The Next Step for Professionals
It’s generally accepted that a master of business administration ( MBA), or other degrees associated with executive education, provide the tools required in today’s fiercely competitive global business climate. It’s all about transforming those with talen
While institutions from the University of Victoria to Athabasca University offer a diverse range of programs under the heading of adult education, they share a vital commonality: the recognition that people seeking MBAS and other programs already have demanding careers and can ill-afford to adhere to the schedules of traditional higher learning organizations.
The University of Victoria’s Weekend MBA is unique: its in-class weekend schedule combined with flexible online learning provides a balanced approach for professionals.
David Dunne, professor and director, full- and part-time MBA programs for Uvic’s Sardul S. Gill Graduate School and Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, says: “The Weekend MBA, which is offered through the Sardul S. Gill Graduate School, is a unique →
model in which students obtain their degree one weekend per month over two years, working flexibly with their team and professors between weekends. Because students are experienced professionals and work on projects between classes, the program is both demanding and rewarding, as much so as any full-time MBA.”
While universities that operate strictly online are a popular solution for many professionals, a school such as Gustavson at Uvic “gives you unparalleled access to faculty and a mentorship program that helps you build skills and important career connections,” says Dunne. Plus, “in a small school such as Gustavson, professors are accessible and supportive.”
The Uvic Weekend MBA opens with a one-week introductory module in which students work closely with cohorts, reflect on their own leadership style, and begin to wrestle with the complexity of business decisions in B.C. and the world. “Businesses do not operate in isolation,” says Dunne. “They need to take account of local communities and wider society, interest groups, government, competitors and potential allies.”
Every term in the Weekend MBA program includes an applied project that is team-based and grounded in real-world problem solving, with students working with a client organization that has brought a current business problem or issue into the classroom. In the second year of the program, students participate in a one-week International Applied Project that takes place overseas.
Uvic constantly strives to adopt online learning in ways that allow for personal interaction, in order not only to provide the fullest possible educational experience but also avoid what Dunne views as the biggest pitfall of pure online courses: a dropout rate of close to 90 per cent and no in-person interaction with the professor or fellow students.
“For example, we are increasingly using flipped classrooms in our courses to maximize the value of in-class time for deeper discussion and reflective learning.” In the flipped-classroom model, professors put all lecture material online in video or audio form and use class time for discussion, hands-on work and reflection.
Of Uvic’s MBA program overall, Dunne says it is “very much about responsible management: the idea that businesses need to take into account the interests of communities, First Nations, the environment and other factors, as well as those of shareholders.”
Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business laid claim in 1968 to offer the very first executive MBA in Canada. Approaching its 50th year in MBA education, the school has generated more than 1,600 outstanding alumni and earned a reputation for being one of the country’s best programs.
Part of the MBA’S success is that its educational experience is unusually thorough. Before the start of the first semester, incoming students complete refresher courses in Excel and financial accounting. To obtain their degree, they must spend four months doing post-graduation work in a permanent position, paid internship, or creating a new venture, and then write a report on their progress.
The school’s cohort model ensures MBA candidates study alongside the same classmates throughout the program, to encourage networking and teamwork.
Beedie is a strong advocate of mixing brick-and-mortar learning with online education and other components. “Our calling is to develop innovative students who are socially responsible and globally aware, and to that end we appreciate that three-hour lectures in classrooms just don’t cut it anymore,” says Andrew Gemino, associate dean, graduate programs. “That’s why our MBA has so many components—with a particular →
focus on getting groups of students out of the class and into the working world to gain knowledge.”
Unsurprisingly, Beedie’s Graduate Diploma in Business Education, first unveiled 18 years ago, is online: the diploma is ideal for those wanting a graduate qualification, looking for a pathway into the right MBA, or just needing a solid grounding in business fundamentals.
Beedie’s Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology Commercialization is another example of the institution’s keen awareness of growing trends in the business/industrial sectors. This is a 12-month, part-time program to provide research scientists and engineers with the theory, frameworks and skills to commercialize their inventions and contribute to new-product development and commercialization in industry.
