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Kjell R. Knudsen has been at UMD since 1979, serving as LSBE dean since 1998.
Kjell R. Knudsen, dean of the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), has announced his intention to retire. He was appointed in 1998 and has been the dean for 15 years. Prior to his role as dean, in 1984 Knudsen served as the associate dean. Then in 1986, Knudsen served as the founding director of the UMD Center for Economic Development, a large regional business development and technology transfer organization working closely with the private sector. The center is now located in the Technology Village downtown Duluth.
Highest Accreditation Level
Upon accepting the deanship, Knudsen began a rigorous endeavor. He strengthened and refined all aspects of the School of Business and Economics and subsequently applied for accreditation to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB International), the world’s leading business school accrediting agency. The UMD School of Business & Economics first received AACSB accreditation in 2000. Since that time, the school has continued to maintain its accreditation at each AACSB review for both the undergraduate and graduate level of its business and management programs.
Chancellor Lendley C. Black has high praise for Knudsen. "Under Kjell's lead LSBE has been transformed into one of the premier schools of its type in the Midwest,” Black said. “It now attracts Minnesota's top students and world-class faculty with innovative new academic programs. He has added value to the school by increasing the level of student and faculty support with more scholarships and increased opportunities for research and grants."
New Name and a New Building
During Knudsen’s term, the school changed its name to the Labovitz School of Business and Economics in honor of Duluth business leader Joel Labovitz, a 1949 graduate of UMD, and his family. The family provided part of the funding for the $23 million Labovitz School of Business and Economics Building, which opened in September 2008. The $4.5 million Labovitz gift is the largest ever for LSBE, and the second largest for UMD. Knudsen and Joel Labovitz worked together toward their ultimate goal—a prestigious school housed in a state-of-the-art Gold LEED certified building.
Kudos from the Business World
Knudsen draws accolades from business leaders around the country. “Kjell has been key to the school’s advancements,” said Joel Labovitz, chairman of Labovitz Enterprises. “He has changed every aspect of the school for the better. Kjell leaves very big shoes to fill. We are proud to have a little bit to do with the school’s success, but we did the easy part. Kjell did the work. He has put LSBE on such a solid foundation, it can’t help but grow.”
Richard Brown, CEO of JNBA wealth management firm, appreciates Knudsen’s open attitude toward new programs. “I have been proud to work with Dean Knudsen in the development of LSBE’s Financial Planning Minor as well as serve on the Dean’s Advisory Board,” said Brown. “Had it not been for Kjell’s dedication to the school, forward thinking, and devotion to the future of his students, first-of-its-kind efforts like this new minor would not be possible. His tenure at UMD has changed the landscape of education there and the way educators around the country think about the next generation of professionals.”
George Goldfarb, president of maurices said that Knudsen has made significant gains in LSBE’s delivery of a quality education. “I have been impressed and associated with UMD and the School of Business since I attended in the early 1980’s. I actually had Kjell in class when I was a student and he made a positive impact on me even back then. Fast forward 25 years and Kjell is still making a positive impact on the school, the Duluth community and on me personally.”
Phil Rolle, a retired Wells Fargo Corporation executive, has known Knudsen for over 30 years. They met when Rolle was a student in the MBA program and Knudsen was on the faculty. “Kjell’s leadership skills combined with his understanding of influence management allowed him to succeed in a complex educational environment,” said Rolle.
Knudsen encouraged the school to grow with changing times. As a consequence, the school has launched many new initiatives including the Financial Markets Lab, the Marketing Analytics Program and the Financial Planning Program. It was under Kjell’s leadership that LSBE’s MBA program was successfully launched in Rochester. In his last year as dean, Kjell spearheaded two major initiatives that are expected to be launched in fall 2013: a collaborative degree program between LSBE and the School of Fine Arts that combines Marketing and Graphic Design, and a fully online Certificate in Business Administration that will also support College of Liberal Arts’ Cultural Entrepreneurship program. LSBE boasts a 94% job placement rate for recent graduates; and the community partnerships and collaborations with area businesses provide more opportunities for real-world learning than ever before.
Knudsen, a native of Norway, came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship to Gonzaga University in 1965. Graduating with a degree in Economics, he then received a Torske Klubben Fellowship and enrolled in the University of Minnesota. In 1973, he received his Ph.D. in Management. He then served as a project manager at the Royal Norwegian Council for Industrial and Scientific Research in Oslo, Norway, and in 1979, he joined the faculty of UMD's School of Business and Economics.
A national search for the position is currently underway.
By Cheryl Reitan, March 2013
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