Photo of Dean Ann Harrison on campus.

Top of Her Game

Ann Harrison honored as dean of the year by Poets & Quants

Dean Ann Harrison, a renowned economist lauded for keeping Haas’ six business programs ranked among the world’s best and significantly expanding the breadth and depth of the faculty, has been named Dean of the Year by Poets & Quants. Harrison is the 13th dean and the third woman to receive the honor from the publication, which covers business school education.

Poets & Quants Editor-in-Chief John Byrne announced the news to a global audience at a Thinkers50 virtual conference in October. Byrne engaged in a sweeping conversation with Harrison that covered the impact of globalization on workers, the responsibilities of government and business in fighting climate change, the critical role of diversity on campus, and the enduring importance of the MBA.

Demand for business education is growing, Harrison said, but the expectations of what students get from that education has also changed. “Students care about making a difference through business. They want more than just a great paycheck,” she said. “They really care about the world at large.”

In a Poets & Quants article, Byrne wrote that “Harrison has amassed an unimaginable and nearly breathtaking record of achievement” during her four-and-a-half years as dean. Harrison, who has led Haas since January 2019 and was reappointed to a second term last February, said she was “deeply humbled” by the honor.

“I am so lucky to be surrounded by a tremendous community at Haas—students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are always going beyond themselves,” she said. “It is only together that we can seek solutions to climate change, build a more inclusive society, and fuel innovation in all its forms.”

Big Changes

Since joining Haas from Wharton, Harrison has made significant changes, Byrne noted. She has led a major diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB) effort, broadening the profile of the Haas faculty, school board, and student body. The school’s entering full-time MBA class this year is 41% women, 47% U.S. minorities, and 13% U.S. underrepresented minorities. Harrison has also woven sustainability content deep into the curriculum while maintaining the school’s historical focus on entrepreneurship and innovation.

“The challenges of climate change permeate all aspects of business: supply chain, economics, management, and finance,” Harrison said. “In the latter field, we have pioneered new ways of investing. We need to hire in all these dimensions. It is a big agenda and we are making a lot of progress in a lot of different ways.”

Harrison also oversaw the launch of the first Flex online MBA cohort at any top business school. Applying learnings from the pandemic, Haas used new technology to make the MBA available to expanded groups of remote students and working parents requiring flexible schedules.

Under Harrison’s leadership, Haas raised a record total of $227 million, including $56.1 million during the last fiscal year. The school also secured the largest single gift in the school’s history—$30 million from alumnus Ned Spieker, BS 66, and his wife, Carol, BA 66 (political science)—to turn the undergraduate program into a four-year program.

Contact sheet of three images of Dean Ann Harrison, each with a different facial expression and gestures.

Figuring it out together

In the Poets & Quants article, Courtney Chandler, MBA 96, Haas’ chief strategy and operating officer and senior assistant dean, noted that Harrison “hasn’t stayed in one lane as dean.”

“She’s ambitious, and she sees the full potential of Haas within UC Berkeley and is driven to realize that potential,” Chandler said. “She has not been that one-dimensional dean and that is incredibly impressive.”

Harrison’s record as a highly cited scholar has also helped her work with the school’s faculty. Erika Walker, senior assistant dean for instruction, who has been at Haas for nearly 20 years, told Byrne that Harrison has succeeded in securing faculty support for her vision, which isn’t an easy task. “She relates so well to them,” Walker said. “Ann is very thoughtful about where we should be going. A lot of her success stems from her ability to get the buy-in and then enlist others to figure it out together.”

“I am so lucky to be surrounded by a tremendous community at Haas—students, staff, faculty, and alumni who are always going beyond themselves. It is only together that we can seek solutions to climate change, build a more inclusive society, and fuel innovation in all its forms.”

—Dean Ann Harrison

During her second term, beginning in January, Harrison said she’ll work with her team to build upon the school’s academic excellence and to continue enhancing the student experience. One important goal is to ensure that the school’s degree programs remain the best in the world, she said. In its 2023 b-school ranking, the Financial Times named Haas’ full-time MBA program #7 worldwide and among the top four U.S. programs, a record high. U.S. News & World Report ranked the evening & weekend MBA program #1 among part-time MBA programs and our undergraduate program #2. The Financial Engineer ranked Haas’ master of financial engineering program #1 in the world.

“This is a business school that embodies excellence,” Harrison said. “I feel great pride in our past and am thrilled to have the opportunity to create impact for the future.”