painful for Olian to read and acknowledge, partly because the school had made what she considered significant progress. In any case, she then used the report to push through further change that has led to major improvements in faculty and student diversity. “The gender diversity issue was personally painful because in spite of what I thought were my values it wasn’t necessarily as evident as it should have been,” she recalls. “It was me and it was our culture. I am proud of the way we all addressed it. We were not go into hiding. We doubled down and tried to change and I think we have. We have the highest number of female students and are right in the midlde of the mix of faculty gender diversity around 23%. We have come a long way. Our culture is much more attuned and sensitive. We handled it with a lot of self-reflection. This is a journey that is ubitquitous, and I am proud that we took the steps and maybe helped others learn from us.”

“What is also hard for me and something I had to learn every day is just the challenge of leading change. Every system has its traditions and sacred cows. I have a predeliction for change and want to change things quickly when I see the need. And it has been valuable sometimes when you have to slow down and sometimes frustrating. But sometimes your initial biases or not the right ones.”


In his message to the UCLA community, Provost Waugh also noted Olian’s influence outside the business school. “Judy’s impact has been felt not just at Anderson, but across the university,” he wrote. “She is a global thinker, advancing the campus’s global strategic priorities alongside Anderson’s expanding international footprint. She served for 10 years as chair of the Council of Professional School Deans, is a member of the board of UCLA’s Technology Development Group, and was involved in many campus-wide strategic initiatives, committees and advisory groups. She is also a close friend to many of us on the UCLA leadership team.”

UCLA said it will appoint an interim dean to ensure a smooth leadership transition and begin a search for a permanent dean shortly.


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