Wake Forest School of Business names new dean

Former Wake Forest Assistant Professor Dr. Annette L. Ranft will return as dean of the School of Business


Courtesy of Wake Forest

Ranft will begin her new position as dean on July 1.

Jackie Thacher, Staff Writer

Wake Forest University has selected Dr. Annette L. Ranft as the new dean of the School of Business. 

Ranft comes to Wake Forest from Auburn University, where she has served as a dean and Wells Fargo professor at the Harbert College of Business for more than three years. 

Provost Rogan Kersh, who headed the search committee, is confident that Ranft’s extensive experience in business school administration and scholarship will greatly benefit Wake Forest. 

“She can bring experience that might not be represented at Wake Forest,” Kersh said. “She started her career with us, she knows us and has also been elsewhere.” 

As a first-generation college graduate from the Appalachian region of North Carolina, Ranft has always exceeded expectations. She earned her doctorate degree in business administration from the UNC Kenan-Flagler School of Business and became an accomplished scholar of strategic management. Her research focuses on acquisitions of high-tech firms, strategic leadership, merger and acquisition integration; and knowledge management. 

She has authored or co-authored more than 40 scholarly publications, and her work has been featured in top business journals. 

In 2012, the Wall Street Journal named Ranft to its list of top female business school administrators. She has served in a leadership role for more than half of her career in higher education. 

One of her first teaching roles was as an assistant professor at Wake Forest in 1999. She accredits much of her current knowledge to those early years. 

“I learned a lot about how to be a professor, teacher and a scholar,” Ranft said. 

After leaving Wake Forest, she then went to work at Florida State University where she first gained experience working in the FSU administration. 

“I was able to grow a lot and was able to work with doctoral students,” Ranft said. “[At Florida State], I first got into administration and got the opportunity to be a dean, which is an experience I have carried with me.” 

She then went on to work in the business programs at the University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University and, finally, Auburn University, before now returning to Wake Forest. Ranft is excited to come back to Wake Forest, and she believes she can have more meaningful interactions with students. 

After having held several dean positions at other schools, this potential for deeper connection is why she believes it is time for her to return to Wake Forest.

Kersh said there was an “astonishingly outstanding pool [of applicants]”, but he and other members of the search committee agree that Ranft was the best fit for the job. 

The search committee for Ranft was selected from a formula the university has perfected over the years. Kersh explained that the university strives to have a faculty from a variety of disciplines and also includes members of the School of Business boards and councils as well as undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, the university implemented a new strategy in the search process that Kersh called “radical collaboration”, where the university decided to include a dean from a different school [in the university] since they understand what is required of the role better than others. 

Maria Rios, senior student chair of Wake Forest’s undergraduate business school council, was the undergraduate student representative on the search committee. 

“They gave me a lot of responsibility as a member, and [I was] given as much information as all of them and felt really involved in every part of [the process],” Rios said. “I was treated like an adult and so was my opinion. Other members of the search committee were always encouraging [students] to speak up.” 

Rios is supportive of the decision to hire Ranft, and she is excited about how Ranft will represent a multitude of perspectives. 

“I am so excited [for Ranft],” Rios said. “She’ll take what other people say and add a new perspective that includes all of the different perspectives.” 

Another member of the committee, Dr. Phillip Howard, an assistant professor of finance and the Joseph M. Bryan Fellow in Banking and Finance, is also happy with Ranft’s hire and is excited for the impact she will have on the School of Business. 

“I’m very excited to have Ranft rejoin us at Wake Forest,” Howard said. “She is extraordinarily qualified, and I believe she will help the teacher-scholar model thrive at the business school.”

Ranft begins her position July 1, replacing Michelle Roehm, who has served as the Interim Dean since January 2021.