Prepare for a sea of change, says Schulich dean

The global corporate landscape has changed more in the last decade than ever before, wrote Dezsö Horváth, dean and Tanna H. Schulich Chair in Strategic Management in the Schulich School of Business at York, in an article for the National Post Oct. 27.

And what has changed most of all is the nature of expectations and demands placed on corporations, wrote Horvath. In addition to traditional shareholder expectations of financial returns, there is now a whole range of stakeholder expectations of how the corporation should behave. The stakeholders are sophisticated, savvy and increasingly activist. Their demands range from changes in corporate governance policies and reforms in executive compensation formulas to greater transparency in labour and environmental practices. As the stakeholders see it, the corporation may well be a privately owned enterprise but, because of its impact on society, it is also a public institution.

Opinion surveys, media reports, consumer research, government statements all indicate that the stakeholder perspective is gaining legitimacy. Thus, the true challenge facing the corporation is to find a balance between private ownership and public accountability. Helping future managers find such a balance is precisely the area where business schools themselves must do a better job.

On top of stakeholder expectations, there is the sheer complexity involved in managing large, transnational enterprises in a global environment. This is not a “business-as-usual” environment for which the MBA education of the past had been designed. Indeed, the one-size-fits-all MBA has become obsolete. In place of the generic MBA, business educators will have to offer more MBA degree programs that provide industry-specific learning for sectors such as biotech, media and real estate, and incorporate into all these the operational meaning of the concept of corporate social responsibility.

Predictions are always risky, wrote Horvath. But I am prepared to predict that one of the casualties of the recent financial crisis will be the so-called shareholder model of business. Business education will gradually have to do away with the notion that the interests of the investor hold sway above all else, that the corporation is responsible only to its owners. Business training will have to develop new criteria to replace what has been a shaky principle for a long time: that the overriding mandate of business is to deliver short-term profits, even at the expense of its long-term sustainability. The narrow shareholder model will be replaced by the much broader stakeholder model – one that considers the implications of strategic decisions on all of a company’s stakeholder groups. In other words, a model that is more closely attuned to the true complexity and diversity of the world we live in.

In this dynamic environment of accelerated change and enhanced expectations, MBA programs will need to place a greater emphasis on entrepreneurial skills and the ability to innovate. Analytical learning must move beyond the traditional case method by adopting a more hands-on learning approach that more closely mirrors the ambiguity of the business world.

In sum, business schools must develop leaders who can manage complexity, balance a large number of stakeholder interests and operate within a global context. A tall order. But this is the only way to fully realize our mandate and meet our responsibilities to students, to business and to society at large.

Taking pride in the name

The practice of naming business schools in Canada after wealthy benefactors began in 1995 with duelling donations from businessmen Richard Ivey ($11 million) and Seymour Schulich ($15 million) to the business schools at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., and York University in Toronto respectively, wrote the National Post Oct. 27.

Since then it’s become an apparently unstoppable trend coast to coast. Of the three dozen Canadian schools currently offering MBA programs, 17 have sold their names to philanthropist entrepreneurs.

The current rate to put your name on a highly ranked Canadian business school is around $20 million to $25 million.

Osgoode hosts UN corporate governance consultation

York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School is convening a consultation in support of the Corporate Law Tools Project of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business & Human Rights, wrote the National Post Oct. 27. The consultation, to be held on Nov. 5 and 6 at the Osgoode Professional Development Centre, will congregate corporate lawyers, civil society, academics, government regulators and industry representatives to discuss how key corporate and securities law concepts as expressed in national laws and guidelines can be used to support corporate respect for human rights.

The special representative was appointed in 2005 by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and given a broad mandate to identify and clarify standards of corporate responsibility and accountability regarding human rights, including the role of states.

Work begins on York’s Life Sciences Centre

The shovels are now in the ground at York University as construction of the new Life Sciences Centre ramped up Monday, Oct. 26, following an official ground breaking ceremony at the Keele campus, wrote the North York Mirror Oct. 26.

Expected to be completed by spring 2011, the building will contain 160,000 square feet of classrooms, offices, laboratories and research space. It will have enough facilities for 1,500 new students once it is operational.

“We have had such a problem with shortages of labs in the last few years but this new infrastructure creates a new opportunity to build capacity for innovation in the future,” said Harvey Skinner, dean of York’s Faculty of Health. “It’s really fundamental for advancing health care here in Ontario.”

“The Life Sciences Centre will create jobs through its construction, support the needs of the growing student population and continue to lure accomplished faculty to the University,” said York West MPP Mario Sergio.

Anxious to begin their work, construction workers began hauling materials around the site in dump trucks even before everyone at the groundbreaking event had filtered out. York University President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri hung around for a few extra minutes to view the beginnings of the newest addition to campus. “It’s just very timely in terms of our needs here,” said Shoukri. “This investment in the Life Sciences Building will help give our students the advantage they need to compete and win on the world stage.”

Least healthy cereals are aimed at children

In Quebec, companies cannot target children under age 13 with television advertising, but Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, says such regulations are difficult to enforce, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 27 in a story about a recent study that confirms what most parents already know: the least healthy cereals for kids are the ones being marketed to them most aggressively.

