Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management names esteemed scholar and business school leader Thomas J. Steenburgh as next dean

Vanderbilt University announced today that Thomas J. Steenburgh, a senior associate dean at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, will be the next dean of the Owen Graduate School of Management. 

Tom Steenburgh (Photo courtesy of the University of Virginia)
Tom Steenburgh (Photo courtesy of the University of Virginia)

Steenburgh will succeed M. Eric Johnson, who led the Owen School through a period of momentum and growth in innovative programs, research collaborations, world-class facilities, alumni engagement and more, said C. Cybele Raver, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.  

“Tom Steenburgh is an innovative and rigorous scholar whose approaches to sales and marketing strategies have been canonized for their lasting pedagogical value and transformative real-world impact,” Raver said. “Professor Steenburgh is a leading advocate for productive collaborations between the academic and business communities, a highly respected academic leader skilled at actualizing innovative ideas on behalf of faculty, and an ambitious thinker capable of catalyzing growth and executing large-scale change. He has what it takes to advance Owen’s national and global reputation and prepare its students for the shifting landscape of the digital business community.”    

Steenburgh earned his Ph.D. in marketing from Yale University. He is currently Richard S. Reynolds Professor of Business Administration and senior associate dean for the residential MBA program at the Darden School. There, he is the course head for the first-year marketing course and the faculty chair for the strategic sales management program in executive education.  

He is a co-founder of the Thought Leadership on the Sales Profession Conference, which serves as a forum for discussion on contemporary issues in sales among leading academics and senior business leaders. The conference is a manifestation of Steenburgh’s belief that experts in academia and business should cross-pollinate ideas to solve real-world problems.   

Steenburgh’s scholarship involves analyzing sales and marketing strategies and their effectiveness. He is the author of many case studies and has addressed issues ranging from lump-sum bonuses as a motivating factor for salespeople to how businesses manage their earnings. His Harvard Business Review article “Motivating Salespeople: What Really Works,” co-authored with Michael Ahearne, won the Wachovia Award for Research Aimed at the Practicing Manager, and the broad impact of his sales research was recognized with a Neil Rackham Research Dissemination Award. Steenburgh’s published research and case studies are featured in the curriculum of many of the world’s best business schools, including Harvard Business School, where he once served as a faculty member.  

“Tom Steenburgh excels at the qualities that will propel Owen into a new league of world-renowned business schools,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said. “He is a highly admired, ambitious leader, a renowned scholar and a generous cross-disciplinary collaborator with a track record of forging dynamic partnerships in pursuit of solutions to pressing real-world concerns. We sought a leader who would help Vanderbilt to create bold collaborations across Vanderbilt and with Nashville’s growing business community—and rapidly elevate Owen’s visibility on a global scale—and we have found that leader in Tom.” 

Steenburgh is a member of the senior advisory board of the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management and an associate editor of the Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing. He sat on the editorial board of Marketing Science and is an ad hoc reviewer of academic articles published in other high-impact sales and marketing journals.  

“Vanderbilt exudes energy and enthusiasm and draws creative, talented and ambitious people from around the world,” Steenburgh said. “The opportunity to collaborate with an ambitious leadership team, including the provost and chancellor, faculty eager to maximize their impact in teaching and scholarship, and students and alumni with a passion for changing the world drew me to the position. I am thrilled to be joining an institution that wants to be on the cutting edge and build the university of the future. Given its thriving business community, Nashville provides an ideal location for Owen’s growth.” 

Steenburgh earned his undergraduate degree from Boston University, followed by his master’s degree in statistics from the University of Michigan. After graduating from Michigan in 1992, Steenburgh joined the Xerox Corp. He returned to the academy and earned his doctorate at Yale University. In 2003, Steenburgh began as a tenure-track assistant professor at Harvard Business School. He joined the faculty of the Darden School in 2012. While there, Steenburgh was named Faculty Marshal in 2021 and earned a Darden Multiyear Teaching Award and the Multiyear Publication Award in 2018.  

Steenburgh’s appointment was conducted with the guidance and support of the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management search committee, which was chaired by Chris Guthrie, dean of Vanderbilt Law School and John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law. The committee included faculty members from several disciplines, Vanderbilt Board of Trust member and Owen alumnus Doug Parker, and a current Owen School student.