Haas Newsroom


Susanne Campbell - Building A Russian Business School


Susanne Campbell has served as executive director of the UC Berkeley-St. Petersburg University School of Management Program since 1993, a partnership that created one of the first business schools at any Russian university. In that capacity, she raised over $900,000 to support faculty exchanges and $4 million to renovate a building in St. Petersburg to house the School of Management.


Campbell has enjoyed a lifelong connection with Russia. From a young age, she was exposed to the country as her father, a journalist, covered the Soviet Union for Gannett Newspapers. Campbell speaks fluent Russian, which she studied at Leningrad State University in the 1980s while she was engaged in the tourism business, escorting over 100 tours to the USSR. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, she arranged for Soviet executives to come to the United States to study.


The following is Campbell's account, in her own words, of the creation of the School of Management.

My father covered the Kitchen Cabinet Debate, an impromptu debate between then Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the American National Exhibition in Moscow in 1959. As a journalist with Gannett newspapers, he traveled throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. He recounted the ordeal of going through Check Point Charlie right after the barbed-wire fence was erected, but before the Berlin Wall was built. My father also interviewed Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Joseph Stalin, when she first defected to the US. On one trip to the USSR ( Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) my mother accompanied him, and they wrote a diary together, which I still have, and they rented a slide carousel to show me pictures of their trip. So in 1981, after my father had passed away, my mother asked me to come with her on a tour of the USSR. It was a nostalgic journey for her.


That visit was a turning point in my life.


The company representative on our tour confided to me that she did not like traveling in the USSR. She suggested I apply for her job. (With a love for foreign languages, I spoke some Russian and was already employed as a tour manager for an incentive tour operator.) I took her advice, applied for the job, and the following year I started down a path that took me throughout the Soviet Union for 11 years. I was witness to some of the most exciting developments in history.


During the late 1980s and early 1990s, a period of great political change in the USSR known as “Perestroika,” I arranged for Soviet executives to come to the US on study tours. Most of these people had never been out of the country and certainly not to the US. They came with the notion that our society contained an extreme wealthy class that took advantage of vast numbers of poor people. When the visitors realized that they had been presented with a distorted picture of the US, many became depressed and some even cried.


All the while, I studied Russian at Leningrad State University, the oldest university in Russia, today known as St. Petersburg State University (SPU). The language teachers there were the best I ever had. They wanted us to learn. They helped us if we were sick. They took us to see movies.


Then in 1992 I was invited by David Teece, the Thomas W. Tusher Chair in Global Business, to work on a start-up project to develop the first business school at St. Petersburg State University. It was to be a joint effort, a partnership between the SPU and the Haas School.


Teece was director of the Institute of Management, Innovation, and Organization, the research unit at Haas that would manage the project. He and Dwight Jaffe, the Willis Booth Professor of Banking, Finance, and Real Estate, co-chaired the project, and JoAnn Dunaway and Patricia Murphy, among many others, put in many hours of dedicated service to make the partnership a success.


Our first grants (and many succeeding ones) came from the United States Information Agency (USIA), which is now part of the State Department; the Eurasia Foundation; and the Open Society Institute. Indeed, the reason that Berkeley was chosen as the founding partner for the School of Management (SOM) was that a young and very bright Russian professor, Valery Katkalo, who is now dean of the SOM, had studied at Berkeley in 1991 on an International Research & Exchanges Board grant under Oliver Williamson, Haas School professor emeritus of business, economics, and law. Katkalo and Teece organized the initial meetings that led to the signing of the partnership at Berkeley in 1992.


As the project got underway, we found the SOM needed everything! During the course of the next ten years, we sent over 10,000 books and teaching materials donated by Berkeley faculty for their new library; computers from Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Gateway; and equipment and materials for the school's offices.


We also sent more than 40 members of the Berkeley faculty who generously donated their time to teach in Russia many times and brought over 50 of the Russian faculty to Berkeley to study, attend conferences, and confer with our faculty at Berkeley on developing their curriculum and their administration. These faculty exchanges were -- and still are -- part of an ongoing process. Administrative staff at the Haas School and at UC Berkeley in general met with the Russian administrators when they came for advice on setting up their career center, undergraduate and graduate divisions, alumni association, and research centers.


Milton Ternberg, head librarian at the Haas School's Long Business & Economics Library, was instrumental in providing the SOM staff with advice and training to create their library. He also has helped each Russian faculty member locate library materials for course development and research. Godwin Wong, a Haas School visiting associate professor, founded the SOM Business Plan Competition. He continues to visit several times a year to direct the competition and confer with students. He also contributed to the SOM's forums on entrepreneurship.


David Teece set the tone of the partnership from the start: “What makes a business school,” he said, “is the faculty. Our job is to train a Russian faculty, not to replace them.” It was an enlightened decision that Teece made, but also one that demanded patience to implement because of the many cultural differences.


