Within two weeks of her July 1 arrival as the McIntire School of Commerce’s new dean Nicole Thorne Jenkins convened her team for a two-day leadership workshop. Meeting virtually, they discussed how to tackle the tandem challenges of global competitiveness and a worldwide pandemic.

Nicole Thorne Jenkins Robert Radifera

“We’re going to produce students that are ahead of everyone else,” Jenkins says, “continuing the legacy of the Comm School.”

It’s a reference to a significant advantage she has in the post: Jenkins succeeds one of the nation’s most successful business school deans, Carl P. Zeithaml, whose 23-year reign consistently placed the school among top undergraduate business programs (tied for eighth in the latest U.S. News rankings).

“A lot of my perspective going in is building on the good work that Carl has already done. I mean, he’s laid a very firm foundation,” says Jenkins, most recently vice dean of the University of Kentucky’s business school.

Drawn to accounting as a child, when she helped with bookkeeping in her family’s Maryland trash company, Jenkins worked for two of the big national CPA firms after graduating from Drexel University and before getting an accounting Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. She taught five years each at Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University, and then eight years at Kentucky.