Cornell’s Johnson School Names Soumitra Dutta New Dean

Yesterday the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University announced that Soumitra Dutta, a professor of business and technology and founder and faculty director of a new media and technology innovation lab at INSEAD, will become the eleventh dean of the school. Dutta will step into the new role on July 1, 2012, replacing Joseph Thomas, who will return to the classroom after five years of leading the school.

Aside from being news because it’s a leadership change at a top MBA program, Johnson’s announcement is also notable since this marks the first time top-ranked business school in the U.S. has hired a dean from a business school outside the country. Last year INSEAD plucked a graduate management leader from the U.S., when it announced that former Kellogg dean Dipak Jain would run the school. Now, the U.S. has struck back and brought a top business mind to this side of the pond.

Dutta brings with him a very international resume, having studied, worked, and taught in multiple countries. He first studied in India, earning his B.Tech. in electrical engineering and computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology. Later Dutta earned an M.S. in business administration, an M.S. in computer science and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley. Before his career in academia he worked as an engineer at GE in the United States, and at Schlumberger in Japan. Dutta has taught as a visiting professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School, the University of Oxford, and the Judge School at University of Cambridge.

In a statement released by Cornell, Soumitra Dutta had this to day about the news:

“This appointment is an exciting opportunity for me, in part because of Johnson’s commitment to global perspectives, entrepreneurship and innovation, and business sustainability, but also because as an early adopter of approaches such as performance learning, the school itself exemplifies innovative thinking in business,” said Dutta. “I am excited about the close connections the school has to the broader university and especially the opportunities available through collaboration on the tech campus. I am eager to take up the leadership position building on the strong foundations laid by Dean Thomas.”

The timing of the big announcement is good given that Cornell recently won the rights to build a tech campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island. According to the Johnson search committee, Dutta’s enthusiasm for the new campus and his vision for how it can help the Johnson School (and vice versa) were two things that set Dutta apart as a candidate for the role.

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