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David Schmittlein
David Schmittlein is replacing Richard Schmalensee, who stepped down in June to return to teaching, as dean of MIT's Sloan School. (Scott Lewis/Globe Photo)

MIT picks an outsider to lead Sloan School

New dean will seek to boost visibility

Massachusetts Institute of Technology officials have tapped an outsider, David C. Schmittlein, deputy dean of the elite Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, to lead MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Schmittlein, 52, a native of Northampton who's taught marketing at Wharton for nearly three decades, will start Oct. 15 as the eighth dean of the 55-year-old Sloan School and the first since 1966 to be recruited from outside MIT.

The school is scheduled to publicly disclose the hire today. It notified Sloan faculty members and students late yesterday.

The new dean replaces Richard Schmalensee, who stepped down in June to return to teaching after nine years at the helm of Sloan. The appointment comes three months after the school broke ground on a 210,000-square-foot headquarters building facing the Charles River in Cambridge amid plans to expand its size and raise its profile.

"I do think there are great opportunities to make Sloan more visible and more deeply engaged with business leaders," Schmittlein said. "And doing that will help to elevate Sloan."

Sloan has long been known for its strong master's of business administration program -- especially in the management of technology companies. But it has sometimes been overshadowed by larger institutions like Harvard Business School and Wharton, which are considered magnets for Wall Street recruiters.

Sloan, with 101 faculty members and 750 full-time MBA students, is about half the size of Wharton, which has 212 faculty members and 1,500 full-time MBA students. Schmittlein said he would like to increase Sloan's faculty by at least 10 percent, and the student body by more than 10 percent, as the campus expands. The building under construction, to be named for 1967 graduate William A. Porter, who with his wife gave $25 million, is scheduled to open in 2010.

"This is a time of enormous opportunity for MIT and MIT Sloan -- a new building, an increase in institute-wide initiatives, and an expanded global reach," Susan Hockfield, the president of MIT, said in an e-mail. "The search process included both internal and external candidates, and it is our good fortune that David Schmittlein shared our excitement for the opportunities in front of us."

Provost Rafael Reif, who supervises MIT's deans, said Schmittlein was on "a very short list" of candidates submitted to him and Hockfield by a search committee of business leaders and Sloan faculty cochaired by Lawrence K. Fish, chairman of Citizens Financial Group Inc., and Gabriel R. Bitran, a Sloan management professor. The past five deans of the Sloan School all have been promoted from within the institute.

"Bringing in someone from outside is tricky because that person really has to fit it," Reif said. "David brings administrative experience at one of the top business schools in the world, and he's done a lot of thinking about the future of management education. It's very important to take a fresh look at where the Sloan School is today and where it's going. Someone like David can push it to the next level."

At the Wharton School in Philadelphia, where he was deputy dean from 2000 to 2007, Schmittlein had oversight for a range of academic programs and collaborations with businesses and other business schools, including schools in India and China. He served briefly as Wharton's interim dean last month before Thomas S. Robertson took over. Schmittlein, who had been the number two administrator, said he interviewed for the Wharton dean's job but ultimately removed his name from consideration.

Schmittlein said his goals at Sloan are to expand innovation in its educational programs, strengthening the focus on finance and other areas; boost collaboration between students, faculty, business leaders, staffers, and the broader MIT community; and raise the visibility of the management school's research and academic programs among business leaders globally.

"There are opportunities for MIT Sloan to tell its story to the world in new ways," he said.

Bitran, who cochaired the search committee, said the feeling was that Schmalensee "put the house in order" during his tenure as Sloan's dean, building stronger ties with other MIT colleges and laying the foundation for a new campus. His administration "left the school in a position to start projecting itself into the outside world with greater intensity," Bitran said. "With someone like David, we're positioned to be a major player in the redesign of business education."

Schmittlein hasn't lived in Massachusetts since he left home to attend Brown University and then Columbia University's business school, but his parents still live in Northampton. His father retired from a job as a compositor at the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper; his mother was a budget director at St. Mary of the Assumption Church.

Schmittlein plans to move to the Boston area this fall, while his wife, son, and daughter are planning to join him in January. His wife, Barbara A. Bickart, is an associate professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Business in Camden, N.J.

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.

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