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Legacy of Success

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Kjell R. Knudsen: An Exemplary Dean; A Spectacular Person


LSBE Dean Kjell R. Knudsen was honored with the Business Person of the Year Award at the 2013 Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards in April.  

When Kjell R. Knudsen was appointed dean in 1998, one of his first goals was to name the School and create a brand for it that would be known outside the region.

As Knudsen retires this spring, he leaves the School with far more than a new name. His tenure has been marked with incredible achievements, all of which have brought the Labovitz School of Business and Economics to new heights and transformed it into one of the premier business schools of its kind in the Midwest.

Raising the Standard
One of Knudsen’s greatest accomplishments was getting LSBE accredited through AACSB International, the world’s leading business-school accrediting agency. Though it was Knudsen’s leadership and ambition that ultimately led to LSBE’s accreditation in 2000, Knudsen stresses that the School had made progress in accreditation prior to his deanship.

A true example of his humble nature, Knudsen says he served as a catalyst for bringing the plans to fruition.

“My philosophy is if you can surround yourself with people who have good judgment, whatever you do is so much easier,” Knudsen said.

His involvement with AACSB extends to serving on every AACSB committee, most recently the prestigious Blue Ribbon Committee responsible for creating the new business school accreditation standards.

Building a Solid Foundation
In 2003, the School of Business and Economics changed its name to the Labovitz School of Business and Economics after a $4.5 million gift from Joel Labovitz (B.A. ’49) and his wife Sharon. Knudsen and Labovitz then worked together to transform LSBE into a prestigious school housed in a state-of-the-art, Gold LEED-certified building.

“When he learned he would have a new building, I think he nearly burst at the seams,” said Labovitz.

The $23 million building opened in 2008, bringing modern technology and experiential learning facilities, such as the Wells Fargo Financial Markets Lab, to students and staff.

Rigorous Academics; Real-World Experience
Knudsen complemented the School’s new hands-on learning facilities by creating and strengthening partnerships with the business community. Today, LSBE students benefit from more applied-learning opportunities than ever before. 

Knudsen helped launch numerous offerings for students, including the financial markets program, financial planning minor, health care management major, and retail marketing analytics major.

“Many of the programs that started under Kjell’s leadership are now well-established and will be here long after his retirement,” said Praveen Aggarwal, interim associate dean and Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor of Marketing.

But a more important legacy, says Aggarwal, is the culture of collegiality and cooperation that Knudsen has created.

Leading By Example
“Kjell’s collaborative style of leadership has helped create a culture of cooperation and mutual respect within the School,” said Aggarwal. “Faculty and staff understand and respect the value of the work that’s done by all of us in moving the School forward.”

Richard Brown, CE of JNBA Financial Advisors and LSBE Senior Fellow, says he admires Knudsen’s kindness toward others and his ability to think outside of the box. “Whether he is speaking to a student, faculty member, or friend, he does so with care and sincerity. He is constantly thinking of ways to better the lives of others and provide opportunities for our future leaders.”

Leaving on a High Note
Knudsen says he is leaving LSBE with a great deal of satisfaction. “It has been a real pleasure to work with the faculty, students, and staff. Over all these years, I have looked forward to coming to work and working with my colleagues to move the School forward in small and big ways.”

The entire business community – from LSBE students, faculty and staff to AASCB associates and regional and national business partners – wish him the best. Knudsen will continue at LSBE for the next two years on a part-time basis.

“Kjell has established a superb foundation for LSBE,” said Labovitz. “His legacy will last a very long time.”

A Look Back at the Years . . .

1979 – Joins LSBE as faculty
1984 – Appointed associate dean
1986-1998 – Serves as founding director of the UMD Center for Economic Development
1998 – Appointed dean of LSBE
2000 – LSBE receives its first accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB International), the world’s leading business-school accrediting agency
         – MBA program extended to Rochester
2002 – Financial markets program launches
2003 – The School of Business and Economics becomes the Labovitz School of Business and Economics (LSBE) after a $4.5 million gift from UMD alum Joel Labovitz and his wife, Sharon
         – Begins a six-year term on AACSB International’s Initial Accreditation Committee
2006 – Healthcare management major launches
         – A record 1,900 students enroll (a 600-student increase in Knudsen’s eight years of deanship)
         – Receives the David A. Martin Entrepreneurial Leadership Award at the Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards
 2008 – Opens state-of-the-art, $23 million, Gold LEED-certified building
2009 – Appointed to serve a three-year term on AACSB International’s PreAccreditation Committee
2010 – Introduces financial planning minor and launches financial planning learning lab at the Duluth Technology Village
         – Hosts first annual UMD LaBounty Entrepreneur Competition
         – Creates Student Advisory Council
2011 – Retail marketing analytics program launches
         – Appointed to the AACSB International Blue Ribbon of Accreditation Quality, a group of 20 people from around the world who created the new accreditation standards
2012 – Launches Minnesota’s first Financial Planning Association (FPA) Student Chapter
2013 – Anticipated launch of the first collaborative major with the School of Fine Arts – Marketing and Graphic Design
         – Honored with the Business Person of the Year Award at the 2013 Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Awards in April

Visit the Labovitz School of Business and Economics website for more information about its programs.

June 2013

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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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