Dr. Wanda Costen began her term as Dean of Smith School of Business in July 2021. An academic leader who champions inclusive excellence, she brings a unique combination of experience in academia — as a Dean, senior administrator, researcher, and professor — as well as a private and public sector management career. Dr. Costen’s research interests include managing diversity, racial and gender inequality in organizations, women and leadership, and strategic human resources. In addition to building on Smith’s reputation as a top business school, she’s focused on creating an environment where everyone feels welcome.
My first job ever was… working at McDonald’s.
I decided to enter academia because… a program director I guest lectured for said, “We need people like you in post-secondary.” By that he meant a passionate, business-savvy African-American woman, of which there are very few in business education.
I’m passionate about business education because… by developing the kind of leaders that recognize business for good, we can have a positive impact on global society.
My proudest accomplishment is… raising my wonderful adoptive son, Darren.
My biggest setback was… leaving the military.
I overcame it by… recognizing I had more to offer, and focusing on doing my absolute best in every role I had. I committed to maintaining high ethical principles and values, and ensuring people were treated fairly, with dignity and respect.
“By developing the kind of leaders that recognize business for good, we can have a positive impact on global society.”
The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… don’t focus on the short-term outcomes; focus on the journey. I always tell students not to obsess about grades and instead focus on learning, but I know that’s hard to do.
The thing I love most about what I do is… the students! They energize and inspire me, and I love hearing their stories about how they are creating positive change in the world.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… my deep faith developed from my relationship with my incredible maternal grandmother who had the courage to emigrate to New York to escape the Jim Crow laws of the South.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that I was a NCAA volleyball player at the United States Military Academy (West Point) in the 80s.
I stay inspired by… voraciously reading books across genres — business, history, self-improvement, sports, faith & spirituality — and being open-minded to finding new worlds to discover through reading.
The future excites me because… I get to lead a top business school where we are preparing future leaders to have a positive social impact on the world.
My next step is… to create a collaborative academic learning community, where everyone feels welcome to be their authentic selves.