the scenes in the Office of the Dean
Kellogg's new associate deans Besanko and Magee share their
School professors Robert Magee and David Besanko there will
be no more quiet chats with faculty peers over a leisurely
cup of coffee, or at least fewer such chats. The coffee, too,
is more likely to grow cool before either of the men have
the chance to enjoy it. That's what happens to the pace of
your professional life when you're called upon to join Kellogg's
Office of the Dean for a three-year term.
© Nathan Mandell
Dean David Besanko
July, Magee and Besanko became part of a senior administrative
team led by Dean Dipak C. Jain. The two peers now share the
role of associate dean for academic affairs, a position formerly
held by one person -- Dean Jain. Because of increased demands
associated with the school's development, the duties of the
office have been distributed. Specifically, Magee addresses
issues pertaining to faculty and research, while Besanko shores
up the school's curriculum and teaching agendas.
have earned reputations as exemplary scholars and teachers.
Magee is the Keith I. DeLashmutt Distinguished Professor of
Accounting Information and Management; Besanko is the Alvin
J. Huss Distinguished Professor of Management and Strategy.
© Nathan Mandell
Dean Robert Magee
joined Kellogg in 1976. He is the author of Advanced Managerial
Accounting and co-author of Efficient Capital Markets
and Accounting, and has published more than 25 articles
in accounting journals. In addition, he served for three years
as editor of The Accounting Review. In 1999 he received
the American Accounting Association's Outstanding Accounting
Educator award and in 2000 the Illinois CPA Society Outstanding
Besanko came to Kellogg in 1991. He is co-author of Economics
of Strategy, a widely used textbook on strategic management,
and has published more than 35 articles in leading professional
journals in economics and business.
The two recently shared their leadership ideas with Kellogg
Kellogg World: How are you handling the shared responsibilities
of the Office of the Dean?
In the first two weeks, we each felt like we had to know everything
that was going on. As more and more comes to the fore, we're
splitting up our duties. By the same token, we meet regularly.
Our offices are right next door to each other.
the idea of splitting the role a surprise, or was this decision
on the table for a while?
Many of the prospects we interviewed for the position of dean
had an idea along these lines. Dean Jain was the person who
articulated the plan most clearly. He understood from his
personal experience how vast this job has become now that
the school has grown.
role seems formidable for just one person. How has the transition
into the administration been for you, coming as you both do
from the faculty?
Pretty smooth. One of the reasons for that is the administrative
staff in the dean's office has been terrific. It's been very
easy to learn and collaborate with members of the team. The
thing I have missed most is hanging out with my accounting
department buddies. I can sometimes go up to the department
and have lunch with them, but that's about it.
The biggest change for me has been moving from a mode of predictability
in my daily schedule to a mode where things are more fluid.
In the Office of the Dean, half your day involves things that
you would not necessarily anticipate. Part of the challenge
for me is that during my time here as a faculty member more
than one conversation began with 'those guys in the dean's
office shouldn't be doing that.' Now I'm one of those guys.
We have met the enemy and he is us. [laughs]
Dean Jain, you both come from the academic rather than the
corporate world. Do you find this situation brings advantages
that help you do your job better?
There are pluses and minuses. We have a better understanding
about what excites academics. We understand better than a
business person might why research is important for faculty,
and how much preparation teaching demands.
sounds like a crucial distinction.
On the dean's search committee, we talked about this a lot.
We wanted someone who had an appreciation for how this place
operates. It's wrong to think of this school as not being
the real world. It is the real world. Our familiarity with
the demands faced by academics is a big plus for us. The minus
is that we don't come with a built-in set of external contacts
that a corporate person might. We have some, but it's not
like we come from consulting in which case we might have a
Rolodex full of names of people who would be helpful to the
As academics, we are not trained as managers. In a sense,
our role as a researcher and teacher is much more entrepreneurial
than managerial. We're all about going out and finding ideas,
making discoveries, finding new and interesting subjects to
teach and figuring out interesting ways of teaching those
How does Kellogg improve upon its reputation as a school
that's widely regarded as one of the very best?
