Jamie Prenkert

Dean Jamie Prenkert Aims High

Friday, October 13, 2023

By Erin Peterson

Jamie Prenkert was immersed in a meeting on his first full day as the Carlson School of Management’s new dean this past July when he heard a knock on the conference room door. He turned toward the door’s frosted glass window and immediately recognized the surprise guest. “I saw the shadow of Goldy’s big head and I laughed out loud,” he recalls of the moment.


Dean Jamie Prenkert giving a piggyback ride to Goldy Gopher.
Dean Prenkert posing with Goldy on his back.

The meeting adjourned, and during the next half hour, Prenkert gamely posed for photos with Goldy, including one where he hoisted the mascot onto his back. “It was manic in the best possible way,” he says.

Prenkert will likely be featured in plenty of photo ops in the coming months, but few may serve as a better metaphor than this one. After all, Prenkert is a man who has spent his entire career finding ways to elevate the people, the programs, and the ideas around him. Perhaps it’s no surprise that he found a way to lift even Goldy to a higher level.


Outside Voice

Prenkert steps into a role that Professor Sri Zaheer held for more than 11 years. (Zaheer has transitioned back to a faculty role at the school.) He knows he has big shoes to fill, and is quick to praise his predecessor’s tenure. He calls her extensive work with the local business community nothing short of incredible and praises the school’s innovative undergraduate curriculum.

Coming in as an external leader—Prenkert was most recently executive associate dean at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business—he knows he will have to lean on different strengths to excel in his new role.

There is no question he has a long track record of success. He turned heads while earning a political science degree at Anderson University, where professors at the small liberal arts school in Indiana urged him to think big about his next steps. He did, earning admission to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Prenkert went on to spend three years as a senior trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Indianapolis, where he honed skills that would later prove useful in his academic roles. “My fellow attorneys always laughed at me, because they all hated the research and writing,” he says. “But I was volunteering to do it.”

Prenkert realized that the academic world was a better fit for those specific strengths, and in 2002, he joined the Kelley School as an assistant professor of business law. He quickly racked up accolades and achievements: He coauthored a top business textbook, Business Law: The Global, Ethical, and Digital Environment, which is now in its 18th edition. He won four teaching awards and a handful of national awards for his research. And during his 20-year tenure at the school, he methodically ascended from assistant professor to executive associate dean.

When the opening for the dean’s position at the Carlson School crossed his desk last year, he felt confident that he could use the formidable skillset he’d built to lead an already-strong school to even higher levels.


One of the things that has really fed me as I have moved into administrative roles is helping other people be the most excellent that they can be. I want to find ways to encourage that, to support that, and to recognize that.

Dean Jamie Prenkert

Fueling Excellence

Prenkert’s résumé is chock full of accomplishments and awards, and the Carlson School search committee took note of the ways he made the most of the opportunities he saw for the Kelley School: he was instrumental in helping the school build perhaps the most renowned business law and ethics department in the country, and he played a key role in the launch of wildly popular short-term international trip programming for undergraduate students. Colleagues credit Prenkert for developing a teaching professor rank for instructional faculty, and he has been a champion of and leader for many of Kelley’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Dean Jamie Prenkert with his partner and two sons seated on a stone bridge in the woods.
The Prenkert family poses for a photo on a bench in the backyard of their home. Left to right: Calvin (22), Deb, Grant (18), and Jamie.

These successes were the result of Prenkert’s ability to focus not on his own achievements, but to support the efforts of many others. “One of the things that has really fed me as I have moved into administrative roles is helping other people be the most excellent that they can be,” he says. “I want to find ways to encourage that, to support that, and to recognize that.”

Josh Perry, the Kelley School’s executive associate dean for academic programs who calls Prenkert “a mentor and guide,” expects that the Carlson School will thrive under Prenkert’s leadership. “Jamie brings many qualities to a leadership role, but at the top of the list are humility and a sincere desire to do the right thing,” Perry says. “He is reliable, prepared, thoughtful, and the kindest person you will ever meet.”

The sentiments are echoed by the University of Minnesota’s Dean of the College of Science and Engineering Andrew Alleyne, who led the search committee for the position. “It is clear that [Prenkert] genuinely cares about organizations and the people therein,” says Alleyne. “That type of ‘servant leadership’ is well suited to maximize the significant talents of the outstanding faculty and staff within the Carlson School.”

Prenkert’s wife, Deb, adds that these qualities aren’t just professional ones. She has known him since high school, and says his desire to support others and help them achieve their goals is core to who he is as a person.

