Season 4 - Episode 440
Dr. Sandeep Mazumder was named last spring as The William E. Crenshaw Endowed Dean of Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business after an extensive national search. Meet Dr. Mazumder in this Baylor Connections as he shares his journey from London to Waco, which included stops at some of the world’s most prestigious institutions. He further examines his philosophy on faith and scholarship and highlights the experiences that guided him into a new season of leadership at Baylor.
Derek Smith:Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research and student life. I'm Derek Smith and today we are talking with Baylor's new Dean at the Hankamer School of Business, Dr. Sandeep Mazumder. Dr. Mazumder serves as the William E Crenshaw endowed Dean of the Hankamer School of Business. Dr. Mazumder was appointed to that role last spring and joined the Baylor faculty in July after a nationwide search. Prior to coming to Baylor, he spent more than a decade at Wake Forest University spending the last four years as chair of the department of economics. Additionally, he served a term as chair of chairs at Wake Forest, representing all chairs at the university with the Dean. Mazumder's scholarly interests include macroeconomics, monetary economics, international economics and more. He received Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Cambridge University and a Master's degree and PhD at Johns Hopkins, and we're thrilled to have him a part of the Baylor family and the Hankamer family, and great to visit with you today. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Sandeep Mazumder:Thanks for having me Derek. It's a pleasure to be here.
Derek Smith:Well, it's great to have you here and to get to know you and your family and this new role for you at Hankamer. I want to ask you, I think probably a lot of people might wonder if they hear your background as we talk, you grew up in London, worked on the east coast here in the US for a while. How is your family enjoying Baylor and Waco so far?
Sandeep Mazumder:We've really enjoyed it so far. It's been an adjustment coming from North Carolina here to Texas. And one thing that really strikes me is just how warm and inviting people are here in Texas, at least in this part of Texas. So we're thankful for everyone at Baylor, just opening up their homes and being hospitable to us. We've really enjoyed that. And it's also warm here, I would say, so getting adjusted to the weather. North Carolina's warm, it's a bit hot and everyone tells me this has been a relatively mild Texan summer. So we've got to brace ourselves for next year, I think.
Derek Smith:You'll be built up as we get into it. [crosstalk] Well, you're coming to Baylor at an exciting time and Hankamer at an exciting time. What have you learned since you started looking at this role, before you even took it, what have you learned about Baylor?
Sandeep Mazumder:I did quite a bit of studying about Baylor coming into this role, of course, and learning about its history and tradition and the business school, and what are some of the things that are going well here? One thing that struck me prior to coming to campus and setting foot on Paul Foster is the Baylor family. People really are invested in what's going on at Baylor. And this is a generational thing too in between families. And now that I'm here and I've done this for a few months, I would say it's even stronger than I suspected. The Baylor family is a real thing. I meet lots of alumni and supporters of Hankamer as part of my job and seeing just what it's meant to them, that experience and how it filters down to their children and grandchildren and some real legacies. That impresses upon me the seriousness of my role, that this is not just a thing to be taken lightly and I'm stepping into something very real, serious, important and worth preserving. So I'm excited about that too.
Derek Smith:What was it that drew you to this particular role at this particular time?
Sandeep Mazumder:There was, I would say two things in particular that really stuck out to me about Baylor compared to other institutions that are out there, and ones I've already been at, first is the Christian focus. The fact that Baylor has this mission to be a Christian university and putting Christ at the center of all things. That's something that's been important to me in my life. And I hold that integral to what my family is doing. And that's exciting to be a part of that mission that Baylor has as a university. And then the research aspect, it's not just a Christian university, but a Christian research university that Baylor is trying to strive towards. Something I worked on a lot at Wake Forest is how to improve the level of scholarship that we were doing and bring that forward and achieve prominence and excellence in our field. And I think we saw great success in my time there. I'm looking forward to bringing that to the business school here at Baylor as well.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Sandeep Mazumder, Dean of Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, and I want to dive back into that, but I want to get to know you just a little bit and your background. So starting off with the fact that you grew up in London, let's start there. How did that shape you?
Sandeep Mazumder:That's right. I loved growing up in London. I was born and raised there. And to be honest I never wanted to leave London. When I was coming up through school it was always my plan just to stay in London forever and never even leave. And for my undergraduate degree, I did leave London. Cambridge is about 40 or 50 miles away, not very far, but at the time I thought that was a big deal. I was stepping foot outside of London and lo and behold, I now find myself all the way across the world and even moving south here within the United States. So London, it's home for me and I still have family there so it's important. And I would say that I grew up in a very diverse international culture. And if any of our listeners have been to London, it's not unlike some of the major cities of the world. Like New York it's really a melting pot of different backgrounds and cultures, and certainly that was true in London. And I really enjoyed that. You get to meet so many different people, see what their backgrounds are, eat great food and different cuisines. I like that. So I grew up in a very international cosmopolitan type city. And I value that part of my upbringing a lot.
