Australia an ‘incubator’ for prof’s boardroom assessment

For much of the past year, Richard Leblanc, York administrative studies professor and governance consultant, has been operating on Australia time, helping a law and an accounting firm there devise a method for diagnosing the effectiveness of boards of directors, reported The Globe and Mail May 18.

Central to this world-spanning effort is a methodology Leblanc began formulating while he was a fly on the wall in Canadian boardrooms a couple of years ago. He was allowed to sit in on meetings of about 40 companies to gather research for his PhD thesis at York, and his observations became the basis for a book published last year, Inside the Boardroom, that he co-wrote. The main argument of the book is that the focus when choosing directors must be on their skills and behavioural characteristics, and how they fit together as a board.

Leblanc Diagnotics has joined a burgeoning mini-industry among law, accounting and executive search firms aimed at helping boards improve their processes and bench strength with the goal of making them more effective and accountable. These initiatives have sprung from the many business scandals of recent years that raised the question: “Where was the board?”

The Australian firms became interested in his work after he gave a speech to the Australian Institute of Company Directors in November, 2004, Leblanc says. “Australia, for me, has become an incubator, if you will, in which my model is beginning to take hold.”

York ads target influential generation

York University is aiming its 2006 advertising campaign at reputation shapers who have influence on potential students, reported Marketing Daily, an online news service of Marketing magazine, May 18. “We found out that the ingoing student population doesn’t have some of the baggage about interdisciplinary education and about York that some older generations have,” says Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Richard Fisher. “So we thought it would be a good use of our resources to target influencers, the people that the potential students talk to when they’re making a decision.”

York continues to position itself as the best choice for broad-based, interdisciplinary education. The message is virtually identical to the 2005 campaign, which was geared to students and, according to Fisher, helped generate higher admission rates.

This year’s version is keyed by two radio spots, wherein an announcer explains how students in different academic programs might place an item in different contexts. In one spot a lawyer, a historian and a fine-arts student talk about the business section of a newspaper, while the other spot details how a chicken might be seen through the eyes of a biologist, a dietician and a philosopher. Variations on this theme will also appear in print ads, spots for the Elevator News Network and on a plastic wrap delivered to subscribers of The Globe and Mail in May and June.

Brazilian ball sizzles

It might have been a chilly Saturday night but the Metro Toronto Convention Centre was sizzling, reported the Toronto Star May 18 in a two-page fashion spread of the 40th Brazilian Carnival Ball. Some 1,700 guests joined more than 60 Brazilian dancers for the annual fundraiser which this year raised money for The Accolade Project at the Faculty of Fine Arts at York. Giving some of Toronto’s society swans serious competition for belle of the ball was Brazilian bombshell Luciana Gimenez. The real bacchanal began after dinner, as dancers doffed their elaborate costumes for more scanty attire all the better to do the samba and the black tie bankers shed their inhibitions and joined the conga line. Among those featured in photos were York benefactors George and Helen Vari, honorary Chairs of the ball, and former York student Belinda Stronach. See more images from the Brazilian Ball.

Activists try new route for allegations against cops

A group of social activists, including a York law student, is taking its complaints against individual police officers to small claims court, reported The Record of Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo May 18. “The current system of handling complaints against the police – where the police investigate the police – is flawed,” said Davin Charney, a former Kitchener resident in his second year at Osgoode Hall Law School. Charney is one of three people in Kitchener who have already filed claims with the court against members of the Waterloo regional police department for alleged misconduct. Charney maintains that he was wrongfully held in jail after an arrest in May 2003.

Foley aims to run with Ravens after signing free-agent contract

The Baltimore Ravens will be holding their ninth annual Spring Football Festival on Sunday and former York linebacker Ricky Foley has defied the odds in being allowed to attend after signing a free-agent contract with the National Football League team that boggles the mind of his agent, Scott Mitchell, reported The Vancouver Sun May 18 in news echoed in The Toronto Sun.

“I thought he had about a 100-1 shot to stick, but this kid just keeps amazing me,” says Mitchell, who also represents Jay Pottinger, the BC Lions’ first pick in the 2006 Canadian college draft. “Ricky never played high school football, and he played in college at the equivalent level of [NCAA] Division III. It’s a neat story. It could end in training camp, but just to get where he has says a lot about what an unbelievable athlete he is.” The former decathlete was picked fourth overall by the Lions in the first round of the 2006 Canadian college draft. The farmboy from Courtice, Ont., was invited to the Ravens’ spring mini-camp last weekend after being touted by Joe Douglas, a Baltimore scout.

South Africa’s Stellenbosch a ‘must see’ town

The town of Stellenbosch is certainly a “must” stop these days on any visit to South Africa, wrote York theatre Prof. Don Rubin in the Toronto Star travel section May 18. Founded by the Dutch in 1679 and arguably the oldest municipality in the country, Stellenbosch is culturally sophisticated and extremely safe, charming and friendly, filled with an abundance of wine estates and high-end restaurants.

On air

  • Shelagh Rogers interviewed Nina Beveridge about the documentary she made of her father James Beveridge, a National Film Board pioneer in Canadian documentary films and founder of the first graduate film studies program in Canada at York, on CBC Radio’s “Sounds like Canada” May 17.
  • Economist Bernie Wolf, director of the International MBA Program at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed the trend towards non-unionized auto parts plants opening in Ontario, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” May 17.