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Eller lures top MIT professor to UA

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Amar Gupta, a professor of management and technology in the Eller College, sits in his yet-undecorated office last week. Gupta left MIT for the UA, and his presence may be a sign that the so-called "brain drain" problem is reversing.
By Keren G. Raz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, August 30, 2004
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The Eller College of Management has nabbed one of the country's top professors in management and technology, a catch that could signal the end of what some call the UA "brain drain."

Amar Gupta, formerly one of the top professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, arrived in Tucson last week to take over the positions of Thomas R. Brown Chair in Management and Technology, senior director for research and business development and professor of entrepreneurship and management information systems.

"We're excited he's come here to be part of our team," said Ken Smith, interim dean of the Eller College.

Gupta comes to the UA after spending 25 years at MIT, where he made a name for himself landing grants, forming alliances among universities and businesses and establishing mentoring programs that included graduate students, undergraduates and high school students.

One of Gupta's articles, co-authored by a graduate student and a high school student, will be published later this year.

Gupta, who grew up in India, won a scholarship to study at MIT after finishing his undergraduate degree. At MIT he received his doctorate in decision support systems and went on an MBA "crash course," receiving his master's degree in the same year.

He is a big catch for Eller, which decided two years ago to implement a $500 fee for undergraduates in response to the loss of 21 faculty members.

The fee, along with donations, has enabled the college to hire nine faculty members this year, including Gupta.

While Gupta is one of several new faculty members in the college, he is one of the most high profile, earning a base salary of $210,000, funded in part by the endowment and the state.

"You can say I'm an example of 'reverse brain drain,'" said Gupta, whose combination of positions signals the beginning of major new initiatives on the part of the Eller College that will create partnerships with other colleges.

A significant part of Gupta's job includes creating new research initiatives and educational opportunities and pushing Eller to get involved in interdisciplinary programs.

"(The Eller College) recognizes that for organizations to be innovative and able to transform knowledge into commercial success, we have to have better partnerships between scientists and business entrepreneurs," Smith said.

Gupta was hired to serve as a catalyst for those partnerships, Smith said, adding that the Thomas R. Brown Chair in Management and Technology - a $1.5 million endowment - represents two areas Gupta has been hired to bridge.

It is hard to change the rankings of traditional programs such as physics that are already established, Gupta said, but the exploration of new areas such as interdisciplinary programs gives universities a chance to rise to the top.

And that is where Gupta has already begun focusing his energy.

Although his office is still bare because he's working out of a hotel, he has already met with people in optical sciences, biotechnology, health sciences and engineering.

By creating partnerships with other colleges, Gupta hopes Eller's rankings will rise and attract top faculty to work for departments across campus.

"If faculty have incentives, they will come," he said.

And when it comes to creating partnerships, Gupta plans to go even further than the UA campus.

"I'm going international," he said.

To start, he plans to teach a nationally recognized course on outsourcing, the first at the UA.

Lester Thurow, a former dean of MIT's Sloan School of Management, who worked with Gupta at MIT to design the country's first course on outsourcing, will come to the UA to help teach the course.

Gupta has worked on projects in South America, including one that aims to put computers in every Brazilian school. He has also been a United Nations adviser to Brazil and a World Bank adviser to Mozambique.

He plans to continue his international work here and get members of the UA community involved.

Gupta represents a real opportunity for the UA, Smith said.

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