A Chat with Northwestern's New Dean

Dipak Jain, dean of Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management, shares his vision for the school's future

This summer, a number of top-rated business schools have changed deans. The leadership shift brings new faces and styles to schools that have held some of BusinessWeek's top-ranked positions.

In upcoming weeks, BusinessWeek Online will be running a brief series of interviews to introduce you to some of the new deans. Our third guest is Dipak C. Jain of Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management, ranked No. 2 on BusinessWeek's biennial MBA rankings in September, 2000. A professor who has spent the past 15 years at Kellogg, Jain has juggled consulting jobs, teaching loads in the MBA and executive programs, and enough research to cover 20 published articles in leading journals. He took over the position held for 26 years by Don Jacobs. For the past five years, Jain was dean for academic affairs.

He was our guest on July 23, 2001, and spoke with Mica Schneider , BusinessWeek Online's reporter covering management education. Here's an edited transcript of their discussion:

Q: Dean Jain, we spoke in May, when Kellogg first announced that you'd replace Don Jacobs as dean. At the time, you said that there was "no need for any changes" at the B-school. Two months on the job, has your opinion changed?


No. There are not major structural changes. We don't need to change the curriculum, but within the curriculum, we need to make sure that the more we integrate theory and practice, the better we are. Every professor can do that because part of the theory would come from the research they do, and so if they can show the relevance of their research, they strengthen the foundation of the student knowledge base.

One thing for sure that is happening is that the market conditions have changed significantly. Business of management education is also driven by what happens in the marketplace.

Q: Deans tend to say that B-school enrollment is countercyclical.


Absolutely. It's countercyclical in the following sense: When business is bad, you get more applications. People think that this is the time to go to school.

Q: Isn't a souring economy also the time that recruiters decide to hold off on hiring MBAs?


No. From a recruiter's point of view, they cannot take pause. That's because you always want to sample the quality of students coming out [of MBA programs]. It's not good for any company not to come on campus, because they need a feel for what the crowd looks like.

For example, I was in charge of [faculty] recruiting for the marketing department. Suppose I don't have an open position, I still would look at the professors' market just to see what kinds of people are there. And sometimes I would recruit someone who's good this year, since you don't get such people all the time. So we need to take a broader perspective on recruiting rather than trying to optimize in the short run.

Q: You're already traveling quite a bit, returning just yesterday from the Philippines. What interest does Evanston, Ill.-based Kellogg have in that region?


I spent a day meeting with our alumni. We don't have that large a group [of alumni in the Philippines], but they're the most active group of all the Kellogg alumni clubs. The group meets once a month, religiously. We had alums come from there as [far back] as 1955. We picked a nice spot, the Manila Golf Club, and I spoke for about two hours about my vision for Kellogg, the priorities, and the role our alumni can play in shaping and implementing that vision. I also spoke about how the Philippines can become more competitive in the global arena, and the [country's] need to focus on biotechnology, primarily in the agricultural sector. Then, I talked about how the alumni can keep in touch with Kellogg, challenges such as market consolidations, and took questions from the audience.

Q: So you're of the camp of deans that's trying to offer more to alumni in an effort to keep them roped into B-school affairs?


One of my initiatives definitely is to use my first year as an opportunity to connect with active alumni around the world and to tell them what I expect from them.

The way I look at it is that the alumni are such a big resource for any business school that it isn't good for schools not to tap into that resource. If there is any segment that has the highest loyalty [to the school], it's the alums.

Q: What is it that you expect from Kellogg alums?


Several things. At Kellogg, we interview every candidate. I want to create a consistent view of Kellogg and a consistent review process of the candidate, such that we truly create a global Kellogg brand [as alumni tell people] what makes the school an exciting and stimulating environment. I want our [alumni] interviewers to have a common vocabulary.

The second thing [concerns] brand. In the Philippines, for example, when someone is thinking of applying to a management education program, Kellogg should be among the top three schools they consider. Brand means that when you talk the product, your name pops in. When people talk of cars, Ford has to come [into the conversation], otherwise Ford doesn't have a product. So I've been talking to alums, asking them -- these people are well connected, and in Asia, they're in high places -- to do whatever they can to promote our brand. At least they can tell people what differentiates Kellogg from other schools.

Q: Still, you can't fly to Manila every week to stay connected to alumni.


