The Gupta Years: Growth and expansion

For more than a quarter century, Mahendra Gupta has served Washington University and Olin Business School in many roles including faculty member, researcher, administrator, mentor, and, most recently, dean.

When Mark Taylor was introduced to the Olin community as the school’s dean-designate in June 2016, he shared that as dean of a business school in the UK, he had always kept an eye on the competition. Taylor went on to say that he was well aware of Olin’s good standing and the many achievements of his predecessor, Dean Mahendra Gupta. “All this is a pretty hard act to follow,” Taylor told his audience. “Dean Gupta has set a stage, a great platform on which we can build.”

The stage set by Gupta as dean is one of innovation and growth, and includes the global expansion of Olin’s Executive MBA programs, curriculum development focused on new industries, a surge in Olin’s full-time graduate enrollment, and two new state-of-the-art buildings.

“During the past 11 years with Mahendra at the helm, Olin has improved upon its reputation as one of America’s leading business schools,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said when Gupta announced his intention to conclude his deanship. “Under his leadership, the school has continued to attract the best and brightest students from across the country and around the world with excellent faculty and outstanding academic programs.”

An era of growth

During Gupta’s decade as dean, Olin expanded the Executive MBA program beyond St. Louis and Shanghai to campuses in Kansas City, Denver, and, as of 2015, Mumbai, where Olin established the IIT Bombay-Washington University Executive MBA program in cooperation with the Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. The program was the first of its kind to confer an MBA degree from both an Indian and an American university.

During Dean Gupta’s tenure, the number of full-time graduate students at Olin increased by nearly 85%, with applications up nearly 200%; full-time undergraduate and graduate enrollment is up nearly 60%; and there has been more than a 30% increase in tenured & tenured track faculty.

“This new program is exactly what Indian enterprises need to take their business to the next level,” said Hari Sankaran, managing director and vice chair of IL&FS (Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited), when welcoming the first batch of students. “High quality executive training will have a positive impact far beyond the individual student.”

Olin’s Specialized Masters Programs also expanded beyond finance to include accounting, supply chain management, leadership, and customer analytics. And in keeping with the unyielding trend toward globalization, the school launched its Global Master of Finance program, partnering with universities in Singapore, South Korea, Israel, Germany, and Spain, to offer students a world-class curriculum and training targeted to the global financial markets.

“Mahendra has established international collaborations with world-class partners that will be of lasting benefit to our students and faculty,” Chancellor Wrighton said. “He leaves his post as dean with a remarkable legacy.”

Dean Gupta oversaw an increase in experiential learning with the introduction of the CELect course that pairs student consulting teams with St. Louis startups, and the Small Business Initiative in conjunction with the Regional Business Council that provides pro bono consulting services to small businesses in north St. Louis. He also expanded the school’s focus on entrepreneurship by launching an undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship and an MBA platform in entrepreneurship. Other program innovations included the addition of a sports minor through the Joseph S. Lacob Business of Sports Program, and a major in healthcare.

Progress under Gupta’s leadership was not limited to academic programs and innovation initiatives; as dean he helped spearhead the construction of Knight Hall and Bauer Hall from its initial vision to completion. The $90 million expansion more than doubled Olin’s space on the Danforth Campus, and both LEED Gold-certified buildings were dedicated in 2014. Gupta also planned and implemented the recently completed renovation of Simon Hall. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the dean’s strong relationships with alumni and business leaders who form a vital constituency within the Olin community.

Stepping down

Gupta’s announcement that he would be stepping down as dean inspired dozens of staff, faculty, students, and alumni to share comments and memories on social media, using #Grateful4Gupta. Gupta reflected, “It has been an honor and privilege to serve as Olin’s dean. Our dedicated faculty, staff, alumni, and business community partners have all contributed to the growth and momentum that attract top students to our programs. Olin has secured its reputation as a top business school and is poised to begin its second century as a leader in business education.”

Gupta was appointed dean in July 2005, and has served on the Olin faculty since 1990. During his 26 years at the school, he has been awarded nine Reid Teaching awards by students. He remains at Olin as the Geraldine J. and Robert L. Virgil Professor of Accounting and Management and continues his research in areas such as strategic implication of cost information in e-commerce, technology, new ventures, manufacturing, healthcare, marketing and service sectors. His work has been published in leading national and international academic journals.

Before pursuing an academic career, Gupta held various managerial positions at companies in India. In 1986, he moved back to the United States to attend Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where he earned his doctorate. In 1991, his dissertation was awarded first place in the American Accounting Association’s doctoral dissertation competition for best work in managerial accounting.

Gupta has served on several editorial boards, including those of The Accounting Review, The Journal of Management Accounting Research, Canadian Accounting Review, and Accounting Horizons. He is a frequent speaker at research workshops and conferences worldwide and has been a consultant to various firms and government agencies. Gupta serves on the board of directors for Caleres, Supernova, LLC, and Guardian Angel. Previous board service includes Dance St. Louis, Junior Achievement, the United Way of St. Louis, and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management.

Photos: WUSTL Archives and Washington University Photographic Services

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