Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria to Step Down

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Nitin Nohria (Photo: HBS)

BOSTON—Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria announced Wednesday that he will step down in June 2020, concluding ten years of service as the School’s tenth Dean.

In a message to faculty, staff, students, and alumni, Nohria said the time is right for HBS to transition to new leadership. “Ten years gave us a good run to make progress on our ‘Five I’ priorities,” he noted, referring to the School-wide focus on innovation, intellectual ambition, internationalization, inclusion, and integration that has been a hallmark of his tenure. “Serving as Dean has been a privilege for which I am immensely grateful. A decade seems an appropriate duration for this chapter in the School’s history.”

Nitin Nohria (Photo: HBS)

Nohria, who will take a sabbatical beginning in July 2020, joined the Harvard Business School faculty in 1988 after receiving his PhD from MIT. Before his appointment as Dean he served in a number of leadership roles at HBS, including as Chair of the Organizational Behavior Unit, Co-Chair of the Leadership Initiative, and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development. Additionally, he was a member of the curriculum design team for Leadership and Corporate Accountability, a required course introduced in 2004 to help MBA students understand their legal, ethical, and economic responsibilities as managers. A member of the Organizational Behavior Unit, he has concentrated his research on human motivation, leadership, corporate transformation and accountability, and sustainable economic and human performance. Nohria is a prolific scholar, with more than a dozen books to his name as well as the McKinsey Award-winning 2018 Harvard Business Review article, “How CEOs Manage Time.”

Nohria thanked Drew Faust, who served as Harvard’s President from 2007 to 2018, for her support. “I will always be grateful to Drew for her confidence in appointing me, her mentorship, and her inspirational vision for Harvard as One University,” he said. Nohria also expressed gratitude to President Larry Bacow for his leadership. “I have very much enjoyed working with Larry and laud his focus on issues of diversity and belonging—from immigration to inclusion. I have great admiration for him and confidence in the process he will lead to choose the next Dean of the School,” noted Nohria.

Remarked Faust, “Nitin Nohria has drawn on his expertise and his experience to be an outstanding leader for Harvard Business School.” She continued, “He took to heart the School’s mission of educating leaders who make a difference in the world. Whether launching new pedagogies, investing in the faculty and their research, or building bridges from the Business School to other parts of Harvard, Nitin has positioned HBS well to face the 21st century. Moreover, he was a trusted and influential voice within our Deans’ Council on matters of University-wide concern. It was a privilege to work with him, and I feel fortunate to count him as a friend.”

In a message to the HBS community, Bacow noted his appreciation for Nohria’s “superlative leadership.” Nohria, he said, “has led HBS with vision and wisdom, a canny sense of organizational dynamics, a humane concern for others, and a relish for innovation…. In all this, Nitin has been guided by a set of core values and a devotion to doing what is right, both for his school and for the people who are its lifeblood. His leadership has benefited not only HBS but the University more broadly.”

Nohria, who sought broad input in shaping a strategic direction for Harvard Business School, has led significant transformation in key areas. During his time as Dean, HBS launched the field method, including a required course in the MBA Program—Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD)—to complement the case method and to provide students opportunities for developing the “knowing” and “being” of leadership. With a focus on immersive, intensive, team-based exercises, FIELD sends 900+ students abroad each year to work on new product or process delivery projects with global partners. Today, in addition to FIELD in the first year, more than two dozen elective courses incorporate the field method and real-world experience as a core component of the learning model.

Harvard Business School Online (originally known as HBX), the School’s digital learning platform, was founded in 2014 under Nohria’s leadership. Its initial offering, CORe—a primer on the fundamentals of business with modules on business analytics, economics for managers, and financial accounting—has been taken by more than 20,000 learners, spanning college students to mid-career professionals. More than 10 additional courses are now offered, including a number using the HBX Live virtual classroom. All incorporate the School’s engaged learning model, as evident in average completion rates of 87% that far exceed those for other online offerings.

Nohria has also spurred Harvard Business School’s deeper engagement with Harvard’s other graduate and professional schools. During his tenure, the DBA degree evolved into to a PhD in Business Administration, offered in collaboration with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, reflecting the rigor of HBS’s doctoral programs and the outstanding academic placement record of its graduates. Two joint degree programs, the MS/MBA in Engineering Sciences and the MS/MBA in Biotechnology: Life Sciences, were approved in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Both draw faculty together in building an integrated curriculum so that students can complete their study over three years.

Mark Nunnelly (MBA 1984), Chair of the School’s Board of Dean’s Advisors who, with wife Denise Dupré, created an endowment to provide financial aid for students in the MS/MBA in Engineering Sciences, said Nohria has been adept at anticipating trends in management education. “The innovations he has instituted across the School reflect a keen understanding of what will be required to address and solve society’s most pressing challenges in the future,” Nunnelly noted. “It’s been a delight to see the initiatives he has spearheaded take root and flourish at the School. Our faculty, alumni, students of today and tomorrow owe Nitin an enormous debt of gratitude: he has changed the institution in important and powerful ways.”

Nohria successfully led the Campaign for Harvard Business School, a $1.4 billion fundraising effort that deepened alumni engagement and strengthened the School’s financial health. Gifts to HBS supported faculty development, student financial aid, and additions and enhancements to the School’s residential campus, including Tata Hall, Esteves Hall, the Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Center, Klarman Hall, and the Schwartz Common. During his deanship, the HBS endowment grew from $2.1 to $3.8 billion as of June 30, 2019, and the School’s annual revenues have grown from $509 million to nearly $1 billion. This has enabled investments in activities such as the Harvard Innovation Labs—a University-wide ecosystem comprising the i-lab, the Pagliuca Harvard Life Lab, and Launch Lab X—which foster innovation and entrepreneurship across the Harvard community.

Finally, Nohria has worked on many fronts to build and strengthen the HBS faculty. Thirty-one faculty members have been appointed or promoted to Professor during his tenure, and nearly 200 tenure-track and practitioner faculty members have been recruited to the School. Annual investment in research has increased from $97 million to $151 million, and projects and initiatives have been launched on US Competitiveness, Behavioral Finance and Financial Stability, Digital, and Business History. Global Research Centers, which support research and course development, were added in Istanbul (Middle East and North Africa), Singapore, Israel, and Johannesburg (Africa).

Nohria earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (which honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2007) and a PhD in Management from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. He was a visiting faculty member at the London Business School in 1996. He serves on the board of directors of Bridgespan and on the board of trustees of Massachusetts General Hospital; additionally, he serves as an advisor to BDT Capital Partners, Piramal Enterprises, and Tata Sons, on the advisory board of Akshaya Patra, and as a strategic advisor to Focusing Capital on the Long Term Global (FCLTGlobal). In his time at HBS he has taught thousands of students in the MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education programs.

Bacow said that he would soon initiate a search for a new dean. “I plan to seek broad input in seeking Nitin’s successor, and I will be reaching out to the HBS community for advice on the School’s opportunities and challenges and on the deanship,” he said. “For today, all of us owe Nitin our admiration and thanks for his outstanding service to HBS and to Harvard.”

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