Melbourne Business School News Meet our new Deputy Dean, Academic, Professor Tava Olsen

Meet our new Deputy Dean, Academic, Professor Tava Olsen

Through a distinguished global career, Professor Tava Olsen has been driven by three values — excellence, engagement and equity.

Prof Olsen is an award-winning expert in operations and supply chain management, with a PhD from Stanford University and experience on the editorial board of four Financial Times Top 50 journals.

Until recently, she was the head of two departments at the University of Auckland Business School, where she also received three Research Excellence Awards.

Now, Prof Olsen is joining Melbourne Business School as our Deputy Dean, Academic to strengthen the way we teach, conduct research and engage with industry.

"I like to talk about the three Es, which are excellence, engagement and equity. Those are really key for business schools," Prof Olsen says.

"Melbourne Business School is already excellent, but let's be more methodical about how we're going to define excellence.

"Let's make sure we recognise excellence in all its dimensions – let's actually look deeply into how we evaluate research and teaching as well as service, leadership and engagement."

When it comes to engagement more broadly, Prof Olsen is motivated by the opportunity to make a positive real-world impact by connecting and collaborating with industry.

"We need to be out there in the community, hopefully actually making a difference in the business community," she says.

"If we do our job right, we could move the dial on how Melbourne and Australian businesses are performing. We have that potential to make a difference."

Finally, Prof Olsen thinks it's impossible to talk about equity without also discussing ethics, sustainability and transparency.

"How do we think about our carbon footprint given that we need our academics to be flying around the world? While we must be pro-business as a business school, how do we help businesses to think more broadly than just profit?

"I'm a firm believer in transparency. Where transparency is not possible, it’s usually because things are not equitable. So, let's take a hard look at why things are not equitable and see if we can fix the root cause of that issue."

Business a better fit than engineering

A cornerstone of Prof Olsen's career has been serving on the editorial board of top journals including Operations Research, Production and Operations Management, Management Science and Manufacturing and Service Operations Management.

She also served as President of the Manufacturing and Service Operations Management Society and has been awarded more than US$3 million of external funding throughout her career.

But despite her expertise in operations and supply chain management, Prof Olsen didn't start her academic career in business schools.

"I've certainly been getting more and more applied as I have progressed in my career," she says.

"My undergraduate was actually in math and computer science in Auckland, which is where I grew up."

From there, Prof Olsen went on to study at Stanford University where she completed her MS in Statistics and PhD in Operations Research.

"My first academic job was in an engineering school at the University of Michigan, and then I realised that business was actually a much better fit with both my research and teaching interests," she says.

This realisation led her to teach at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, where she became a full professor and stayed for 10 years before her alma mater invited her to come back and teach in Auckland.

"My daughters were six and nine and it was a great job opportunity. I took over as director of the Centre for Supply Chain Management at Auckland and I've been there for 12 years," she says.

"My daughters are now grown and it's time for a new leadership challenge."

Prof Olsen began in her new role as Deputy Dean, Academic, on Tuesday, 1 November. To get in touch with Prof Olsen directly, email [email protected]. You can also visit her faculty profile for more information.

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