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Harvard professor Peter Tufano is to become the next dean of the Saïd business school at the University of Oxford. He will replace Colin Mayer in July 2011, when Prof Mayer comes to the end of his five-year term.
Prof Tufano is a Harvard man through and through, earning all his degrees from bachelor level upwards from the Boston university. Indeed he estimates he has spent 33 years at the institution. However, he says that gives a rather misleading picture of his outlook, as he has been working with European business schools, notably London Business School and Oxford, over the course of the past 10 to 15 years.
“I’ve been knocking around Europe for a bit, and a little bit around Oxford,” he laughs.
Prof Tufano is not the first Harvard professor to take up residence at the Saïd. Marketing professor Douglas Holt was one of the first to cross the Atlantic, though he has recently left the school. Long-time Harvard operations management professor David Upton moved to Oxford in 2009. Prof Tufano points out that there are also several former Harvard doctoral students working in Oxford.
For Prof Tufano, both universities provide the environment which he believes business schools need to be successful in the future. “Oxford and Harvard are more alike than you might imagine,” he says, pointing to their commitment to excellence.
More particularly he refers to the need for business schools to be able to draw on the resources of a larger university. At Harvard Prof Tufano spent the past few years developing links between the business school and the rest of the university.
He argues that business schools need to be like “T-shaped managers” - who have deep functional expertise but also a breadth of knowledge across the business. Business schools in turn need to have deep knowledge of their subject but be able to draw on the breadth of knowledge in other subjects from the wider university. “That’s a pretty neat thing to do.”
However, one big difference between the business schools at Harvard and Oxford in their age: Harvard is one of the founders of the MBA industry, the Saïd is little more than a decade old. For Prof Tufano, this makes it an exciting place. “This school has been well taken care of by the first three deans. It is poised for such an incredible take off.”
As a professor of financial management, and a specialist in consumer finance, Prof Tufano brings more than just an academic viewpoint to the table. In 2000 he founded his own social enterprise initiative, Doorways to Dreams (D 2 D Fund), which is developing ways to offer financial services to traditionally under-served low and moderate-income households in the US. He says the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship was one of the attractions of the Saïd. The centre was established in 2003 with a donation from Jeff Skoll, founding President of eBay.