She recalls that when their older son, Calvin, was eight years old, Prenkert started a blog with him, and every night they would write an entry together. “[The blog] showed our son how to be a writer at a very early age, and was featured in Indianapolis Monthly magazine,” she recalls. (This fall, Calvin, 22, will start a master’s degree program at the Carlson School.)

The Prenkerts have also been deeply attentive parents for their younger son, Grant, 18, who has a mitochondrial disease that affects areas including his neurological functioning, vision, and balance, as well as an intellectual disability related to a mutation in his HUWE-1 gene. “I had to learn a whole new language, an entirely different approach, to connect with Grant,” Prenkert says. “When he was young, it was finding the right tune to sing that made him smile. Today, it includes sitting poolside with him for hours on end, because the swimming pool is clearly where he feels the most fully embodied and physically at ease.”

To support the therapeutic horseback riding that Grant had benefited from, Jamie joined the People and Animal Learning Services board of directors in his community to ensure that there would be inclusive recreational opportunities for special populations in Indiana for years to come.

Jamie brings many qualities to a leadership role, but at the top of the list are humility and a sincere desire to do the right thing. He is reliable, prepared, thoughtful, and the kindest person you will ever meet.

Josh Perry, Kelley School's Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Opportunities Ahead

Prenkert is thrilled to join a school that is already on solid footing, and plans to focus the early part of his tenure on getting to know the institution deeply. “I’m a firm believer that you don’t come into a place that’s functioning well and make assumptions about how to make it better without really understanding what’s going on,” he says, noting that he has many internal and external constituencies to balance as he looks ahead.

Dean Jamie Prenkert chatting with Carlson staff and faculty.
Dean Jamie Prenkert talks to attendees during a faculty and staff ice cream social at the Carlson School over the summer.

That said, he is hopeful he will be able to lean on his past experiences to capitalize on some of the clearest opportunities. For example, U.S. News and World Report named Kelley’s online MBA program as the best of all 344 it ranked in 2023; Prenkert hopes to use the lessons from his time in Indiana to strengthen the Carlson School’s online options. Prenkert was also instrumental in helping to build Kelley’s top notch reputation—a school that punches above its weight in both national and international reach, particularly given its location in a small city in south central Indiana. He aims to make even bigger waves at the Carlson School.

This vision—even in this preliminary state—is a tantalizing one. Prenkert is ready to make it reality.

But he also knows he is just getting started. At the end of his first day, as the very last person to leave the office, Prenkert paused for a moment on the second floor of the Carlson School building to take everything in. He peered out into the quiet atrium and took a deep breath. “As I exhaled, I was so calm. I knew that this was the right place for me, and the right time,” he says. “What a privilege.”

Get to Know the Dean: This or That?

We asked Prenkert to weigh in on a few lighter matters.

Dean Jamie Prenkert holding tennis racket with his left hand throwing up a tennis ball.
Dean Jamie Prenkert
  • LinkedIn or TikTok 
  • Tennis or pickleball  
    (Tennis. Nonetheless, I think pickleball is really fun. (But I’d absolutely deny I ever said that to my tennis friends!) 
  • Phone call or email 
  • Introvert or extrovert  
  • The Fabelmans or Everything Everywhere All at Once  
    (Everything Everywhere All at Once. Prenkert, who says he might have tried to write a screenplay if he hadn’t gone into academia, was happy to weigh in on the Oscar-nominated movies. “I want a movie that is completely out there and totally ambiguous,” he says.) 
  • Straight stitch or blind stitch  
    (Straight stitch. “My mom owned a sewing machine and fabric store when I was growing up, so when I was young, I learned to sew. In [junior high] I was named Junior Fashion Review Champion at the Elkhart County Fair for the dress pants and shirt that I made myself.”)  
  • Coffee or Diet Coke
    (Diet Coke.) 
  • Optimist or pessimist  
    (Optimist. "I like ‘realist’ better. Can I say realist?”) 
  • Poet or quant  
    (Poet. “Ultimately, it’s those broader interests—beyond the quantitative—[that are important] and can bring us together.”)  
  • Pineapple on pizza or no pineapple on pizza  
    (No pineapple on pizza. “Pineapple on pizza? Who are these monsters?”)
Fall 2023 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 alumni magazine

Leaders come in many forms. The Carlson School community shares styles, approaches, and other ways we lead.

Fall 2023 table of contents