FALL 2008 VOL. 9 NO. 2

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Cover Story

Master Mind

First of all, call him “Dean Anand.” It’s short for Anandalingam, and it is how G. Anandalingam, the new dean of the Smith School, would prefer to be known. Anandalingam, senior associate dean and Ralph J. Tyser Professor of Management Science, came to the Smith School in 2001 after 14 years with the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a professor of systems engineering and operations and information management at the Wharton School of Business. Anandalingam has an impressive academic resume, with numerous publications, awards and honors. He was chosen after an extensive nationwide search process and took the helm of the Smith School on July 1.

Being dean seems a role Anandalingam was destined to play. Anandalingam is the son and grandson of university professors. His family is originally from South India, but he was born in Cambridge, England, where both his parents were pursuing graduate degrees, and raised as the oldest of five children in Sri Lanka. His grandfather, an Oxford grad, was a renaissance man—a mathematician, lawyer, gentleman farmer, and freedom fighter during the British Colonial period. His father, an award-winning physicist and professor, was well known for both his research into the upper atmosphere and his vast knowledge of music. His mother was a well known and highly regarded high school mathematics teacher in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Fast Facts

Name: G. Anandalingam. Prefers to be called “Dean Anand.”
Age: 54
Education: Ph.D., Harvard University; B.A., Cambridge University, England
Personal: Lives in Bethesda, Md. with wife, Deepa, a professor of international relations; daughter, Kavi, 17; son Siddhu, 15; and dog Dash, a beagle.
No. of daily e-mails received: 100
No. of daily voicemails received: Not very many – 2 or 3
Favorite gadget: Blackberry for work; Yanigisawa Alto Saxaphone at home
Educational background: Started as an electrical engineer, then became an operations research (management science) scholar with a strong background in economics
Hometown: Bethesda, Md. (but I’d feel at home anywhere)
Sports/hobbies: Love to watch any kind of sports. Avid Boston Red Sox fan, plays tennis, likes to garden.
Car: Saab 9-5 and Saab 9-3 Convertible
Favorite restaurant: Tako Grill in Bethesda, Md.
Computer: Panasonic ToughBook
Favorite vacation spot: Paris, France
Role model: My grandfather
Currently reading: “The Post-American World,” by Fareed Zakaria
Career objective: To make a difference by inspiring others.

So when young Anandalingam decided to pursue education as a career, nobody raised an eyebrow. After all, academia was the family business. But his math-and-science family wasn’t very impressed with Anandalingam’s interest in business. “My parents thought I was diluting my brain cells. They had a kind of jaundiced view of the social sciences,” he admits. “But I am interested in social sciences and their contributions to human life. And I really believe that business students, especially these days, should have a good sense of peoples around the world, with some basic understanding of sociology, psychology and anthropology. That kind of training is becoming vital to those who want to be a truly exceptional business leader. We need to know what makes people tick.”

Anandalingam is deeply enthusiastic about the pursuit of knowledge, about passing that knowledge on to students, and about getting that knowledge out to business practitioners who can use it. It’s a practical kind of academics, concerned not just with finding interesting problems to work on and discovering new patterns and methodologies, but also with implementing solutions that will make an impact on businesses.

He has always been a go-getter, not the kind of guy to sit back and let other people do the heavy lifting. Between high school and college he spent a summer in Maryland while his father was working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, located a few miles from the University of Maryland campus. It was just before the 1972 presidential election, and Anandalingam, burning with youthful conviction, worked for the McGovern campaign, despite the fact that he wasn’t a citizen and that he was destined to leave in just weeks to start his freshman year at Cambridge University in England.

McGovern lost. But the summer wasn’t a waste. During that period Anandalingam says he fell in love with the area, and with the United States. After he graduated from Cambridge he returned to the U.S. to do his graduate work at Harvard, where he received both his master’s and doctoral degrees. He has since lived in every major city in the east coast—Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Today he brings his unique background, his impressive academic credentials, his many years of global experience, his shrewd negotiating skills, and his boundless enthusiasm to the business of running the Smith School, at a time when the business world is changing faster than ever.