I recall one in particular: the level of formality in older prestigious Russian universities was quite high; whereas at Berkeley, we were content to slip a message through the fax machine in the interest of saving time. At least initially, the recipients chafed at our informality. To them, correspondence came on letterhead and bore an official seal. But they eventually adjusted to the less formal mode of communication.


As our collaboration with the Russian faculty increased, Dwight Jaffee set up a translation schedule to provide them with books. We applied for grant money to pay the Russian faculty to translate selected texts, articles, and books from English into Russian. This deepened the Russian professors’ knowledge of the language and the subjects they taught. The project also provided books and articles in Russian on subjects that were new to Russia. Among the many translations number Oliver Williamson’s The Economic Institutions of Capitalism, Nobel Laureate John Harsanyi’s Game Theory, and many articles by other Haas School faculty. They also learned the importance of copyright permission, a topic that is now included in the SOM’s course on business ethics.


Communications were a huge challenge since the SOM had no equipment, and there were few if any office supplies available in the city. I donated the first fax machine to the SOM, the type that required rolls of glossy thermal paper. I also brought a voltage converter for the fax machine, but the office staff forgot to use it when they initially plugged the fax machine into the wall. When they switched it on, the machine blew off the table. We had to search for quite a while to find a replacement, finally obtaining one in Russia at an exorbitant price. Within a year, I hauled over a heavy 386 computer with a modem so that the SOM faculty and staff could send us e-mail.


In addition to its limited communications resources, SPU had few facilities in which to house its new school, so the SOM was given limited space in a ramshackle building far away from campus and the city center. The classrooms were dimly lit and badly heated, so in the winter you would see students walking the halls clad in heavy coats.


One of the first requests by the first SOM Dean, Yuri Pashkus, was for a white board and erasable markers. He had seen the boards in classrooms at Berkeley and told us that he was allergic to chalk. We sent him as many whiteboards as we could, and, for the first few years, we also brought the SOM boxes of paper clips, Post-It notes, staplers, highlighters, and other simple office supplies in our suitcases.


When the school opened its doors for the first time in September 1993 a delegation of Haas School faculty came over for the ceremony and to give the first lectures. I recall the surprised looks of the Berkeley faculty as they entered the classrooms.


The first 33 students, who were mostly female, were courageous to have opted to study business. At the time, business was a subject that was new to Russia and not considered by some economics faculties to be a separate science. It was not at all clear that the business school would last.


The reason there were more women in the first few classes than there were men was that Russia's rapid development created a great need for every possible good and service, so young men saw the opportunity to plunge directly into business, preferring to forgo a formal education. Today the numbers are about even.


At the start, the faculty numbered four to six, so the SOM had to entice competent Russian faculty to join its ranks. Many had some basic knowledge of economics and even subjects taught in business, especially math, but they lacked the knowledge to teach at the graduate level. They developed an MBA program after the first three to four years as demand for business education was increasing, and they had a body of undergraduate students who wanted to continue their education. The faculty was vigorous in attaining the knowledge to teach at higher levels, and the student body increased in numbers and sophistication. Their growth curb and work load were extreme.


Another step we took to support the partnership has resonated throughout the development of the SOM and set an example for its continued success: we formed an external board of advisors. The board drew its numbers from high-level executives, non-governmental organizations, and others whose contributions and perseverance were phenomenal. The board understood that if the SOM were to survive and grow to meet the demand for business education in Russia, the school would need a new building.


John Pepper, then CEO of Procter & Gamble, served as chairman of our program’s advisory board. It was a delight and a great honor to work with him. He volunteered his time and leadership for the project, flying over to St. Petersburg for meetings, ready to talk at any time to prospective donors, raising funds for the renovation. He inspired our board, the Russian faculty, and the first Russian executives who joined the board. Companies such as Gillette, Honeywell, Otis, and L’Oreal, as well as individuals contributed. Russian companies and individuals also gave to the project. Executives at AlfaBank, St. Petersburg, held a press conference to announce their donation and encourage philanthropy. Dean Katkalo and I were invited to speak on Russian television about the donation.


Arthur B. Schultz made the lead gift of $1 million (which he increased with time), towards the renovation of a building that would have to be donated by the city of St. Petersburg. Within a year, the city donated two adjacent eighteenth century buildings five minutes from the SPU's main building that would be renovated for the SOM. A lot of art in the buildings needed restoration, including an eighteenth century wooden chandelier that looked like it was made of brass.


The project had to be done in phases, and with this came increasing costs and many project management challenges. Looking back, I realize how much our knowledge and skills, on both sides of the world, had to keep up with the growth of information technology and the fast pace of change in Russia.


Against this background, we pulled the SOM into increasing responsibility to write and manage grants, to develop the Russian side of the board and to raise funds in Russia from Russian companies. Valery Katkalo, who became dean in 1997, was instrumental in getting Russian companies to participate on the board, in securing donations, and in overseeing the construction project.


