Dr. Kaushal Chari joined the Lubar School of Business as its sixth dean in July. With over 30 years of experience at leading universities, he comes to us most recently from the University of South Florida, where he was Associate Dean and Professor of Information Technology Management. He holds a PhD in Management Information Systems and an MBA from the University of Iowa, and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
As you begin your first year at the Lubar School of Business, what do you want our students, faculty, staff, and alumni to know about you?
I am an immigrant from India who came to the U.S. as a graduate student. I benefitted from the American higher education system and from the mentorship and support that I received from some amazing individuals. Like anyone else, my outlook on life has been shaped by my life experiences. One thing that I am very passionate about is education, as I believe it is a time-tested means for upward mobility. As the dean of the Lubar School of Business, that passion will drive me to ensure that our students have a great learning experience and are well prepared for jobs at graduation. At the same time, I am firmly committed to the important role that research plays in enriching the intellectual vibrancy of a business school and look forward to supporting our faculty’s research activities. Finally, I’d like all of our stakeholders to know that I will work with them to enhance the position of the Lubar School of Business as a high quality resource in the community for human talent, thought leadership, project work, and executive education.
Over your career, you been a faculty member, a department chair, an associate dean, and now dean. How does that path inform the type of leader you want to be?
My journey so far as an academic has taken me through four different institutions of higher education, each with different attributes and organizational cultures. Through my varied experiences, I have come to realize that an institution makes its greatest impact and advances when leadership and faculty commit to a partnership focus on achieving their mission. Both have a big role in shaping the culture, aspirations, as well as the performance norms of the institution. I’m pleased to see the rich tradition of shared governance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which I believe will blend well with my leadership style that I describe as based on servant leadership. I hope to be fair, transparent, inclusive, and a good listener as I lead the Lubar School of Business.
Business has changed dramatically in recent decades in terms of technology, data, globalization, etc. How does business education keep up – or stay ahead – of those changes? And are there any constants that we need to continue to adhere to as business educators?
Technological innovations, environmental changes, data privacy concerns, international trade issues, political climate and competitive pressures are rapidly shaping the current global business environment, which is sometimes hard to predict with certainty. Business schools all over the world have to stay at the forefront of the consequences of the events that are constantly shaping our world. While it is not practical for business schools to empower students with specialized knowledge to pursue each and every transient opportunity in global business, it is imperative that business schools provide a strong foundation in business concepts, problem solving skills especially anchored in data analytics, innovative thinking, and communication skills. Once the basics are covered well, business schools – including the Lubar School of Business – need to focus on their areas of strength to make them distinctive in the marketplace and most relevant to the changing business environment around them.
You’ve met a lot of people since you arrived in the Dean’s Office. What are you learning about the Lubar School and Wisconsin businesses – and where they might intersect?
Since arriving on the campus, I have met with faculty, staff, administrators, business leaders, alums, and current students. It’s been really great to hear that there are so many points of pride for those connected to the Lubar School. Some of the themes that resonate are how UWM and the Lubar School make a significant impact to the economy of Southeastern Wisconsin, how our MBA and Executive MBA programs in particular have produced top business leaders in Wisconsin including many CEOs, how our accounting graduates are highly sought after by public accounting firms, how the graduates of our investment management certificate program successfully compete with the very best for analyst jobs in the United States, how our SAP University Competence Center (one of only five centers in the entire world) provides SAP access to 185 universities globally, how faculty in marketing and management have served as editors of some of most prestigious journals in the field, how our centers on supply chain and information technology have had successful collaborations with multiple companies in Wisconsin and beyond, and how our entrepreneurship courses are preparing budding entrepreneurs to launch startups. This impressive list of accomplishments helps us gain credibility and the confidence to position the Lubar School of Business as premier talent and knowledge resource for Wisconsin businesses.
What did you explore during your first summer in Milwaukee? And are you prepared for your first Wisconsin winter after living in Florida for many years?
Milwaukee in summer turns into a party town with many festivals and shows. Both my wife and I have enjoyed every bit of what Milwaukee has to offer. We’ve been to Summerfest, which was truly amazing. Bastille Days, which were held literally outside our downtown condo, were very enjoyable as well. For the first time in our lives, we got to see the Thunderbirds in action at the Milwaukee Air and Water Show. We’ve also ventured a bit beyond the Milwaukee metro area, finding time to enjoy a weekend at Lake Winnebago, as well as Chicago. We hear a lot about the Wisconsin winters, but our experience living in Iowa should help us prepare for our first winter here. Don’t worry — I’ve already purchased a really warm coat.
What words of wisdom do you have for the Class of 2023?
When I transitioned from high school to college, I remember that it was an exciting time for me. I imagine it will also be an exciting time for our new freshmen as they explore college life and make new friends. I tell Lubar students the same thing that I told my own sons when they began college: absolutely enjoy the college experience, but always keep sight of why you are in college, and where you want to be after graduation. Also, having some long-term goals helps in keeping yourself on track. And of course, UWM and the Lubar School offer many resources for personal and professional development that I hope the Class of 2023 utilizes to the fullest extent.