Best Candidates To Be Dean at Kellogg, Haas, Cornell & UCLA

At the moment, four highly prominent business schools are searching for new leaders: Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Cornell University’s College of Business, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

It is the first time ever that four of the top 20 U.S. business schools all are undergoing major searches for deans. Of course, there are more business schools currently in the hunt for deans, including Boston University, George Washington University and Auburn University. But the fact that four of the higest ranked institutions are searching for new deans has to make the task all the more difficult.

Afterall, leadership of academic institutions is an interesting conundrum. It is the preserve largely of senior faculty who have excelled as scholars. But scholarship for most faculty is a contemplative and even monastic pursuit. It does not naturally engender either the abliity or the desire to motivate others or engage with them empathically or persuasively. Not surprisingly, it is often believed that faculty most suited to leadership roles tend to be the least interested in them.


Search professionals also note that business school deans these days are expected to behave more like CEOs than deans of many other university schools and departments. “Deans are becoming less superstar faculty members who rise through the ranks and more of a mini-president who serves as the CEO of their unit,” says Mirah Horowitz, a consultant in the higher education practice at Russell Reynolds Associates. “As competition for resources within universities increases, more universities are shifting greater responsiblity for revenue generation and cost control to the dean level. So you need candidate who have more of an ability to manage finances, to fund raise, to think outside the box, and to excel at such traditional roles as recruiting students and managing enrollment.”

Many also believe that business school deans are now feeling increasing pressure in their own universities which often treat the schools as cash cows as humanities continue to decline in popularity. “There is more of an anti-business sentiment throughout society and within universities,” believes one prominent dean. “The resentment is building up again. and it’s a bit more challenging. The core of the job is still exciting. Today, you just need someone with more EQ skill.”

One big issue: Will any of these universities choose a woman to lead these business schools? Two of the four deanships turning over are currently occupied by women: Sally Blount at Kellogg and Judy Olian at Anderson. In a world still dominated by white men, it would be a shame if at least one woman failed to earn one of these four prominent deanships.

At Kellogg, Haas, Cornell and Anderson, each school is large enough to have an internal roster of senior faculty with leadership experience on their CVs. And then there are external candidates who typically fall into three categories: Deans at rival business schools who want to trade up to a higher ranked institution, senior faculty with provide leadership ability at other business schools, and non-traditional candidates in the form of leaders from outside of the academy.


Targeting only one category of possible successors can increase the likelihood of a failed search. “I don’t think there is a shortage of candidates for deanships at business schools,” adds Horowitz. “But search committess have to be more expansive in the way they build a pool of candidates. You come up with a shortage when you have a search committee wedded to things like publication records. Universities need to help search committees understand that these are not regular faculty searches. If that conversation occurs on the front end, it’s much more likely that the committee will come up with three or five options that a provost can get behind.”

Still, in recent years, search committees at major business schools appear to be more risk adverse and less likely to recruit outsiders for top jobs. They have either promoted from within, at such places as Dartmouth, NYU, Stanford, Michigan, Georgetown, and INSEAD, or have picked off a sitting dean at another school, such as HEC Paris, London Business School or Washington University. And there is a strong reason for this: When schools go for an outside dean, especially when they pick an outside academic, it is because they fail to achieve consensus or sufficient support behind an internal candidate. Going outside, however, also runs the risk of alienating strong internal candidates.

So who are some ideal candidates for these four current searches? Poets&Quants sought recommendations from several deans and senior associate deans to come up with a list of viable candidates at each school. Our assessment:

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management

Dean Sally Blount, the first and only woman to lead one of the famed M7 business schools, is stepping down at the end of the current academic year. After what will be an eight-year run, she leaves the school in far better shape than she found it. Among other things, Blount led Kellogg’s first-ever major capital campaign, raising $365 million, including a doubling of contributions to the school’s annual fund which exceeded $10 million for the first time. She also built a new home for Kellogg, having been directly involved in every significant detail of the school’s new $250 million Global Hub on Lake Michigan which officially opened last March.

Though Blount had earned her PhD at Kellogg, she was an external recruit to the job, leaving her post at New York University where she ran the undergraduate business program. Of the four deanships currently available, this may well be the most desirable of them all. Kellogg is the most highly ranked of the bunch and now needs a new leader who can capitalize on the forward momentum established by Blount. Of all the open deanships, this position would most likely afford the winner the most latitude, with less university oversight than would exist at Cornell, Berkeley or UCLA given Kellogg’s prestige within the overall university. One immediate task is to make more evident Blount’s initiative for faculty to work across disciplines in a more integrated fashion.

Lori Rosenkopf

If the university wanted to duplicate the model it used in hiring Blount, it could do no better than recruiting Lori Rosenkopf, currently vice dean and director of Wharton’s undergraduate division. Like Blount, she is not only a woman but a serious academic who leads a major and prestigious undergraduate program in business. Rosenkopf would bring real academic cred to the job. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in operations research from Cornell University and Stanford University, respectively. She had been a systems engineer for Eastman Kodak and AT&T Bell Laboratories before earning her Ph.D. in management of organizations from Columbia University.

Since joining the Wharton faculty in 1993, Rosenkopf has taught courses for undergraduates, MBAs, doctoral students, and executive education participants, receiving the Hauck Award for distinguished teaching in the undergraduate program.  For a decade, she taught Management 101 at the school. She has served as a senior editor for the journal Organization Science and as a consultant for the National Academy of Sciences, and she has been elected as the chair of the technology and innovation management division of the Academy of Management.

Most importantly, though, since 2013 she has done an outstanding job as vice dean of Wharton’s undergraduate program, leading her school to first in the rankings. She is a passionate advocate for the school and its students, even using Twitter to promote the program. Her deep interest in the intersection of technology and business would especially serve Kellogg well. That’s because the school for the first time ever placed more of its latest MBA graduates o the West Coast, mainly in tech firms, than any other region of the U.S., including the midwest.