The P&Q Interview: Jamie Prenkert, Dean Of Minnesota Carlson

Jamie Prenkert, dean of the Carlson School of Management, at the Minnesota State Fair last summer. Carlson School photos

About six and a half years ago, Poets&Quants profiled Jamie Prenkert for our annual 40-under-40 undergraduate business professors list, asking him to use one word to describe his first time teaching. The business law prof at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business chose “exhila-timidating” — coining a term to reflect the moment’s “potent mix of exhilaration and intimidation.”

“I loved every second of it,” Prenkert said of his first time at the head of a college classroom, “and, at the same time, worried that I wasn’t going to meet the incredibly high standards of my business law colleagues at Kelley, who to a person were multiple award-winning teachers.”

Prenkert needn’t have worried. He was a smash hit at Indiana, not only with students but with his Kelley colleagues as well, winning awards and widespread praise and rising to become executive associate dean for faculty and research. All of which was a prelude to his most “exhila-timidating” adventure yet: winning the deanship last year at another Midwestern public business school. Prenkert took the reins at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management in July, becoming Carlson’s 13th dean.


Carlson Dean Jamie Prenkert with Goldy Gopher, the University of Minnesota mascot. Carlson photo

Jamie Prenkert is a Hoosier through and through. He was raised in northern Indiana; so was his wife, Deb. He’s a graduate of Anderson University in the central part of the state, just northeast of Indianapolis, where he earned a bachelor’s in political science. After graduating from Harvard Law School in the late 1990s, Prenkert returned to Indiana, where for the next three years he served as senior trial attorney in the Indianapolis offices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In 2002, Prenkert moved to academia, becoming an assistant professor of business law at the Kelley School. There, for the next two decades, he would assume new titles and ever-greater roles: associate then full professor, chair of the Department of Business Law and Ethics, faculty fellow, associate dean of academics. In 2017 he was named the Charles M. Hewitt Professor of Business Law; four years later he became executive associate dean of faculty and research, overseeing the research mission of the Kelley School, a role that required serving as chief administrator for around 400 Bloomington-based faculty members in nearly 30 distinct degree programs. In the 2021-2022 academic year, he served as the president of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business.

Early on, Prenkert’s teaching — about which he was so nervous at the start — earned notice and plaudits. Teaching in both undergraduate and graduate programs at Kelley, he won awards in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2014.

So how did Prenkert become the dean of a business school not in Indiana, where he has deep ties and long experience, but Minnesota?

“There are flavors of Midwest, but it’s all Midwestern, right?” Prenkert says with characteristic good humor. “And the two Big Ten universities (Minnesota and Indiana) are similar in many ways, but certainly have their differences. Locationally, it’s quite different in the sense of Bloomington being in a quintessential college town, and here we’re in the midst of — I mean as you can see out my window — a big city.”

So what were his first months as dean like at the Carlson School, which is walking distance from the heart of Minneapolis, a city of nearly half a million?

“It’s been really good and it’s been a lot, which I expected, but expecting and experiencing are always two different things,” Prenkert says. “But it’s been really positive. The things that drew me to the job have been confirmed and some things that I didn’t know, which should have been a draw, have been great. And I feel like I had some insight into what ‘deaning’ would be like from my time in the dean’s office at Kelley — but experiencing it is always a new thing. And so I learn new things every day.

“I was just telling somebody, I have to remind myself that I have conversations now at a level of depth that I could not have had six months ago — sort of like when I first went to law school and I went through a semester and thought, ‘What did I learn?’ And then I went home and had a conversation with somebody about some legal issue: ‘Oh my God, I learned a lot.'”


Prenkert says one of the things that piqued his interest about the Carlson School was its widespread commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Prenkert has long experience in DEI not only through his work for the EEOC but also at the Kelley School, where he held affiliated faculty appointments in the Center for Excellence for Women & Technology, Advocates + Allies for Equity; Center for the Study of Law, Society, and Culture; Ostrom Workshop; and African Studies Program. As noted by Minnesota provost Rachel T.A. Croson in the announcement of Prenkert’s hiring as Carlson’s dean, he also convened Kelley’s first diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) committee and “organized a semester-long DEIB professional development series for faculty and staff; created and supervised the position of Kelley Bias Incident Support Ombudsperson; and envisioned, coordinated, and founded the Kinsey-Kelley Center for Gender Equity in Business, a collaboration with IU’s Kinsey Institute.”

Carlson has made recent moves that caught Prenkert’s attention. “In particular, the hiring of a senior diversity officer role and launching a Center for Inclusive Excellence (which my predecessor did in 2022) were important signals to me that a strong foundation is in place,” he tells P&Q, adding that since his arrival, his positive impressions have been reinforced.

“I’m really proud of the many efforts underway, and the people — students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, corporations, and community partners — engaged in them. We’re making progress in a variety of fronts.” Among them:

  • Enrolling the most diverse undergraduate class in Carlson history in fall 2023: 48.9% female and 28.9% students of color;
  • Seeing career placement and hiring stats for female and people of color on a positive trend line, with students of color in the full-time MBA Class of 2023 seeing a higher salary than peers ($146K versus $141K);
  • The launch of pipeline programs “that have record participation and are leading to applications and new student enrollments while exposing many others to the U of M and business majors”; and
  • The establishment of new partnerships with HBCUs, HSIs, TCUs, fraternal organizations, and community partners.

Carlson Dean Jamie Prenkert at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. Carlson photo


Carlson’s moves in DEI are “consistent with our focus on ensuring we show all people in our community that they matter and that we want to empower them on their path to being their very best selves, we are focused on creating an environment of belonging,” Prenkert says. “Now that we have stood up the Center for Inclusive Excellence, we want it to develop into a hub for information, training, and research to benefit both the Carlson School and our wider community.” School leadership is also working on a new school-wide strategic plan, he adds, and “DEI concepts are a foundational element of that. We remain fully committed to making progress, addressing where we’re falling short, and being accountable and transparent at all times.”

How does he feel about the pushback against DEI from conservative media and politicians — and how does he think that pushback will affect business education writ large in the coming years?

“For the most part, the concerns and critiques that purportedly motivate the pushback against DEI don’t reflect what we’re doing at the Carlson School or what I observe happening at most business schools,” Prenkert says. “Nonetheless, that pushback is concerning. It’s growing. And I don’t see it abating.

“My peers share my commitment to fostering diverse and inclusive schools, equipping graduates with the skills employers find necessary to lead the workforce of tomorrow. I don’t see that commitment changing. It’s imperative that we provide students, and faculty and staff, an environment where they are welcomed, included, and able to thrive. I expect that the writ large commitment will continue to be advanced while complying with laws and policies that may be put in place.”

See the next page for a Q&A with Carlson Dean Jamie Prenkert, edited for length and clarity. 

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