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Chicago Booth Names Stanford GSB Professor as Its Next Dean

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The path from the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business is becoming well worn, as Chicago Booth prepares to welcome its second consecutive dean from the Palo Alto campus. Madhav Rajan, who chairs the accounting department at Stanford GSB and served as senior associate dean for academic affairs from 2010 to 2016, will take the helm at Booth on July 1st, the school announced yesterday.

Sunil Kumar, who served as Chicago Booth’s dean from 2011 until leaving to become provost of Johns Hopkins University in July 2016, also came from Stanford, where spent 14 years, ultimately in the role of senior associate dean. Since his departure, Douglas Skinner, also an accounting professor, has served as interim dean as Chicago Booth conducted a global search for a successor.   

“We sought the most outstanding candidate whose values, ambition and abilities fully comport with the distinctiveness of Chicago Booth as one of methodological rigor in its research and education, and through that commitment one of high impact on the world,” President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier said in a statement announcing Rajan’s appointment yesterday.

As senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford GSB, Rajan led the school’s MBA program, including overseeing admissions, curriculum, the student experience and career management. While at the GSB, Rajan also launched new joint-degree programs with Stanford’s engineering school and led initiatives toward greater integration of the business school within the larger university.

He also served as boss to Derrick Bolton, Stanford’s long-serving admissions director. In an interview with Clear Admit in August 2016, Rajan shared that he had, in fact, pushed Bolton to pursue other opportunities, perhaps contributing to Bolton’s decision to leave the GSB this past September to head the recently launched Knight-Hennessey Scholars Program.

“I had been encouraging him to think about other things he could do because it is a difficult job and he has been doing it for 15 years,” Rajan told Clear Admit. “The way he does it, the intensity he brings to it, the effort level—I was amazed that he did it for as long as he did it.”

A Compassionate, Supportive Leader
Rajan’s comments to Clear Admit suggest that he is a compassionate, supportive leader who offers those who work for him the autonomy to chart their own course. Of Bolton he said, “There is literally nobody at the GSB who works harder than Derrick. The amount of time, love and dedication that he puts into admissions is amazing and beyond what anyone could be expected to do. That level of commitment I have never seen from anybody, frankly.”

Asked if Bolton’s replacement (who has yet to be named) might change the school’s enduring essay prompt, Rajan offered further insight into how he leads. “That will be completely up to the new admissions director,” he said. “We have very much a notion of empowering people in their roles here, and the person hired to manage admissions will have complete latitude to run things the way he or she sees fit.”

A Beloved Teacher and Respected Scholar
Rajan has also won accolades for his teaching. In 2000, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School bestowed upon him the David W. Hauck Award, its undergraduate teaching award. He taught at Wharton before Stanford, from 1990 to 2000. Next month, he is also slated to receive the Robert T. Davis Award for lifetime service and achievement, the GSB’s highest faculty recognition.

Rajan holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Madras in his native India, as well as two master’s degrees and a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University. His research has focused primarily on analyzing management accounting issues through an economics lens, especially as they relate to the choice of internal control and performance systems in firms. Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis, which he co-authored, is the leading cost accounting textbook used around the world. He also served as editor of the Accounting Review from 2002 to 2008.

Returning to a School on the Rise
Rajan is not a stranger to Chicago Booth, having served as a visiting professor in 2007-8. In a release announcing his appointment, he expressed his respect for the school and his excitement to return. “The values I have in research and education are deeply valued at Chicago Booth,” he said. “People come here to do rigorous, empirically based research and analysis, which provides the basis for a transformative student experience and an extremely effective MBA curriculum. We have an exciting opportunity to take Booth’s deep strengths and leverage them here and around the world. I am thrilled to have the chance to be dean at what is unquestionably the greatest academic business school.”

Chicago Booth has been something of a rising star among leading MBA programs over the past decade, threatening Wharton’s previously undisputed place alongside Stanford and Harvard Business School (HBS) as the best business schools in the world. The Economist has ranked Chicago Booth the number one business school for five years running, from 2012 to 2016. And in last year’s U.S. News & World Report ranking, Booth tied with Stanford for second, behind HBS and ahead of Wharton.

Chicago Booth’s upward trajectory began under Edward Snyder, who preceded Kumar as dean from 2001 to 2010. In that time, the school almost doubled its number of endowed professorships, more than tripled its scholarship assistance to students, moved to a new Hyde Park campus, expanded its presence in Singapore, established a new campus in London, successfully completed a capital campaign and more than doubled its endowment. Snyder also successfully courted an unprecedented $300 million naming gift from alumnus David Booth before leaving to lead the Yale School of Management. Kumar continued that momentum, helping raise more than $300 million, focusing on student recruitment—including increasing the female enrollment of full-time programs from 35 percent to 42 percent—and expanding courses for undergraduates. Now it’s Rajan’s turn to take the baton. It will be interesting to see what his leadership holds in store.