By 2002, we had the funds to complete the building that would house the classrooms, and we held a terrific party in St. Petersburg. The dedication of the building, which was named after Arthur B. Schultz, was a three-day event with canal boat rides and dinners in palaces. I was fortunate enough to organize the events jointly with the SOM. It was a crazy, inspiring, happy time. The mayor of the city came and the press reported on the event. VIPs from Russian companies were present to see Schultz and Katkalo unveil the plaque.


The next year, the SOM held its tenth anniversary, which coincided with the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to yet another landmark: the inauguration of the SOM research journal, The Russian Management Journal, in Moscow. Leading academics attended and applauded the first serious academic management research journal in Russia.


Then in 2005, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin, the SOM won a national grant to create a larger graduate-level management school to educate not only Russians but international students. Its classes will be taught in English by Russian and international faculty with the goal of competing in the international market for higher business education. The SOM was chosen because they already had a recognized faculty in Russia, capable of teaching business.


The SOM is now developing approximately 230 acres on the Bay of Finland, where it intends to build quality housing and classrooms for student executives and visiting faculty. It is the site of a former palace of Prince Mikhail, the tsar’s brother, located in an area that was held by German forces during World War II; hence the buildings suffered damage. The grounds include fountains, waterways, and gardens that will be restored. A set of greenhouses will be converted into a sports facility.


Last November the SOM invited those of us who had worked on the project to another set of landmark events. The first night was a re-dedication ceremony of the Arthur B. Schultz building. In addition, the SOM had received over $5 million from the Russian government to complete the administrative wing of the building and equip offices and classrooms with the latest technology, install a video conference room, equip the cafeteria, and completely restore damaged art in both buildings. I can recall every room of that building in its damaged state and balancing on planks to avoid the holes and rubble. The transformation was beautiful.


The ceremony was different from the first dedication. The number of important guests increased. Among them were St. Petersburg Mayor Matveenko, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref, US Counsel General Kruger, and many CEOs of Russian companies. The press coverage was more extensive. For me, the transforming event was that this time the audience took more pride in what had been accomplished; it seemed that they understood the difficulties that had led to the success of the SOM today.


The next day we witnessed the ground-breaking ceremony at the site of the new Graduate School of Management where President Putin laid the foundation stone and spoke about the need for quality business education in Russia. The dean asked Teece and me to meet President Putin in our capacity as academic partners. Prime Minister Ivanov also attended. He will chair the project and work with Katkalo to select a board of advisors, stemming from the example we provided in our St. Petersburg Program’s board of advisors.


It was a beautiful ceremony, catered in a tent on the site. On display was the model for the complex, which will be supported by a starting grant of over $50 million from the Russian government. The buildings were lit up and fireworks set off to commemorate the occasion.


On the last day the SOM administration held a small ceremony that I had not expected: they named the dean’s conference room in my honor.


Today, the SOM has an enrollment of over 1,500 in a full portfolio of undergraduate, MBA, Ph.D., executive education, and other degree and certificate programs taught by more than 68 full-time faculty members. Their Masters in International Business and International Executive MBA programs are taught in English, and foreign student enrollment is increasing. The SOM cooperates with over 26 universities and colleges in its exchanges and research. SOM students are widely sought by international companies, as well as major national companies. The alumni association had more than 2,000 members as of 2006.


The school plans to use the Schultz building as their in-town campus, especially since it is very near the main buildings of St. Petersburg State University. The most daunting part of the new project is to increase the competency of the SOM faculty and to find foreign faculty willing to teach in Russia for at least a month. With good preparation, the SOM should be able to upgrade in all areas, including administrative and staff support. They seek to meet standards of international accreditation.


I have had the privilege of speaking (in Russian) at many a graduation, and one of the most gratifying aspects of my work has been to meet some of those first students who attend graduations as alumni. They express their deepest gratitude for all that Berkeley has done to change their lives for the better. Berkeley alumni should know that they are welcome in St. Petersburg at the SOM and can contact the SOM Alumni Association through www.som.spb.ru.


Last year as I was going through storage boxes, I came across my father’s articles on Russia including the original list of passengers on the Nixon press flight to the Kitchen Cabinet debate. Mindful of the success of the SOM, the head of the university asked for my help in setting up a small foundation to benefit St. Petersburg University in general. I was looking for funding to send Russian students to study business journalism in the US, and the thought occurred to me that maybe the faculty of journalism would like my father’s papers for their library. So, what was unthinkable at the time when my father wrote those articles came full circle. His articles are now in Russia, and I have visited all those places I saw in my parent’s slides so many years ago.


Susanne Campbell has a master's degree in international relations from George Washington University and an undergraduate degree from Tulane University.


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Susanne Campbell
Susanne Campbell at the St. Petersburg School of Management.




A model of the new Graduate School of Management.




Susanne Campbell shaking hands with Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation.