MBA students look to add to their skills

In a special section titled “World of MBAs > Case Studies”, the Toronto Star featured several students and graduates from MBA programs at York’s Schulich School of Business on Sept. 11.

Craig Kielburger saw the writing on the wall, wrote the Star. Then he did the math and figured out the dollars and sense. And then started racking up frequent-flyer miles.

Kielburger, 25, is studying for an EMBA degree at the Schulich School of Business at York University. The 18-month program ends next May.

He’s the youngest-ever student in the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA program, and perhaps the most-travelled. His work with Free the Children, a charity he founded at the age of 12, takes him to about 50 countries, from China to Sri Lanka to Ecuador. "Wherever I am in the world, I try to fly back every other week for a long weekend of classes," he says by cellphone from Kenya, near the Tanzanian border. "I’m studying in a cohort of five other people. They’re really good about scheduling conference calls at odd hours."

Kielburger has a degree in peace and conflict studies from U of T, but he realized that running "the world’s leading youth-driven charity" needs a well-honed business brain as well as a social conscience. "In many ways, I’m doing the EMBA for the same reasons as anyone," he says. "But unlike most people, I won’t be applying it to profit, but to non-profit."

  • With a doctorate in atmospheric physics, Ellie Farahani knew she’d be mastering a new discipline in the Schulich School of Business EMBA program at York University, wrote the Star. She hadn’t reckoned on also learning a new language.

"Scientists and business people…you have a different viewpoint and see the world in a very different light," she says. "So to meet so many of them and to get their perspective was valuable to me. To come up with sustainable solutions for the world, we need to understand each other’s language."

Farahani, 34, works in the international project office of SPARC – Stratospheric Processes And their Role in Climate – at the University of Toronto. Some of her research contributed, "in a very small way," to a project that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for former US vice-president Al Gore and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "I understand the science behind climate change,” she says. “Now I’d like to use that in sustainable development and communicate this to the business world and the market."

  • Allison Annan-Bujold will never forget the day in 2006 that a plain brown envelope arrived in the mailbox of her home in Bolton, wrote the Star. "I was kind of shocked, I was excited, I was speechless," she says. The envelope contained news she had been awarded a $65,000 scholarship to the Schulich School of Business at York University – the largest Schulich offers.

The scholarship meant that Annan-Bujold, a computer engineer, could dedicate herself full time to the two-year MBA course instead of studying part time and juggling her job in the aerospace industry.

The scholarship she received is just one of many dispensed by Schulich to recognize academic excellence, dedication to a specific field and, in some cases, financial need.

"Allison Annan-Bujold is an amazing student and we are really proud of her," says Charmaine Courtis, Schulich’s executive director of student services & international relations. According to Courtis, Schulich’s scholarships – like most of the 60 business schools in Canada – are usually endowed by the school’s alumni.

Schulich’s scholarships range in value from $1,000 to $65,000. Many scholarships set out specific criteria to recognize students who make a significant contribution in the community; others reward students in specific study areas. Courtis says the scholarships also help attract the very best minds to a particular business school.

  • Jacqueline Sava (MBA ’08), 33, was already an old hand at entrepreneurship when she enrolled part time in an MBA program at York University’s Schulich School of Business in 2004, wrote the Star. She was making a living designing toques, scarves and mittens and consulting in industrial design. But as a fine arts grad, she knew she needed hard business skills to make her ventures work.

In fact, while she was taking that MBA, she launched yet another venture – Soak Wash Inc. Today, Soak Wash is profitable, has five employees and 800 retailers as clients across North America. Sava is one of those MBA students who are natural entrepreneurs.

Can business schools create entrepreneurs? No; that has to come from within, says Eileen Fischer, director of entrepreneurial studies at Schulich. "It goes far beyond things like accounting, financing and writing business plans," she says. "What we can do is teach an overall approach to problem solving, planning and operation."

  • York University MBA grad Hazhir Ghayouri (MBA ’08) parlayed his success in case competitions into a top job with consulting firm Capgemini Canada, wrote the Star.

Ghayouri, now 28, emigrated with his family from Iran at age 16 and worked as an engineering consultant after graduating from the University of Waterloo. Eventually he entered York’s Schulich School of Business and was on a four-member team representing the school in local, national and international case competitions. It was during one in-house event sponsored by Capgemini that he attracted the attention of company principal Brian Smith, and was hired as a senior management consultant.

Green takes firm root in bottom line

Ontario ‘s MBA schools are getting greener, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 11. That means that, before long, environmental concerns could play a bigger role in corporate decisions.

"Many students come (here) because of the focus on sustainability," says Bryan Husted, who holds the Erivan K. Haub Chair in Business & Sustainability at York University’s Schulich School of Business. "The school has been highly ranked in terms of its treatment of social and environmental issues and the students know this."

A recent survey called Beyond Grey Pinstripes, by the New York-based Aspen Institute, ranked Schulich as third-best in the world at integrating social and environmental concerns into its courses.

On air

  • James Laxer, political science professor in York’s Atkinson School of Liberal & Professional Studies, spoke about the Canadian federal election on Toronto’s AM640 Radio Sept. 11.
  • Wendy Taylor, physics professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the successful test of the Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, on CBC Newsworld Sept. 10.