Illinois Names First Female Dean For Gies College Of Business

Brooke Elliott

After a national search for a new business school dean, the University of Illinois has turned to one of its own proven leaders to take charge of the Gies College of Business. Brooke Elliott, who has led the school’s highly innovative digital strategy, will succeed Jeffrey Brown as Gies dean on Aug. 16th, pending the approval of the Board of Trustees.

An accomplished academic who had chaired the school’s nationally renowned accounting department, the 48-year-old Elliott is a highly driven and passionate advocate for the Democratization of higher education. She is that rare leader who brings to the job a strategic mind with superb execution chops. Her devotion to the school is unequaled. 

Elliott also possesses a unique, high-energy personality that is as uncommon for a sober academic as her trademark looks in skinny jeans and bright blue and orange Jordans. She may well be the first dean of a major business school who joyfully drives an agate black F-150 Ford truck. Elliott is also something of a Super Mom to her two children, a son, who will be a senior in high school this year, and a daughter, who will be an eighth grader. Those who know her would not be surprised that her children play competitive sports. Elliott, who has been known to raise her voice at an umpire or referee,  is the announcer at her son’s baseball games and keeps the books at her daughter’s basketball and volleyball games.


Brooke Elliott of Gies College of Business

Brooke Elliott will become Gies dean on Aug. 16

Though the university rightly conducted a national search to find Brown’s successor, including the hiring of executive search firm Isaacson, Miller, any other choice would have been a grave error.  As Provost John Coleman notes in his announcement of the appointment, Elliott became “the clear choice” to succeed Brown. “Through a national search Professor Elliott’s dedication to and vision for the college’s future, along with the passion she brings to her current work, made her the clear choice to lead Gies College of Business,” says Coleman. “She is an accomplished scholar and an empathetic, transparent and collaborative leader, and I am confident she will lead the college toward continued success.”

In a statement, Elliott expressed her gratitude in getting the nod. “I’m honored to be selected as the next dean of Gies College of Business,” said Elliott. “This College has an unbelievably rich history of excellence, and our best years are still in front of us. Our alumni base is more engaged than ever, and we have a culture of innovation that is unmatched. I’m excited to see what that future holds for Gies as we find even more meaningful ways to shape purposeful leaders around the world.”

The ultimate test of her leadership ability came in 2020 when she was drafted by Brown as an associate dean to lead the school’s online initiative. After serving as head of the accountancy department for two and one-half years, Elliott was given the new assignment just as the COVID pandemic was in full force in February of 2020. It was one of the most traumatic and chaotic times to lead. The American economy was in shambles. By the end of May in that year, more than 100,000 Americans had died of COVID-19, and the U.S. constituted 30% of all cases globally, with the numbers still rising. 

At the time, some of her colleagues expressed concern that her timing was bad. She was taking over the iMBA when it had already experienced incredible growth, from a standing start four years earlier to a total enrollment of nearly 3,000 students. Her colleagues believed there was just no way that anyone could sustain that kind of growth.


Elliott more than aced the test, successfully leading a dramatic expansion of Gies’ online student enrollment with an equally dramatic scaling of staff to support those programs. Under her leadership, the school’s flagship iMBA program, one of the most disruptive higher education products of this era, became the fastest-growing MBA program in the world.

When she took on the role, 2,792 students were enrolled in the iMBA. After her first year in the job, enrollment jumped by 62% to 4,524. It reached a peak of 5,435 in 2022, nearly double the size since being named associate dean. Gies iMBA was named the MBA Program of the Year in 2022 by Poets&Quants.

Last year, 4,898 students were studying for an iMBA, with a remarkable 96% satisfaction rate, a 92% retention rate and nine out of ten students saying they would recommend the program to others. Student outcomes, moreover, equal or exceed any prestige in-person Executive MBA program costing five or more times the Gies online option. Some 65% of the iMBA students report a promotion, a job offer or had accepted a new position during the program, with an average pay increase of 25%.


While successfully scaling the school’s iMBA program, Elliott was also launching new online degree programs, including Gies’ Master in Management in October of 2020. Within 18 months, the program attracted more than 1,000 early-career learners and now boasts  an international student population of 32% from 86 countries.

Her fingerprints on the school are everywhere. Elliott created a new graduate credential at the university, launching a portfolio of 13 stackable graduate certificates. She successfully proposed, led, and implemented a new and innovative campus policy that allows one graduate degree to fully stack into another, and she spearheaded the search for a new assistant dean of educational innovation, doubling the size of Gies teaching & learning team.

In her earlier years in leadership roles, as the academic director of undergradute affairs, Elliott led a group that designed the existing undergraduate core curriculum. She also added business analytics as a core sequence where every Gies undergraduate learns a programming language to provide a foundation for higher level major courses.


When she headed up Gies accounting department from 2017 to 2020, she grew the faculty by 14 professors, increasing tenure-track women by 50% from 23% to 31% of the tenure-track faculty. She also put in place a matched faculty mentor program across disciplines and developed and led a women faculty mentor group. Elliott launched an online Master of Science in Accountancy program and launched a data analytics concentration in graduate programs and achieved STEM-designation. She has developed and taught several financial reporting and analysis courses to learners ranging from undergraduates to executives.

Elliott earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master of Business Administration with an accounting focus from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 1999. Her husband, Robin, graduated from Kelley the same year with his BS in accounting and then followed her to Urbana-Champaign where he earned an MS in accounting. She joined the faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign after earning her PhD in accounting from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.  Her husband followed her to Urbana, earning his MS in accounting when she was an assistant professor at the school. They have been married for 25 years.

Her research focuses on determinants of investors’ use of accounting information in their investment-related judgments and decisions; the relation between accounting information/disclosures and investor sentiment; and managers’ strategic use of and investor response to non-GAAP (i.e. pro forma) earnings disclosures.



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