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Gies Loses Architect Of Its Highly Successful iMBA Program

Brooke Elliott at Gies College

Brooke Elliott will lead the online initiative as an associate dean at Gies College of Business

With enrollment in its online degree programs topping 3,200 students, the Gies College of Business announced today (Jan. 9) that it is losing the key architect of its highly successful iMBA program. Arshad Saiyed, Gies’ assistant dean for online programs, is stepping down at month’s end to accept a new job as associate vice president of corporate partnerships at Northeastern University.

Gies is turning to one of its most dynamic professors and head of its highly admired accounting group to succeed Saiyed. Brooke Elliott, a passionate and energetic leader with a strong strategic mind, will become associate dean of Gies’ online initiative on Feb. 3. In the role, she will oversee the school’s strategy and programs in the online space, including its $22,000 iMBA, an iMSA program, MOOCs, and other new initiatives in lifelong learning and enterprise partnerships. 

“As head of the Department of Accountancy, Brooke has shown she is a tremendous leader,” wrote Gies Dean Jeffrey Brown in a memo to the school’s community. “She has been an advocate for online programs, and she has been instrumental in helping establish strategic objectives for the continued growth of the programs with Coursera as well as campus.”


Arshad Saiyed

After successfully building Gies’ iMBA online program, Arshad Saiyed is leaving for a new job at Northeastern University in Boston

Saiyed successfully built the school’s online infrastructure, launching the iMBA program four years ago with a debut cohort of just 114 students. This January, Brown noted, Gies will have more than 3,200 students in its online programs from 46 states, with more than 80 citizenships (see Gies’ iMBA: The Fastest Growing MBA On The Planet).

“I am extremely grateful to Arshad for being such a champion of our online programs,” added Brown. “Under his leadership, online programs have delivered quality and growth beyond our expectations. His vision for what is next for this platform has positioned the College for future success in this innovative space.

“Arshad and his team have layered innovation upon innovation to produce an extraordinarily rich learning, developmental, and community experience for students. The team has set new online engagement and quality standards for the industry, and done so at scale, keeping tuition affordable and advancing our mission to democratize business education.”


In leaving for Northeastern University, Arshad is following Raj Echambadi who left Gies in 2017 to become dean of Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. As senior associate dean of strategic innovation, Echambadi conceptualized and developed the school’s iMBA program, the first MOOC-based online MBA program on the Coursera platform. With Echambadi departure, Arshad took over the program after Echambadi had overseen the first three cohorts of incoming students. Saiyed showed formidable operational skills in successfully growing the program with levels of high student satisfaction. Gies own surveys show that 98.6% of the iMBA students say they are highly satisfied or very satisfied with the program, and 94% would recommend the program to a colleague, friend, a relative. At Northeastern, he will play a key role in the university’s digital strategy.

An MBA from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Elliott earned her Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Washington and immediately joined the Department of Accountancy in 2003 as an assistant professor. She became a full professor in 2015 and was promoted to lead the school’s accounting department two years later. She also led the development of the school’s new undergraduate curriculum and student experience now being rolled out.

She has been involved with Gies online programs since 2016, when she joined with Saiyed’s team to help develop the school’s online master’s degree in accounting. Brown said Elliott has also played “a key role in strategy and continuous improvement in the student experience for both the iMBA and the iMSA, working closely with Saiyed.” Gies announced that Theo Sougiannis will serve as interim department head through the summer of 2021. He joined the Department of Accountancy in 1990 and has served in multiple capacities, including interim head in 2011-2012.