Elicia Maine, professor in innovation and entrepreneurship and academic director, science and technology commercialization, points out: “Eighty per cent of PHD students in science and engineering in Canada won’t go into a career in academia. However, small and medium-sized enterprises would employ our scientists but require them to know something about new product development. That’s what we aim to do with this program.”
Despite Beedie’s lofty status in the business education world, its faculty continues to adjust existing programs and create new ones, well aware that students must continuously be engaged; otherwise, “they can easily go to their smart phones and learn from the Internet, which may be useful but is hardly a complete educational experience,” says Gemino. “The education we provide will always be inspired by research, and grounded in practice.”
Immersing adult learners in reallife interaction with professors and students is very much the raison d’etre of Cityuniversity of Seattle, and that mandate applies to the Cityuniversity of Seattle in Canada campuses in Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and downtown Vancouver (the latter being just minutes from the Waterfront Skytrain station).
At Cityu in Canada, all instructors are practitioners with teaching experience and scholarly achievements, conveying the experience of professional practice supported by the latest thinking and research. “We bring to the table extensive real-life experience, and we combine this with a curriculum that emphasizes social justice, sustainability and ethics: elements that are so important in today’s working world,” says Arden Henley, vice-president of Canadian programs.
He adds: “Also, community building is a huge part of our educational offerings, given the global business climate in which everyone increasingly works.”
Earlier this year, Cityu in Canada launched a two-year program leading to a Bachelor of Arts in Management ( BAM) degree, with a special focus on socially and environmentally responsible management. “This two-year program is very much in keeping with our operating philosophy, and it allows students with a two-year diploma or two years of undergraduate courses to finish their degrees,” says BAM program director Tom Culham.
As is the case with Uvic, Cityu Canada understands that many students have full-time jobs and family commitments— which is why the institution offers classes on weekday evenings. “In that sense, we offer the flexibility of online but the advantage of face-to-face learning, in small classes that are people-friendly—meaning, quality time with professors,” says Culham, adding that his institution “reflects our participation in the larger community of practice by bringing in guest lecturers and local and international prominent practitioners.”
Consistent with the mission and values of City University of Seattle as a whole, Cityu Canada’s conviction is that universities, and especially city universities, have a responsibility to contribute toward building communities of practice, serving the broader community in which they are located, and be responsive to the pressing issues of the times. “Cityu Canada’s stated mission is to transform society through relevant and accessible post-secondary education,” says Culham.
Although BAM is new in the world of business and management learning, it is already earning strong feedback from graduates, such as Stephanie Yu, who says that in addition to learning management, research, communication and conflictresolution skills, she also learned about what “virtue ethics means today in our modern world—not just in business, but in our lives as human beings.”
Instagrammer Yu goes on to note: “I find it extremely difficult to listen to others and not think about my reply or analyze what they’re saying through my lens; so practising listening to others without speaking, interrupting or having to reply [a component of BAM learning] was difficult but so rewarding: that skill alone has definitely helped with my business meetings.”
Just as learning flexibility is crucial to attracting professionals, so too is the →
importance of an institute’s having the ability to adapt the curriculum in order to address local and regional business dynamics.
That is one of the great strengths of the Directors Education Program ( DEP), which was developed by the Institute of Corporate Directors and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Through joint partnerships with a variety of top Canadian business schools, DEP is offered at schools in 11 cities across the country. The program was developed specifically for experienced professionals who want to become board directors and was inspired by directors’ continually being challenged by information gaps, time constraints and the behavioural dynamics that can be encountered in the boardroom.
In short, DEP helps develop effective and responsible directors, with good board governance defined as more than simply adhering to compliance but using sound judgment and leadership to create value for a corporation.
This highly specialized educational offering is long overdue, given the frequent lack of understanding between the role of management (which is responsible for the establishment of an organization’s operational strategy) and board members (who review the strategy and reject or accept it).
