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Harvard names Srikant Datar the new dean of its business school

Professor Datar takes over for Nitin Nohria at the end of the year

Srikant Datar has been named the new dean of Harvard Business School.
Srikant Datar has been named the new dean of Harvard Business School.Russ Campbell/Unlimited

Harvard’s president, Larry Bacow, has promoted professor Srikant Datar to be the next dean of Harvard Business School, taking over for Nitin Nohria when he steps down at the end of the year.

Datar has played a number of key roles at the school since joining the faculty in 1996, overseeing varied responsibilities such as faculty recruiting and development, executive education, research, and, currently, university affairs. He has also served since 2015 as the faculty chairman of the Harvard Innovation Labs, or the “i-Lab,” and has been instrumental in the school’s transition to a “hybrid learning” model during the COVID-19 pandemic. And he has been a prominent thinker and researcher on the topic of the future of business education.

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“Already for more than two decades, he’s been one of Harvard Business School’s most thoughtful, experienced, and respected academic leaders,” Bacow said in a Zoom videoconference with HBS faculty, students, and staff on Friday to announce the promotion. “Over the years, he has served as the senior associate dean for just about everything [and] he literally co-wrote the book on the future of the MBA.”

Datar, 66, will become the 11th dean in the business school’s 112-year history. He will oversee a workforce of about 1,400 people, including faculty and staff, at HBS.

“To be a dean, you need to be a great conductor to get everybody to play their parts, in the right way, at the right time,” said Alan Garber, Harvard’s provost. “Srikant has amply demonstrated that.”

The school typically serves 1,800 students, but this year only about 1,500 are attending because they were given the option to defer a year, due to the pandemic. They are attending classes in person on a rotating basis, with classes limited to 25 students.

Nohria announced last November that he would wrap up his deanship in June after 10 years in the job, but in March he agreed to continue through the end of the year because of the pandemic. Nohria will stay at HBS as a faculty member. He will also keep his position as board chairman of the Harvard Land Co., the affiliate Harvard established to plan and develop its enterprise research campus across Western Avenue from HBS, as well as future Allston real estate projects.

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Datar is a native of India and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Bombay in 1973, before getting two master’s degrees and a doctorate from Stanford University. He worked at Stanford’s business school from 1989 to 1996, before joining Harvard.

In a speech during the Zoom meeting, Datar praised his colleagues and their ability to pivot the school toward remote and hybrid learning in rapid fashion this year. His agenda as dean, among other things, includes implementing task-force recommendations regarding anti-racism, such as more aggressive recruiting of people of color and developing business-school case studies with a greater diversity of protagonists. He hopes to expand the school’s cybersecurity research and courses. And he’ll continue to push the school’s remote-learning capabilities.

“Most organizations I know will not go back to doing things the way they did pre-COVID,” Datar said. “Nor should we.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.