Derek Smith:We know from talking off the air you've got family all over the world, even now. What drew your family to London initially?
Sandeep Mazumder:That's a good question. So I come from a family of doctors. Both my parents are medical doctors. They are from India and they grew up there. My father actually had an opportunity to go work as an apprentice in a hospital in London soon after he finished medical school. And he was excited about that opportunity and that took him to London. And he started right at the bottom of the ladder there as an apprentice doctor, gaining experience and still not yet establishing a foothold, that was to come later on. But he took a leap of faith to be able to do that. And that's what took my family over to London to begin with.
Derek Smith:We need to talk about that experience. I'm curious, what impact did that have on you? How did that shape you watching your family? They moved to a new country and built something up there.
Sandeep Mazumder:In many ways I think I was sheltered from that, I would say. So I have one brother and he's older than me. So he dealt with more of the moving around. My brother was actually born in England, but did spend a few years in India mainly because it took a while for my dad to get established in his career there. I was the lucky, younger child who, when I came around, there was more of that settled feeling to the family. But one thing that was true of my upbringing in London, we were surrounded actually by some other communities of people from India too. So we weren't necessarily going through this alone. So that was nice to be able to have that community feel going through that experience.
Derek Smith:I know you traveled and visited families in India and elsewhere over the summer. What was it like for you being a part of two different cultures and were there things you were picking up that you didn't even realize?
Sandeep Mazumder:I think that's probably right. I'm sure there were things I picked up. I do speak the language that my parents know from up there, even though I've never had a single lesson of how to read or write the language in my life, but just colloquially I've picked up the language in my childhood. And I really enjoyed going to India over the summertime during school summers when I was growing up. And I was very close with my cousins and my uncles and aunts, and got to spend time with them. My family's from Calcutta originally. So that's a very unique city. It's amazing in many ways, but also it still needs to develop in other ways. So it's a real enigma is how I would describe it. And people have a real joy about them also I would say in that part of India, from my experience, even though there are large parts of the city that are in poverty, so it's a really very different place. And the thing I tell people if they are traveling to India is get ready. It's an attack on all of your senses. It's very unlike life in the west. And it's something that everyone should experience at some point in their life.
Derek Smith:Absolutely, that'll be fascinating to see and experience at some point, hearing other people who have been there say something similar.
Sandeep Mazumder:That's right.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Sandeep Mazumder. Dr. Mazumder, if we had known you as a child, did you have any interests or hobbies or activities that maybe would have foreshadowed your career path?
Sandeep Mazumder:That's an interesting question. I've always been a huge soccer fan growing up in England, Premier League soccer it's called now, it wasn't when I was a child. So I know a lot about soccer, but I'm terrible at it. So that did not influence my career in that perspective. Academics was really influenced and emphasized a lot in my family, which was important to my parents. So they always told my brother and I to buckle down and do well at school and always improve and think about what you're doing. And I had that drilled into me from a young age, so that foreshadowed my academic career to come I think. I always had a predilection towards math. That was always something that I enjoyed doing and how to strengthen and doing cases of logic and going through logical problems was something that I developed over the years. Something that I had from a young age onwards and I still have to this day is I've always been very hyper-focused about things. If I get it in my mind that we need to accomplish this, whatever this is, I can be relentless in my pursuit of that. And I hope to bring some of that to Hankamer as well. There are certain things we need to achieve and accomplish and my goal is to not stop until we get that.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. When do you remember business and specifically economics being something that really captured your eye?
Sandeep Mazumder:I'm probably unusual in the sense that I knew from a really young age that I wanted to be an economist, which is not something most people say. So I mentioned my brother's older than I am. He was actually doing his undergraduate degree at the London School of Economics in economics. And at the time I was 15 years old in secondary school in England. My school actually offered an economics class at that time. And purely because I thought, oh, my cool older brother is taking this subject, which I don't even know what that means, I should probably take it too, just so I can say, I know something about it. And I fell in love with it straight away. Probably from my first economics class onwards, I knew this is really cool. I like this. And it resonates with me. And at that age of 15, I decided, I just want to do this forever. I'm going to pursue this as my career and do it as long as I can, which again is unusual. But I think I knew in that moment that I did want to go the way of doing a PhD and seeking that as a profession for myself.
Derek Smith:So you knew you wanted to do that from a young age, and obviously you look at your academic path, it propelled you towards that. You went to Cambridge and then to Johns Hopkins for a Master's and PhD. What drew you eventually down that path and eventually to Johns Hopkins and the US?
