Professor Gavin Jack is the new Dean of our Business School, having taken up the role in May 2024. Previously, Gavin was Head of the Department of Management at Monash University, Australia, before making the decision to return to his homeland of Scotland. Here he talks about what he is most looking forward to in his role as Dean, the focus of his research into how organisations can become more inclusive and welcoming of diverse perspectives and people, and what book he’d stow away with him to a Desert Island.
Gavin Jack, pictured outside the School

Congratulations on taking up your new role as Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School. How does it feel to finally arrive and bed into the role?

Thank you! It’s great to be here and to find such a warm welcome from colleagues in the School, College and University more generally. Professionally speaking, I consider it a real privilege to come to this Business School and to this outstanding University. Personally, I am returning home after 15 terrific years in Australia, and enjoying reconnecting with friends and being closer to family. I’m now looking forward to getting on with the job and enjoying Edinburgh’s rich cultural and culinary scenes.

What are you most looking forward to, in your first few months as Dean?

I am most looking forward to getting to know new colleagues, students, alumni, and other friends and supporters of the School in my first few months in the role. Coming into a new institution from overseas and into a Dean’s position means there is a lot to take on board, so listening and learning will be crucial.

Can you give a brief summary of your career to date, and the journey that brought you here to us at UEBS?

I started my career as a Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Stirling in 1999, followed by stints at Keele University and then the University of Leicester. In 2009, I emigrated to Australia to take up a Professorship in Management at the Graduate School of Management, La Trobe University in Melbourne. In 2015, I moved to Monash University where I held a number of leadership roles including Head of Department of Management, and the Inaugural Associate Dean Research Impact.

If you had to give your ‘elevator pitch’ and explain what your research and/or teaching focuses on, how would you answer?

My teaching and research are connected by a commitment to make organisations more inclusive and welcoming of diverse perspectives and people, and of studying topics that are typically overlooked in management theory and practice. For example, as part of a team of researchers, I have studied women’s workplace experiences of menopause, a topic that has until recent times been subject to silence and a lack of employer engagement. Our team has generated data about women’s diverse experiences and made recommendations for policies and practices that organisations can adopt to create more supportive environments.

With regard to your work, is there anything exciting in the pipelines that you are working on?

I recently co-edited a book entitled ‘Managing the Post-colony: Voices from Aotearoa, Australia and The Pacific’ with Michelle Evans (Uni Melbourne), Jason Mika (Uni Waikato, NZ) and Billie Lythberg (Uni Auckland). It is part of a book series dedicated to understanding how management and organisational practices in locations that had been once colonised, continue to bear the imprint of their diverse colonial histories. A particularly exciting aspect of this text is the focus placed on diverse Indigenous knowledges and experiences, including those of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pasifika, and Māori peoples, and insights into the capacity for Indigenous and culture-specific modes of business to offer decolonising futures.

What do you enjoy most about your teaching and/or research? What challenges and excites you across both?

For teaching, it is the in-class interaction with students. I particularly enjoy the energy and mutual learning that takes place in MBA teaching, for example. Structuring opportunities for peer-to-peer learning based on students’ lived experience enables management ‘theory’ and ‘practice’ to infuse and inform one another, and for competing perspectives and debate to come alive. Across both teaching and research, facilitating critical thinking about topics or perspectives less considered in our teaching texts and academic disciplines is both challenging and exciting. For example, the idea that history and politics have relevance to the study and practice and management is not always easily received, yet crucially important.

What advice would you give to your younger self, about to leave home and embark upon further education?

Leaving home to embark on higher education I recall being a scary prospect, a step into the unknown. It can be easy to constantly question yourself and doubt what you know or more, what you are capable of achieving. My advice is to have more confidence in yourself, to sit with uncertainty and ambivalence and find a comfortable home there, and in your constant capacity to remain curious, to love learning, and to take chances. In doing so, make sure to always surround yourself with a good group of friends and supporters.

What one book, piece of music and beloved item would you take with you to a Desert Island?

The one book I would take is John Bayley’s book ‘Iris’ about his life together with the philosopher Iris Murdoch who sadly passed away with Alzheimer’s disease in 1999. I found his respect and love for her creativity and intellect expressed in the book very moving, and the glimpses into two lives well lived provocative.

Music-wise, I have eclectic tastes, so I’d take some Florence and the Machine, some Madeleine Peyroux, some George Michael and a good range of Bach choral recordings. Different beats, different moods!

A beloved item would be a family heirloom – two vases that my Gran left to me after she passed away. On the bottom of the vases, she had written my name on sticky labels in felt-tip pen. It’s the handwriting on those labels that is precious.

If you could invite anyone over for dinner (past/present) who would it be and why?

I’d like to have a dinner party with Annie Lennox, Iris Murdoch, Frida Kahlo, and Stephen Fry. I would love to know what motivates/-ed their creative lives, their struggles, the achievements they are most proud of, and above all I’d be curious to know what they would ask of each other!

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I’ve never been to South America and would love to visit Brazil, Chile and Peru. I have a deep fondness for southern Germany and Austria, having studied and worked in both places when I was younger. I love the mountains and lakes, and the old town of Bad Tölz south of Munich is very pretty. Fond memories, great walks, and hearty food and wheat beers. I’d go back and visit!