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Former Governor of the Bank of Canada David Dodge, senior adviser at law firm Bennett Jones. (Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail)
Former Governor of the Bank of Canada David Dodge, senior adviser at law firm Bennett Jones. (Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail)

David Dodge: The best B-schools tailor their MBAs Add to ...

David Dodge, former Governor of the Bank of Canada, currently works for law firm Bennett Jones advising clients on global economic developments and their effect on Canadian business. He has earned a BA in economics from Queen’s University and a PhD in economics from Princeton.

During his academic career, Mr. Dodge taught economics at Queen’s University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. He also served as director of the international economics program of the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

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Mr. Dodge has had a distinguished career in the federal public service, where he has held senior positions in what is now called the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Anti-Inflation Board, and the Department of Employment and Immigration. He served as a G-7 deputy in the Department of Finance, deputy finance minister and deputy minister of health. Currently chancellor of Queen’s University, Mr. Dodge is a member of several boards of directors and co-chair of the Global Market Monitoring Group of the Institute of International Finance. In 2009, Mr. Dodge was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2007.

Following an undergraduate degree at Queen’s University, you went to an Ivy League school for your PhD. Do you think that studying at a school like Princeton gives people an advantage?

I have always felt that studying at a top school, whether it’s an Ivy League school or not, provides people with a significant advantage. Princeton consistently ranks among the Top 5 economics departments in the world and I believe that, yes, studying there helped my career.

Having worked in finance and policy related posts for most of your life, and now as an adviser at Bennett Jones, do you feel that an MBA is a relevant degree in today’s business world? At any point in your career did you consider studying for an MBA?

It was a personal choice that I never studied for an MBA. However I do feel that the degree is very important and relevant. That being said, the relevancy depends significantly on the individual. I feel that for someone who has spent three or four years “mucking around” after their undergrad, an MBA can be quite useful, especially if that person wants to break into marketing, personnel management or finance. I feel that an MBA can help provide focus and provide people with a better idea of what they may want to do going forward. One of my daughters is a case study in the career changing power of an MBA. After four years of working in the banking industry, she returned to school to complete an MBA and then went into marketing of consumer products, where she is now very happy.

I also feel that there are many benefits to earning an EMBA. For a certain type of person, this can be a very valuable and effective way of obtaining further education. For a 35-year-old executive, an EMBA provides a broader world view through the interaction with students from very different business backgrounds They will also be able to meaningfully contribute to others learning by sharing their own business experiences.

Do you see any particular skill that someone with an MBA can provide or that the MBA program teaches?

I see there being two types of MBAs: a general degree and one with a technical concentration. Both programs are good but they are also quite different. It is important to remember this when applying to an MBA school. For example, if you want to go on in finance, then it is important to choose a school that offers a good grounding in financial technicalities. Different students have different needs. One should identify one’s own needs and then decide on a program that will meet those needs.

Is an MBA an appropriate qualification for someone who wishes to pursue roles in a policy body such as the Bank of Canada?

Absolutely. An MBA, especially for younger students with less work experience, offers the opportunity to learn how to work in teams, something an economics degree does not teach. Policy boards live and die by the ability of their members to work together and reach consensus. In the end, any exposure to how organizations work, and how individuals work together, is very important. A general MBA program provides a lot of this exposure.

In your roles on various regulatory boards and committees, does it seem that the majority of your colleagues have MBAs? Would an MBA contribute to your ability to perform in those roles?

In my experience, the main problem is that regulatory staff members, particularly junior staff, don’t have enough experience in private organizations in the industry that they are attempting to regulate. When it comes to regulatory bodies, experience in the industry you’re overseeing is far more valuable than a couple more years of schooling.

As Chancellor of Queen’s University, what do you see as the most significant trends in current business education?

One recent trend that I feel makes sense is the switch from a two-year program to a 14-month “straight through” program. I feel a shorter term is appropriate as it lessens the opportunity cost to students.

One trend that I don’t agree with is that of students who go on to study an MBA directly after completing an undergraduate degree because they don’t know what else to do. An MBA is not as valuable in this case as it is to someone who makes their decision after some work experience.

Furthermore it is important for the administration of business schools to remember that an MBA (or EMBA) should be tailored for the class intake and the students’ backgrounds and not to provide just a generic business curriculum. The best business schools that currently do this and the value of being at one of these schools is enormous

Do you have any advice for students currently in business school?

Throughout one’s studies, a student must make highly individualized choices based on highly individualized goals. I don’t feel that there is a piece of general advice that I can offer to all of them, nor is there a general path that I can point them down.

I would say that I have been very lucky in my career and have had an opportunity to see and do a lot of interesting things. However, many of the experiences I have had would not have occurred if I had not been willing to spend the time and the effort to do some less interesting things first.

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