Wharton Professor Tapped as New Sloan School Dean; First Outsider in 40 Years—the Inside Reaction

For the first time in more than 40 years, MIT’s Sloan School of Management has reached outside its own ranks to pick a dean, tapping the deputy dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School to help expand its reach.

The new Sloan leader will be 52-year-old David C. Schmittlein, a longtime professor of marketing. The Boston Globe‘s Rob Weisman nicely frames the issues confronting Sloan, which is a perennial top-ranked management school but not quite as widely esteemed as Wharton or Harvard Business School. “I do think there are great opportunities to make Sloan more visible and more deeply engaged with business leaders,” Schmittlein told the Globe. The new dean said he hopes to boost enrollment and faculty by at least 10 percent. Sloan currently plays host to 750 full-time MBA students and 101 professors and other faculty, making it roughly half the size of Wharton, Weisman notes.

Schmittlein, who will begin his term on Oct. 15, succeeds Richard Schmalensee, who announced last June that he was returning to teaching after serving nine years as dean.

Provost Rafael Reif notified faculty and students yesterday via e-mail in advance of today’s public disclosure. In his message, Reif called Schmittlein “a noted scholar, international marketing consultant and widely published author and commentator.” He added that, “Professor Schmittlein is well-known for his research on the impact of a firm’s marketing actions, designing market and survey research, and creating effective communication, promotion, and interactive marketing strategies. His current work focuses on marketing research methods, models for marketing decisions, advertising, new product development, market segmentation and direct marketing.”

Reif also cited a list of leading academic journals where Schmittlein had published; notably, the list did not include MIT’s own Sloan Management Review. Schmittlein’s bio is here.

The hunt for a new dean was led by an impressive mix of insiders and outsiders. The search advisory committee was chaired by Gabriel Bitran, Sloan’s deputy dean. Seven other Sloan or MIT professors served on the committee, as did an advisory group that included Alex d’Arbeloff, co-founder and former CEO of Teradyne, Desh Deshpande, founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks, and Carly Fiorina, former chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

The choice of an outsider clearly has raised some eyebrows. “It’s what the search committee felt was appropriate for Sloan at this time,” says Paul Denning, Sloan director of media relations. He adds that Reif has cited the need to enhance visibility and engagement in the business community—and that Schmittlein seemed the best choice for doing that.

To learn more about the inside reaction, we pinged a few Sloan faculty or staff members, most of them Xconomists, for their comments.

Bill Aulet, a senior lecturer at Sloan and Entrepreneur in Residence at The MIT Entrepreneurship Center, replied: “As an insider, I really like the team they had to pick the new dean, so it looked like a good process. They took their time to get to the conclusion, which is probably good. The person looks very good but is not a Sloan insider, grad, or any connection that I can tell—which begs the question why? I like to think he is just that good.”

Ken Morse, managing director of The MIT Entrepreneurship Center and also a Sloan senior lecturer known for his dry humor: “We warmly welcome our new Dean. If he has not yet experienced the magic of MIT’s special brand of high tech entrepreneurship, that is not a problem! Here in Kendall Square and at MIT we have a strong, world class entrepreneurial ecosystem. He will get access to the best teachers and friendly mentors…and he will have the full support of all of us at The MIT Entrepreneurship Center and the many other members of our community. Almost 40% of this year’s incoming MBA class expressed keen interest in being entrepreneurs at some point in their careers. At MIT, the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is in our DNA, and in the walls of the place. It is easy to become contaminated.”

Howard Anderson, William Porter Distinguished Lecturer at Sloan and a big fan of punctuation: “I think the answer is that they benefit from going outside…they needed someone with serious academic cred…this still is mit….but who was also mainstream…and nothing is more mainstream than wharton (says Howard, a U of P graduate). mit recruits a different kind of student…than harvard or wharton….everyone else gives good or even great lip service to technology…at mit…..it’s how they define themselves… having said that,,, mit. probably needs to expand the box….to make their degree more relevant in todays world… to make their graduates more likely to get the corner office….right now mit sloan grads get put in a box….”great at technology”…. but other graduates…harvard, stanford, seem to be making more progress… and wharton just about owns wall street. sloan is always listed as one of the top five mba prorgams…but it is different… his challenge is to keep the differences, but to expand the franchise.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and chairman. You can email him at bbuderi@xconomy.com. Follow @bbuderi

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One response to “Wharton Professor Tapped as New Sloan School Dean; First Outsider in 40 Years—the Inside Reaction”

  1. akoyfman says:

    One important piece of Dean Schmittlein’s bio is that he is a Brown University alumnus. Those of us who were lucky to have gone both to Brown and MIT Sloan would like to extend our welcome as well.