Forum begins search for next business school dean

By Dale Shoemaker / Staff Writer

A forum Tuesday opened the search for a new dean of Pitt’s College of Business Administration and Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

The current dean, John Delaney, announced mid-September that he will step down from his position because he believes organizations need new leadership to stay innovative. 

Delaney will remain in his position until the University finds a successor.

Former Chancellor Mark Nordenberg heads the search committee that will select candidates for the position. The Board of Trustees and Provost will make the final appointment based on suggestions from the committee. The committee, selected by the Board of Trustees and Provost, heard comments from current University faculty, staff and alumni associated with the business school. 

Nordenberg, who now serves as the chairman of the Institute of Politics, said the committee plans to have a new dean by next summer.

“At the outset, we have to cast a very vast net, both in terms of identifying candidates and in terms of receiving the thoughtful perspectives of those within the University community,” Nordenberg said. 

The University hired Witt/Kieffer, a higher education search firm, to help recruit candidates for the committee to review. John Thornburgh, a representative from Witt/Kieffer, attended the forum.

Thornburgh said the firm specializes in finding job candidates for higher education and academic medicine positions. Witt/Kieffer, based in Oak Brook, Ill., previously worked with the University in 2012 to recruit William M. Carter, Jr. as the dean of Pitt’s School of Law.

“We’re comfortable in this arena,” he said. “I’ve got a good feel for this campus’ culture.”

Nordenberg said the forum was meant to be “a listening session for the members of the selection committee.” 

Committee members include David Denis, Andrew Stephen, John Harry Evans III and Vanitha Swaminithan, as well as all professors at the Katz Graduate School and Laurie J. Kirsch, vice provost for faculty development.

Kerry Soso, a second-year graduate student in the Katz school, and Courtney Slack, a junior marketing major, are also a part of the search committee. 

Thornburgh met with Pitt administrators last week and will publish an advertisement for the position online and in the Chronicle of Higher Education next week.

Slack said she is looking for a dean with a high level of energy for the position. 

“CBA is expanding at such a high rate,” she said. “The new slogan is, ‘from the classroom, to the state, to the world,’ so that requires a high level of energy and a high level of involvement.”

Last week, Bloomberg Businessweek announced the rankings of the best full-time Master of Business Administration Programs in the United States. Pitt’s Katz Graduate School was ranked 35th out of 209 after being unranked in 2012. The Katz School lost to Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, ranked 10th, but beat Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, ranked 40th.

At the forum, the search committee sat together in front of a single microphone at a long table in the William Pitt Union Ballroom. From noon to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, members of the University community voiced their opinions. The committee responded to comments from the community at points throughout the forum.

Bill Friday, the president of the Business Alumni Association, said he was “a bit concerned” the alumni association was not included in the search committee and said the move was “a bit unprecedented.”

“Our hope is that it was a bit of an oversight,” Friday said. “It’s difficult not having a voice for the next dean. We would like to ask of you to consider someone from our board to be represented.”

Nordenberg, who mediated the forum, said the search committee was not responsible for selecting its own members. 

“No one sitting at this table has any appointing authority,” he said. “We were all selected individually to participate in the search. I’ve heard your message, and we’ll take it back with us.”

Jeff Marzina, a former president of the Pittsburgh Business Alumni Association, echoed Friday’s concerns about alumni involvement.

“One thing students ask about, over and over, is more alumni involvement,” he said, “John Delaney has kept alumni in the loop. It’s important for the new dean to understand the significance of alumni involvement and the value of that.”

Other speakers were concerned with the fate of graduates from both the CBA and the Katz schools.

Kathleen Foody-Malus, vice president and senior portfolio manager at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation and Katz graduate, spoke during the open forum. She said the new dean needs to ensure undergraduates receive a well-rounded education in both computer science and economics, as well as business.

“I’ve interviewed a number of students from the undergraduate school for both internships as well as [job] opportunities,” she said. “You guys talk about collaborative efforts, there needs to be more of that at the undergraduate level. [Those] students are lacking, [and they] are our future.”