After 31 years at the helm of Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business, Dean Richard Sorensen will be retiring this July.
“I figured after 31 years, it was time for someone else to have the opportunity,” Sorenson said.
This week, the top three candidates for the available position are being announced. Kenneth R. Evans, current dean of the Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma and Robert T. Sumichrast, current dean of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia are two of the three candidates. The final, announced today, is Arjang A. Assad, dean of the School of Management and professor of management science and systems at the University at Buffalo.
“One of the reason (the announcements) are staggered is that candidates who are coming usually want a chance to tell their current institution what’s happening, so they don’t read about it,” explained Tech’s Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee.
Dean Sorensen gave nearly a year of notice for his retirement, leaving McNamee with ample time to seek the best candidate to fill the position. McNamee, who has led a search committee for the position, said the time has been crucial.
“The business school is a complicated organization, and it takes time to line up a good pool of candidates,” said McNamee, who has led a search committee for the position. “It really helps to have a full year to plan. (It makes) it clear that this is a well planned, orderly transition, as opposed to a crisis.”
The three final candidates will participate in a public forum in Blacksburg. Each candidate will get to speak for 20 minutes about who they are and their vision for the school of business. Most of their speaking time will be provided for questions and answers from those in attendance.
“I think people get a good sense of a person based on how they respond to questions,” McNamee said.
Evans, the candidate from University of Oklahoma, will host the first of these forums today at The Inn at Virginia Tech, starting at 3:30 p.m. Sumichrast will be presenting at the same time Dec. 6, with Assad hosting sometime the week after.
After all three public forums are complete, the search committee will collect and discuss feedback from the audience before a final decision is made. McNamee expects a decision to be announced mid-January.
“When we get a new dean, there is often an opportunity for a new program to develop, or making positive changes,” McNamee said. “I expect to see new things be emphasized and new opportunities to be created.”
While excited for the move forward, McNamee notes the tenure of Dean Sorensen will be a tough act to follow.
“At 31 years, which I believe is the longest serving dean in the country, it’s been a remarkable run for any individual to have been that successful for so long,” McNamee said. “He’s provided a great service, he’s well respected, and he’s known all over the world for his leadership in business schools. His retirement is well earned.”
While Sorensen, who will be turning 70 this February, has been a prominent figure among business schools nationwide, he believes he’s leaving Pamplin in good shape for the years ahead.
“We’ve been fortunate as far as attracting strong students to the college, providing a quality education, and getting them a good job,” Sorensen said. “I feel very good about that.”
The announcement of the final three candidates comes after a search committee has been reviewing a comprehensive list of candidates for the past semester.
The committee represents a diverse group affected by the business school.
“We have a number of participants outside the college, including one of the other college deans, the vice president, a chair from the external advisory board, and the head of the corporate research center, because the business school works so closely with corporate interests," McNamee said. "We (wanted) very different perspectives on the search committee.”
The committee has also relied on help from outside the university.
“We are working with an external search firm, because for searches like this, it’s really helpful to have a third party,” McNamee said. “In many cases, some (candidates) already have very good positions, and they don’t want to become public too soon. So (the external search firm) can do a lot of background checking for us.”
According to McNamee the choice of the top three candidates was a difficult one, and that there have been a lot of high-caliber candidates.
“We’ve been very impressed with everyone we’ve talked to.” McNamee said.