Kerwin Charles, who will become Yale SOM’s Indra K. Nooyi Dean later this year, spoke with members of the Yale SOM community on March 26, declaring himself eager to listen and to continue the school’s upward trajectory.
Charles, currently the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, was named as Yale SOM’s next dean by Yale President Peter Salovey earlier this month. He will succeed Dean Edward A. Snyder on July 1.
Charles spoke in Edward P. Evans Hall’s Zhang Auditorium to an audience of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, describing his approach and answering questions from the audience and from Deputy Dean Edieal Pinker, who served as moderator.
“I’m very humbled and deeply honored to have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility of leading SOM,” Charles said. “Much of my excitement derives from the rare combination of excellence and vibrancy of the people who comprise this community,” including its faculty, staff, and students.
“Of course, many business schools can boast that kind of human capital,” he added. What sets Yale SOM apart, he said, is its mission to educate leaders for business and society. “SOM’s mission is a defining, unique feature of its culture. It causes the group to cohere around something wonderful. It’s distinctive.”
That mission is more important than ever, he said. “The set of things that SOM has always sought to do, the things that have always inspired it, the things for which it was training its students, from the very beginning, have never been more relevant and important. It’s never been more pressingly urgent to train people for success in business and society.”
Charles expressed admiration for his predecessor, Edward A. Snyder, and his decades of leadership at three top business schools. “I think for me the most important thing is to be myself. I think Ted has been an incredible dean. I think deans you’ve had before here have been great. I’m going to be Kerwin. I’m not going to try to be anyone else.
“Part of being myself is that I am very comfortable with criticism,” he added. “I’m not only not uncomfortable with criticism; I welcome it. I intend to speak with members of this community—faculty, staff, students, alums—and get to know people, and have them get to know me. And not only speak with, but listen to and hear, so I understand the different perspectives that comprise this place.
“I believe that SOM’s best days are ahead of it,” he said. “I can promise you that although I will make errors here and there, I will work assiduously to help the school achieve its loftiest aspirations.”