Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business is losing its dean.
A month shy of being in his job four years at Northeastern, “Raj” Echambadi is joining Illinois Tech as its 10th president, succeeding outgoing President Alan W. Cramb on Aug. 16th.
The new job will bring back to Illinois where he had been a professor and innovator at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business. As senior associate dean of strategic innovation at Gies, Echambadi led the development and launch of the highly successful and disruptive iMBA, a $22,000 online MBA program.
‘DAD WE ARE ULTIMATELY MIDWESTERN KIDS’
His return to Illinois was welcome news for his two teenage daughters. After he received the offer to become Illinois Tech president, “They said to me, ‘Dad we are ultimately midwestern kids.”
Echambadi was chosen after what the university called “an extensive nationwide search.” The immediate appeal of the job, he says, harks back to the school’s original vision outlined in a 1890 sermon by Chicago minister Frank Wakely Gunsaulus. At the time, higher education was more often than not reserved for society’s elite. From the pulpit of his South Side church, near the site Illinois Institute of Technology now occupies, Gunsaulus said that with $1 million, he could build a school where students of all backgrounds could prepare for meaningful roles in a changing industrial society. It quickly became known as the “million dollar sermon.”
The minister ultimately found a donor with a million and the rest became history. When Armour Institute opened in 1893, it offered professional courses in engineering, chemistry, architecture, and library science. Illinois Tech was created in 1940 by the merger of Armour Institute and Lewis Institute which was launched in 1895 and offered liberal arts as well as science and engineering courses.
‘THE MISSION OF THE SCHOOL IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER’
“I felt that the mission of the school is more important than ever,” says Echambadi. “We need to provide more accessible education for students from a wide diversity of backgrounds. Couple that with what has happened in the last year and it was important for us to do that to build an equitable world. ”
In an interview with Poets&Quants, Echambadi noted the institute’s “strong assets in architecture, engineering and design to name a few. Given my experience in fostering entrepreneurial thinking, these are assets that we can leverage. So that is the first thing. You have tremendous faculty and staff who are deeply aligned to the purpose, who really are there because they want to provede accessible education for all. And Illinois Tech has good reputational capital as evidenced by the talent from all over the world who come to study there. A significant portion of the students come from outside the U.S. When you have incredible social and cultural capital coupled with passionate friends of the university, I think it is ripe for mission relevance again.”
“Illinois tech is already doing a lot of cool things. They have already started imagining the next generation of computational thinking. My job is to facilities cross discipline collaborations that is not only student based but also research based. One of the opportunities that fascinated me about Illinois Tech is that it is Bronzeville, Chicago, and there are incredible opportunities to work with the community so we can develop a strong university. That was an attractive part.”
‘THERE ARE INTERESTING MODELS THAT WE NEED TO START EXPERIMENTING WITH’
Chicago also was a draw. “Chicago is one of the large great cities, with a diverse population. It’s a talent magnet and full of technological promise. Chicago has the numbers and the capital and the opportunities to be a market leader, and Illinois Tech is the only tech institution in Chicago.”
Prior to joining Northeastern, Echambadi served as a professor and the senior associate dean of strategic innovation at Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a driving force behind the school’s online MBA, Echambadi has been instrumental in helping to provide increased access to an innovative education to students across the globe. The iMBA program has been lauded as a breakthrough in graduate education and one of the best disruptive innovations of the past decade.
“Illinois Tech already has online programming at this point,” notes Echambadi. “It is fairly well established. But what I bring to the table I think is my experience with the iMBA which provided a quality program that has been affordable with has broad access. There are interesting models that we need to start experimenting with. There is a solid foundation of online learning at Illinois Tech but there also are interesting models that we need to start experimenting with. How do we co-create and co-design with our corporate partners to offer technology education to bring in new talent in tech fields?”
‘ILLINOIS TECH’S FUTURE IS IN VERY CAPABLE HANDS’
At Northeastern, Echambadi’s big idea was to reimagine the MBA as an experience that would provide students with the business basics but also leverage the skills and talents of other parts of the wider university (see D’Amore-McKim Dean Raj Echambadi On The Latest MBA Twist: MBAx). He created a new degree program called the MBAx that put interdisciplinary learning front and center. D’Amore-McKim is collaborating on the program with other professional colleges at Northeastern, such as The Khoury College of Computer Sciences, the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD), and the College of Science. In computer science, for example, a business school student can now take a deep dive in such topics as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data science, or software development.
A leading academic research expert in organizational strategic innovation, Echambadi has developed new and forward-looking academic programs designed to empower student success in a dynamic marketplace. The majority of his academic research has focused on strategic innovation within organizations and how companies should balance current and future opportunities. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Business Administration from Anna University in India and a doctorate in marketing from the University of Houston. His research on employee entrepreneurship won the prestigious Academy of Management Journal Best Paper Award.
In a statement, Michael P. Galvin, chairman of the Illinois Tech Board of Trustees, praised the choice. “Raj’s experience in attracting strong researchers, corporate and philanthropic partners, and most importantly diverse students and faculty is undeniable,” said Galvin. “Throughout his career, he has delivered extraordinary innovation with broad impact and has demonstrated a deep commitment to higher education as a mechanism for creating access and economic mobility. Raj’s authentic connection with Illinois Tech’s founding mission to empower students from all backgrounds and points of view to drive a more just and sustainable world through technology made him the perfect candidate for Illinois Tech’s next president.”
“As Illinois Tech continues to further its reputation as a vital driver of innovation and economic impact in Chicago and beyond, I know that Raj’s ability to inspire an entrepreneurial mindset in all of our students will help further elevate Illinois Tech as Chicago’s premier technology-focused university,” added Illinois Tech President Alan W. Cramb who is retiring. “While I am proud of the progress we have made toward meeting our mission of creating a more vibrant and inclusive technology ecosystem, I know that under Raj’s leadership, Illinois Tech’s future is in very capable hands.”
DON’T MISS: RAJ ECHAMBADI ON THE LATEST MBA TWIST: MBAx