The 12-day course is taught by leading governance experts delivered in four three-day modules, using a combination of case studies, boardroom simulations and classroom learning. It is focused primarily on for-profit governance, with an emphasis on the governance of publicly traded corporations.
As the only program of its kind that bears the seal of the director community itself, DEP offers experiential learning through breakouts and board simulations tailored to meet the needs of directors, from public and private companies, Crown corporations, public institutions, co-operatives and large not-for-profit organizations.
DEP alumni are part of a national network of 4,300 directors and more than 12,000 ICD members across Canada, with members from organizations that include the Bank of Canada, the University of Alberta, HSBC Bank Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Athabasca University is widely acknowledged for playing a substantial role in making online education mainstream: it began in 1994 by offering the world’s first interactive online MBA, which today remains Canada’s largest MBA program for executives and is among the top in the world.
Chris Mcleod, director, marketing and communications, Faculty of Business, for AU, says his institution’s MBA is more salient than ever in today’s economic climate. “The idea that you can get all the education you need in one go is outdated, given that the business environment is changing so radically and quickly with robotics, artificial intellegence, globalization and other elements converging to fundamentally change the playing field.
“Whether you’re an entrepreneur, work in government, or part of a large corporation, an MBA allows you to add value to your organization. Ongoing education may not be a guarantee, but the more educated and connected you are, the better your odds are for success.”
Mcleod rejects the notion that online learning is inferior to brick-and-mortar institutions. “If done well, online learning not only gives you a way to integrate learning with your daily obligations, you get ideas and teachings from all over the world, not just from a classroom comprised of regional people.”
A testament to AU’S success is its student body: between 800 and 900 people are enrolled in its MBA program, and the university has 13,000 undergraduates overall. Mcleod adds: “We specialize in adult learning, even our undergrad students are, on average, between the ages of 28 and 32.”
Most people complete the AU MBA program in two-and-a-half to three years, but participants can take up to five years if required. →
“Another reason for our popularity is we don’t bring students together to debate a case study model,” says Mcleod. “Rather, we ask each student to assess the industry he or she works in. Plus, all major assignments are connected to what they’re doing in the workplace.
“We also regularly change the student and professor groupings, in order to challenge and broaden the perceptions.”
A focus on linking theory to real life often results in the students being promoted or receiving salary increases while they are studying at AU. “On average, our students are promoted twice while taking our program and have among the highest exit salaries upon graduation of any MBA in the world—at $146,426,” says Mcleod. “By doing the things they are learning about back in their workplace, students get a tremendous return on their investment.”
Students can also participate in AU’S elective in-residence courses offered across Canada and around the world. AU students taking Doing Business in a Recovering Economy are travelling to Athens, Greece, in mid-october as part of the program.
Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops has always been forward thinking in its development and delivery of adult education: Mike Henry, the dean of the School of Business, points out that 15 years ago, long before it became the norm, the university had a thriving international student body. “It was by design—because we wanted to internationalize our program content and learn from the different cultures and business practices of other countries.”
Today, 50 per cent of Thompson’s business students are from countries other than Canada; and with its finger ever-present on the pulse of emerging trends, the institution this year is offering two new master’s levels programs: the Master in Environmental Economics and Management ( MEEM), and the Master of Science in Environmental Economics and Management ( MSCEEM), which are designed to give graduates career opportunities in the sustainability field.
Henry says: “Increasingly, environmental stewardship and sustainability are becoming inextricably linked to business, regardless of what the business is; and it’s appropriate that Thompson is leading the way in offering these two programs, given that we’re based in a resource-rich part of B.C. where land and stewardship is vitally important to its residents.”
MEEM is a two-year, course-based program, providing graduates with a broad knowledge of the business environment, advanced management skills and specialized knowledge in environmental economics and sustainability. MSCEEM provides graduates with an understanding of the business environment, specialized knowledge in the emerging area of sustainability, as well as academic and applied research expertise through the completion of a graduate thesis or project.
