B-School Dean Suddenly Steps Down


Photo Courtesy of Madison Smith.

On Friday, Aug. 23, it was announced in a letter to Faculty that the Dean of the Chaifetz School of Business Dr. Mark Higgins would be stepping down on Aug. 31. The memo did not share any details of the Dean’s decision, nor give any reasoning as to why he would be stepping down or why the decision was announced only a week in advance. 

The letter was sent out by the Interim Provost, Chester Gillis. In the document, it stated that Higgins would continue teaching at the Business school during the fall semester and then would take a year-long sabbatical starting at the beginning of 2020. During Higgins’ time at SLU, the Business School was the site of a large amount of progress. This included the most recent donations from Dr. Richard Chaifetz and Rex Sinquefield, which resulted in the renaming of the school, as well as the forming of centers and institutes for the study of entrepreneurship and economic research. 

The letter about Higgins’ resignation was emailed to the faculty and staff of the business school, but at the time of this article’s writing, many students were in the dark about this new development. The information was also not readily available on SLU’s or the business school’s website. The lack of communication led to some confusion on the part of students.

Aryan Sawlani, a member of the Chaifetz Schools’ Dean’s Student Advisory Board, a group that works closely with the Dean to address student concerns and advise the direction of the school, said that while normally they would have received emails and contacts at the beginning of the semester, they had not received any messages since April 2019. 

Gillis stated in the letter that he had been in contact with the faculty and staff of the business school and was planning on naming an Interim Dean soon, and that a search committee would be formed with the goal of hiring a permanent Dean of the Chaifetz School of Business. 

This change in leadership comes at a crucial time for the business school, as visits from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business are planned for 2020. This non-profit organization is in charge of the accreditation of business schools across the globe. Higgins is currently serving as the chair of the AACSB Accounting Accreditation Policy Committee and services on the Business Accreditation Policy Committee as well. These Committees work to develop new standards for the accreditation of business schools. In finding a new Dean, Gillis stated that they would “have to move urgently” in order to make sure that the Higgin’s successor is able to spend enough time learning the ropes and working with the students and staff of the Chaifetz School of Business, before the accreditation visits began. 

There are two assistant and one associate dean that work in the business school, and many students expressed hopes that one of their favorites, namely Assistant Dean Debbie Barbeau, would be stepping into the role.

While the SLU Communications Department redirected the UNews to Gillis’s statement, Mark Higgins himself did not respond to requests for comment. 

Other business students, while seemingly unconcerned about Higgins’ particular stepping down, seemed more concerned about the state of SLU administration in general. 

“I really don’t like how we received the news about getting an Interim Dean in an email from the Interim Provost,” said Seth Hardin, a senior student of the B-school. “Does anyone at this school have a real job?”

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