With $1 million gift, former MIT Sloan dean Glen Urban retires to focus on research

Published: June 11, 2012

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Urban published seven papers while he was dean. Most academic administrators at a deanship level do not continue research, or do so in only a cursory manner.

Still, the dual roles were a weight. Urban had a future in administration, but he remained drawn to research. After a sabbatical—in which he sailed to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico, and Florida—he landed on the latter.

“It became clear after five years that I was either going to have to choose to be a professor or an administrator, that I wasn’t going to be able to choose to do both,” he said. “I just felt—I’d rather do the professor side. Let me tell you, it’s the most advantageous position at MIT: to be free and do things with no hierarchy and pressure.”

Returning to research and teaching, Urban studied the world’s newest marketing tool—the Internet—in earnest. With Sultan, early on he explored the role of trust in online marketing and later worked with her and other colleagues on large scale projects with companies such as General Motors, Intel, and BT.

In 2002 he included a prescient understatement in a personal essay published in Journal of Marketing: “The Internet is a risky area for research, because it is so volatile and we do not have much research banked in this area, but I believe that it will be a major additional channel for marketers in the future.”

Without classes to teach, Urban will turn full time to research. For his next project, he will work with General Motors in an attempt to quantify the value of new media advertising in relation to old media advertising. He will, as ever, lead a team of researchers that includes MIT Sloan PhD students, MIT Sloan MBA candidates, and other students and faculty from across MIT.

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