Those who have already graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration or Bachelor of Commerce can enter directly into the second year of the programs, thus completing a graduate degree in 12 months.
Program coordinator Dr. Laura Lamb, who was instrumental in developing MEEM and MSCEEM, says “the programs are unique in combining economic sustainability learning with business studies. Nobody else has done this, and we think it gives our business students a definite edge in forging careers in the public and private sectors.”
But the new masters programs are only one facet of a university that is also mindful of the rapidly changing face of education. Currently, students can complete the MBA online, and overall TRU students have the flexibility to take courses on campus, online, or combine the two. “Plus, our Kamloops location has proven to be a huge draw over the decades, partly because of the affordable cost of living and the fact we’re in the midst of the great outdoors,” says Lamb.
Last but hardly least, Vancouver Island University’s 14- to 16-month full-time MBA is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs ( ACBSP) and offers a dual degree: students can obtain an MBA from VIU alongside an MSCIM from the University of Hertfordshire, which now also includes a semester exchange opportunity.
The program includes a 16-week internship as well as an Applied Business Project ( ABP), which allows students to focus on a complex business problem or management issues within their internship. “This is the culmination of an intensive learning experience that combines theory and practice as it applies to real-world scenarios throughout the program,” says Joanna Hesketh, administrative coordinator of VIU’S Graduate Business Studies office, Faculty of Management.
The VIU MBA was developed to cater to a wide a range of student needs and educational levels. For example, →
students can choose a specialization in marketing or finance if they would like to complete additional electives and an option-focused internship in their area of specialization.
“Students without an undergraduate degree in business can enter the program by completing a three-month Foundation program before the start of the MBA program,” according to Hesketh. “This intensive program provides students with a strong foundation in the field of business and sets them up for success in the MBA program.”
While Hesketh says online programs will continue to grow in Canada, she strongly advocates the classroom-based environments provided by traditional institutions such as VIU: “They provide a different kind of collaborative learning environment that consistently operates in real time, and this environment facilitates peer-based education where fellow students become colleagues.”
She goes on to note that “success in the Canadian business world is linked to networking-based engagement. A classroom based, face-to-face environment provides more diverse as well as more focused opportunities to engage in networking. For an individual seeking a career change or further career development, this can be integral to their success.” VIU students learn in a dynamic global setting with students from all over the world, while living in a community-based, small-city environment.
Like the best brick-and-mortar environments, VIU is constantly tweaking content and processes. This year, it unveiled a program whereby students can enter Graduate Business Studies through a Graduate Certificate in Business. “This new program allows individuals with Red Seal Certification to enter directly into graduate-level business studies with an option to continue into the MBA program if they achieve a GPA of a B or higher,” Hesketh explains. “This is an important recognition of the rigour that is required to achieve Red Seal Certification here in Canada, and it provides a unique opportunity for those individuals who want to grow their opportunities in management or pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.”
As for MBAS overall, Hesketh reiterates the suggestion of her colleagues in other institutions: as we approach the third decade of the new millennium, they are more valuable than ever.
She says: “A fast-paced MBA prepares a student for the 24/7 environment that many industries are operating in. It challenges their thinking to go beyond the traditional structures of business, providing opportunities for in-depth critical analysis and creative thinking; a way to see and do things differently, and to be competitive in today’s business climate.”
Flexibile learning options appeal to many students pursuing their MBA or other executive education options. Students are able to focus on programs while maintaining their busy work schedules
Thompson Rivers University has always been forward thinking — and now has 50 per cent of its business students coming from other countries
The University of Victoria's MBA program takes its cue from responsible management and has earned its reputation for being among Canada's best
There are numerous options for students wanting to advance their education, such as at Thompson Rivers University, pictured here
Cityu Canada offers a Bachelor of Arts in Management (BAM) degree with a special focus on socially and environmentally responsible management