Virginia Franke Kleist appointed to serve as dean of Mike Ilitch School of Business

Dean Virginia Kleist Headshot

Wayne State University Provost and Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Kornbluh announced that Virginia Franke Kleist was recently selected to serve as the next dean of the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

Kleist assumed her new role on July 11, 2022. She succeeded Dean Robert Forsythe, who had served in the role since 2014.

Kleist came to Wayne State from West Virginia University, where she served as the associate dean of graduate programs, research and academic affairs and as a professor of management information systems within the John Chambers College of Business and Economics. Her responsibilities at WVU included oversight of graduate programs at the Chambers College, the faculty promotion and tenure process, and the faculty research function. While at WVU, Kleist worked to develop and implement strategies and plans to promote externally funded grants. Her teaching expertise is in the areas of strategic technology management, data communications and network security.

In her roles at WVU, Kleist has spearheaded the development and delivery of six new entrepreneurial online graduate degrees and grew graduate student enrollment by 77% between fall 2018 and fall 2021. A member of the WVU Diversity Council, her responsibilities included managing the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion function at Chambers. Kleist and her team built a five-year DEI plan that included deliverables and metrics over time. She brings extensive international experience, including her previous responsibility for the WVU Robbins Center for Global Business and Strategy and the WVU Center for Chinese Business.

In her 23 years at WVU, Kleist held senior leadership positions including serving as chair of the University Faculty Senate, 11-year member of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, and chair of the Department of Management and Information Systems. Previously, she served as director of the M.B.A./M.S. in management information systems dual degree program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Kleist is a three-time Fulbright Specialist award winner, having taught in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, and Ufa, Russia, for two of those awards, with the third award still outstanding. Her research publications include work on the economics of information technologies, information systems data security and IT auditing issues. Kleist won the Chambers College Dean’s Research Award, the WVU Board of Governors Outstanding Teaching Award and her field’s best dissertation award. She has received external grant funding as a PI or as a contractor, together with others, from the Center for Identification Technology Research, a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, the Executive Office of the US Attorneys at the Department of Justice, the National Biometrics Security Project, the Office of Domestic Preparedness, Department of Homeland Security and a WVU NSF Advance Award.

Prior to her career in academics, Kleist spent 10 years in telecommunications network management at PNC, Allegheny Health Education and Research Foundation, Joy Technologies and GTE (now Verizon).

Kleist holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in MIS and an M.A. in economics, all from the University of Pittsburgh, and a full-scholarship M.B.A. from Marquette University. She received her B.A. in economics and history from Duke University.

Under former Dean Forsythe's leadership, the Ilitch School was renamed in 2015 in recognition of a historic $40 million gift from the Ilitch family, which allowed the school to build its state-of-the-art new home in The District Detroit. Forsythe’s tenure also included the development of several new academic programs, including those in entrepreneurship and innovation and sport and entertainment management, and student success and mentoring initiatives.

About the Mike Ilitch School of Business

The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers, advances the boundaries of scholarly and practitioner knowledge, and enhances the economic vitality of the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and beyond through its programs, research and community engagement. Established in 1946, the business school was renamed in 2015 in recognition of a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch. Thanks to this lead investment, the school moved to a new state-of-the-art building in the heart of The District Detroit in 2018, and academic programming and collaboration with city businesses are expanding. For more information, visit

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