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It is something of a homecoming for Richard Lyons, who was appointed dean of the Haas school of business at UC Berkeley, in California, late last week.
As well as having a Californian upbringing and a Berkeley undergraduate degree, Prof Lyons became an academic at the Haas school in 1993 and was acting dean for a year when the departing boss, Tom Campbell, was seconded to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s department of finance.
And it was while he was acting dean that Prof Lyons spearheaded a review of the business school’s strategy. The problem, he says, is that all the world’s top business schools produce business leaders. “But that is completely undifferentiated. What kind of leaders are we producing?”
Having just spent two years in charge of leadership development at Goldman Sachs, he believes he has insight into what makes Haas special. First are the students who, he says, are known for being independently-minded without the “attitude” that can pervade programmes.
Second is the Bay Area location. “It’s such a vanguard sort of a place.” And third is the strength of the University of Berkeley brand and academic reputation. One of Prof Lyons’ priorities will be to continue to build links with the other university departments, such as engineering, to develop joint programmes. Already, he says, the Haas school has been able to win corporate education bids because of these inter-department links.
Though Berkeley is a state-funded school, Prof Lyon is confident he can pay world-class salaries. Which is good news, as he is planning to increase the academic headcount by 20 per cent in the next three years.