Founding Dean of CSUMB’s College of Business Leaves a Lasting Legacy

When it comes to what Shyam Kamath accomplished in eight years at CSUMB as founding dean of the College of Business, the list is deep and long. So long, in fact, it would be impossible to identify every action he took or collaborated on to take a then-fledgling business school and create a competitive, innovative college that forges meaningful relationships with the regional business community, attracts top-tier instructors and professors and prepares students for careers in business.

He was the right dean at the right time, said Dr. MaryLou Shockley, who was appointed interim dean and will lead the college through a two-year accreditation process. 

“A founding dean has to have a passion for building things, and Shyam has that passion for building, looking at new ways to do things, adding new programs and adding a vision for innovation,” Dr. Shockley said. “That’s what he loved best and when you have a new college, it’s also what you need to have.” 

Whenever the faculty and staff were tasked with a new project, Dr. Shockley said, Dr. Kamath would tell them they should “strive to build a Lamborghini, not a Honda.

“Whatever the project happened to be, he asked us to strive for the best and the highest,” she said. “We would tease him about it, and say, ‘Oh, you want us to build another Lamborghini again?’ He wanted us to be the best.”

Kamath retired this month for health reasons, and was celebrated in a virtual retirement party. News of the retirement was announced in a message from President Dr. Eduardo Ochoa, who wrote that CSUMB “is a better university because of Dr. Kamath’s work here.

“He is leaving a lasting legacy, for which we will be forever grateful,” Ochoa stated, noting that during his time leading the college, Kamath grew enrollment from 763 students to 937, took a faculty of seven to 23 tenure-track positions and developed a Sustainable Hospitality Management Program.

Part of that lasting legacy also includes the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, which launched from the provost’s office. When Dr. Kamath arrived, he folded the iiED into the College of Business and used it as a vehicle to get business leaders and entrepreneurs involved. 

He built relationships through his relentless curiosity in the work of others. Kelly O’Brien, a veteran entrepreneur and executive-in-residence since 2019 at the College of Business, recalls when she first met Dr. Kamath seven or eight years ago, he asked what she did. She described having led a sensor technology company that made corporate responsibility—”people, planet, profits, ethics and equity,” she says—part of its core mission.

“He said, ‘Oh you’re talking about something I’ve been interested in for years, responsible business, and I’m declaring that’s what this school is,’” O’Brien says. “I said, ‘Jeeze, that’s incredible.’ I’ve had a lot of education in my life, and none of them have really talked about responsible business except for Oxford, and that’s only recently.”

O’Brien described Dr. Kamath as a powerhouse.

“He’s a dynamic personality, a visionary and dedicated to the social aspect of business,”  O’Brien, “Business more than any other sector has the potential to make a major difference in the world’s pressing problems, and Shyam Kamath recognizes that.”

Josh Metz, who for eight years held planning and executive roles with the Fort Ord Reuse Authority, developed a relationship with Kamath while holding urban design and regional trail planning charrettes. As FORA began moving toward sunset in 2019, Metz co-founded Monterey Bay DART—Drone, Automation & Robotics Technology—a center for innovation in the drone technology space. Dr. Kamath, he says, was an early and enthusiastic supporter. 

“He understood how to build a diverse coalition between academia and government,” Metz said. “He was always supportive of the innovation and entrepreneurship program Brad Barbeau built, and saw it as a great way to support economic development.” 

When it came to DART, or to ag-tech, or to sustainable hospitality education or iiED, Dr. Kamath was always active and tracking the most current information as a means to foster entrepreneurship and relationships between the College and the wider business community.

“In each area, there was opportunity and Shyam would see the way the university would play a role and yield benefits to the local economy, and create opportunity,” Metz said. “He was always happy to make an introduction and it spoke to what he was able to pull off.” 

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