Over the summer, Edieal Pinker, professor of operations research at the School of Management, hastened to publish his academic papers. He knew that come July, becoming deputy dean of the SOM would leave him with less time for research.
The SOM deputy dean’s major responsibilities include recruiting and retaining faculty, negotiating salaries and offering guidance to junior faculty. Since stepping into the role, Pinker has spent most of his time adapting to the transition and acquainting himself with administrative procedures.
While his predecessor, SOM professor of finance Andrew Metrick ’89, had to focus on hiring new faculty to keep up with the expansion of the school’s physical campus and growth of the student body, Pinker aims to improve the quality of the faculty and maintain the school’s collaborative culture now that the pace of expansion will be slower.
“We all felt we hit the jackpot when we lured him here. He is very down to earth and ‘hands on,’” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, SOM senior associate dean for leadership studies. “Instead of relying on the issuing of imperial proclamations from his desk, he gets to know what is needed by firsthand data collection — talking with people and benchmarking against what is possible.”
To maintain a close-knit culture among faculty, Pinker said he will frequently visit classes to learn what different professors teach and their unique approaches. By doing so, Pinker said he hopes to show appreciation and serve as a role model for other senior faculty.
“As the school becomes bigger, it’s natural for faculty to focus on their own groups,” Pinker said, adding that he will work to make the SOM’s faculty more aware of their colleagues’ research
Pinker said he will continue to provide training programs for faculty and allocate more resources to support their scholarship.
Unlike most business school administrators, who come from a background in finance and management, Pinker holds degrees in operations research, a discipline that involves applying quantitative methods to make better decisions. In the past Pinker has written about workflow design in health care, online auctions and responses to terrorist threats.
Operations research focuses on how to improve efficiency of complex processes or systems, SOM professor of operations management Sang Kim said. For example, it deals with ways to minimize costs, maximize output and utilize innovative technologies, Kim said, adding that Pinker’s unique background will benefit a large community such as the SOM.
“This job is about solving problems. These are problems that involve people and processes, something that I worked on a lot in my research,” Pinker said.
Kim said although Pinker might come across as a serious person — as many top-notch researchers are — he is never short of jokes that lighten up a meeting.
Before he officially took over the job, Pinker told the News that he already knew he had big shoes to fill. Metrick has been recognized among SOM professors for his contribution to recruiting and retaining faculty. In fact, it was Metrick who hired Pinker from the University of Rochester in January 2013.
“I have been in the job for two three-year terms. It is time to give someone else a chance,” Metrick told the News in February after the school announced the change in leadership. “It is healthy for the faculty if there is turnover in this job, and a new person can come in with new ideas.”
Metrick, who officially stepped down from the deputy dean position in July, intends to now focus on his research in financial stability and government regulations. He will lead the school’s new one-year master’s program in systemic risk, which begins in the 2017–18 academic year.
SOM professor of management Barry Nalebuff said Metrick has put in place many more formal procedures for faculty hiring and promotion, which previously took place on “opportunistic basis.” The standard procedures will make Pinker’s job much easier, Nalebuff added.
Pinker commended Metrick’s long-term approach to recruiting ladder faculty — hiring people who will spend the rest of their careers at the SOM. He also praised the way Metrick interacted with potential faculty, which sent a strong signal about how the school functions and its culture.
Even though his predecessor left a legacy of his own, Pinker’s contemporaries already speak to his accomplishments and quality of character.
“Despite soaring brilliance, a strong moral backbone and a sturdy demeanor, [Pinker] has virtually no discernable ego. His ambitions are institutional in nature rather than personal,” Sonnenfeld said.
Pinker taught at the University of Rochester from 1997 to 2012.