Long-time Olin professor and former interim dean Kurt Dirks has been tapped for a new university-wide assignment as vice chancellor for international relations and director of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.
He will succeed James Wertsch in the vice chancellor role when Wertsch leaves the post July 1 and takes over the academy director’s role Jan. 1.
“Kurt is a perfect successor to Jim. He brings energy to continue to build on our progress and vision to find new opportunities to expand our international engagement,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said in the announcement to the WashU community on Friday. “I am looking forward to this next chapter in our international programming.”
Dirks comes into the new post after teaching at Olin since 2001. Now the Bank of America Professor of Managerial Leadership, he is also co-director of Olin’s Bauer Leadership Center and served as interim dean of the business school after Mahendra Gupta retired from the post in 2016.
“I’m grateful to Dean (Mark) Taylor for being so supportive in this,” Dirks said. “In the new role, I am looking forward to help support the global vision Dean Taylor has for Olin, as well as working with the other schools to support their global objectives.”
In his new role, Dirks will help to attract students from across the globe to attend Washington University, to strengthen ties between Washington University and leading research universities from other countries, and to support global research and educational programs in the university.
Dirks will remain on the Olin faculty, continuing his research on trust and leadership. He will no longer be able to teach his “Power and Politics” or “Defining Moments” classes, which are popular electives in the MBA program. Although he will remain active in the Bauer Leadership Center, he will step down from his post as co-director.
“I am excited Kurt is taking on this significant role at the university, and I am thrilled that he will remain connected to Olin as we grow our school’s global presence and offerings,” Dean Taylor said. “It is as important as ever to continue to emphasize around the world the academics, research, intellectual capacity, student experience, innovation, and values that make Olin and Washington University so special.”
Dirks’s connection to McDonnell is a continuation of his service on its steering committee, where he’s served since 2015. He helped to launch Olin’s Executive MBA program with IIT-Bombay in Mumbai, the first US-based EMBA degree program in India. He also helped manage Olin’s EMBA partner program with Fudan University in Shanghai.
Wertsch was the founding director of the McDonnell academy in 2005, which was founded as a hub of international activity and has grown to include 34 partner universities around the world. According to WashU’s announcement, the academy was established to help link universities in sharing expertise and research to jointly work on significant global challenges such as energy and the environment and global health.
Wertsch also expanded the McDonnell Scholars program, which pairs international students from partner universities with WashU faculty mentors to study on campus. The program has grown to 98 alums since its first graduate in 2007.
Dirks indicated there may be opportunities for the McDonnell Academy and Bauer Center to collaborate on their work.
“The McDonnell Scholars program helps international students become leaders in their own areas — law, science, business,” Dirks said. “We want to look at whether there are ways the Bauer Leadership Center can add onto that.”