Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Trading one good boss for another

Today, the Minerva Schools at KGI announced its two new latest academic appointments:

The Minerva Schools at KGI, offering a reinvented university experience for the brightest and most motivated students from around the world, today announced the appointments of Dr. Eric Bonabeau as Dean of the College of Computational Sciences, and Dr. James D. Sterling as the Director of Minerva Labs and interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences. The two join Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn, Founding Dean, and Dr. Daniel Levitin, Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, as key academic leaders at the Minerva Schools at KGI.
An entrepreneur and expert on adaptive computing algorithms, Bonabeau’s book Swarm Intelligence is one of the sources cited by Michael Crichton’s novel Prey. (Ironically, my former KGI co-worker Christoph Adami is also credited).

But it’s the other announcement that’s the big news at KGI:
Dr. James D. Sterling, previously Dean of the School of Applied Life Sciences and current Vice President for Academic Affairs at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), will serve as Director of Minerva Labs, and has also been appointed interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences. Dr. Sterling holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from California Institute of Technology, and is an alumnus of Texas A&M University where he earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering. As a founding faculty member of KGI, Dr. Sterling developed the engineering coursework that prepares students to work in the development of laboratory research tools, laboratory automation, and micro-bioanalytical methods. In addition, Dr. Sterling serves as chair of the academic dean’s committee of The Claremont Colleges consortium.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Minerva and creating a new kind of university experience for undergraduate students,” said Dr. Sterling. “I’m particularly excited and intrigued by the educational innovations we are developing and look forward to leveraging Minerva’s learning platform and new methods in laboratory automation to educate students in the College of Natural Sciences."
Neither Minerva nor KGI mentions that Sterling is co-founder of one of KGI’s first spinoffs, Claremont BioSolutions.
Jim Sterling, Minerva CEO Ben Nelson
and KGI President Sheldon Schuster

Jim was my boss from when I joined KGI in July 2011 until last Thursday, when he stepped down as SALS dean. He was a great boss, one of the best in my entire career. For many bosses — including my first few years at my own company — being the boss is about the boss. Although very busy, Jim was always scrupulously fair to his employees — perhaps due to that engineering mindset that something is fair or isn’t.

We wish Jim well in his new position, and I’m confident he’ll bring great expertise and management skills to launching the labs, getting the college off the ground and helping the school prepare for its first class next fall.

My new boss (i.e. the interim dean) is KGI’s longest-tenured business faculty, Steve Casper, who taught at Cambridge’s Judge business school before joining KGI in 2003. In innovation studies, most people know Steve for his research on biotech clusters, particularly in Germany and California. Steve is the reason I’m at KGI, so I look forward to working with him on building KGI’s programs and opportunities for its students.

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