He puts the onus on food companies to respond to 21st-century health concerns by changing their products and informing their customers – and says that despite what kids might want to eat, it is still the parents who are buying. “In most cases, even where the kids have money themselves…mostly they don’t go out and buy cereals. That’s not the top of their buying list,” he says.

There is a cost to employer-pay programs

In an economic downturn, subsidizing an MBA can seem like an unaffordable luxury, wrote the National Post Oct. 27.

“My observation, and the Canadian Conference Board agrees, is that the number of employers interested in sponsoring MBAs for employees, either in whole or in part, is flat and perhaps even declining,” says Alan Middleton, director of executive programs at the Schulich Executive Education Centre. “It’s part of a general belt-tightening in the current climate.”

This has resulted in three major trends, which Middleton notes affect other schools as well. Pressure to do an MBA faster has been one effect: When students are taking a leave of absence, or get some paid time off to do course work, they are pushed to complete the degree as fast as possible. The second major change is in the number of employers who offer only partial tuition subsidies, where a few years earlier, they might have paid the full amount.

“The other major change,” Middleton adds, “is that you see highly employable staff, looking for a career change and not just a job change, leaving their jobs and paying their way through the MBA by contracting or consulting. We get a lot of engineers, or accountants, or specialists with very specific skills like logistics, and they will self-fund, to give themselves the flexibility to move into management and be able to compete on the open job market, without being tied to their current employer.”

MBAs by the numbers

Tuition fees for programs likely to lead to lucrative employment, such as medicine and law, tend to be high at Canadian universities, wrote the National Post Oct. 27. At the very top of the tuition list is the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program at Toronto’s York University, which costs $108,000, although this fee covers a very extensive list of expenses, including travel and residence abroad, and services that are unique to the Kellogg-Schulich program.

A number of factors influence tuition. Competition between many programs in close proximity tends to lead to higher fees, as schools vie for the best faculty, and recover costs accordingly through tuition. The Greater Toronto Area, too, has a higher concentration of national and international head offices, whose employees are generally paid better and are prime candidates for an MBA. They are also likely to receive some form of support from employers.

An MBA is a supplement to experience

Schulich grad Joseph Philbrook, today a manager at Deloitte Consulting, completed an undergraduate degree in engineering and had been working for six years when he began looking for a change in pace, wrote the National Post Oct. 27.

“I really wanted new growth opportunities to broaden my horizon,” he says. “I enjoy learning, so I did want to get that comfort that comes with knowledge. And I was starting to get involved in more business types of roles, so wanted a formal education in business.”

The engineer graduated with an MBA from the Schulich School of Business in 2006 – along with a good number of other engineers in his class. “I would say that an MBA is a complementary skill set. In engineering you learn how to do analysis and pay attention to detail,” says Philbrook. “When you do an MBA, it is a whole new subject matter, but those same skills that you learn in your engineering degree are applicable. So if you look at careers in finance or accounting, it’s all numbers, and you have a very strong background in analyzing data.”

Philbrook recognizes an MBA can help improve one’s income and advance one’s career, and in fact, his MBA did help him get into consulting. “Personally, that’s not a reason why I got my MBA, and although I did make more money coming out of the MBA, the return on investment angle is all dollars and cents to me,” he says.

Markham coach is a York grad

For a first-year entry last season, the Bill Crothers Secondary School Colts made an immediate impact on the hardwood court by going undefeated en route to winning the York Region Athletic Association junior girls’ basketball title, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Oct. 26. Now in their second season, students from the new athletics school are trying to prove their feat from a year ago wasn’t an aberration.

While elated with what they’ve accomplished thus far, first-year Colts’ head coach Jodi Gram (BA Hons. ’06, BEd ’07) said her objective isn’t so much winning a regional title as it is in seeing her youthful charges show progress.

A former standout point guard during her playing days at Markham District High School and also serving as an assistant coach with the York University Lions women’s team, Gram said what concerns her along with other coaches is the timing of the girls’ high school basketball season. The fall season is far shorter than what she experienced coaching boys at Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School in Newmarket prior to coming to Bill Crothers.

Flaherty appoints York grad as director of CPP Investment Board

Glendon/Schulich grad Douglas Mahaffy (BA ’66, MBA ’71) was appointed as a director for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) on Monday by Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, wrote Xinhua News Agency’s English News Service Oct. 26.

The CPPIB is responsible for prudently investing Canada Pension Plan (CPP) investment funds in the best interests of CPP contributors and beneficiaries.

Mahaffy, of Toronto, Ont., received a master of business administration from York University in 1971. He was once senior finance executive at Merrill Lynch Canada, Hudson’s Bay Company and Eli Lilly Canada.

York’s investments were more conservative

York University, whose endowments were more conservatively invested, took an 18 per cent hit, York reported in June, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 27 in a story about the effect of the economic downturn on university endowment funds.

On air

  • Rebecca Pillai Riddell, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about a video that the producers once claimed was educational but are now giving refunds, on Global TV Oct. 26.
  • York graduate student Beenash Jafri (BES ’03), co-founder of the Anti-racist Environmental Coalition, spoke about the 2007 article she co-wrote with Karen Okamoto, “Green is Not the Only Colour”, and the economic environmental crisis on Ottawa’s CKCU-FM Radio Oct. 26.