Pepperdine University dean to take over GW School of Business

Linda Livingstone will serve as dean of the GW School of Business starting in August. Photo courtesy of GW media relations.
Linda Livingstone will serve as dean of the GW School of Business starting in August. Photo courtesy of GW media relations.
Updated: May 27, 2014 at 10:01 p.m.

A dean who has steered Pepperdine University’s business school for a decade will take control of the business school at GW, the University announced Tuesday.

Linda Livingstone, dean of the Graziadio School of Business, will lead GW’s school about a year after her predecessor was suddenly fired for mismanaging a multi-million dollar budget. The long-serving dean has launched four new degrees and a series of online degree programs during her tenure.

A professor who attended Livingstone’s presentation to business school faculty in the spring said her vision for the school includes more collaboration with GW’s other colleges, enhancing its global positioning and focusing on public policy and entrepreneurship.

“Working with the faculty and staff to build on a strong foundation of programs and research to continue to enhance the quality and reputation of the school will be a privilege,” Livingstone said in a release.

Livingstone has overseen a quick rise in rankings, with the Pepperdine school now boasting a No. 76 MBA program. She is also known for championing women in business and will be the GW school’s first female dean since Susan Phillips stepped down in 2010 after 12 years in the school’s top post.

Provost Steven Lerman said in an interview Tuesday that Livingstone’s experience in creating new programs and courting donors set her apart from other candidates.

“When you have that opportunity with someone with such a great track record, and you have a school making the transition with an interim dean, it’s hopeful that a sitting dean – all else equal – can hit the ground running faster,” Lerman said.

When she arrives in Foggy Bottom, Livingstone will enter a dean orientation program that was piloted this year after Ben Vinson took over the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Livingstone expanded Pepperdine’s business programs across six campuses, an accomplishment that Lerman said she could use as a model at a school that is looking to increase online offerings.

Lerman has pointed to online programs as a way to bring enrollment across GW’s colleges back to historic levels. As the University expects about 2 percent fewer graduate students to enroll this year, he said the programs could attract more working professionals hoping to earn another degree.

Livingstone will lead seven departments that have spent a year waiting for a new leader. Former dean Doug Guthrie was fired last August after top leaders discovered that the school had overspent its budget by $13 million.

Guthrie had invested more than University leaders anticipated in online and executive education programs, which he said could have eventually increased revenues but required larger start-up costs. The plan put him at odds with top administrators, who said they fired him because they and Guthrie failed to compromise over the future of the school.

Guthrie was also the subject of several investigations in the University’s legal office. Scheherazade Rehman, last year’s Faculty Senate executive committee chair, claimed Guthrie had inappropriate sexual relationships with senior officials and was skimming money off the top of GW’s funds to start a campus in China.

One of Livingstone’s first tasks will be to solve the school’s budget woes, and she will meet faculty who are planning to ask for more control over department budgets, several professors on the search committee said.

University President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman picked her from a short list this month after a 16-person search committee narrowed down the pool in April.

James Bailey, a professor of management and member of the school’s dean search committee, said Livingstone’s experience and commanding, yet calming, persona helped her win over many of the school’s faculty. He said she was the “right person for this moment in time for the school.”

“The last three years have been pretty tumultuous. It’s fightened a lot of people. It’s just taken a toll here,” Bailey said. “Somebody that’s had experience in leadership, that’s moved the place forward but hasn’t created as much stress, is why the sitting dean was especially important.”

When she visited campus in April, Livingstone pitched the idea of finding new niches for online programs, like courses that focus on small business, Bailey said. She also claimed she would be inclusive in decision-making. When Guthrie led the school, professors had complained that the former dean kept them out of major planning.

She beat out three other candidates, including a former Fortune 100 chief executive officer, the dean of the University of Albany – SUNY’s School of Business and a senior associate dean from the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. She was the sole female dean candidate to visit campus.

This summer, Livingstone will also become the leader of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, GW’s accrediting organization.

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