Srilata Zaheer: Inspiring Leadership at the Carlson School of Management

Srilata Zaheer: Leading with Impact at the Carlson School of Management

In the realm of academic administration and global corporate social responsibility, Srilata Zaheer stands as a beacon of inspiration and leadership. As the 12th dean of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, her impact resonates not only within the academic corridors but across international borders.

Early Life and Educational Odyssey of Srilata Zaheer

Zaheer’s journey began in the vibrant town of Durgapur in West Bengal, India. Raised with a thirst for knowledge, she attended high school in Chennai, eventually earning a Bachelor of Science in physics from the Women’s Christian College at Madras University.

Her academic pursuits took her to the Indian Institute of Management, where she obtained her MBA with a focus on finance and control. The culmination of her educational odyssey was marked by a Ph.D. in international management from the prestigious Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Multifaceted Career

After completing her MBA in 1975, Zaheer ventured into the corporate world, contributing her skills to renowned multinationals such as Tata Consultancy Services and Sandoz (India) Ltd.

However, her career trajectory took a unique turn in 1981 when she moved to Nigeria. Here, she not only worked as a journalist for Business International but also embraced her passion for teaching at a university.

The years from 1986 to 1992 saw Srilata Zaheer immersed in rigorous academic pursuits at the Sloan School of Management. Her dissertation, comparing the role of incentives and culture in U.S. and Japanese banks, foreshadowed her future contributions to the field of international business.

Carlson School of Management: A Journey of Leadership

Srilata Zaheer’s association with the Carlson School began in 1992 when she accepted a faculty position as an assistant professor. Over the years, she held various pivotal roles within the school, including department chair, PhD coordinator, and associate dean of faculty and research.

Her commitment and scholarly contributions garnered recognition from esteemed organizations like the Academy of International Business and the Academy of Management.

On March 8, 2012, Srilata Zaheer achieved a historic milestone as she was appointed the dean of the Carlson School of Management. This marked not only her personal achievement but also a momentous occasion for the University of Minnesota, as she became the first person of Indian descent to serve as dean.

Transformative Leadership: Carlson School’s Evolution under Sri’s Guidance

During her tenure as dean, Srilata Zaheer initiated the Military Veterans Initiative, transforming the Carlson School into the number one Military Friendly business school in the nation.

Her visionary leadership expanded the school’s engagement with the business community, leading to a plethora of experiential learning opportunities for students.

Sri Zaheer oversaw the introduction of new degrees in business analytics, supply chain management, and finance. Collaborative programs with Tsinghua University in Beijing and Tongji University in Shanghai, as well as online degrees and certificates, further solidified Carlson’s global footprint.

Her research focus on international business, coupled with extensive publications, earned her accolades such as the PwC Strategy& Eminent Scholar Award in 2018 for lifetime achievement in scholarship from the International Management Division of the Academy of Management.

Beyond Academia: Volunteerism, Recognition, and Personal Reflections

Srilata Zaheer’s commitment extends beyond academia. In 2020, she assumed the role of chair on the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, showcasing her dedication to community service.

Her personal life intertwines with her professional journey, as she is married to Aks Zaheer, the Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Strategic Management at the Carlson School. Their story began on a theatrical stage during their first year at business school, and they now share their lives with two children.

Recognitions and Awards: A Testament to Excellence

Srilata Zaheer’s contributions have been widely acknowledged, evident in numerous awards such as the Women in Business Career Achievement Award from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2021.

Her service on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis earned her the title of Outstanding Director by Twin Cities Business in 2020.

Srilata Zaheer was inducted into the Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest Business Hall of Fame in 2019 and recognized as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. In 2013, she received the Women in Business award from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Legacy and the Future

As Srilata Zaheer prepares to retire as dean, she leaves behind a legacy of excellence at the Carlson School. The institution, under her guidance, recently raised over $100 million for scholarships, affirming its commitment to fostering diverse talents.

However, a concern lingers in Zaheer’s mind: the decline of American enrollment in graduate programs. Despite the school’s efforts to increase domestic student enrollment, the issue raises questions about the evolving dynamics of educational aspirations among Americans.

Bridging Cultures and Fostering Diversity

Delving into the nuances of enrollment diversity, Srilata Zaheer highlights the importance of encouraging American students, particularly women, to pursue careers in fields like science and math.

Cultural differences and societal perceptions play a role in shaping educational choices, and Zaheer’s observations underscore the need for a concerted effort to bridge these gaps.

A Vision for the Future

As the Carlson School navigates the challenges of fluctuating graduate enrollments, Zaheer remains steadfast in her commitment to making education accessible to a diverse spectrum of students.

The introduction of new programs, scholarships, and a master’s in marketing for liberal arts graduates reflects her dedication to ensuring that education remains a transformative force for all.

Also Read: Saira Sameera Rao: An Impactful Role in Inclusive Media

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