Sunil Kumar Appointed Dean of Chicago Booth

Sunil Kumar

Image by Matthew Gilson

Sunil Kumar, Fred H. Merrill Professor of Operations, Information, and Technology and an expert in operations research at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. University president Robert Zimmer and provost Thomas Rosenbaum announced the appointment July 28.

Kumar served as the Stanford business school’s senior associate dean for academic affairs. In this role, he oversaw the school’s MBA program and led the faculty groups in marketing and organizational behavior. His five-year term as dean at Chicago Booth will begin on January 1, 2011.

“Chicago Booth has been consistently recognized among the top business schools in the world, and its faculty, students, and alumni are global intellectual leaders who continue to shape the world of business and its disciplinary underpinnings,” Zimmer and Rosenbaum wrote in a joint email to the Chicago Booth community. “We are delighted that Sunil Kumar has agreed to serve as dean. He brings the right blend of vision, entrepreneurial energy, and academic leadership that will build on the contributions of Chicago Booth at a time of tremendous momentum and achievement.”

Kumar succeeds Edward A. Snyder, who completed nine years as Chicago Booth’s dean on June 30. Harry Davis, Roger L. and Rachel M. Goetz Distinguished Service Professor of Creative Management, is serving as interim dean until January 1.

“I am excited to become dean of Chicago Booth,” Kumar said. “I share the school’s passion for the pursuit of ideas that hold up under careful scrutiny. I look forward to helping strengthen and enhance Booth’s outstanding research environment and its rigorous, discipline-based approach to business education. I am eager to get to know the faculty, students, alumni, and staff of the school and to engage with the business community in the city of Chicago.”

Kumar joined the Stanford faculty in 1996 after receiving a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At Stanford he taught courses in operations management, technology, critical analytical thinking, and revenue management. His research interests include performance evaluation and control of manufacturing systems, service operations, and communications networks. Kumar co-developed a widely used factory simulator for teaching operations management. The simulator, “Littlefield Technologies,” has been used in classes at more than 50 business and engineering schools. He has published dozens of scholarly research articles and has served as the editor of the stochastic models area of the journal Operations Research.

At Stanford, Kumar was awarded the Finmeccanica Faculty Scholarship, named a Spence Faculty Scholar, and received multiple teaching commendations. He also was named professor of the year at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.

Born in India, Kumar received a master of engineering degree in computer science and automation from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and a bachelor of engineering degree from Mangalore University in Surathkal.

“The entire search committee is thrilled that professor Sunil Kumar will be our next dean,” said John Huizinga, chairman of the dean search committee and Walter David “Bud” Fackler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics. “We are confident that his vision, integrity, intelligence, energy, and commitment will ensure that Chicago Booth continues its positive momentum. We expect that under his guidance Booth will reach an even higher level of achievement and recognition.”—A.F.

How Faculty Found Booth’s New Dean

Tasked with recommending a new dean for Chicago Booth, a committee of seven tenured faculty members decided the best tactic was to cast the widest net possible, said John Huizinga, Walter David “Bud” Fackler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, who chaired the committee.

“We were looking for expertise, for someone with a solid understanding of how top business schools operate and an ambitious vision for what our school can accomplish. We were looking for someone who relates well to and effectively communicates with all the constituencies, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, the business community, the university community, and others,” Huizinga said. “The new dean has all of this. He’s truly impressive.”

The committee unanimously recommended Sunil Kumar, Fred H. Merrill Professor of Operations, Information, and Technology, at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, to university president Robert Zimmer, who announced Kumar’s appointment in July.

Huizinga told the Wall Street Journal, “If you have the right outsider, it can be a great benefit. Sunil has the key decision-making skills, acquires the necessary amount of information before he acts, and is inclusive. He’s the whole package.”

Search committee member Canice Prendergast, W. Allen Wallis Professor of Economics, said it was quickly apparent that Kumar grasped the unique challenges of running a business school. “One reason we were so impressed with Sunil is that he’s able to think strategically in a world of conflicting objectives where what you do for one constituency affects other constituencies. And he’s really good at thinking about how those levers all move at the same time. We were super-impressed by him on that dimension,” he said.

Committee members also connected easily with Kumar on a fundamental level. “We spoke with many different people, but with Sunil, very quickly it became as if we were speaking to one of us, even though he was from outside,” Prendergast said. “It was as if we were speaking to someone who had been at the school for 20 years.”

In addition to Prendergast and Huizinga, committee members included Douglas Diamond, Merton H. Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow; Reid Hastie, Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science; Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Raghuram Rajan, Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance; and Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and David G. Booth Faculty Fellow.—P.H.

Technology Firm Takes Top Prize

With a record of early success, education technology start-up Watermelon Express won first place and $30,000 in the 14th annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.

The firm delivers interactive test preparation applications across multiple platforms, such as smart phones, tablet PCs, laptops, and desktops. The company is run by Ashish Rangnekar, now a second-year student in the Full-Time MBA Program.

Watermelon Express stood out because of its innovation and the fact that it is already succeeding as a start-up, said Prashant Shah, ’93, one of the judges for the final competition. “They’re tapping into a real shift in what’s happening with technology,” Shah said. “The trend toward college prep is huge. That industry has been established. Now they are taking advantage of how that industry is implementing technology - things like the iPad, iPhone, Android, etc.”

Watermelon Express has received funding from Lightbank, a fund launched Groupon founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell to seed Chicago start-ups. Lefkofsky and Keywell have agreed to teach an entrepreneurship course at Chicago Booth during winter quarter.

Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and faculty director of the Polsky Center, said this year’s finalist pool was the strongest ever. Judges raised the prize pool by 50 percent, from $50,000 to $75,000, in order to give some funding to all nine teams who reached the finals.

To date, the NVC has awarded $675,000 and has helped launch more than 60 companies, which have gone on to raise more than $100 million in equity capital.—P.F.

Gift Supports Planned Fama-Miller Center

Longtime friends of the University of Chicago Leslie and John “Mac” McQuown made a $25 million gift to Chicago Booth in June in appreciation of Eugene Fama, Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, and Nobel laureate Merton Miller, who held the chair until he retired in 1993. “The work done by Gene Fama and Merton Miller represents the underpinnings  both theoretical and empirical - of modern finance,” McQuown said.

McQuown is cofounder and director of Diversified Credit Investments, a San Francisco, California–based investment firm. He led the team at Wells Fargo that in 1971 created the first index fund, based on Fama’s efficient markets hypothesis and McQuown’s own belief that computers and quantitative analysis could measure risk and return for virtually the entire equity market.

This gift will serve as the initial building block for Chicago Booth’s planned Fama-Miller Center, which will support and promote the research of what is widely regarded as the world’s best finance faculty.

“With this gift, the planned Fama-Miller Center will have a terrific source of support upon its launch, enabling it to more quickly realize its goals,” said then-dean Edward Snyder when the gift was announced. “In vividly acknowledging the depth and importance of their relationship to Gene, Merton, and the finance faculty at Chicago Booth, Mac and Leslie McQuown are truly endorsing the power of ideas at the University of Chicago.”—A.F.

Last Updated 12/14/10