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Introducing New Michigan Ross Dean Sharon Matusik


On Aug. 1, Sharon F. Matusik began her term as the new Edward J. Frey Dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

A distinguished scholar, Matusik joins the Michigan Ross community with proven success as a business school leader. Most recently, her efforts as dean of the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder led to greater student outcomes, record fundraising, and significant growth in the academic preparedness and diversity of applicants.

It is my great honor to lead the next chapter at Michigan Ross and lift its stellar global reputation and impact to even greater heights.

Sharon Matusik, Edward J. Frey Dean at Michigan Ross

The Michigan Ross community and beyond is excited to learn more about Matusik and her thoughts as she takes on this new role. Below, Matusik answered a variety of questions about her experience, business education, life in Ann Arbor, advice to students, and more. 

What are you most looking forward to in this new role?

I’m most looking forward to working with the outstanding Michigan Ross community. There is tremendous academic excellence across the board at Ross and the University of Michigan: From the students, to the faculty and staff, and the alumni and business community. This comprehensiveness, and the ability to work collaboratively across the university and with the community, are critical to addressing the opportunities and challenges our society faces today and into the future. The challenges on the horizon, by and large, will not be solved by narrow areas of knowledge, but rather will require bringing together expertise from across areas. I believe Ross and U-M are especially well-positioned to lead in creating a better tomorrow by drawing on its deep depth and breadth of expertise across Ross and campuswide. 

In addition, the state of Michigan is a microcosm of our world today. It is transitioning to a knowledge-based economy with world-class talent across many sectors. It is a state with much diversity that is looking to provide strong economic opportunity for individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. It is a state moving forward with regard to issues of innovation and sustainability. Harnessing Michigan as a learning lab provides opportunities for Michigan Ross to make a difference in the areas that are important here and across the globe.

What aspects of the Michigan Ross and University of Michigan community attracted you to this position?

Michigan Ross and U-M have had a great and ongoing influence on me and my academic career. When I reflect on some of the most important ideas that have driven my field, many of them have a Ross connection. Also, many of my most influential mentors over the course of my academic career were connected to Ross. And the first dean I served under when I was an assistant professor at Rice University had been a dean and provost at U-M; he institutionalized the Michigan Ross culture of focusing on highly impactful research and teaching that greatly shaped my career.

This focus on truly making an impact was strongly reinforced when I had the opportunity to meet the faculty, staff, and students here at Michigan Ross over the last few months. 

I greatly admire the mission of Michigan Ross to build a better world through business. This is also my vision around the role of business in society. As business educators, we are in a unique position to have a foundational impact on the future of business through our research and teaching. I take this very seriously and am proud to be a part of an organization like Michigan Ross that believes in the important impact it can have on the world.

What are your first impressions of life in Ann Arbor?

There is energy and pride associated with being a part of the U-M community and Ann Arbor. I have had so many people reach out to welcome me — from Ross and U-M, and from the extended alumni and business community, too. I am continually amazed by how many people have a Ross connection, and their great pride in it.  Also, those in the community are very eager to talk about what they love about Ann Arbor and Michigan, from the Ann Arbor Art Fair, to Michigan football, the great museums, and the best place to buy Michigan gear.

And, the trees, of course! Coming from the mountain West most recently, I have been struck by how green and lush the landscape is here, and I love all the lakes in the area.

What are among your top priorities as you take on the role as dean of Michigan Ross?

To further elevate the tremendous impact Michigan Ross is already making through its research and how it educates and inspires our next generation of leaders — our students. There is great potential to extend Ross’ global reputation and impact, and I plan to spend my first 100 days listening and learning in order to develop the blueprint for how to accelerate Ross’ impact. I am also excited to build on the school’s foundation to create a more inclusive learning community; increase its collaboration with the many areas of excellence across the entire campus; amplify its action-based learning focus; and spur innovations to drive the future of business.

What inspires you the most about business education?

The tremendous impact it has on the world. As we look around us, there is a great need for business leaders to step up to fill voids we see in leadership globally. I am so grateful for the business leaders who make important economic, as well as social, impacts in the world through their actions. For example, a global business leader in a developing economy who builds his factories outside of major cities to create jobs in areas that need economic growth and development. Or, an entrepreneur from an underrepresented background who launches a firm to teach technology skills to others from marginalized groups. These are great examples of people who are building a better world through business.

Why is creating accessible pathways to higher education important to you?

I am a first-generation college student. My father worked on an assembly line — for General Motors, actually — and my mother was a secretary. They worked incredibly hard to make sure my sister and I had a great education. 

I am constantly amazed at the opportunities I have had because of my education. My life is totally different from how I grew up. The fact that my job allows me to help others create opportunities for themselves and their future through education, like I was able to do,  is deeply meaningful to me.

Sharon Matusik, Edward J. Frey Dean at Michigan Ross

What advice do you have for current/prospective students?

Persist! And say “yes” to opportunities. In my case, I had to take time out of my studies to work and earn money for tuition. It would have been very easy to continue working, rather than going back to college. I am beyond grateful that I DID finish my degree. I do think the fact that I struggled to afford college is one of the reasons I valued my education so much, and why I ultimately chose to pursue graduate studies and dedicate my career to education. Many students and young adults are grappling with a wide variety of challenges in their lives, and I hope my example can help them persist in facing their own challenges.

Also, as a first-gen college student, I did not have the life experiences or role models to set very specific career goals. What I do reasonably well, though, is being open to opportunities and having a sense of excitement about new challenges. I know it is a bit of a cliché to say if you are not moving ahead, you are falling behind, but I do think it is very important to seek out new opportunities to continue to grow and learn.

What do you think are the biggest trends shaping the business world today?

There are four trends that are especially important (in no particular order):  

  • The increased attention to ESG (environmental, social, governance). In corporate boardrooms and entrepreneurs’ workspaces across the globe, business leaders are grappling with how to integrate economic progress with environmental and social considerations. 
  • The urgency in creating a talent pipeline of executives who are inclusive leaders. This means more leaders from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives, and leaders who are skilled at drawing out and incorporating these differences to make better decisions. 
  • The convergence of business and technology. Future leaders have to be comfortable operating effectively at this intersection. 
  • The shifting global dynamics that mean businesses have to reevaluate the new opportunities and risks as political, supply chain, and macroeconomic forces evolve.

Who are your mentors and/or business leaders that you admire?

I am always inspired by those who care deeply about the role that higher education plays, and support it through their time or personal philanthropy. Their stories are many, and range from a pivotal experience they had as a student that shaped their future opportunities, to reflecting on their careers and how they would like to make the world better through education.

In terms of people I admire from afar, I have always had tremendous respect for Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. secretary of state. Not only was she breaking barriers for women in the United States, but she was doing so across the globe by demonstrating her competence in thought and action when interacting with the most powerful leaders in the world. And, she led by keeping a sense of humor, humanity, and humility. It always makes me smile to think about her famous collection of brooches and pins that she would wear into high-stakes negotiations, and how she carefully selected them to represent what she wanted to accomplish in the meeting.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy traveling, hiking, skiing (Nordic and alpine), reading, and hanging out with my daughters (Charlotte and Claire), husband (Michael), and our dogs (Kona and Nessa).

What is a fun fact that people may find especially interesting about you?

I was a DJ on my college radio station. And one of my campus work study jobs as an undergrad was re-icing the campus outdoor skating pond (in Maine, at night) — I hope this prepared me well for the winters in Michigan!