Twenty years ago, York University was an afterthought for business school applicants. Today, its Schulich School of Business competes with heavyweights, and its joint EMBA with Kellogg School of Management is widely praised. In the latest Financial Times ranking of executive education programs, Kellogg-Schulich was the best in Canada, and 23rd globally.
How did an obscure school in Toronto’s north end become one of the best worldwide? The answer: Dean Dezsö Horváth.
Appointed in 1988, the Hungarian-born, Swedish-educated Horváth put Schulich on the map with his grand vision for global business education. Back then, American schools weren’t thinking beyond their borders, and the European schools had only a pan-European focus.
The global positioning for the school was built out in three waves, Horváth explains. First, Schulich sought out exchange programs with foreign schools. Then it actively recruited foreign students to Toronto. Now it’s building sister campuses abroad, the first of which is being constructed in Hyderabad, India.
Horváth also revamped the curriculum, adding skills such as communication, and veering away from case-study-only education. “The challenge in a complex corporate environment is not finding a solution,” which, he says, case studies promote. “The real problem is, finding the problem.”
With that solid framework, the idea for Schulich’s EMBA came together when the Ontario and B.C. governments deregulated business school tuition fees in the mid-’90s. Historically, EMBAs were unregulated and cost much more money than a part-time MBA, so working students opted for the cheaper model.
Horváth predicted that business schools would keep flourishing globally, inflating the demand for quality professors. Because there are only so many of them to go around, he foresaw the need for alliances, and he reached out to Dean Emeritus Donald Jacobs at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, a man he refers to as “my good friend,” to form one.
Schulich’s joint EMBA has been up and running for just over a decade, and it keeps attracting more global students. To support alumni and help them find jobs after they graduate, the school now has affiliate offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai and Moscow, with two more to come in São Paulo and Mexico City.
Because of his success, Dean Horváth has been reappointed five consecutive times. Yet he refuses to take too much credit for Schulich’s strength. “The good thing when you have a very diverse school like mine is that there are a lot of good ideas around,” he says. “My challenge has been to keep a focus so that we don’t run in a thousand different directions.”