Northwestern Names LBS Professor New Kellogg Dean

Francesca Cornelli will take over as dean of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management beginning August 1, 2019. Courtesy photo

Nearly 17 months after Sally Blount announced she would step down as dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, her successor has been chosen. The school announced today (February 1) that its next dean will be Francesca Cornelli, a long-time finance professor and deputy dean of degree education at the London Business School. Cornelli will begin her term on August 1, 2019, and will also serve as the Donald P. Jacobs Chair of Finance.

Today’s announcement makes Kellogg the only major business school in the world to have two back-to-back female deans in what has long been a male-dominated academic field (if you include Kellogg Interim Dean Kathleen Hagerty, who will have served a full year in the position before Cornelli arrives, it would be three in a row). The Italian-born, 56-year-old Cornelli has broken barriers before. She is the first woman to become a full professor at London Business School and one of the relatively few female scholars in one of the more male-dominated business disciplines of finance.

Cornelli, moreover, has been a strong advocate for women in business education. She helped to create and became a board member of AFFECT a committee of the American Finance Association designed to encourage the advancement of women academics in the field of finance. After a former female professor at Columbia Business School won a $1.25 million judgment in a highly publicized sexual harassment and retaliation trial last July, Cornelli was one of six board members, to urge the AFA to take action to protect women academics (see Prof Wins $1.25 Million From Columbia & B-School Professor Geert Bekaert).


“We strongly suggest that the AFA widely promulgate the substance of its code of professional conduct and ethics, as it relates to this case, namely that retaliation and demeaning language have no place in our academic community,” the group wrote in a letter to the AFA. “To prevent the hostile culture toward women that is sadly present in our field from becoming a part of life for the next generation of economists, it is a matter of utmost importance that the leading professional association takes immediate steps, so as not to implicitly sanction unacceptable behavior.”

Cornelli and her fellow board members urged the AFA to follow the example of other academic associations that confronted members who were found in violation of University policies, even though they were not tried in a court of law. “For example, some academic associations suspended the membership of certain faculty or prevented them from participating in their professional meetings, they wrote.  “Economics is not the only place where inappropriate behavior has been detected and other academic fields have been tackling these issues effectively for some time.”

Enricheeta Ravina, who brought the case against Columbia and senior finance professor finance Professor Geert Bekaert, is now a visiting professor at Kellogg.

Cornelli’s appointment concludes a more-than-year-long search by an 11-member search committee chaired by Kellogg professor Paola Sapienza, who also works in the field of finance, was born in Italy, and serves on the board of AFFECT with Cornelli.

The dean search was done at a time when dean searches are also underway at several other highly prominent business schools, including Yale University’s School of Management Columbia Business School, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, which just went back to the drawing board on its search (see UCLA Dean Search Hits A Snag & Gets A Redo). At UCLA, the provost rejected the search committee’s three finalists. Ken Kring of search firm Korn Ferry led the Kellogg and UCLA searches and also recently completed a successful dean search at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School (see Haas Picks Wharton Female Professor As New Dean).


In choosing Cornelli, it seems clear that her global experience was key. “We’re proud to welcome Professor Cornelli to Northwestern University as dean of one of the world’s premier business schools,” Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro said in a news release. “She’s uniquely suited to take our Kellogg School to the next level — and to continue building a genuinely global model for business education and scholarship.”

Cornelli, who is also serving as the director of private equity at LBS, has spent the past quarter-century filling various roles at the UK’s premier business school. Additionally, she has also taught or held positions on three different continents, with experience teaching at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, and the New Economic School in Moscow.

Former Kellogg Dean Sally Blount. File photo

Despite Blount’s surprising and abrupt announcement to step down after her seventh year as dean, Kellogg is in a strong position vis-a-vis its peer schools. The school has settled into its $250 million Global Hub on Lake Michigan; months after the opening of the state-of-the-art building in March 2017, Blount successfully steered Kellogg’s first-ever major capital campaign to conclusion, raising $365 million. At the time, Blount was the first and only woman to helm one of the so-called M7 business schools. Until Cornelli arrives, Kathleen Hagerty will continue to serve as interim dean, a position she has held since taking over from Sally Blount in September 2018.


“We’ve insured Kellogg’s place on the global shortlist of premier business schools,” Blount said in a video message at the time she announced her intention to step down. “Our faculty and staff are among the world’s best. And I still pinch myself every time I walk in the Global Hub, our new home. We have done amazing work together. I am so excited about Kellogg’s next chapter. But I am also aware that this opportunity marks a rare opportunity in my own life. …. I am grateful for the amazing opportunities that I have had these past 30 years because Kellogg took a chance on a pregnant doctoral student.”

Northwestern’s most recent entering class (graduating in 2020) boasted an average GMAT score of 732, a 17-point improvement over the past five years that ties last year’s all-time record for the school. The score is on par with Wharton and Columbia Business School and bested cross-metro area rival Chicago Booth by one point. What’s more, the school only saw a drop in applications by 2.7% while many other peer schools saw drops in the 6% to 8% range. Plus, at 46%, the school set a record for most women to enroll in the full-time MBA program in one class. Kellogg is currently ranked No. 5 by Poets&Quants and No. 6 by U.S. News & World Report.

“I have always admired Kellogg as a school full of ideas, of creativity and innovation,” Cornelli said in the school’s announcement. “I am very excited and honored to join a community of such talented people. I know that together we can continue raising the bar while staying true to the Kellogg spirit.”


After earning her bachelor’s degree from Universita’ Commerciale Bocconi in Milano, Italy, Cornelli earned a MA and Ph.D. in economics from Harvard. She played a large role in the launch of a master’s in financial analysis degree at LBS in 2015 and currently serves as an editor at the Review of Financial Studies. Previously, Cornelli has served as an associate editor for the Journal of Finance and sat on the Board of Editors for The Review of Economic Studies. 

She is also currently a research fellow for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and has served as a director of the American Finance Association.

“I’m thrilled that Francesca Cornelli will be the next dean of Kellogg,” Northwestern Provost Jonathan Holloway said in the school’s announcement. “She is an exceptional leader and talented scholar who is committed to fostering excellence for faculty, staff, and students. Her enthusiasm for Kellogg, proven track record of collaboration, and clear-eyed focus on the future made her the obvious choice.”


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