Kellogg is in great shape. We've done a terrific job honing
all aspects of the student experience, from admissions to
the classroom to career management and alumni. The challenge
is building on that success without compromising all those
things we do very well. Our priorities include seeing if we're
doing everything we can to allow our faculty, especially our
younger faculty, to become world-class scholars.
concern on the part of the school has got to be attractive
to potential faculty candidates from outside Kellogg.
Absolutely. The recruiting, development and retention of faculty
is one of the most important things we have to consider, because
faculty is a scarce resource -- particularly faculty who meet
the demands of Kellogg, where they're expected to do high-level
research and to bring that research and insight into the classroom
in a way that's useful for students.
the old dichotomy between teaching and research is less pronounced
here than it might be at another institution?
Our professors are expected to be full-service faculty members.
Schools that may have had more push in one dimension or the
other are now back toward striking a balance between teaching
and research. When that happens, Kellogg faculty look pretty
Another initiative we will explore involves assessing the
current curriculum to determine whether the structure makes
sense in light of the skills that young managers need to enter
a global, knowledge-based economy. We want to see if there
are innovative majors we can develop. In the last couple years
we've developed some very interesting majors. Things like
Analytical Finance and Analytical Consulting. Are there other
kinds of depth majors of that kind that we can put together?
will you learn the answers to those questions?
Certainly there will be a task force that will involve faculty,
administrators, alumni and some students to look at that broad
set of curricular issues.
We've asked the departments to do some benchmarking to see
where we're doing well against our competition. We asked where
they think their academic fields are going, what resources
are likely to be needed for them to be at the forefront. A
lot of what we have to do in terms of the intellectual life
of the school is give people the freedom to pursue their intellectual
interests. And of course to choose the right people to join
Another aspect that Dean Jain has emphasized is alumni relations.
Are we doing everything that we can to deliver on our promise
that we make to our graduates -- that education at Kellogg
is a lifelong experience? We're continuing with the MBA Update
series that has had a successful start. Are there other programs
of that kind we should be developing? That's an important
question we will consider.
We really want to hear from our alums about this. There are
institutionalized ways in which this communication will happen.
We have the Kellogg Alumni Advisory Board, and both Bob and
I will be involved in that, but we also want to hear more
generally from our alums about what's on their minds, what
has been the usability and durability of the Kellogg education,
and what can we do to continue to add value to that.
is going on here to keep the curriculum fresh?
There are a couple new research centers. One is the Center
for International Business & Markets, and another is the
Center for Health Industry Market Economics (CHIME). The idea,
in particular with the international center, is to bring together
all the people and resources working individually around the
That center is headed by Professor Dan Spulber, who is a very
energetic person who can make things happen. He has a very
good track record as is evidenced by his building of the Journal
of Economics & Management Strategy.
Professor David Dranove will direct CHIME, and he has a well-established
record of research and intellectual output in that area.
of you, as well as Dean Jain, will continue conducting research
in addition to your administrative duties. Is this situation
beneficial to you in your new role?
Not only is research a big part of our careers, but it's also
critical that we continue to be active researchers. Neither
of us plans to stay in this job forever, so we will go back
to an academic life as scholars. Our fields are fast-moving
enough that if we don't keep working, things will pass us
If our publication rates drop while we're occupying the Office
of the Dean, I don't think that's a problem so long as we're
able to stay familiar with the research in our fields. One
of the things I hope to do now is attend some research seminars
that I've not been able to visit.
If we're going to attract other world-class faculty, it's
absolutely critical to demonstrate that Kellogg's commitment
to research starts at the very top of the organization.
do you anticipate being the hardest part of your new role?
Do you have any concern that you might you have to fire friends
at some point?
Our promotion and tenure process is very faculty-driven, so
most of us have had to make some tough decisions about our
colleagues. But I have a great deal of faith in the administrative
processes that we have instituted here to strive for excellence.
We want to feel confident that when we have to make tough
decisions that turn on research quality or output that we
are making the right call, both for Kellogg and for the person.
For us to be actively involved in research is a critical part
of having the confidence to make those hard decisions.
in this case your research interests come to bear on your
administrative function. Are there any other ways that your
research informs your role as associate deans?