No, and they don't want that, either. What is important is for the alumni to have continuing education, or what we call MBA Update. I told the alumni about the program in Hong Kong. We have an alliance with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to offer the executive MBA. Our faculty go there to teach in this program, so I mentioned it to the alumni group in response to a question about Kellogg starting an executive MBA in Manila, which is just an hour-and-a-half flight from Hong Kong.

Since the alumni are meeting once a month, we can plan meetings where some faculty member who comes to teach in Hong Kong for the EMBA program could easily make a trip to Manila and talk to them about the new developments in his or her specialty area. The faculty presence in Hong Kong can make the MBA Update a regular series [in Manila].

Q: Can e-learning enter the picture, if schools are focusing more on alumni? Does MBA Update play a role?


That is also true. We've created the MBA Update last year. We held one at Kellogg and one in Paris. When we do this lecture, we create a CD-ROM that we send to alumni. So now in the Philippines, when they get together to meet, together they will watch those tapes or CDs, have a small discussion group around it, send me feedback about their response to those tapes, and also questions that they have pertaining to their environment. The whole point is that there has to be a dialogue; [learning] can't be one-way. We are creating an e-learning device that we can use throughout the world.

Q: Good ties to alumni can help pad the pockets of Kellogg's endowment, as well.


Of course. But the [thing] about donations isn't to get $10 from everyone. If you hit one good alumnus, or one good person, then you get the best return on your investment.

Q: We spoke with another new dean last week, Robert Dolan [see BW Online, 7/30/01, "A Talk With Michigan's New Dean"] from Michigan Business School. He spent some time talking about the new Michigan message for recruiters, alumni, students, and the business community in general. What's Kellogg's new message?


I'm a big believer in this concept of a nice combination of rigor and relevance. Kellogg management education is a good combination of how you tackle business problems in a structured, analytical way. And at the same time, the framework you have should have relevance to business decisionmaking. We're not doing this for classroom purpose. We need to demonstrate how it's worked for leading companies. All schools are moving in that direction, and that's the right direction. But the recruiters need to learn that these students are well trained both in theory and practice.

[Now,] I think that we're getting it, but we're not connecting the theory to practice the way we should be.

Q: Does that mean that the case study hasn't been effective?


No, it has been [effective]. But here's my philosophy as a teacher. When I teach a Monday class, which is generally a lecture, I present concepts, tools, and techniques. On Thursday, I apply those tools and techniques to a real case and show them other illustrations to make sure that they don't think that this will happen in all cases. And I also show them what kind of market information they need to implement a framework. That means I can connect my lecture to the case and demonstrate the link between what I tell them that we should do and then, in the case, show them what would happen in either scenario. Simply teaching case studies isn't the way to achieve the result. We need to come up with the right frameworks, which are more general, global, or broader. Then you can show the illustrations of this framework in different situations and then demonstrate that to students.

We aren't in the business of finding the right answers -- because who knows what the right answers are? We're in the business of teaching MBA students the process. Outcomes or results are the sight. The process to reach the outcome is the insight. So B-schools should be focused on the process of how to achieve certain results. Getting 30% market share may be the outcome, but the question is: what did they do to reach that, and what prevents other companies from doing it? Those are the items of discussion that are more in-depth and challenging to the students in the class.

Q: What needs to change in management education?


When we're doing management education today, we need to think about how we focus more on people skills -- and then spend more [time] on how we help these students harness their own potential. Each individual has significant energy and skills within him or her. We have not done a good job in sharpening the inner intellect. One should cope with work pressures, family demands, social obligations by harnessing the power within. In other words, I mean personality development [internal] as opposed to career development [external]. Knowledge is external; wisdom is internal.

Management faculty in the future would be short in supply because there's not much growth or interest in the PhD. What is the solution? To hire more people -- the brightest and the best -- from the basic disciplines, such as mathematics, statistics, economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and others. Then, expose [those people] to business problems. They come in with special skills that are needed to solve complex, unstructured management issues today. Kellogg started this in the early 1970s and 1980s and created a world-class faculty over time. I came with a background in mathematics and statistics.

Q: How many new faculty members does Kellogg need?


Right now, I'm talking to almost every department, including executive education, to see what their needs are. I don't believe in a quota; I'm asking each department for a plan that they have for growth over the next five years. Once I do that, I'll have a better number in mind.

Q: BusinessWeek has given a lot of attention to the future of management education. What's your vision?