Sandeep Mazumder:Initially I mentioned earlier that I had a preference to stay in London in England, and that still probably was with me at that age. And I actually did have a place to go do my Master's degree at the London School of Economics like my brother did. And I was all set to go there, then my dad said, "Well, why don't you take some time off and consider what some options are?" And American schools in particular is what he had in mind. Why don't you consider some American schools? I actually graduated at a relatively young age from undergrad work. I was 20 years old when I graduated. So time was in my favor. I got a job locally in London and studied for my exams for graduate school entry and said, "Yes, let's give this a shot, see what's out there." And I was blessed to get an opportunity to go to Johns Hopkins and go into the PhD program. That was a great opportunity, one I couldn't pass up.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Sandeep Mazumder, the William E Crenshaw endowed Dean of Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. So Dr. Mazumder, you got a Master's, you got a PhD at Johns Hopkins, and along the way, you picked up a few other notable things as well. [crosstalk] You're building a family there, and I know you've got a pretty fascinating backstory about meeting your wife there, and eventually a lot of changes that that brought. Would you mind telling us a little of that story?
Sandeep Mazumder:That's exactly right. It was a formative part of my life in terms of my education, but also outside of my education, my life in general. So I was in Baltimore, Maryland. My wife, her name is Gretchen. She is from York, Pennsylvania, about 40 to 50 miles north of Baltimore. It's just across the Maryland Pennsylvania border. So it's almost like a suburb of Baltimore in many respects in the way it operates. I was in graduate school and actually a buddy of mine in graduate school, we decided let's actually try this online dating thing. So it was something I'd never done before. And I met Gretchen. She was the only person I ever met actually. So we hit it off right away and enjoyed-
Derek Smith:You met a thousand.
Sandeep Mazumder:That's right. And I guess the Lord who was pairing us together, So we're thankful for that. And I got to know her fairly well. And then towards the end of my graduate studies we got married as well and made the move to North Carolina. So in one summer we both got new jobs, got married and bought a house and did that in one fell swoop. So I was thankful to be able to meet her there. So I think a combination of the fact that my wife's American and that kept me in this country and stopped me from going back to the United Kingdom. But also I realized that the academic job market is much richer and fuller here in the United States. And it's a better market to be a professor in than over in Europe, generally speaking. So her and the market made me realize the US is the place to be.
Derek Smith:You talked about wanting to come to a Christian research university, what influence did she have on, on your faith journey, your wife, Gretchen?
Sandeep Mazumder:She had a very big influence. So I was raised in a Hindu family with my parents being from India. And I had questions about Hinduism growing up and some unresolved questions as well, things I wasn't sure about what the answers were to that faith in particular. And it's something I didn't think too much about the rest of my childhood and teenage years. It was when I came over here to the United States and met Gretchen, she was raised in a Christian home. And initially just to impress her, I said, "Yes, I'll come to church with you on Sunday." I want to get in her good books, this is probably a good way to do that. So she attended a small church in rural Pennsylvania. The pastor that church was very academic in the way he gave his sermons. And that really struck a chord with me. This man, he would provide theory, evidence, application, much like a professor does in the classroom. And it really struck me the way he did that. And I was an academic in training and I kept going back Sunday after Sunday, just to watch him speak. I was fascinated by him and at some point, maybe a couple of months into it I thought, well, let me listen to the content of what he's also saying, not just the form. Let's hear what he's got to say about the Bible and it convinced me to sit down and actually read the Bible for myself. So that's something I sought to do and it took a better part of a year trying to read through the Bible. And the fourth chapter of Jonah is the one that really changed my life. That's the story where the vine grows up over Jonah's head to give him protection from the scorching sun. And the next day the vine dies. And Jonah says to God, "Well, why did you kill the vine? I needed that." And God tells Jonah "You're upset about this plant dying, but you're not upset about the people dying that I care about." And for me, growing up in my faith's tradition that spoke to me about that, God is not just an impersonal deity that's unreachable. God does care about us and wants to know us and walk with us. And that was a different perspective that I had on God. And in many ways that made the scales fall from my eyes and I then read the gospels with a different mindset, a different heart, and gave my life to the Lord. And that same pastor baptized me and actually married us. He's been a key role in our lives.
Derek Smith:That's great. You obviously knew the career path you were interested in, in some form for a long time. How did coming to the Christian faith shape your idea, I guess, of calling and obviously the way you approach this role here at Baylor now?
Sandeep Mazumder:That's a question that all of us are Baylor need to be thinking about and wrestling with. I personally really believe that there's no such thing as a secular sacred divide. So yes, we go to church on Sundays, but in many sense, we're still working for the Lord Monday through Saturday. Church is important, I'm not downplaying that, but we were caught in many different avenues to do our work in a way that's faithful. And I think that's true for us in the university setting as well and in the business schools for us at Hankamer. So how do we integrate our faith and our work together? That's a crucial question. I take it as our Genesis mandate, we're called to cause flourishing in the world. So me as the Dean of Hankamer, I'm thinking now, how do we do our work so as to use business for the flourishing of human beings? That's really what our goal is. Instead of just teaching about businesses that are that to create profits, which I think can be a good thing and not justifiable, but it's also about giving back to society and are we taking care of God's creation? Are we promoting the good of people in societies? It's all of those things together. It's not one or the other. And it's important for us to have that all encompassing view.
