Olin Dean Mahendra Gupta steps down, plans to return to teaching and research positions within WU
After over a decade of service as the Dean of the Olin Business School, Mahendra R. Gupta will leave his position to spend more time with his family and to further pursue his interests in research and teaching.
Gupta, who joined the Olin faculty in 1990, oversaw a massive expansion of academic spaces with the construction of two new buildings along with the addition of graduate programs and a larger applicant pool.
For the next phase in his career at Washington University, Gupta will continue to teach within the business school, while also focusing on research in cost management, his area of interest within accounting.
“I’m sure that my research is going to evolve based on the lessons I learned as a dean,” Gupta said. “When you’re a professor, you’re very focused on your area of research, your area of teaching and the students that you’re going to teach in your class, but you really don’t have the perspective of [the] entirety of the school, the larger landscape of the university.”
In an email to the entire business school sent out on Jan. 14, Gupta announced his plan to step down and noted that he had “mixed emotions” about his decision. The shift comes at a notable time in Gupta’s personal life, as his son and daughter are both getting married within the year.
“Any time you step out and you step out because of your own choice, there are all these things to do, so many people you connected [with], so many relationships that you made, and you’re going to leave them behind in some ways,” he said. “On the flipside, I’m going to get more time with the family.”
Business school students were caught off guard by the announcement.
“It seemed really sudden. When I got the email I was definitely surprised,” senior and 2016 MSF Corporate Finance student Amalie Barrio said. “He cited some really legitimate reasons, but this is the first big turnover I’ve really seen as a student here. Anyone [who has] been here, supporting us for more than a decade, [that] departure is pretty pivotal in the community. I’m happy he’ll still be teaching, though.”
Gupta is especially looking forward to reestablishing the more personal nature of his relationships with students that he somewhat sacrificed when he made the “big picture” shift from professor to dean.
“It’s a big difference. It’s finding the time to get to know my students even more and to learn their stories even more,” he said. “That’s a part that no matter what you do, as a dean, you cannot give the same kind of attention individually to every student.”
“I’d definitely be interested in taking a class taught by Gupta at some point,” Robert Ethan Dover, studying finance and philosophy, said. “I’m curious to see who they bring in next.”
In the email Gupta sent out to students, he wrote that a search committee will be named by Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s office.
Gupta shared his main goals during his time as dean, which mostly oriented around solidifying the school’s financial security, strengthening the faculty base and making the school attractive to a broader range of students.
“We are the most competitive business school in the nation when it comes to admission, but also we focused a lot on student success, and we are, based on different metrics, among the top five business schools in the nation when it comes to percentage placement of our students,” Gupta said. “Our faculty, their research, is now recognized consistently among top research schools, in spite of our relatively small size.”
Along with those accomplishments, Gupta noted that increasing student and faculty diversity was another goal of his, and although progress has been made, there is more to be done.
“Every success sets a new goal that now you can do—something more and something bigger,” Gupta said. “I feel very confident that the school is in a very strong position to maintain the momentum and keep on moving up.”