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Graduate business program chooses new dean

Simmons Dean Deborah Merrill-Sands has been chosen as the new dean of the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business starting in Aug. 2010. (Lisa Bergquist).

Mills College announced today that come August Deborah Merrill-Sands will be the new dean of the Lorry I. Lokey Graduate School of Business. Sands will be leaving her position as dean of the only other women’s business school in the country — Boston’s Simmons College School of Management — after six years there.

“When I read about Mills as a whole, I saw a lot of alignment there in women’s education,” she said during her lecture on Mar. 11 for candidate talks held at the College. “Women are the engine of growth in the entrepreneurial sector. A school like this, especially in this stage of its development, has to be nimble.”

In 2009 the Princeton Review named the Simmons School of Management as the number one MBA program in the U.S. with the “greatest opportunities for women” and for “drawing students from diverse personal and professional backgrounds.”

The business program, which was founded in the 1970s, has fallen on poor economic times as a result of its new green building, according to a 2009 article from Bloomberg.

“Colleges like Simmons — mainly undergraduate schools offering some master’s degree programs — are in the worst financial shape, according to Kneedler’s analysis. They turned to borrowing for the amenities they used to entice students to small programs. Now, they’re drowning in debt, Kneedler says.”

Sands was at the helm when the school earned accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business in April 2009. Accreditation was one of the key goals Sands said she wished to achieve as dean at Mills.

In a statement released on Mills’ Web site, President Janet Holmgren said “The appointment of Dr. Merrill-Sands together with the opening of our spectacular new green building will ensure that the Mills MBA Program will achieve national prominence and offer students new avenues for their professional and leadership development.”

Rachel Croson, the professor and director of the Negotiation Center at the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas also was sought for the position and spoke on Mar. 10 during the candidate talks.

The Search Committee for the new dean was headed by Provost Sandra Greer and included both College business faculty and students.

After the candidate talks audience members submitted questionnaires assessing each candidate’s leadership potential and commitment to academic excellence and diversity, though the College has not said what the results were.

Sands will be replacing founder of the MBA Program Dean Nancy Thornborrow, who helped create the program in 2001. Thornborrow has said she plans to return to teaching and chair the Economics Department.

Sands said she is looking forward to serving as the dean of the Graduate School of Business.

“I am particularly enthusiastic about the Mills College deanship because of the start-up nature of the business school and Mills’ strong academic reputation, its attention to academic rigor and its commitment to women’s education, diversity and sustainability,” said Merrill-Sands in a press release. “I thrive as a leader in the building phase of organizations and I am also deeply committed to strengthening women’s leadership in all areas of work.”