With Kelley School of Business Dean Idalene ‘Idie’ Kesner scheduled to step down at the end of July, the University of Indiana today (June 3) turned to her reliable right hand to lead the school as interim dean. Ash Soni, executive associate dean for academic programs, will take over the leadership of the school starting Aug. 1.
Soni has long served as a chief operating officer to Kesner during her decade-long run. Their academic partnership is among the most successful ever. The university’s decision to tap Soni as the interim dean ensures a smooth transition to new leadership.
When a permanent dean is named, it is also expected that Soni will help guide the chosen successor before giving up his leadership role. Kesner announced in April that she would step down from the job and return to teach in the school’s classrooms after a one-semester administrative leave. Kesner was the school’s first woman dean and earned her MBA and doctoral degrees at Kelley.
‘It’s going to be some form of a two-way package’
When Kesner made her decision public, Soni told Poets&Quants that he would also likely give up his current role as executive associate dean. “It’s going to be some form of a two-way package,” he said. “It might get delayed by a couple more months. We have a couple of people that we’ve been grooming and hopefully, they will be able to take it over. Both of us will step down and after that. We have another five months of administrative leave for everything we missed out on during our tenure. We are available at that time to help someone do the transition. I suspect it will take a few months to do the transition.”
“Ash has long served as a prominent, impactful leader at the Kelley School,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav in a statement. “During his more than 40 years of experience at the school, he has helped guide the school through many transitions and changes, and that history recommends him well for the interim dean role. I truly appreciate Ash stepping up as we prepare for a thorough national search to try and replace the quite irreplaceable Idie Kesner.”
A professor of operations & decision technologies and a passionate oenophile, Soni joined Kelley in 1981. He has considerable expertise in enterprise systems and applications, emerging technologies, operations research and business analytics, supply chain management, and computer simulation. Yet, his greatest contribution to the school has been in his highly effective partnership with Kesner. He was deeply involved in the school’s branding initiative to gain national and international exposure, the recruitment of faculty, and the oversight of many of the school’s operating details.
Deeply involved in a major marketing initiative to raise the profile of the school with Kesner
With Kesner, Soni agreed early on that the school wasn’t getting the credit it deserved. “The marketing was key to the whole thing,” he told Poets&Quants. “When Idie was interim and we spent a lot of time talking about this great school in southern Indiana. But the rest of the country may not know about it. That is where Idie started thinking about the marketing piece. Ten years later we get students from the entire country, from the East Coast and the Tri-state area and California, Texas, and Florida. It is a national market and that has helped us big time.”
In the announcement, Soni said he is “thrilled to help lead the Kelley School during this transition. I appreciate how committed our university leaders are to the school’s continued success, and I look forward to continuing the incredible progress we have made under Dean Kesner’s tenure.”
Soni earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Manchester University, his Master of Science from Strathclyde University, and his MBA and Doctorate in Business Administration from Indiana University Bloomington. He has received many awards, honors, and certificates, including The John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Programs and Studies; Kelley Direct Program Teaching Excellence Award, which he won four times; and the MBA Teaching Excellence Award, for which he was honored 10 different times.