The dean of one of the premier business schools in Russia has resigned, citing that country’s ongoing war in Ukraine. And he was not alone.
Yuri Levin, who became rector of Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO in late 2020 and had presided over the launch of an ambitious 10-year plan with the stated goal of luring dozens of elite faculty to the young B-school, stepped down this month after expressing deep misgivings about the war launched by Russia against its neighbor on Feb. 24 — a war that has led to international outrage and condemnation, and disastrous consequences for Russia’s economy and world standing.
“I believe that any war is against human reason and human nature, especially when this war is between neighbors,” Levin said in a LinkedIn post in March, shortly before stepping down. “With this message, I share my deepest concerns and condolences to all the people involved in this horrible conflict. Nothing can justify the violence and death of innocent people.”
AN IMPOSSIBLE MISSION
Levin was not alone in resigning from Moscow SKOLKOVO, a private business school that was founded in 2006. He tells Poets&Quants that Evgeny Kaganer, dean for academic affairs, resigned with him and returned to teaching at IESE Business School in Spain. Kaganer is now listed as a professor in the department of Information Systems at IESE, where he teaches MBA and executive courses on digital business and digital transformation. Other members of SKOLKOVO’s faculty resigned as well, Levin says.
Tatiana Gridchina, former head of the dean’s office at SKOLKOVO who also resigned in March, writes in a recent LinkedIn post that the war has made the mission of the Moscow B-school impossible to achieve.
“The mission of the Skolkovo School of Management has been to prepare global leaders and entrepreneurs who could change the country and the world to be a better place,” Gridchina writes. “In the last 15 years, the school has made significant progress to become a truly global school with international faculty, strategic partnerships with major universities, international modules, and exchanges.
“Unfortunately, following the tragic events in Ukraine, Skolkovo has lost its Dean and core international faculty who condemned the war. For now, the project of building a global business school in Russia is on hold.”
Business schools, she adds, aren’t just about learning. “They are about building trusted communities, relations, and collaborations. Business schools aren’t about credentialing and indoctrinating students — they are the gateways to global knowledge and best practices.
“You simply cannot build a prosperous business school in isolation.”
‘AMBITIOUS PLANS’ SIDELINED
Yuri Levin, a 2001 Ph.D. from Rutgers University and one of Poets&Quants‘ 40 Under 40 professors in 2016, left his professorship at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada to accept the deanship at MSM SKOLKOVO in late 2020. A little less than a year later he presided over the unveiling of a massive, three-pronged plan to raise the B-school’s international profile, in part by luring 30 elite professors from top schools around the world over the next decade.
In early 2022, Levin expressed optimism for what the new year would bring to SKOLKOVO, writing on LinkedIn that “2021 was a great and exciting year. We made impressive progress building intellectual leadership with 3L solutions, world-class faculty and international partnerships on our way to become a fully customer-centric School.
“Everything we have achieved would not be possible without you, our staff, faculty, students, participants, partners, donors, and friends. We still have many more ambitious plans for the next 10 years. And as 2021 draws to the end, I want to express my gratitude and wish you and your families peace, prosperity and most importantly good health in the coming year.”
RESIGNATION & WITHDRAWAL
But then came the war. Shortly after Russia’s invasion in late February, Levin — who was born in Belarus and who claims friendships with many Russians and Ukrainians — wrote that the war “is very personal to me,” adding that “I hope that this conflict ends as soon as possible, and both Russian and Ukrainian people go back to their families in peace.
“As an educator, I feel that it is my responsibility to do everything in my power to prepare a new generation of leaders who would not allow anything like this to ever happen again.”
He resigned soon after, though not before requesting that the Global Network for Advanced Management suspend MSM SKOLKOVO’s membership. Levin now lists his title as a “professor of management analytics (on leave)” at Queen’s Smith School, and he tells P&Q that he is currently in Switzerland planning to launch a new school of management.