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Joseph Doucet is the new dean of the University of Alberta’s School of Business. (University of Alberta)
Joseph Doucet is the new dean of the University of Alberta’s School of Business. (University of Alberta)

Business School News

Alberta’s new B-school dean pledges to open doors Add to ...

The Globe’s biweekly business-school news roundup.

As interim dean of the University of Alberta’s School of Business for the past 18 months, Joseph Doucet oversaw the introduction of a new undergraduate certificate in leadership and the recruitment of 14 professors, including from top schools in the United States and Britain, to replace almost 20 per cent of the faculty leaving through retirement or other reasons.

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Now, with the university’s announcement of his appointment as dean, Dr. Doucet sets his sights on raising the profile of the school over the next five years, and beyond.

Despite a tight budgetary environment, he hopes to win approval in the next couple of years for a new building, replacing one that opened in 1985, to accommodate growth in enrolment (including a doubling of MBA students to 600 over the past 28 years), student clubs, international students and visiting professors and new teaching practices that require breakout rooms for class projects.

As significant as the proposed bricks and mortar, Dr. Doucet wants to throw open the doors of the school for business professors to share their research with the public.

“I want us to do a better job of communicating and articulating how the research we undertake here is relevant for the decision makers, whether in government, the private sector or non-governmental organizations,” he says. “I want people to get a better sense and appreciation for the value of what we can do for some of those tough decisions in the public and private sector.”

Whatever the new methods for disseminating the research – electronic newsletters and possibly Twitter – Dr. Doucet is emphatic about the necessity for face-to-face contact, such as seminars and other events, between business professors and consumers of their knowledge.

“I feel strongly that personal interaction is a significant way in which relationships get built, so that knowledge can be shared in an active and constructive way,” he says. “Not just a piece of paper or a website, but real decision-making.”

Revamped MBA at Queen’s

In the intensely competitive world of MBA education, standing still is not an option. That’s why schools of business continually refine their offerings to secure their niche and stay abreast of shifting market demands.

Queen’s University School of Business is the latest to redesign its graduate program – the most significant overhaul since moving to a 12-month format in 1994. The length of the new program stays the same, but significant changes were made in response to comments from employers, students and alumni.

“It was not just a curriculum review,” says Shai Dubey, director of the full-time MBA program at the Queen’s school, of the rethinking that began in October of 2011. “We built it from the bottom up from the student perspective but first we went to employers.”

The message from employers was positive but also troubling. Recruiters praised the technical knowledge of graduates but felt they fell short in knowing how to assemble disparate pieces of information to map a strategy for the long-term health of a company.

“Most of the students had a very difficult time dealing with ambiguity,” says Prof. Dubey. “If you gave them a checklist … they were brilliant at execution. But if you did not give them all the necessary information, they found it difficult to make inferences on where they needed to go.”

In response, the school reduced the number of core courses, added electives and doubled the length of individual courses to six weeks. “We are trying to create an environment where there is an ability to absorb, apply and learn,” says Prof. Dubey.

The school also expanded opportunities for experiential learning. In one course, now mandatory, students work in teams to provide real-life advice to a company, publicly unnamed, that has agreed to work with the school. Students are assessed on their presentations to senior executives, with a focus on developing skills in cross-functional decision-making.

“This is what happens when you come in to a company,” Prof. Dubey says of the student experience of working with a real firm. “You have to figure out what is going on and figure out what are the issues.”

As well, the school added specializations, such as consulting, entrepreneurship and innovation and finance, with participating students now able to earn a graduate certificate in the area of focus as well as their MBA.

With students looking to differentiate themselves in the job market, the school now offers them an opportunity to apply qualifying MBA credits toward master’s level degrees in law, finance and management analytics. As a result, students can shave four months off the time typically taken to earn two degrees. “There is a tremendous interest in the double degree,” says Mr. Dubey, with 16 per cent of current applicants expressing interest in the option.

The program’s start date has moved to January, with an expected intake of 70 to 75 students in 2014.

How will Queen’s measure the success of its redesigned MBA? “When I hear back from employers about students who get hired and make an impact,” says Prof. Dubey. “We are not just looking at the first job but at how we create the leader of tomorrow.”

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Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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