Companies are hiring non-MBAs. They're putting them into analyst jobs, for instance, and then they want the people to have a formal training in business education. That means that there would be an increased demand of what I call short-term, MBA-type programs [held] for specific companies.

These programs aren't in-house MBAs, and this is different from executive education. When they come here for 10 or 20 weeks, there would be a kind of evaluation, just as we do in the MBA program. It may not be a grade, but it gives them some feedback about the work [they do]. I'm not clear what the final program would look like, but the training is...maybe three months to a year.

Q: Has Kellogg begun such work?


Yes, we have a 12-week summer program that started with Andersen Consulting, now Accenture. We teach them all of the core courses in our MBA program. We've also done the same kind of thing for Societe Generale, though they come for a shorter duration. They also send their mid-level people.

We have been exploring this market because [such] relationships can develop so that the [companies] become [MBA] recruiters. I'm not sure I want to optimize (the program), since I also have to look at the resources I have to train the faculty.

We're also fortunate in that we have a one-year MBA program. We have lots of people who come from companies that wouldn't spare their people for two years, but are willing to give them a year off to get an MBA.

Q: Dipak, few U.S. B-schools can say that their dean holds a passport from another country as you do, from India. Is management education in the U.S. becoming more global?


In the last 10 years, when the economy became global, the professors also became very global. The same companies that the professors were doing consulting work for in the U.S. invited them to their Asian and European divisions. When they started to travel abroad, they [gained] examples that they now use in their teaching. Overall, I think that U.S. education is getting extremely global.

However, there is one thing where we need more work to be done: knowledge creation. With our global program at Kellogg -- we started a business school in India on July 1 -- I want the business schools that are there to produce good, interesting case studies and articles. They would be good [additions] in the U.S. since we don't have as many cases from those parts of the world -- for instance, managing family business in the Philippines or entrepreneurship in India. We can create more knowledge and material that can be used in India, Hong Kong, and back here at Kellogg. So rather than teaching in my executive program six cases, which are predominantly from the U.S. or Europe, I can add one or two Asian cases. It's more enriching.

[Editor's note: Dean Jain will still teach two courses this fall and has increased the number of doctoral students he advises to three.]

Q: You have described the typical week as a professor as working seven days a week, starting at 7 a.m. most days. How has that changed now that you're dean?


It has become worse. The difference between my earlier job and the new job is symbolic in that I had been the dean for academic affairs for five years at Kellogg. I was doing almost all of the work earlier, but fortunately if something went wrong, I could blame it on [Dean] Jacobs. Now, I have no one to blame it on. I have two more things -- to be responsible and accountable for every action. I also have significant added responsibilities, such as alumni relations, fundraising, corporate relationships, university relations, and media and external relations.

Q: How, then, do you encourage business students to lead healthy, balanced lives?


To me, if you enjoy doing something, then you feel like that's where you get the maximum pleasure. People should definitely have a nice balance between their professional and personal lives. That's why one major change I made in Kellogg after I became dean was to split my former job as associate dean in two. Nobody should do what I did for five years. Now there are two associate deans for academic affairs. The first, David Besanko, is in charge of curriculum and teaching. He's our star teacher in management and strategy. The other, Robert Magee, is in charge of faculty and research, and the PhD. program comes under his group. He is in the accounting department. In business terms, one is the associate dean of demand, and the other [is] associate dean of supply.

Q: What can the B-school expect from you as dean?


They'll get a person who is a good listener, that's for sure. One of the communication skills we need to teach to our MBAs is [to have] good listening skills. When I was dean of faculty, and someone was angry, I would just listen and let the person complete his or her story. I won't say anything at this time. Later on, after analyzing, I'll tell the person what I wanted to say the first day. At that time, the person will be more receptive. You have to have an open-door policy and transparent communication. Nothing should be a black box, and people should know where you stand. Never do anything in life you think you can hide. Always do everything as if it will be open [to the world] tomorrow. Yesterday, I was just like my colleagues, tomorrow I will be the same. This is a temporary role.

Q: Your predecessor held the role for 25 years. Will you?


Nobody will guarantee it. I've completed 23 days, and I haven't been fired yet. The duration isn't in your control, I never think like that. I do the best at this moment and keep doing. In my first term, I'd like to see if I can achieve something fruitful for Kellogg and for management education. I want to motivate my people -- it's best we all work together, and then let's see what happens.

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