End Of An Era At Vanderbilt Owen As Dean Eric Johnson Resigns

Dean of Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management M. Eric Johnson will step down when his current term ends in June 2023. He has been the Owen School’s dean since 2013. Vanderbilt photo

A month after the long-awaited opening of new classrooms in the massive expansion of its Nashville campus, the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management has announced an even bigger change: Its long-time dean, M. Eric Johnson, will step down at the end of the school year.

The Owen School announced today (October 19) that Johnson’s second five-year term as dean, which ends in June 2023, will be his last. He will remain on the faculty and will return to teaching in 2024 after a sabbatical.

“Leading the Owen School — a special community noted for its can-do spirit and collegiality — has been a tremendous honor for the past decade,” Johnson says in a news release accompanying the school’s announcement. “And in recent weeks, I have been especially gratified to be able to welcome new and returning students and alumni to our spectacular new spaces for learning and discovery.

“The dividends from our continued investments in people and programs ensure a bright future for Owen, and I am excited for the school’s next chapter.”


Johnson first came to the Owen School as a teacher in 1991. He taught there for eight years, the last three as a tenured associate professor of operations, winning the Dean’s Teaching Excellence Award twice in that span. Johnson then left for Dartmouth College, where he spent 14 years in leadership roles at the Tuck School of Business. He returned to Vanderbilt Owen as its seventh dean in 2013.

Johnson's 10-year deanship was a period of great change for the Owen School, leading to increased national and international recognition: Growth in innovative programs, the establishment of research collaborations, and the building of world-class facilities contributed to the school steadily moving up in key rankings. From 30th in the U.S. News & World Report MBA rankings when he arrived in 2013, the Owen School climbed to 25th this year. Owen currently sits at 25th in Poets&Quants' composite ranking, a school high, 29th in Bloomberg Businessweek, 21st in Fortune, 41st in The Financial Times' Global MBA ranking, and 38th in The Economist.

The recognition is no mystery when you look at the Owen School's full-time MBA program. In its most recent employment report, Owen's 2022 graduates achieved an all-time high average base salary of $139,711, up an incredible $14,581 from 2021 (see table above). That’s an increase of nearly 12%. Moreover, 90% of Owen Class of 2022 MBAs received an offer by graduation, up from 88% last year, and 97% received offers after three months, matching a school record from 2021. The Owen School also reports that 100% of seeking students in the MBA Class of 2023 were able to secure an internship — making this the 11th year in a row the school has achieved perfection on that front. Summer 2022 interns averaged $9,723 per month, a 20% increase from the prior year, also a school record.


M. Eric Johnson , dean of Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management, has announced that he will not seek a third term. He will step down when his current term ends in June 2023. File photo

“Under Eric Johnson’s skillful leadership, the Owen School has flourished and risen in national stature while maintaining a uniquely caring and collaborative community,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in the news release about Johnson's deanship ending next summer. “We are grateful for his commitment to providing a world-class business education that is distinguished by its focus on individual student development.”

The most visible reminder of Johnson's deanship will likely be the just-completed $55 million renovation and expansion of Management Hall, the first donor-led building project in the university's history. The new facility increases the Owen School's space by 50%, adding all kinds of amenities like flexible learning spaces and gathering areas. But it wasn't the only physical change overseen by Johnson. He also led major donor-funded renovations of the Walker Management Library and the H. Laird Smith Courtyard. The Owen School's endowment during his tenure grew by more than 60%, to $450 million.

Johnson also oversaw major expansions in Owen's programming. Three of the school's four research centers — the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, founded in 2015; the Center for Health Care Market Innovation, established in 2016; and the Center for Entrepreneurship, also launched in 2016 — originated during his deanship. Johnson also oversaw the launch of the Vanderbilt Master of Marketing, which in January reported the highest average base salary for graduates in the program's five-year history.

Johnson can also take credit for recruiting a faculty that is broadly diverse across a variety of research areas. "Owen had just 10% women faculty when I arrived, and only three with tenure," he tells Poets&Quants. "Today, we exceed 30%, with good representation across all levels of seniority.

"As I finish my 10th year as dean, I realize this is the right time for a transition," Johnson continues. "The Vanderbilt Owen team has achieved all the goals developed during the strategic review when I arrived.


Johnson earned a doctorate in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University in 1991. He also earned a master of science and a bachelor of science from Penn State University, where he graduated with honors. His experience extends to the private sector as well, having done notable work for Corvette America Inc., General Motors, Systems Modeling Corp., and Hewlett-Packard. Johnson's consulting experience includes such global companies as Accenture, Nike, Nokia, Oracle, and Philips Healthcare.

"Johnson’s teaching and research have focused on the impact of information technology on the extended enterprise," according to the school's announcement, "meaning an organization’s network of partner relationships." He has written for research and scholarly journals that include Harvard Business Review, Health Services Research, and Management Science, while his writing and commentary have been featured in such global media outlets as The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, Associated Press, The New York Times and Bloomberg News. He has been a regular guest on Poets&Quants panels, including past CentreCourt events in New York and Houston, Texas.

“Eric Johnson has played such an important role in placing Owen and Vanderbilt on such a strong upward trajectory — he has been a terrific partner in collaborating with me, with other deans, faculty, and alumni on growing Owen’s academic programs and collaborations across disciplines and schools,” says C. Cybele Raver, Vanderbilt provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “He has demonstrated deep dedication to training the next generation of business leaders through Owen’s degree-granting programs, and our Owen alumni success is a testament to his legacy as a foundational dean for Owen and Vanderbilt.”

Details on an international search for Johnson’s successor will be announced later, according to the school's announcement.


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