Poets&Quants’ Dean Of The Year: Ann Harrison Of UC-Berkeley’s Haas School Of Business

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison

Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison is Poets&Quants’ Dean of the Year for 2023. Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small

During a dinner at The Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia that stretched deep into the night, then-Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett was counseling a faculty member who would soon depart for her first deanship. His commentary wasn’t all that encouraging.

“We’re on this island,” he told Ann Harrison, “and the water is rising.”

Harrison had already committed to taking the deanship at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Sure, applications to full-time MBA programs were on the decline. Costs were escalating both for faculty talent and the best students. The competition among the top business schools was intense. And, of course, university politics could be as treacherous as the games played in Washington. But Garrett could not diminish Harrison’s unbridled enthusiasm for this new career challenge.

“I think he was just being honest about how he saw the landscape,” Harrison says. “Geoff is an incredibly insightful man and I have gotten to know him more and more. I admire him and respect him a lot.”


If the Haas School of Business is on an island, under threat from a rising tide, you wouldn’t know it from what Harrison has accomplished in her four and one half years as dean. When the renowned economist assumed leadership at Haas in January of 2019, a year before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, she became the second woman to lead the highly-ranked business school. In quick order — and despite the disruption caused by COVID and the notoriously slow-moving bureaucracy of the University of California system — Harrison has amassed an unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement.

Under her leadership, Haas boasts four years of record fundraising, bringing in $227 million, including a $30 million gift from alumnus Warren “Ned” Spieker to transform the school’s undergraduate business program. All told, fundraising commitments have soared by 50%. She has boosted the size of Haas faculty by 30% to nearly 100 tenure and tenure-track professors, hiring more teaching and research talent in entrepreneurship, sustainability, diversity and inclusion. Some 70% of the newly hired faculty are women. Harrison also revamped the core curriculum of the school’s flagship MBA program, putting a heavy focus on sustainability, launched an online MBA option in its popular part-time MBA program, converted the school’s two-year undergraduate program into four years, and successfully partnered with Berkeley’s Schools of Law, Engineering and Journalism as well as the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and the Rausser College of Natural Resources in joint programs. A joint MBA and master’s degree in climate solutions with RCNR is anticipated to launch soon. Construction has begun on a new Entrepreneurship Hub, a meeting place for entrepreneurial minds from across the Berkeley campus. 

“She’s a dean who hasn’t stayed in one lane,” observes Courtney Chandler, chief strategy and operating officer at Haas. “She is not the dean who has expanded the faculty by 30%. She is not the dean who is a fundraiser, even though she has raised record funding. And she is not the dean who has grown our programs. She has done all of it and has accomplished a lot. She’s ambitious, and she sees the full potential of Haas within UC Berkeley and is driven to realize that potential. She has not been that one-dimensional dean and that is incredibly impressive.”

Harrison’s academic cred as a highly cited scholar has helped her lead the school’s research-oriented professors. “It’s hard to get faculty to buy-in to a dean’s vision, but she has been able to do that effectively,” adds Erika Walker, senior assistant dean for instruction, who has been at Haas for nearly 20 years. “She relates so well to them.  She is able to carry on a conversation behind the ask. The Berkeley way is to just keep talking about something  and someone will eventually be bold enough to say, ‘Why don’t we pilot this?’ Ann is very thoughtful about where we should be going. A lot of her success stems from  her ability to get the buy-in and then enlist others to figure it out together. She is really great about putting it out there and allowing others to provide ideas on how to get there.  You must have the smaller conversation before you have the big conversation. She is not shy about sharing what should happen.”


For her change agenda and her decisive leadership, Poets&Quants has named Harrison the Dean of the Year for 2023. The 64-year-old economist is the 13th dean to earn this honor, joining a stellar cast of academic talent over the years that has included the leaders of Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Yale School of Management, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and IE Business School in Spain (see table below).

When Harrison sat down with Dean Garrett in late 2018, she had been a member of Wharton’s faculty for six years, working in the area of foreign investment and multinational firms. But she had little contact with Garrett until deciding to undertake a listening tour with other business school deans in preparation for her new job at Haas. “I showed up with my computer and a host of questions: ‘What does it take to be a great dean? What are the challenges going forward?’ He ordered a bottle of wine and drank the entire thing by himself as I was typing away on the computer.”

For someone who describes herself as an “unintentional academic,” never mind one who aspired to become a business school dean, Harrison walked away with an insider’s candid assessment of the top job. Nor did she have a typical background that would have led to a deanship. Harrison had spent most of her career in and out of academia, with stints at the World Bank that satisfied her mission-driven motivation to do something to eliminate poverty in the world. Even before completing her Ph.D. at Princeton, Harrison went straight into the World Bank’s Young Professionals Program, a highly selective rotational management training program that selected just 20 of 10,000 applicants. “I hadn’t done that much research, but when I got there I did more research on top of my day job and I fell in love with doing research. It was a bizarre trajectory, though one of the highly published economists at Haas is Ross Levine. He and I were young professionals at the World Bank together. So there are a number of us who did make that move into academia.”

Business School Deans of the Year

Deans of the Year: Berkeley Haas Dean Ann Harrison (top left) joins a stellar roster of Dean of the Year honorees who include UVA Darden’s Scott Beardsley (top row after Harrison), Toronto Rotman’s Roger Martin, Dartmouth Tuck’s Paul Danos, Northwestern Kellogg’s Sally Blount, Yale’s ‘Ted’ Snyder (second row left), Indiana University Kelley School of Business Idie Kesner, Foster School of Business Jim Jiambalvo, Darden’s Robert Bruner, Stanford GSB Dean Jonathan Levin (bottom left), IE Business School’s Santiago Iñiguez, University of Illinois Gies Dean Jeffrey Brown, and Harvard’s Nitin Nohria.


Dean Year School University
Ann E. Harrison 2023 Haas School of Business University of California-Berkeley
Jonathan Levin 2022 Stanford Graduate School of Business Stanford University
Jeffrey Brown 2021 Gies College of Business University of Illinois
Scott Beardsley 2020 Darden School of Business University of Virginia
Idie Kesner 2019 Kelley School of Business Indiana University
Jim Jiambalvo 2018 Foster School of Business University of Washington
Sally Blount 2017 Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University
Santiago Iñiguez 2016 IE Business School IE University/td>
Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder 2015 Yale School of Management Yale University
Paul Danos 2014 Tuck School of Business Dartmouth College
Roger Martin 2013 Rotman School of Management University of Toronto
Nitin Nohria 2012 Harvard Business School Harvard University
Robert Bruner 2011 Darden School of Business University of Virginia

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