Big Catches for Two Big B-Schools


University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business announced on Mar. 31 that its nearly two-year search for a new dean had come to an end. The following morning, Columbia Business School announced the name of its new dean. Columbia has tapped resident professor R. Glenn Hubbard, a B-school economist and former economic adviser to President George W. Bush. USC has given the nod to Yash Gupta, current dean at the University of Washington's business school.

At first glance, Hubbard and Gupta seem to have little in common. Hubbard, a well-known economist, is taking over at prestigious Columbia, No. 7 on BusinessWeek's biennial list. Gupta, a management professor, will lead a school that has risen steadily to No. 17. Yet the two new appointess share similar goals: to revamp the MBA curriculum, enhance executive education, expand their schools' global links, and to keep every stakeholder happy at the same time.

MUSICAL CHAIRS. The breadth of their goals underscores why filling a deanship can be such a tough job. Searches often last four to nine months, but USC's search took 19. At any give time over the past five years, about 10% of accredited business schools have been searching for new deans, says John Kuhnle, managing director of the education practice at Korn/Ferry International.

At top B-schools, the fight for new deans has been especially intense. Since 2000, deanships at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia's Darden School, among others, have all changed hands.

The schools are often fishing in the same small pond for prospects. "There are never enough good people to go around," says Kuhnle. Able candidates -- often faculty or corporate moguls -- are a dime a dozen, but few are willing to leave their current, often better-paid roles for a stressful deanship that can be considerably less lucrative. Base salaries can hover in the $250,000 to $300,000 range at a top-30 business school, before other perks are added to cushion the deal.

Hubbard says his plans for Columbia's curriculum will encourage students to think more about entrepreneurship. "Economists have identified [entrepreneurship] as one of the greatest factors in American economic success...coming from organizational and financial flexibility, as well as technological change and innovation," he says. Hubbard is quick to point out that entrepreneurship isn't just about starting a business from scratch. Business schools do a good job helping students value opportunities, he says, but students first need a hand identifying opportunities.

PUBLIC TO PRIVATE.The Los Angeles-bound dean Gupta is hoping for a "social entrepreneurship" theme: doing good for the world while -- hopefully -- turning a profit. "What could be a better laboratory than what you see in L.A.?" he asks. Gupta also has plans to build on USC's strengths in medicine and communications. "Put it all together, and you can have a phenomenal business school that's focused on innovation," he says.

Both Hubbard and Gupta hope to beef up their executive-education operations, but USC has a long way to go before it reaches Columbia's league. Gupta wants to build out USC's exec-MBA programs and put its tiny exec-ed business on the map. He may be able to do it: While at Washington, Gupta says he boosted nondegree, exec-ed revenue to about $5 million, up from $1 million when he started.

At USC, which doesn't rank in BusinessWeek's measure of the best schools for executive education, his targets are similar: USC's exec-ed revenues for 2002-03 were reported as a mere $2.2 million, vs. Columbia's $17.4 million.

What's left for B-schools to tap abroad? Hubbard thinks it's time to increase Columbia's global presence beyond its established programs and partnerships. Gupta wants to explore further links between Marshall and Latin America and Asia -- beyond its new executive MBA program in China -- in the hope of attracting more students from those regions to the California campus.

PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE. Gupta, 51, is arguably taking on more of a challenge at USC. While it has consistently risen in BusinessWeek's ratings of full-time MBA programs, it doesn't have as strong a brand -- or established identity -- as many of its competitors. That could help explain why USC struggled to fill a deanship that had been listed in classifieds since August, 2002.

It offers some pluses, however. USC is private, so Gupta won't have to weave through state bureaucracy anymore when he alters a program. His domain has grown substantially, too. At Washington, he was dean of about 2,400 students, 100 full-time faculty members, and 35,000 alumni. At the Marshall School, he'll oversee more than 5,800 students, 181 full-time faculty members, and stroke 70,000 B-school alumni for checks.

Gupta also has some fund-raising to do. Despite a successful capital campaign at USC, which channeled $170 million to the B-school in December, 2002, he'll have to find more cash to pay for a new building for the Marshall faculty (right next door to a $20 million student building that opened in 1999). While Gupta was at Washington, he raised $62 million for the B-school. He's leaving just a few months before the school launches a capital campaign to raise $205 million, with $100 million earmarked for a new building.

Hubbard, who served as chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors from 2001-03, is far more controversial than Gupta. After all, he helped shape the Administration's tax cut and economic stimulus plan. Their efficacy is still in question in some circles, as experts point to growth in various industry sectors, but so subpar job expansion and continued pressure on American workers to increase productivity.

FAST LEARNERS. While Hubbard, 45, says his economic viewpoints will play into his role at the school, he insists it wasn't his political bent that won him the dean's office. Professor Paul Glasserman, chair of the search committee, says Columbia was looking for someone with "a deep appreciation for the academic mission of the school," who is "capable of further elevating the school's research and teaching," among other things.

One of Hubbard's specific goals for Columbia is to make its research relevant to everyday managers. "We need to find more ways to get the ideas faculty are working on into business practice," he says.

One final similarity is a serious pressure to lift their B-schools' reputations higher. But with ever-higher expectations among students, alumni, faculty, and the companies that buy into B-school students and programs, these deans will learn an important lesson quickly: Having a grand plan for a school is one thing, but getting it done is another. By Mica Schneider in London and Jennifer Merritt in New York


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