By Barbara Buell
Originally from South Africa, Saloner brings a global perspective and a focus on innovation.
Alumni will find a familiar face in the dean’s office when Garth Saloner becomes the ninth dean of the Graduate School of Business Sept. 1. Many will remember him from the classroom, where Saloner has taught management, strategy, entrepreneurship, and e-commerce as a faculty member since 1990. “With Garth the classroom is very different,” said Peter Kaval, MBA ’09, who had Saloner for Formation of New Ventures. “If you state a fact, he’ll press you on your beliefs. He’s forcing you to think on your feet and enabling you to get to ‘Aha!’ moments that you wouldn’t otherwise.” Added Leo Linbeck, MBA ’94, who took Strategic Management from Saloner in 1993: “He wouldn’t let you get away with sloppy thinking.”
A two-time winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award from MBA students, Saloner, 54, is not only a master in the classroom but also a leader in the evolution of management education. He was a key architect of the School’s innovative MBA curriculum introduced in 2007. A supporter of the move to a more multidisciplinary approach to education and closer ties between the Business School and the rest of Stanford University, Saloner launched the Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship, a program to teach entrepreneurial skills to graduate students in non-business fields. He has taught courses to undergraduates, MBA students, Sloan master’s students, and doctoral students. He also has taught in the Executive Education program around the world.
Stanford President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy announced the dean’s appointment in May after a 7-month search by a 14-member committee that included students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Among them were two GSB Advisory Council members—Goldman Sachs Managing Director and Council Chair Gene Sykes, MBA ’84, and former Heidrich and Struggles Chairman Thomas Friel, MBA ’73. The committee was impressed with the breadth of Saloner’s experience and the widespread respect he has earned across the academic spectrum, according to co-chair John Roberts, the John H. Scully Professor of Economics, Strategic Management, and International Business.
Enthusiastic and entrepreneurial, Saloner has figured in many of the School’s new programs. He served as associate dean for academic affairs, and director for research and curriculum development from 1993 to 1996. He was one of the founders of the Stanford Computer Industry Project, a major study of the worldwide computer industry, and a founder of the Center for Electronic Business and Commerce in 1999, which for five years was instrumental in disseminating research and teaching in the new field. After becoming director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in 2004, he designed the first Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship the following year.
Then in 2006, he led the review committee that undertook a major overhaul of the MBA curriculum. The result injected more critical thinking, leadership development, expanded global content, and a global experience requirement into the program. The new curriculum also allowed students more flexibility in customizing their coursework to account for their increasingly diverse pre-MBA experiences.
Linbeck, who served on the committee, recalls Saloner putting up a straw man for what the new MBA program might look like, which helped focus the group. He then let the members fine tune various pieces. “He built consensus around a broad approach and let individual groups really engage so we ended up with a stronger program than if he had tried to micromanage it,” said Linbeck, who now teaches Family Business as a lecturer at the School. “He spent a lot of time communicating with other stakeholders including keeping senior faculty who were not on the committee, alumni, and the dean’s office informed. It was a classic example of great organizational leadership.” While traveling for alumni events, Saloner sought feedback from alumni in Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco about their learning experiences.
Global content and social innovation have been strong interests of Saloner’s. He led student study trips to India, China, Thailand, the Philippines, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana. He will venture to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia next year. He introduced a new microfinance case that grew out of his Ghana trip into the required Strategic Leadership course. He also championed the one-week Women’s Perspectives on Entrepreneurship, one of two classes he will continue to teach as dean. Its objective is to encourage women to consider their own startups.
As the Jeffrey S. Skoll Professor of Electronic Commerce, Strategic Management, and Economics, Saloner has been known for his pioneering work on network effects, which underlie much of the economics of electronic commerce and business. His research has focused on entrepreneurship, strategic management, organizational economics, competitive strategy, and antitrust economics. His most recent work has been devoted to understanding how firms set and change strategy.
A native of South Africa, Saloner received a BCom (bachelor of commerce) and MBA (with distinction) from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He received an MS in statistics, an AM in economics, and a PhD in economics, business, and public policy from Stanford between 1978 and 1982. He joined the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an assistant professor in 1982 and became a tenured full professor in both the economics department and the Sloan School of Management. He also has taught at Harvard.
Saloner may have three degrees from Stanford, but his family has four more. He and his wife, Marlene, have three daughters, all of whom also have Stanford degrees or are earning one, including an MBA.
When an MBA student reporter for the Reporter, asked him how he expects his leadership role to change as dean, Saloner noted he has always been entrepreneurial. “I like to start new projects and get them going,” he said. “I love to find a gap and think about a way to fill it. The role of dean is different. The role of dean is much more that of facilitating other people’s ideas and creative energies, and helping them to be successful. So it’s less a doer and more facilitator, and that’s a transition that I have to make.”
In June, Saloner announced his dean’s office team. Finance Professor Peter DeMarzo and operations Professor Sunil Kumar will join as senior associate deans. Kumar, who served on the Curriculum Review Committee, will oversee the MBA program. Organizational behavior Professor Glenn Carroll will continue as senior associate dean along with Dan Rudolph, MBA ’81, who has overseen staff operations for nine years.
During the next 18 months, Saloner will direct completion of the Knight Management Center, the new $350 million Business School campus. When completed in 2010-2011, the complex of eight buildings around three quadrangles is expected to achieve the highest level LEED Platinum certification for environmental sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council.
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