“Business leaders have to be cognizant of the changes in global business,” says Anandalingam. The world is seeing significant technological change in information and communications technologies, and the development of technologies aimed at sustainability. These changes will continue to transform the ways in which people work, live and play, and how corporations are organized across the planet. “Organizations need to be sensitive to how technological and business process innovations transform local economies, impact local environments, affect political processes, and change the ways in which we communicate around the world,” says Anandalingam.

Developing global leaders is one of Anandalingam’s top priorities. “These days it is trendy to think that the ‘world is flat’, but it is really ‘spiky’. Today’s business leaders need the ability to deal with complexity and think creatively in an environment that is marked by diversity—of races, cultures, incomes, gender and expectations,” he says.

Creating Global Business Leaders for Sustainable Innovation

Anandalingam sees the Smith School’s mission as helping to create business leaders for sustainable innovation around the globe. He believes that much of the technological and business process innovations in the 21st century are going to be focused on making the planet sustainable in the long run. Leaders of many countries as well as large corporations and venture capitalists have already realized this, and business schools should be on the forefront of this activity. Anandalingam’s vision builds on the school’s current strengths: its focus on globalization, entrepreneurship and technology; its strong and highly-respected faculty; its desirable location in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; and the school’s already-established global reach.

Program Excellence

Strengthening the MBA program is one of his top priorities as dean. The full-time MBA program currently has about 250 students, but Dean Anand would like to see that number grow by half. “A larger program is critical for attracting recruiters, because they want to see a larger pool of applicants,” he says. “This is the right time to increase the size of the MBA program without lowering quality.” A larger MBA pool will also provide students with enhanced networking possibilities, and allow faculty to offer electives based on state-of-art research and thought leadership.

Anandalingam would also like to see the Smith School’s executive MBA program increase in size. In the future, the school may consider other types of degree and non-degree programs. Partnerships with the university could result in MBA degrees that specialize in medicine or law, such as those offered by Harvard and Cornell. Mini-MBA programs for already-practicing physicians and lawyers could prove attractive to the large number of professionals in the Washington, D.C., metro region, as well as neighboring Baltimore. Other niche master’s programs, like the MS in business with a focus in accounting the Smith School began offering last fall, will allow the school to provide relevant, practical and immediately useful skills to its master’s program students.

But it is not only the MBA program that has received the new dean’s scrutiny. He is passionate about the undergraduate program, and about the need to effectively challenge and nurture the school’s undergraduate students. “Undergraduates are our future alumni, our future industry champions and presidential candidates. We need to provide them with a world class learning community. And when they graduate, we need to move them into positions of significance in both the corporate world and the non-profit sector,” says Anandalingam. He would like to build on the opportunities already provided by the Smith School’s innovative Undergraduate Fellows Program, in particular increasing the number of global field study trips offered to students.

In His Own Words

I think there are three truly important issues facing b-schools today.

First is the globalization of businesses, which is going to be a continuing challenge for everyone.

The second is the issue of accountability. This isn’t merely making sure are the numbers are correct and that ethical norms are followed, but also how you are affecting your surroundings. Are you creating externalities that are negative, or are you able to have positive externalities on businesses and people you impact

The third issue is that of diversity. Diversity in its most common use, when talking about people of differing races, cultures, gender or sexual preferences. Diversity in income levels and the stratification of society: in most countries income disparities are getting worse. And also the diversity that comes from differing levels of expectations of what businesses and business schools can do in the community.

I think business schools need to address all three of these issues in concert to remain relevant both now and in the future.

Management is a discipline in itself. What we are teaching people is how to think, how to be innovative in organizations. We are teaching people how to put themselves in a position to be creative. Over the years researchers have begun looking at more analytical things in business. At the same time students were saying ‘I need an edge, I need some tools that will allow me to succeed in the marketplace.” So to meet that need, business schools have slowly become less of a market for intellectual exchange, and more of a place for the simple transfer of knowledge and skills. To me, business schools have to move back to the place where they are helping students to think, to think creatively, especially in situations where they must deal with complexity. If you teach people skills and methods, that will become obsolete very quickly. But teaching them how to think creatively, to deal with uncertainty, to respond to rapid technology shifts, to be cognizant of ethics, to consider long-term sustainability will serve them well forever. I believe it is time for business schools to go back to this mission.

