From the Dean 

Initial Thoughts

Dean Sunil Kumar

Image by Matthew Gilson

It is an honor to introduce myself as dean of Chicago Booth to our community of more than 45,000 alumni. Your accomplishments in a wide variety of sectors across the globe reflect the caliber and values of the school and help sustain its reputation. I feel privileged to be part of this outstanding community.

In the five months between accepting the position of dean and actually arriving in Hyde Park to begin my tenure, I’ve had several opportunities to meet faculty, students, staff, friends of the school, and especially alumni. These interactions not only made me feel very welcome but also provided opportunities to reflect on Chicago Booth as it is now, where we collectively would like to be in a few years, and what we can do together to achieve our shared vision.

Chicago Booth is certainly in a fantastic position, thanks in no small part to my predecessor, Ted Snyder, who has my best wishes in his future endeavors. I also want to thank interim dean Harry Davis and deputy deans Stacey Kole, Richard Leftwich, and Mark Zmijewski for harnessing the energetic spirit shared by faculty, students, staff, and alumni to maintain the organization’s focus and momentum through this transition. I find, as each of you did in your time at Booth, that this internal drive is shaped by the organization’s shared values: the importance of ideas and of pursuing truth via vigorous debate; respect for the individual and for conclusions rooted in facts and data; and a continuous push to improve our state of knowledge and practice.

As I begin my deanship, it is important for me to articulate to you the framework that will guide my decisions. I believe that change for change’s sake, carried out without careful evaluation, is not productive, especially in an outstanding school like Chicago Booth. In my opinion, there are three criteria an idea must meet before it can be put into action: It should help keep Chicago Booth at the forefront of management research and education; it should be consistent with our values; and it should be something that we can execute extremely well. Given my background in operations research, I view this as a constrained optimization problem—maximizing impact subject to our values by deploying the school’s resources in the manner that is most effective.

While there are no obvious problems to “fix” in the short term, the transition provides an opportune moment to take stock of important issues. Two aspects of the school on which we will concentrate in the near term are the evaluation of Chicago Booth’s global strategy, and how to enhance relationships with alumni and external constituencies. As previously announced, a Global Strategy Assessment Committee consisting of faculty leaders, led by Harry Davis as chair and including professors Pradeep Chintagunta, John Huizinga, Christian Leuz, Bernd Wittenbrink, and Luigi Zingales, will review our global programs, resources, and infrastructure. The goal is to ensure that Chicago Booth maintains its preeminence in global management research and education in a rapidly changing world. Also, I am in the process of forming an Alumni and External Relations Committee, consisting of faculty, senior staff, and alumni leaders, that will review and suggest enhancements to the school’s interaction with its crucial partners. Both committees will search widely for input and I look forward to both your ideas and their recommendations.

In the long run, I consider it my primary mission to enhance and broaden Chicago Booth’s impact and reputation in all its intellectual endeavors, consistent with our history and values. I would like to see the school continue to enhance its outstanding impact and reputation in finance, economics, and accounting. I would like to see this complemented with equally outstanding impact and reputation in a wide array of areas, from the behavioral sciences to operations research, from marketing to entrepreneurship. We are well on our way toward this goal as this issue of the magazine makes clear—see Critical Dialogues on Fault Lines (page 18) and the story on Groupon’s cofounders (page 14) as cases in point.

At Chicago Booth the vigorous interaction of outstanding minds produces light, not heat. I am truly thrilled to serve as dean in such a stimulating and productive environment. Many of you have reached out to welcome me to this community—thank you for your ideas, support, and encouragement. I look forward to getting to know you better in the months and years ahead.


Sunil Kumar
Dean and Professor of Operations Management

Last Updated 3/2/11