Carnegie Mellon University

Dean Bajeux speaking to crowd at her installation

April 25, 2023

Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou Installed as 10th Dean of Tepper School of Business

A long-awaited ceremony to formally install Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou as the Dean of the Tepper School of Business was held on Thursday, April 13. Attendees gathered in the Simmons Auditorium in the Tepper Quad for the ceremony that also celebrated her appointment as the Richard P. Simmons Professor of Finance.

Bajeux is the tenth dean in the college’s seventy-four-year history and the second woman in this position. Although she joined Carnegie Mellon University in October 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the university to postpone the in-person ceremony until now.

Provost James H. Garrett Jr. opened the installation by acknowledging Bajeux as an innovator, a leader, and a passionate educator.

“As dean, she provides the strategic vision for the school, guiding its students, faculty and staff as they contribute to the mission of one of the leading business schools in the world,” he said.

Garrett explained that endowed professorships are among the highest academic awards that the university can bestow on a member of the faculty — allowing Carnegie Mellon to retain world-class faculty, compete with peer institutions and strengthen its reputation.

Richard and Virginia Simmons, benefactors of the Richard P. Simmons Professorship of Finance, attended the event virtually. Their daughter Amy Sebastian was present and spoke of her family’s relationship with Carnegie Mellon.

Others in attendance included Bajeux’s family, members of the University Leadership Council, faculty, staff, and friends of the Tepper School of Business — including the Tepper School's Business Board of Advisors, the Tepper School Alumni Board, and members of the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association. Several Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustee members were also in the audience.

Willem-Jan van Hoeve, the Senior Associate Dean of Education and Carnegie Bosch Professor of Operations Research, reflected on Bajeux’s many roles through the analogy of business domain functions – strategy consultant, financial analyst, entrepreneur, marketeer, and boss.

“A key first question that strategic consultants ask is ‘why?’ he explained. “Many of [Bajeux’s] questions offered opportunities for improvement. Collectively these questions formed the framework within which we started to build a strategy for the school.”

Rhonda Fischer, Chief Operating Officer, spoke of the mutual trust and respect that serves as the foundation for the work that she and Bajeux do together. She described this trust and respect as allowing them “’to listen intently and remain open minded, and move closer to the other’s perspective.…’”

"I was drawn to Tepper because of the interdisciplinary culture that exists here, something I have long been interested in and passionate about. I feel very strongly that it is the only path toward effective problem-solving.”

– Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, Dean, Tepper School

Later in the program, Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian presented Bajeux with a Quaich, a traditional Scottish drinking vessel used to offer guests a cup of friendship or welcome. Its two-handed design is a symbol of new ventures and mutual trust between the giver and receiver.
“Dean Bajeux has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in areas defining the future of business schools that have long been at the heart of the Tepper School’s distinct approach,” said President Jahanian.

“I am confident she will continue to inspire and equip our faculty, staff, and students to pursue innovative solutions to our world’s most pressing societal challenges.”
Jahanian also presented Bajeux with a captain's chair and miniature 3D-printed chair to serve as a memento of her leadership at Carnegie Mellon. A personalized chair is given to deans and faculty members to recognize their endowed professorship at the university.

In Bajeux’s remarks, she shared how proud she is to be a part of the Tepper School — the birthplace of Management Science — and why the school’s collaborative nature appealed to her.

“I was drawn to Tepper because of the interdisciplinary culture that exists here, something I have long been interested in and passionate about,” she said. “I feel very strongly that it is the only path toward effective problem-solving.”

Bajeux explained that Management Science was the first approach to integrate scientific methods into complex problem-solving for business solutions.

“In fact, some form of our original academic model is taught at every leading business school today,” she said. “Our task is now to invent what will be Management Science 2.0.”

Bajeux also described how the different “layers” to one’s identity, personality, life experiences, and ambitions combine to make each person unique. She shared a personal story to demonstrate the importance of building a community where everyone can thrive and feel that they belong.

“I am truly honored to be in this space with so many incredibly intelligent and inspiring people,” Bajeux remarked. “I look forward to continuing to work with students, staff, faculty, and leadership not only at Tepper but the entire university.”

She concluded, “Thank you for your hard work, your support, and for making me feel that I belong.”

As the ceremony ended, her grandson Luca presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon, Bajeux served as Dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University and held several positions at George Washington University School of Business. These included Professor of Finance, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, and Chair of the Finance Department.

Bajeux’s deanship of the Tepper School follows that of Robert Dammon, the Richard C. Green Professor of Financial Economics, who returned to the faculty in 2020.