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Meet our new dean

Dean Mary Margaret Frank

When Mary Margaret (Myers) Frank arrived at Carolina – after graduating from R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem where she was goalie for the soccer team – she didn’t have any intention of studying business. She had set her sights on majoring in art history.

Instead, she went on to earn three degrees from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and become its first female dean.

Accounting for change

Frank changed her major to business only because she dreamed of starting an art gallery and realized she needed a business foundation to achieve that.

She modified her plans after she attended the Undergraduate Business Symposium at UNC Kenan-Flagler. There she asked speaker Garry Snook (BSBA ’68), then-CEO of Performance Bicycle, what course an aspiring entrepreneur should take.

His response: accounting.

“That answer changed the course of my life,” says Frank.

She went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from the Undergraduate Business Program (UBP) and study tax in the Master of Accounting (MAC) Program.

She practiced as a CPA and senior tax consultant for Arthur Andersen in Washington, D.C., for two years and returned to UNC Kenan-Flagler in 1994 to begin her doctoral studies in accounting with a specialization in taxation.

Seeds of inquiry

During her time in the doctoral program, Frank sometimes questioned whether this path was the right one, but the support of faculty mentors propelled her to success and her first academic job at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

She served as an assistant professor of accounting from 1999-2002 and received its Phoenix Award in recognition of “the faculty who, in addition to classroom responsibilities, has greatly enriched the learning experience of campus students.” 

“What I was really interested in is how regulation, particularly tax policy, affects decision-making,” she says. “I spent about the first half of my career exploring that.”

Mary Margaret Frank new dean

A triple Tar Heel, Mary Margaret Frank’s career trajectory was shaped by her UNC Kenan-Flagler experience.

Today her academic interests include the integration of business principles and public policy objectives, cross-sector collaboration and leadership, and sustainable investing. These interests stem from her research on the effects of tax, financial accounting and patent reporting on the strategy of corporate management, investors and entrepreneurs.

She comes to UNC Kenan-Flagler from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, where she was serving as senior associate dean for faculty development, John Tyler Professor of Business Administration, and co-founder and academic director of the Institute for Business in Society.

At Darden, Frank won teaching and research awards and honed her collaborative leadership skills in a variety of roles.

“Over much of my academic career, I led where needed, often without title, so collaboration was key,” she says. “I have spent a career building bridges within and across institutions.” 

Leading at Darden

As Darden’s senior associate dean for faculty development, Frank designed, coordinated and managed recruitment and development of over 100 faculty. She also led efforts to support Darden’s collaborative culture in the face of three challenges: opening a facility in Rosslyn, Virginia, to grow professional degree programs; hiring successors as long-serving faculty began to retire; and helping new faculty become members of the community as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The most substantive of those efforts was the creation of a faculty development plan that aligned the school’s mission and strategy, leading efforts to address the impact of the pandemic on faculty and create new channels for connectivity across the school.

In her role as a founding academic director of the Institute for Business and Society, she raised $12 million to endow the institute and led its initiatives to support and leverage multidisciplinary thought leadership that addresses collaboration between the private and public sectors to create a connected, productive and just society.

Mary Margaret Frank profile

The collaborative atmosphere at UNC Kenan-Flagler is part of what drew Frank back to her alma mater. “I have spent a career building bridges within and across institutions,” she says.

Specifically, Frank created the Tri-Sector Leadership Fellows program, which engages graduate students at the University of Virginia on navigating and connecting these sectors to address complex issues facing society. She also forged a partnership with the U.S. Department of State and nonprofit Concordia to recognize leading cross-sector initiatives that improve communities around the world.

While at Darden, she also served as a board of director and chairperson of the audit committee of a small publicly traded company, The Female Health Company, for 14 years. The medical device company’s mission was to empower women, most of whom were from developing economies, to protect themselves against HIV and AIDS.

The business model required collaboration with governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and ministries of health across the globe. Its revenues ranged from $9 million to $33 million, grew from over-the-counter trading to listings on AMEX and then NASDAQ, and merged with a biotech company in 2016 to become Veru Inc.

“As the chair of the audit committee, I helped hire the first CFO, worked with the finance team through the enactment of Sarbanes-Oxley, spent significant time with the financials, and managed the auditor relationship,” she says. “I learned first-hand to be nimble when dealing with shocks to consumer demand and to navigate conflicting demands from stakeholders while trying to serve your mission.”

That board experience spurred her interest in cross-sector collaboration and has been the focus of her work during the latter half of her career.

Back home

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Provost and Chief Academic Officer J. Christopher Clemens announced her appointment on June 13, 2023.

“Frank has distinguished herself as an exceptional leader with a deep understanding of the opportunities at UNC Kenan-Flagler,” they wrote. “Her appreciation of the world-class education she received from the faculty and supported by the State of North Carolina drives her commitment to return and serve the School and the University. She brings a demonstrated passion and understanding of the positive impact business can have on communities.”

Frank returns home to Carolina to begin her service as dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler on Aug. 15, 2023.

“It is an honor to return to UNC Kenan-Flagler, where I felt valued as a student and launched my career,” Frank says. “It’s not about three degrees. It’s about the experience that you have here. And the people here – the faculty, staff, students and alumni. I felt valued. I felt a part of a community. And for me, that’s how I choose places. I want to be at those places. I want to create those places, because I have had the blessings of being at those places and having them affect me and who I am.”

“Over 20 years after I completed my studies at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I am dedicated to ensuring that students, faculty and staff have access to the positive, collaborative learning experience I found at Carolina,” she says. “As dean, I aspire to advance a UNC Kenan-Flagler community that values each other’s strengths, allows ideas to flourish, fosters different perspectives and commits to each another’s success.

Frank already knows many faculty members – from her student days, research collaboration, teaching in the MAC Program and serving as an academic fellow at the UNC Tax Center.

“I have known Mary Margaret for many years,” says Interim Dean Jennifer Conrad, Dalton McMichael Distinguished Professor of Finance. “She is committed to the School’s success and I am confident that she will advance our mission. I also know that she can count on our community’s help and support. We look forward to Mary Margaret’s leadership as the School continues to advance business education across North Carolina and around the globe.”

“This is a very special opportunity for me to join the Kenan-Flagler and UNC communities to have a positive impact on the people of a state in which I am deeply rooted,” says Frank.

Her parents still live in Winston-Salem and her husband, a psychiatrist, is originally from Durham. They have two college-age children who grew up with the Frank family motto: Take responsibility for your actions. Show respect for all people. And act with resilience.

“It is an honor to return to UNC Kenan-Flagler, where I felt valued as a student and launched my career. “It’s not about three degrees. It’s about the experience that you have here.”

UNC Kenan-Flagler is well-positioned with many options to weather the changing forces in business education, says Frank.

“UNC Kenan-Flagler has established a world-renowned portfolio of academic programs and research, and I welcome the opportunity to continue to innovate with the community of accomplished scholars, passionate educators, dedicated staff, talented students and loyal alumni. The future is exciting as we look to expanding our impact on students’ lives with Steven D. Bell Hall and engaging even more deeply with the University, the vibrant Triangle and the dynamic State of North Carolina.

“This an exciting time to harness our many strengths to increase the breadth and depth of our impact in the state and around the world.”