Dean Profiles: Sunil Kumar, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Business school deans are more than administrative figureheads. Their character and leadership is often reflective of an MBA program’s unique culture and sense of community. Each month, we will be profiling the dean of a top-ranking program. Today, we focus on Sunil Kumar from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Before his appointment as dean of Chicago Booth in 2011, Sunil Kumar served for 14 years on the faculty of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he was also senior associate dean for academic affairs. Kumar received a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Engineering in computer science and automation from the Indian Institute of Science, and a Bachelor of Engineering from Mangalore University. He has been the recipient of numerous honors for his teaching and research in the area of operations management and communications networks, including the 1998 Finmeccanica Faculty Scholarship from Stanford University and the 2001–2002 Professor of the Year award at the Indian School of Business.

Kumar stated in a July 2010 Wall Street Journal article on his hiring that his primary goal is “to strengthen and enhance what is already great,” while learning more “about the students, faculty and the programs.” And according to a March 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article, one of the new dean’s early moves has indeed proven to be quite a coup for the school: in that month, Chicago Booth announced that Axel Weber, the outgoing president of the German central bank (Deutsche Bundesbank) would join the MBA faculty as a visiting professor. As Kumar told the Chicago Tribune in January 2011, his goal “to enhance and broaden the impact and reputation of the school” is “not a trivial one.” He affirmed, “We have a deservedly good reputation for taking rigor seriously. … So we want to broaden, but without giving up this fundamental value.”

“I think he actually fits the personality of Chicago pretty well, because, in a sense, he’s kind of nerdy and quantitative, but at the same time, he’s pretty funny,” stated a 2012 Chicago Booth graduate we interviewed. “His personality really came out during our student events, and I would just say that he is very approachable and a ‘real’ person.”

For more information about Chicago Booth and 15 other top-ranked business schools, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guides.

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