IU Kelley Dean Stepping Down

Kelley School of Business Dean Idie Kesner will step down after a ten-year run on July 31

After a highly successful decade-long run as dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Idalene “Idie” Kesner today (April 8) announced that she will step down from the job and return to teach in the school’s classrooms. She plans to end her role as dean on July 31 and return to the faculty after a one-semester administrative leave.

A hands-on leader and an astute strategist, Kesner is the first woman to lead the school, becoming dean in May of 2013 after holding several leadership roles. As an alumna who earned her MBA and doctorate at Kelley, her relationship with the school runs deep and she will be hard to replace. In announcing her decision, Kesner noted that the time has come for her “to turn the reins of dean over to others.”

“It has been an honor serving as dean for the Kelley School for 10 years — one year as interim dean and nine years as dean,” Kesner, 64, said in a statement. “I won’t recount the many accomplishments of our Kelley faculty, staff, students, and alumni over this period, but it’s safe to say that as a group we have achieved much. Because of you, this school is positioned well for the future.

Kesner Is Stepping Down After An Impactful Run As Dean Of The Kelley School Of Business

“I am grateful that you have allowed me to be in your good company,” she added. “Nothing in my career before or after will compare to serving this great organization and being part of this great family. Thank you for granting me the privilege of serving as dean for this amazing school.”

In an interview with Poets&Quants, Kesner says it was a difficult decision to step down. “This was a hard decision in the sense that I have enormous respect for my colleagues,” she says. “Everything I got from this school as an alum I wanted to pay back. The difficult part of this was whether I felt I have done enough to pay back my debt and I mean that sincerely. This school gave me a wonderful career in academia but the other thing this school gave me is this amazing network. I have been able to do so many great things and all of those connections have had Kelley at the root. It was connections with people, usually a Kelley alum, that got me in front of various companies to be considered for boards. But it’s been a lot of long weeks, and I have another chapter left.”

Honored as Dean of the Year by Poets&Quants in 2019, her influence on the school has been profound. She has made smart bets on the future of business education by leveraging the school’s early leadership in online learning. Kesner became known for her bold and innovative investments to serve the needs of her students. She has embraced and mentored young talent in a way that is rare for a dean of any school, using her students as consultants on key strategic challenges. From rushing to the hospital bed of a badly injured student to publicly taking to task a faculty member for his racist, sexist, and homophobic views, she has thoroughly distinguished herself as one of the most accomplished deans of this generation.

Under Kesner’s leadership, the school made early and significant investments in marketing and communications to build the school’s brand. “That has paid huge dividends,” says Kesner in an interview with Poets&Quants.  Among other things, it laid the groundwork for a vast expansion of both existing and new programs. She doubled Kelley’s undergraduate population, attracting more students from the Tri-State area in the Northeast as well as California, Texas, and Florida. Also doubling in size was the school’s graduate student population.

The school’s online MBA was named the MBA of the Year in 2021 by Poets&Quants. She vastly expanded the portfolio of the school’s master’s programs, maintained the quality and integrity of its full-time MBA offering, helped to recruit more than 75% of the existing faculty of 325 in Bloomington alone, and helped to raise more than $230 million in support of the school. This long list of achievements, moreover, has been made as Kelley has significantly expanded the quality of its incoming undergrad and graduate students. Today, Kelley has a total enrollment of 14,471 students at its main campus in Bloomington, a satellite campus in Indianapolis, and online worldwide, up from 7,172 students. Some 2,652 students are enrolled in the school’s online offerings, including 1,438 in its highly rated Kelley Direct online MBA program.

An Interim Dean For Kelley Will Be Announced Shortly

All told, more than 20 new programs have been launched under Kesner, including five new online master’s programs in business analytics, marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, IT management and accounting as well as a slew of residential degree and certificate options that range from a business of medicine MBA to an MBA for educators. Kesner also smartly partnered with the National Football League Players Association to offer current and former NFL players customed graduate programs and GE Appliances and Haier to offer its high-potential employees an online MBA.

She exceeded the school’s goal for its university-wide bicentennial fundraising campaign that ended in 2020, bringing in more than $231.5 million. Kesner also brought in a $14 million gift for a standalone Prebys Career Services Center as well as a $16 million gift from the Jellison family for upgraded video studios for the school’s growing portfolio of online master’s programs. Yet, the biggest development project was the $60 million update and expansion of Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center which added 90,000 square feet and 20 additional classrooms to the facility. The fundraising effort for the expansion was put together with a $15 million gift from 1974 Kelley graduate James Hodge, a $53 million gift from the Lilly Endowment, and another $12 million from private donors.

An interim dean will be announced in the near future to allow the university to conduct a full search for her successor, though the business school will also likely lose Ash Soni, executive associate dean for academic affairs, who has worked closely with Kesner through her entire tenure as dean. “It’s going to be some form of a two-way package,” Soni tells Poets&Quants. “I suspect it will take a few months to do the transition so it might get delayed by a couple more months.”

Kesner Chaired The School’s Full-Time MBA Program

Prior to her appointment as dean, she chaired the Kelley School’s Full-Time MBA Program from 2003 to 2006 and the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship from 2006 to 2009. She co-directed the school’s Consulting Academy from 1996 to 2003. From 2009 until her appointment as interim dean in October 2012, she was associate dean of faculty and research.

Before returning to teach at Kelley in 1995, Kesner had a titled professorship at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, where she taught for 12 years.

Kesner’s research is in the areas of corporate boards of directors, chief executive succession, corporate governance, and mergers and acquisitions, and she has published articles in numerous journals including Academy of Management, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management, and Harvard Business Review. She has taught in more than 100 executive programs and served as a consultant for many national and international firms working on strategic and board-related issues.

Kesner says she is looking forward to rejoining the faculty after departing on what will be her 39th wedding anniversary on July 31 and completing a semester-long leave. “I am a dedicated case study teacher in strategy,” says Kesner, who taught last Saturday morning in the school’s MBA program for medical doctors.  “I can get back to the classroom and be a very happy camper. I might bully my way back into the core.”



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