Location, Location, Location

The school’s location in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is also a strength that Anandalingam would like to capitalize upon. As well as being the seat of the federal government, there are more large national and multinational nonprofit organizations headquartered in Washington than anywhere else in the United States. Tailoring non-degree programs to these communities can provide a new and rich source of students for years to come and help to enhance the Smith School brand.

But his vision does not stop at the District’s borders: “I like to think of ‘greater Washington, D.C.,’ as including the region from Richmond to Baltimore,” he says. “And we cannot be considered a top-class business school unless we have a strong presence in places like New York City.” Anandalingam plans to aggressively expand the school’s reach to the rest of the United States and enhance its global offerings.

The Maryland Connection

The University of Maryland is also an underused resource, Anandalingam feels. He hopes to pursue partnerships with the Clark School of Engineering, with the economics, computer science and public heath departments, and with the medical school to the benefit of both the school and the university. “There is so much that is great in the rest of the Maryland campus that partnering with key groups will be good for the Smith School and the university,” he says.

Anandalingam would also like to see the Smith School supporting the university’s research thrust in the area of sustainability. “Sustainability will continue to be a key issue for businesses for some time to come,” he says.

So what are some of the challenges Anandalingam sees on the horizon?

Rankings

Rankings are a sticky issue for deans of business schools, and Anandalingam ruefully acknowledges their influence and importance.

“We cannot ignore or play games with the rankings,” he says. “Potential students use them. Their parents use them. Recruiters use rankings to determine where to pursue job candidates. Top faculty want to work at top-ranked schools. You ignore rankings at your peril.”

At the same time, he believes that the Smith School isn’t valued at its true worth, something he would urgently like to correct. Key to that is the relationship with alumni, who are the school’s best diplomats, spokespersons and representatives.

“The ongoing relationship with our students—both while they are on campus and after they have gone into the world—is crucial,” says Anandalingam. “We need to develop an integrated approach with our alumni and partners like recruiters and corporate supporters. And as dean I must play a leading role in driving the development of those relationships.”

Branding

The desire to see the Smith School’s true worth acknowledged naturally leads to a renewed focus on branding. Anandalingam sees a need to improve the school’s branding efforts, not just for the Smith School but also for individual departments.

Doctoral students will be part of the process that improves the school’s brand. Anandalingam feels that the school’s doctoral program is very strong, and he is eager to see graduating PhD students placed in top schools around the world. Their research will reflect on the Smith School.

Increased regional activity with both public and private organizations will also raise the school’s profile in the Washington metropolitan area. Anandalingam plans to pick the brains of other deans in top-10 business schools for ideas, conduct targeted marketing campaigns, and work on ways to help the school reach a wider corporate audience.

New Areas for Growth

The business world is in a state of constant, rapid change, which presents challenges but also new areas for growth. Anandalingam sees a need for global leadership development; for increased research on sustainability, particularly as it pertains to technological innovations in energy and the environment; and for new emphases on social entrepreneurship, ethics and corporate social responsibility, the business of medicine and health, service systems science, and information security.

Through it all the support of the school’s alumni will be critical. Anandalingam is excited about the opportunity to connect with the school’s alumni, whom he counts among the school’s chief assets and its best champions. He hopes to continue to build relationships with alumni who can lend their expertise and their passion to enrich the student experience, and help recruit and place students in their corporations. Anandalingam also feels that alumni can help get the message across that the Smith School should be considered among the best business schools in the world, and that the thought leadership the faculty can provide to business leaders is second to none.

So what does Anandalingam think about all the doubtless challenging days that lie ahead? Is he daunted? “No,” he says, laughing. For him the excitement of being at the Smith School’s helm goes back to one of his fundamental passions, educating students. Because above all, Anandalingam believes that business schools are important for the health of the planet. Business education is an important vehicle through which to create positive changes in the world. Business school, he believes, has the power to change people’s lives.

That’s why he has spent all these years in the family business. “We need to touch students, not just teach students,” says Anandalingam. “Many of the things we teach they could pick up elsewhere. But if we touch them, if we inspire them, then we are making a long-term difference to their lives, their careers and their contributions to society.”

  SMITH BUSINESS Magazine

Copyright 2008 Robert H. Smith School of Business