Following a national search, Auburn University has selected Annette Ranft as the eighth dean of the Harbert College of Business, effective Aug. 1.
A noted scholar of strategic management, Ranft joins the Harbert College from North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management, where she had served as dean and Steven P. Zelnak Jr. chair since July 2016. She succeeds Bill Hardgrave, who became Auburn University’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in January after more than seven years as dean.
“We enthusiastically welcome Dr. Ranft to the Auburn Family,” said Auburn University President Steven Leath. “As dean of the Harbert College, she will play a major role in strengthening the work of our faculty, expanding our academic programs and increasing our corporate engagement with industries across the state and nation. With her remarkable leadership, commitment and vision, the college is positioned to join the nation’s elite public schools of business.”
At N.C. State, Ranft provided strategic leadership for a college with more than 3,500 students, nearly 100 full-time faculty, more than 15 academic program concentrations and seven centers devoted to research and corporate engagement. At Auburn, Ranft will lead a fast-growing college that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as a business school. Harbert College’s enrollment, which stood at 5,257 during the spring semester, has grown by 47 percent since 2010. Named in 2013 after a $40 million transformational gift from 1982 alumnus and Harbert Management Corporation Chairman and CEO Raymond J. Harbert, the college will celebrate the grand opening of a graduate business building in spring 2019.
"I am delighted to be joining the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University,” said Ranft, who will also hold the college’s Wells Fargo professorship. “The foundation established for the college is certainly strong and indicative of exceptional support from outstanding alumni, college and university leadership."
In Ranft, the Harbert College welcomes a dean who was named to The Wall Street Journal’s 2012 list of top female business school administrators—one of 11 “shining stars” identified by the national news outlet. Ranft has served in leadership roles for more than half of her 20-plus-year career in higher education. Before accepting the deanship at N.C. State, she served as associate and senior associate dean at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business and as chair of the Department of Management at Florida State University. She also held faculty positions at Wake Forest University’s Calloway School of Business and West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics.
A native North Carolinian, Ranft earned a doctorate in business administration at North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and a master of science in management from Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Appalachian State University, Ranft worked as a systems consultant for AT&T and as an account manager at EDS.
Ranft’s research, which examines such areas as the acquisitions of high-tech firms, strategic leadership, merger and acquisition integration and knowledge management, has been published in top journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management, the Academy of Management Review, Organization Science and the Journal of International Business Studies. She is an active member of the Academy of Management.
As dean of the Harbert College, Ranft will have the opportunity to build on a strong foundation that includes seven programs ranked in the top 10 in the U.S., including online graduate programs consistently ranked among the nation’s best according to U.S. News & World Report and a supply chain management program ranked in the top 5 for its research and undergraduate program, among others. The college also boasts a thriving entrepreneurship culture that includes the $50,000 Tiger Cage student business pitch competition and the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator for student-led startups. In the past few years, several new research centers have been launched, including the Center for Supply Chain Innovation and the interdisciplinary RFID Lab (in collaboration with the Ginn College of Engineering and the College of Human Sciences).
The Harbert College also exceeded its $100 million goal in the “Because This is Auburn” comprehensive campaign, raising more than $130 million to support the creation of more than 20 endowed faculty chair and professorship positions, as well as 100 new endowed funds for excellence in support of such endeavors as international study and internship experiences, a student-managed investment fund and the Tiger Cage student business pitch competition. The college’s endowment grew more than 230 percent from 2010 through 2017.
One of Ranft’s immediate priorities will be participating in an alumni listening tour that will enable her to meet key Auburn University and Harbert College of Business stakeholders. “I look forward to working with the Harbert College’s engaged network of alumni, business partners, faculty, staff and students, as well as with campus leaders,” she said. “There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and momentum on our side. The level of support achieved in the comprehensive campaign, the sustained enrollment growth and the introduction of new research centers and program areas all demonstrate that the Harbert College of Business is on the rise.”