A scholar of inequality to lead SOM

Economist Kerwin Charles will be the school's new dean.

Tony Rinaldo

Tony Rinaldo

Economist Kerwin Charles comes to the School of Management from the University of Chicago. View full image

Kerwin Charles, who was named the School of Management’s next Indra K. Nooyi Dean in March, has served as a deputy and interim dean at the University of Chicago, won teaching awards, and published papers about conspicuous consumption, the correlation of wealth across generations, and racial and gender discrimination in labor markets. His academic bona fides include a PhD from Cornell, dozens of publication credits, and membership in the National Bureau of Economics Research. One thing he hasn’t done? Work at a business school.

Charles, an economist, is currently a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. For years, Charles says, he viewed his vocation as “scholar-teacher.” But recent leadership stints at Harris left him eager to serve an institution in a broader capacity and help set its research agenda.

However, “it had to be the right place,” he says, “with the right set of values.”

SOM stood out. Among business schools, SOM is known for sending graduates not only to elite companies, but also to nonprofits and government. The school hovers between 8th and 13th in the US in overall rankings, but it comes first for nonprofit management.

For Charles, SOM’s values, and its integration into Yale’s intellectual community, “just seemed to fit,” he says. “It’s not weird at all, I think, for me to talk to my colleagues at SOM about the work I’ve done on inequality. At a business school. Because SOM is a community that cares both about narrowly defined business questions and questions that lie in this grayer area between business and society.”

Charles, who will be SOM’s first African American dean, takes office in July, succeeding Edward Snyder, who has been dean since 2011. Charles says he plans to listen to people across the university and learn about SOM and Yale before setting priorities. In the future, he hopes to teach. “I cannot imagine a life as a scholar, for me, that’s shorn of meaningful engagement with students,” Charles says. “I need it like food.”

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