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Desautels doubled its budget, returned to international recruitment of students, added scholarships and overseas academic experiences, and hired 60 new professors under dean Peter Todd. (Christian Fleury)
Desautels doubled its budget, returned to international recruitment of students, added scholarships and overseas academic experiences, and hired 60 new professors under dean Peter Todd. (Christian Fleury)

BUSINESS SCHOOL NEWS

Dean leaves a big legacy at Desautels Add to ...

The Globe’s biweekly business-school news roundup.

Not all leaders leave their institutions on a high note, and with a fistful of accomplishments.

But that is the case for Peter Todd, dean of McGill University’s Desautels School of Management, who stepped down this week after nine years on the job.

Over that time, he oversaw the introduction of curriculum innovations, a doubling of the faculty, an expansion of student services and scholarships, a boost in private sector donations and a return to a strong international focus in the Montreal school’s undergraduate and MBA programs.

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Many of these upgrades would not have been possible without the school’s politically daring decision in 2010 to move to a self-funded MBA, proposing tuition $30,000 a year higher than the then-provincial cap (but well below more expensive programs elsewhere).

Initially, the Quebec government threatened to fine McGill but backed down in 2011, recognizing the Desautels MBA as a specialized program (and thus excused from the tuition cap) for its significant international content.

The move to a self-funded model “was important for what it let us do, not in and of itself,” says the dean, who adds the school lost $10,000 a student under previous rules.

Freed to reinvest in the MBA program, the school doubled its budget (from nine years ago), returned to international recruitment of students, added scholarships and overseas academic experiences and hired 60 new professors. As well, Desautels deliberately reduced its annual intake of MBA students to 75 from 125 to enhance the individual academic experience.

“The arc of that [self-funding move] was our students winning the Hult Prize last year, which helped to indicate where the program had come from,” said Dr. Todd, citing the high-profile prize for business students who address a global social problem.

In a farewell gift, faculty, students, alumni and members of the Desautels faculty advisory board raised more than $518,000 for a scholarship, named for the dean and his wife, Connie, to assist a bachelor of commerce student who receives an international internship with a not-for-profit organization.

Dr. Todd, who now heads off on an academic leave, chose to step down a year before this term is up.

“When you are in these roles it is important to choose the moment when you think you have done most of the major things you have set out to do … and when things are going well for the school,” he said. “It seemed like a good time to turn it over to fresh legs.”

Pending a permanent replacement, associate dean (academic) and professor Morty Yalovsky serves as interim dean.

The evolution of student-run investment funds

Increasingly a staple at Canadian business schools, student-run investment funds offer hands-on experience handling other people’s money in real time. Whether as a for-credit course or extracurricular activity, the funds share a goal to prepare students for careers in finance.

One of the oldest funds, housed at the Centre for Financial Studies on the Fredericton campus of the University of New Brunswick, has ambitions to expand its international reach.

This weekend, in an annual pilgrimage, students in the Student Investment Fund head to Omaha, Neb., for the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, held by board chairman and financial guru Warren Buffet.

Meanwhile, the business faculty is in discussions with Singapore’s East Asia Institute of Management about potential academic alliances that could include a replication of the centre’s Student Investment Fund (SIF) in Singapore. Next year, centre executive director Glenn Cleland hopes to send a top participant in SIF to Singapore on a summer internship.

“Can you imagine a home run where you have a student here [in Fredericton] from September to April learning about North American markets and in Singapore for the summer to learn about emerging markets?” asks Mr. Cleland, who was instrumental in establishing SIF in 1998 while a senior portfolio manager at New Brunswick Investment Corp.

Initially seeded with $1-million from the public sector pension fund, the student-run portfolio has grown to more than $3-million. SIF also manages a $3.9-million endowment for the university.

Fourth-year UNB business administration student Jordan Russell said the fund has given him a front-row seat on an industry he hopes to join after graduation. “It really opened my eyes in terms of how markets function in a real world outside of the textbook,” he said.

Determined to raise the skills profile of East Coast students potentially overlooked for their geographic location, Mr. Cleland integrates the chartered financial analyst (CFA) curriculum as a core component of the SIF program.

Students write a mock CFA Level 1 exam to prepare them for the actual exam written in the year they complete the SIF program. The practice has paid dividends, said Mr. Cleland, with a pass rate of 63 per cent for SIF students over the past 14 years compared to a global industry average of 43 per cent.

Sean McNulty, who graduated from SIF in 2007, credits it with helping him win job offers from three national banks and land the job he wanted on Bay Street.

“The student investment fund was my biggest negotiating tool,” says Mr. McNulty, now an investment analyst at MMCap Asset Management in Toronto. “It really does help you transition into real life in the capital markets.”

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net.

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