Cornell announced on Tuesday that Prof. Kevin Hallock, dean of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, will be the next dean of the SC Johnson College of Business, choosing an internal candidate to take over the fast-growing college that aligned three schools under the same roof in 2016.
Provost Michael Kotlikoff’s appointment of Hallock, 49, caps a months-long search for a dean to replace Prof. Soumitra Dutta, the founding dean of the college who abruptly resigned without explanation in January. Emeritus Prof. L. Joseph Thomas has been serving as interim dean since Dutta’s resignation and will continue to serve until Hallock takes over on Dec. 15.
Hallock, an expert on executive compensation and labor markets who has led the ILR School since 2015, said on Tuesday morning that he had initially resisted throwing his hat in the ring for the business college role because of his love for the ILR School.
“When you have built camaraderie and trust with a group and really like the direction of how things are going, you’re reluctant to give that up,” he said in a phone interview, adding that once he was convinced the ILR School would be in good hands, he decided to participate in the interview process. Kotlikoff will name an interim dean for the ILR School next week and begin searching for its next leader.
Hallock said he would spend the next two months listening to people within the college, meeting in small groups and one-on-one with some stakeholders.
“It’s a much different job and a college in its infancy, and I found that quite interesting,” Hallock said. “I think there are challenges, but enormous opportunities.”
In a Tuesday afternoon email addressed to “ILRies,” Hallock said it was “with mixed emotion” that he is leaving the ILR School for the College of Business.
“As the top school focused on the workplace in the world, there simply is no comparison,” he wrote of the ILR School. “The school’s unique focus on the workplace from many disciplines and perspectives prepares our students to become problem solvers, critical thinkers and leaders in any profession they choose.”
In selecting Hallock, Cornell looked within the University and chose someone with experience leading a school with a strong identity. Hallock has already said he will be looking to manage and encourage the distinctive personalities of the three schools under the business college: the School of Hotel Administration, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management and the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.
“This business college is massive — it’s among the largest in the country — and I think it can grow,” he said. The three schools have “particular identities,” he said, “and I think the challenge is to maintain those unique strengths and lift them all.”
Cornell’s proposal in December of 2015 to place the three schools under one business college was controversial, with many worrying that the schools would lose their uniqueness under one business college umbrella.
The business college ultimately opened in July of 2016 under Dean Dutta and had vastly increased its undergraduate enrollment by fall 2017, from 944 to 1603. The college also included an additional 295 graduate students and 2,433 professional students on the Ithaca campus as of fall 2017.
Thomas, the interim dean and a former dean of the Johnson School, said he and others “have moved the college, and the three schools, forward.”
“There is still a lot of work to do and Dean Hallock is an outstanding choice to do that,” Thomas said in an email to The Sun. “Kevin knows Cornell, and he is an excellent leader. I look forward to working with him during the next few months of transition.”
In a statement, Kotlikoff said Cornell “owes Joe a great debt for his steady hand at the college’s helm for the past seven months. The continuity and administrative expertise he provided has enabled the college to continue to thrive while we’ve gone through an extensive search for a new dean.”
That statement stands in stark contrast to the brief email Kotlikoff sent announcing Dutta’s resignation in January, in which he referenced “the college’s many accomplishments to date” and said he was “confident that it will continue to thrive.” He did not thank Dutta or acknowledge the founding dean by name except to say that he had offered his resignation.
In March, Poets and Quants, a business school news website, speculated that Cornell’s leadership position would “certainly be the toughest to fill from the outside” among four major business school leadership vacancies at the time. The website attributed that difficulty to the unexpected and unexplained retirement of Dutta.
The resignation of Dutta, who remains a tenured professor at Cornell, surprised even top administrators within the business college, who learned of his departure at the same time as students and faculty members, The Sun previously reported.
Hallock said he frequently spoke with Dutta prior to the dean’s resignation, but has not spoken with Dutta since becoming a candidate for the position. Hallock said he had no concerns about Dutta’s short tenure and does not think anyone in the school should be worried, saying he has “real confidence in” alumni, students, staff, and faculty members.
Hallock has led the ILR School since 2015 and been a faculty member in the school since 2005. In 2009, he became the founding director of Cornell’s Institute for Compensation Studies.
Before coming to Ithaca, Hallock taught economics, finance and labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 2002 to 2005. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1991 before earning a Ph.D. in economics at Princeton University in 1995.
Hallock said a mentor advised him, when he was 26, that he should prioritize service as much as teaching and research, and he said that advice led him to take more service and leadership roles while at Cornell. He said on Tuesday that he wants to “create bridges” while serving his term as dean, which runs through June 2024 and was approved at a closed meeting of the Board of Trustees.
“This is a remarkable business college in the middle of a massive college that is doing big things,” he said. “I do think that that’s a huge advantage for us.”
Hallock grew up in Hadley, Massachusetts, a small town in the western part of the state. He first met his wife, Tina Hallock, when they were just four years old, and they married after college. The couple has a son and daughter together.
“I’m really really excited about the opportunities for the new college,” Hallock said. “I’m confident in the people who will lead ILR going forward. I think ILR is as salient as it’s ever been.”
The next few months, he said, will be incredibly busy, as he begins studying the business college’s budget, the institution’s structure and meeting with stakeholders.
Hallock said he was initially worried that his friendships with some ILR School members might fade amid his new role. But, he said, “I am, after all, moving only a block away.”