After a national search, Boston University reached inside its own faculty ranks to name a new dean for Questrom School of Business. BU chose the business school’s first female dean, Susan Fournier, a marketing and management professor at BU for 13 years and a leading international expert on brand marketing. She succeeds Kenneth Freeman, who announced last fall that he would step down as dean after eight years. Fournier’s appointment, effective Aug. 27th, makes her one of only eight female deans at the leading 50 U.S. business schools.
She has a tough act to follow. During his eight-year stint as dean, Freeman increased undergraduate enrollment by nearly 30%, helped to bring in a $50 million-plus naming gift in 2015 from BU trustee Allen Questrom and Kelli Questrom and led a significant changes in BU’s undergraduate and MBA programs to emphasize ethics and global citizenship and better cater to changing student and employer needs. He adopted a strategy of aligning the school’s professors, research, and curriculum around the three growth areas: health care and life sciences, digital technology, and alternative energy and sustainability (see Betting The Future Of A B-School On The Future).
In Fournier’s 13 years at BU’s business school, she has established a reputation as a leading scholar and teacher. “She brings a remarkable toolkit of experience and knowledge to this role—and a genuine connection to the students, faculty, and staff who are the heart of Questrom,” said BU Provost Jean Morrison in a statement. “I am excited to welcome her to this role and to follow her success as she guides Questrom to continued excellence as a leading global business school.”
STUDIED THE PITFALLS OF CELEBRITY-BASED BRANDING
Fournier is credited with pioneering the brand relationships subfield in marketing, which explores the emotional relationships consumers form with brands and products. She is the author of two acclaimed books and numerous book chapters as well as several best-selling Harvard case studies on branding. A sought-after expert, Fournier’s soon-to-be published research paper examines the pitfalls of celebrity-based branding based on Fournier’s 14-year analysis of Martha Stewart’s career.
Prior to joining the Questrom faculty in 2005, Fournier worked in market research or as a consultant in private industry for companies such as Polaroid Corp., Altria, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Chick-fil-A, and served on the faculty at Harvard Business School and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
University President Robert A. Brown says the Questrom dean search advisory committee, which undertook a national search for Freeman’s successor, gave Fournier its unanimous support. “Susan assumes the role of the dean of the Questrom School of Business during an exciting time for the school, for business education, and the University,” Brown said in a statement. “I look forward to working with her to continue the journey of increasing the quality and impact of the school’s education and research programs.”
‘BRANDING IS ABOUT FORGING RELATIONSHIPS’
Fournier says she sees a direct correlation between her academic research and her new role at the helm of Questrom. Branding, she notes, is about forging relationships as is running a business school.
“I have deep knowledge in the psychology and sociology of relationships, how they develop, how they fall apart, what kind of flavors they come in,” she said in a news release announcing her appointment. “The whole point of what I do is looking at why people connect with things, what role brands, products, organizations have for people in their lives. It’s not about selling a product, it’s about understanding people’s lives … and trying to help them.”
At BU, she says she will work to increase interdisciplinary programming, ensure Questrom’s financial security, and offer coursework aligned with both students’ and employers’ needs. “I will be the steward of the Questrom business school brand,” Fournier added. “I will be looking out to make sure all the decisions we make are on brand and are going to build our equity as a preeminent research institution, from every person we hire to every course we develop to every institution we endow.
‘I HAVE A STAKEHOLDER PERSPECTIVE’
“I’m trying to further establish our reputation as a preeminent research and teaching institution and develop our reputation for research that matters and faculty who care,” she said. “We need strong partnerships with industry and organizations both to provide data for research that matters but also to be in partnership with us in the development of courses and projects that students would work on for hands-on learning. I have a stakeholder perspective from having worked and lived on the other side.”
In addition to her teaching and administrative roles at BU, Fournier is also a long-standing member of marketing journal editorial boards, including the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing, and the Journal of Relationship Marketing, as well as senior consulting editor for the Journal of Brand Management. She sits on the senior advisory board of the Journal of Product and Brand Management and has worked as vice president and associate research director at Young & Rubicam Advertising in New York.
Fournier received her PhD in marketing from the University of Florida and her master’s degree in marketing from Pennsylvania State University. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.