Kenan-Flagler Names A New Dean, And She Makes History

Kenan-Flagler Business School has hired a new dean: Mary Margaret Frank, long-time accounting professor and associate dean at Virginia Darden, will become the first woman hired to be Kenan-Flagler’s permanent dean since the school’s founding

When UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s long-time Dean Doug Shackelford suddenly resigned last fall, it caught the B-school — and the tight-knit world of graduate business education — by surprise. Shackelford had been a fixture at Kenan-Flagler since joining the faculty in 1990, and had been a highly successful and popular dean for eight years.

After naming Jennifer Conrad to serve as interim, Kenan-Flagler’s search committee spent the entire 2022-2023 school year looking for a replacement for its long-time leader. On Tuesday (June 14), with the last students having left campus, the school announced its choice.

And it’s a historic choice: Mary Margaret Frank, senior associate dean for faculty development at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, will become the first woman to hold the Kenan-Flagler deanship on a permanent basis since the school was founded just after World War I. In fact, among 13 permanent and a handful of interim deans at Kenan-Flagler since its founding in 1919, the B-school has had only two female interims: Conrad and Julie H. Collins in 2002-2003.

DEEP TIES TO UNC AND ITS BUSINESS SCHOOL

Kenan-Flagler Finds A Dean In Popular Darden Prof Mary Margaret Frank

Mary Margaret Frank becomes the first-ever woman to hold the Kenan-Flagler Business School deanship on a permanent basis. UVA Darden School of Business photo

Frank’s ties to UNC are deep. When she officially assumes Kenan-Flagler’s deanship August 15, she will be only the fifth Kenan-Flagler dean to have graduated from the B-school, having earned both a bachelor’s and master’s of accounting from the school in 1992 and an accounting Ph.D. in 1999. And even as she has taught for many years at Virginia Darden, she has remained involved with Kenan-Flagler by teaching in the Master of Accounting program, collaborating with Ph.D. students and faculty on research, and serving as an academic fellow to the UNC Tax Center.

“She has distinguished herself as an exceptional leader with a deep understanding of the opportunities at UNC Kenan-Flagler,” Kevin M. Guskiewicz, UNC’s chancellor, and J. Christopher Clemens, provost and chief academic officer, wrote in a message to the UNC community announcing Frank’s appointment. “Her appreciation of the world-class education she received from the faculty and supported by the State of North Carolina drives her commitment to return and serve the school and the University. She brings a demonstrated passion and understanding of the positive impact business can have on communities.”

Frank joined Darden in 2002 after three years teaching at Chicago Booth School of Business, and taught accounting to graduate and undergraduate students for more than 18 years. An award-winning educator and scholar, her academic interests include the integration of business principles and public policy objectives, cross-sector collaboration and leadership, and sustainable investing.

In 2020, Frank was named John Tyler professor of business administration; that same year she became Darden’s senior associate of faculty development, responsible for designing, coordinating, and managing recruitment and development of tenure and non-tenure track faculty — more than 100 in three years. She is credited with creating a faculty development plan that aligned the school’s mission and strategy, leading efforts to address the impact of the pandemic on faculty and create new channels for connectivity across the school.

Frank is a connector and a collaborator. In their message to the UNC community, Guskiewicz and Clemens noted that she is a founding academic director of Darden’s Institute for Business and Society, for which she raised millions while leading its initiatives on cross-sector collaboration. “Mary Margaret created the Tri-Sector Leadership Fellows program, which trains graduate students at the University of Virginia to navigate and connect public, private and social sectors,” the chancellor and provost wrote. “She also forged a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and non-profit Concordia to recognize leading cross-sector initiatives that improve communities around the world.”

‘MARY MARGARET FRANK IS A TRUE INSPIRATION’

Past students have praised Frank’s teaching, with one calling her “somewhat of a legend” and another saying she is “a true inspiration.”

“Mary Margaret Frank is somewhat of a legend at Darden for the enthusiasm that she brings to the classroom,” Darden MBA student Devin Underhill told Poets&Quants in 2018. “She is an accounting professor, so I entered her class a bit intimidated and apathetic. Yet, her energy is infectious and she helped me understand how accounting fundamentals affect behavior. I’ve signed up for every course she teaches, from Impact Investing to Taxation (I never would have guessed that I’d willingly take a tax course).

“Outside of the classroom, she is just as dedicated to helping each student have the best Darden experience that they can. She will bend over backwards to help you succeed, but holds you to a high standard in return.”

Another MBA student, Annie Medaglia, wrote a “love letter” to Frank in 2014 that read, in part:

“Mary Margaret Frank is a true inspiration. To many people, she’s the buzzing, energetic woman you see zipping through the halls of Darden, convincing everyone that tax policy is the coolest thing since, well ever. She is one of life’s great teachers – both academically and in the larger life sense of the term. Mary Margaret has the ability to teach students to not just consider the facts in front of them, but also challenges them to seek the bigger picture and vision for what their work means for society.

“To me, Mary Margaret is that and more. I sought out the Darden experience because I wanted a business school that promoted a sense of community, ingenuity, and creative problem-solving. I conceived an idea to leverage the incredible talent of individuals from UVA’s Darden, Law, and Batten schools by bringing them together to develop a network and toolset that prepares all of us for tackling the 21st century’s greatest challenges through cross-sector approaches.”

EXCITING TIMES AT KENAN-FLAGLER

In assuming the Kenan-Flagler deanship, Frank joins a growing cadre of women at the highest leadership levels of graduate business education. But the shoes she will fill are not small. Doug Shackelford’s accomplishments before and after becoming Kenan-Flagler’s dean are significant: He helped to make UNC one of the early pioneers of online graduate education with the launch of the school’s highly successful online MBA program in 2010, which is now consistently among the highest-ranked online MBAs (No. 12 in P&Q‘s 2023 ranking). Under his leadership the school also launched an online version of its master’s in accounting program and expanded its Executive MBA program into Charlotte. He also founded the UNC Tax Center in 2001.

Shackelford left the deanship having doubled graduate enrollment in the past 10 years and with big plans in the works, including the addition of a new 140,000-square-foot building that will allow UNC to double its undergraduate business population in the next decade. The school broke ground on the new building, with 16 state-of-the-art classrooms, shortly after Shackelford’s departure; it is scheduled to open in late 2024 or early 2025.

“Mary Margaret joins UNC Kenan-Flagler as we prepare to serve even more future leaders through the building of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s new Steven D. Bell Hall and the expansion of our world-class undergraduate business program,” Chancellor Guskiewicz and Provost Clemens wrote. “Her expertise and experience will be invaluable to a school already known for excellence in cultivating discerning, collaborative problem-solvers through research and teaching.”

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