I spent a couple years studying the links between strategy
and organizational structure and incentive compensation at
Citibank. One of the things we learned is how important it
is to clearly communicate to everyone in the organization.
At the end of the day, it's not Dean Jain and Bob and David
making all the decisions around here. The decisions that impact
this school are made every day by hundreds of people: teachers
who are teaching their classes, administrators who are making
decisions about running their areas
And the MBA students in classes and recruiting.
drew you to academics? When you were kids did you know what
direction you wanted to go professionally?
I didn't. In fact, I was an MBA student at Northwestern in
1977. I came here thinking I wanted to get my MBA and go out
there and manage something. I wasn't entirely sure. I found
that my experience here in that one year was very important
in shaping how my career unfolded. One of my epiphanies occurred
while sitting in a financial accounting class taught by Larry
Revsine. I loved the class. It was unexpected. I had no idea
what accounting was.
Of course, I'm not an accountant, so my career has unfolded
in somewhat different ways since then. But I remember that
in that class Larry was a terrific professor and great researcher
spending time in his classroom talking about the thing that
he was really passionate about. I thought, "This is what
I want to do."
caught the bug.
Absolutely. I saw that this experience replicated in many
other contexts at Kellogg after that, but that class was really
like a bolt of lightning for me in my career.
Magee: One of the things that shaped my passion for teaching
was the intellectual competitiveness of the profession, and
you'd find that to be a common characteristic across faculty
anywhere, but certainly at Kellogg. This is where the kids
who really, really wanted to get the highest score on the
algebra test end up. [laughs] Another thing that's shaped
my path is teaching. As much as anything, my teaching has
helped give me a lot of research ideas.
might say that teaching is a distraction from the "real"
work of researching, but that doesn't sound like the case
No. Ideally you're going to be teaching in an area that stimulates
your research, so even if a student doesn't ask a probing
question, as you're getting ready to teach you are anticipating
what the students might ask. In that preparation you may find
a research idea.
you oversee the curriculum. If you discover an area that no
longer seems to have the same relevance it had a year ago,
will you jettison entire courses?
I'm not anticipating that I'm going to find lots of irrelevant
areas, because one of the things that Kellogg has been good
at is responding to the market and continually evolving. We
have lots of pieces and programs. I'm exploring ways to combine
those programs to create additional value. Also, if we're
doing our jobs as teachers we should be challenging students,
providing them with fresh material and insights, and challenging
their assumptions and mental models. There are people in this
school who do that very well. Daniel Diermeier, for instance.
He was professor of the year this past year and is very good
at challenging students, but at the same time creating a fun
and supportive classroom environment. Steve Rogers is another
As an instructor, the best thing that can happen to you is
to have an alum say "I thought of you today because I
used what you taught me at Kellogg to avoid a mistake or see
an opportunity." We want to make sure we're giving people
what they need for their careers.
The quality of classroom teaching at Kellogg today is very
strong. We have delivered very well on the classroom experience.
We need to realize that the classroom is an extremely important
part of our teaching, but that there are other aspects to
the job that are also important. For instance, textbook writing.
Textbooks enable your teaching to have a kind of legacy as
you make a real contribution to your field.
a physical manifestation of the faculty's knowledge.
It's a physical manifestation of how we as teachers have conceptualized
the area in which we are teaching, and helped shape that area.
One of the distinctions that Kellogg has had over the years
is that this is a place out of which textbooks have emerged
that have shaped the field. This is a very important part
of the teaching mission.
seems like a great way to celebrate faculty excellence. What
will be your biggest challenge, Dean Magee?
Retaining faculty is going to be a big issue. It's not easy
to do, so we must ensure that Kellogg remains competitive
in the packages we offer. Those packages are multi-dimensional,
involving compensation, but also the resources available to
a faculty member, including the quality of the colleagues
here. If you look at where Kellogg lands in national rankings,
you'll find us up in the Top 5 in virtually every category,
and No. 1 in general management, marketing and executive masters
programs. So we have to work at keeping many areas of strength
-- and keep improving all those areas.