Derek Smith:As you think about that. And as you pursue that at Hankamer, I'm curious what aspects of Hankamer are you most excited about that really kind of set you up to do that? And what are you excited about expanding as well as you pursue those goals?
Sandeep Mazumder:I'm so thankful for Dean Manus and the amazing work he's done prior to me coming into this and he's brought the business school just to a tremendous level. And I'm blessed that I've come into a situation where it's not a sinking ship. The ship is ship is sailing really smoothly and nicely, and we're in a really great place. So it gives me time to think about what is the future vision of where we're going and using the ship analogy what is the direction in which we're now voyaging towards? And let's chart that direction together and that vision. So I'm excited about that. And Terry has been a great friend to me as well in the short time, I've known him in this transition, so I'm so thankful to him and his family. I've also inherited a good team, so people who are already are doing good work. Research, I mentioned is a big part of what we're doing. So part of my job is to add fuel to the fire. How do we get even better with the scholarship that we're doing, involve students in the work that our faculty members are doing? And really, I would say part of what my job is, is to change the mindset. I think we also need to think bigger and dream big. If we don't have big dreams and a desire to get there, then we won't. So part of my job is to motivate the business school to be able to do that.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Sandeep Mazumder. And obviously you were at Wake Forest for a time before coming here to Baylor, and you grew in your leadership. In what ways did those years shape you into the leader that you are now and will continue to build on?
Sandeep Mazumder:Believe it or not I tell students this now, I used to be terrified of public speaking and getting up in front of any crowd, whether it was half a dozen people or a hundred people when I was young. And it's ironic now that I do this for a job essentially. And my point when I say this to students is that things take practice. Almost, no one gets from A to Z in just once one step. You have to do the work and get to that point. And I was blessed to be able to do leadership in numerous ways as I've been coming up in my career. So at Wake, I had numerous responsibilities, being a department chair was one of the main ones. And one thing that my father taught me was to take responsibility. At some point, someone has to stand up and take responsibility for the group. And you're not to shirk that but to lead well. And I think I had that instilled in me from a young age, and that gave me a good mindset of taking on leadership roles myself. I also really valued the human piece of leadership, really sitting down with people and hearing their stories and their background and connecting with them on a personal level. I think that's, an important part of leadership is, is how do you know the stories of those who you're leading? And that's something I learned at Wake Forest and lessons I'm hopefully carrying over here at Baylor University as well, and just excited to chart this territory in the new direction for us.
Derek Smith:Well, Dr. Mazumder, as we head into the final couple of minutes of the program, as you painted the picture of your life and leadership as well, I'm curious, tell us a little more about your family. You mentioned your wife, Gretchen, what are some of the things that we would find you doing when you have some free time just to enjoy being with each other?
Sandeep Mazumder:Oh, that's a good question. We spend a lot of time as a family, we have three young kids a girl and two boys all in elementary school at the moment. We like to have fun in the swimming pool, swim most Texan evenings when it's nice and hot, we enjoy doing that. I'm a big jazz fan. I also like to cook. So I tell my kids it's time to cook. But the first thing before we do anything is get the right jazz song on, not the ingredients or anything else, set the tone correctly. My four year old actually can identify many John Coltrane songs already. So hopefully I'm doing something right, [crosstalk] . I also like to fish. So that's something I learned and took up in North Carolina. We did some great trout fishing there, and I'm a sports fan. So I do follow EPL soccer still in England and lots of American sports. And now Baylor Bear as well and looking forward to success here as a Bear.
Derek Smith:Well, absolutely the defending national champs in basketball. And that's just one superlative, we talk about our athletic programs and academics and research and certainly I think that's kind of emblematic of a lot that's going on here at Baylor.
Sandeep Mazumder:But funnily enough, I've had more success already as a Baylor Bear fan than most of my other sports teams. So I think this is a good new team to follow.
Derek Smith:That's great. Well, hopefully building on all that, and we're excited to see, as you mentioned so many exciting things at Hankamer, and as that continues to grow and develop, we're looking forward to watching that over the years ahead. We appreciate you joining us. And I'd just really like to thank you so much for the time to get to know you and to share a little more about your backstory, bringing you here to Baylor.
Sandeep Mazumder:Of course. Thank you for having me.
Derek Smith:It's great to have you here, Dr. Sandeep. Mazumder the William E Crenshaw endowed Dean of Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.