New business dean making debut at UW Tacoma, in community

The Milgard School of Business will become even more engaged in the regional community and develop more high-quality academic programs during its next phase of growth under the leadership of Dr. Shahrokh Saudagaran.

“I am looking forward to having a conversation with our various constituents to see what they need and want,” said Saudagaran, who assumed the role of dean of the Milgard School July 1.

The 10-year-old business school at UW Tacoma has grown rapidly and recently received a naming endowment.

More than 400 undergraduates and 60 MBA students are currently enrolled and the school has more than 1,000 alumni.

“To have a naming endowment so early in the life of a business school is phenomenal. It is symbolic of the tremendous support that exists for the Milgard School and UW Tacoma. It’s great to have the community so firmly behind us,” Saudagaran said.

The school’s solid foundation is part of what attracted Saudagaran to UW Tacoma, but the opportunity to help take the Milgard School of Business to the next level really excited him.

“There is a difference between managing a school and leading one,” Saudagaran noted. “The Milgard Business School has come a long way, but there are still lots of opportunities. The die has not been cast. In a lot of places the die is cast; the school is fully built out and established, so the role of a dean is to manage. Here, I have the opportunity to lead while building on a very strong foundation.”

In addition to getting better acquainted with his faculty and students and learning the structure of the UW Tacoma campus and its connections with the University of Washington, Saudagaran will be out in the community.
He’ll be meeting the Milgard School’s many friends and supporters, people who hire its graduates, and those interested in the range of programming possible at a business school.

“First we will find what is needed by the business community, the customer. Then we will look at our resources to see what we can do well – what we could do better than any other organization in the region. It’s all about competitive advantage. Then we’ll look for champions to make these things happen within our faculty and in the community,” Saudagaran said. “In getting to know our community’s needs and interests, I may also suggest things they might not have considered or that previously could not be implemented due to lack of resources.

“For example, we could offer a business workshop series, which is something academics do well,” he stated.

The Milgard School may not be able to adopt every good idea, but it can serve as a catalyst to make things happen in the community.

Two major projects are already on the agenda: a Center for Corporate Leadership and Social Responsibility and a Center for Information-Based Management.

The funds for professorships to help establish these centers will flow into the school over the next few years through the payment schedule of a $15 million gift from Gary E. Milgard, the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation and James A. Milgard.

“As we prepare to start up our centers, we will be looking at any similar programs established at other schools to see what has worked well and what might work well here. This does not mean we have to duplicate what has been done elsewhere, but we will be looking for best practices in these areas,” he said.

Saudagaran is well known in business education circles, particularly in his field of accounting.

He is the former head of the School of Accounting at Oklahoma State University and has been a management consultant, research associate and controller for corporations and universities from Australia to Zwijndrecht, The Netherlands.

He has a decade of experience providing consultation and executive training for organizations in Asia, Europe and the United States.

He’s also the author of an international accounting textbook and editor of a forthcoming handbook on Asian accounting.

He is in demand for international accounting conference presentations and keynote addresses around the world.

On Monday, he travels to Orlando, Fla., to receive the Outstanding Educator Award from the International Accounting section of the American Accounting Association. The award recognizes an educator’s lifetime achievement in the field of international accounting.

Saudagaran considers the award a great honor. “It is one of the highest awards there is in this field,” he said.

Saudagaran is past president of the International Accounting section. At 48, he is the youngest person ever to earn the Outstanding Educator award and the only person to be given both that award and the award for Outstanding Dissertation, which he received in 1986.

Saudagaran earned his Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Washington.

“There are lots of opportunities out there for business school deanships, but only one UW. It’s great to come home and be a part of the university where I earned my Ph.D.,” he said. “Also, there are much richer opportunities for a business school located in a region with such a vibrant economy as what exists here in the Northwest today.