Dirks to assume leadership of Bauer Leadership Center, become senior adviser to the chancellor

Search to begin for new executive director of McDonnell International Scholars Academy


Kurt T. Dirks, vice chancellor for international affairs and director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy at Washington University in St. Louis, has been appointed director of the George and Carol Bauer Leadership Center and senior adviser to the chancellor for leadership, effective July 1, according to Chancellor Andrew D. Martin and Provost Beverly Wendland.

“As our strategic planning process is nearing its completion, we’re taking a close look at how best to support our highest strategic priorities at the university level,” Martin said. “One theme that has clearly emerged is our desire to educate and develop the next generation of leaders. Through our Bauer Leadership Center and other signature programs, we are cultivating leaders who will make a positive and principled difference in the world. 

“There is no better person to lead this charge for us than Kurt Dirks. A skilled academic and administrator, Kurt brings the right mix of insight and expertise to this role. We’re grateful that he has answered the call to assume leadership of the Bauer Leadership Center and to serve as a special adviser for our broader efforts in the leadership space across the university.”

Dirks, who is also the Bank of America Professor of Leadership, has served in his current role since 2018. During that time, he has led the McDonnell Academy in recruiting top scholars from the United States and around the globe to pursue graduate and professional degrees at Washington University in preparation for careers as future global leaders. He also has taught a McDonnell Scholars leadership seminar, in which he will continue to participate in his new role.

“We are fully committed to our global enterprise, and the work of the McDonnell Academy is critical to our success as a world-class and worldwide institution of research and higher learning,” Wendland said. “We’re exceptionally proud of the academy and consider it an integral part of our strategy for facilitating open collaboration and engagement with scholarship and perspectives from around the world. This work goes hand in hand with our mission to develop strong leaders with a global perspective, and we’re fortunate to have Kurt Dirks stepping in to leverage his expertise to the benefit of our students and the institution as a whole. With his new appointment, we are poised to launch our leadership and global enterprises into the future on parallel paths to greatness and distinction.”

A search will begin this spring to seek a new executive director of the McDonnell Academy. The position will be realigned to report to the Office of the Provost, under the leadership of Vice Provost for Graduate Education Vijay Ramani, whose role will be expanded to Vice Provost for Graduate Education and International Affairs. Ramani has served as a McDonnell Academy ambassador for the Indian Institute of Technology and will build on this experience as he expands his role.

“I am excited to lead WashU’s international programs and partnerships,” Ramani said. “Having a global perspective is a central guiding principle of our upcoming strategic plan. I look forward to working closely with university leadership and with our students, faculty, staff and international partners to build upon and expand our momentum in the global arena.” 

“It truly has been a privilege to serve as director of the McDonnell Academy. I’ve loved the time working with our scholars, our team and the many faculty who have a true dedication to the program,” Dirks said. “Over the past several years, we have grown and enhanced the program and I know the next leader will take the academy to its next level of success.

“As I turn my attention to my new role leading the Bauer Leadership Center and providing strategic guidance for the university’s leadership enterprise, my focus will be on the role of leadership to inspire others to make a positive difference in society, to use their individual talents, ideas and passions to achieve more than they could by themselves. I believe an essential element for leaders is to earn and deserve the trust of others. This is the principle upon which the Bauer Leadership Center was founded, inspired by George and Carol Bauer, who themselves are exemplary leaders. I’m eager to get to work to further advance their vision of the center as a place that champions values-based leadership.”

“Carol and I are excited about this new appointment,” George Bauer said. “What a delight to welcome Kurt Dirks back as director of the Bauer Leadership Center.  It is especially significant because of his expanded role of working with the chancellor to explore leadership education throughout the undergraduate population.”

“Kurt’s scholarly work on trust in managerial relationships is so important in a time when so many of our leaders and institutions are losing the trust of their constituents,” Carol Bauer added. “We believe that work, his background in teaching value-based, data-driven leadership at Olin, and his recent experience in international leadership make him an ideal selection for this role. We could not be happier.”

Based in Olin Business School, the Bauer Leadership Center was established in 2016 with a $5 million commitment from George and Carol Bauer, longtime benefactors of Washington University. The center’s mission is to develop leaders of competence and character who are equipped to make a positive and principled difference in their organizations, their communities and society at large. Dirks and Stuart Bunderson, the George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics and Governance, were the center’s inaugural co-directors and Bunderson has served as its sole director since 2018. Bunderson is leaving the position and taking a leave of absence from the university to lead young adult service volunteers in South America.

The McDonnell International Scholars Academy was founded in 2005 as a global partnership among premier academic institutions united to provide graduate and professional education to prepare future global leaders. Scholars are selected on the basis of their promise to become future leaders in academia, government, the professions or the corporate sector.

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