Led by freshman dean Tiff Macklem over the past five years, the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto added specialty business graduate programs, introduced new labs and research institutes, and expanded experiential learning opportunities for students at home and abroad.
With Thursday’s announcement by U of T of his renewal for a second five-year term as Rotman dean, Dr. Macklem says he now plans to consult widely in the next few months on a new game-plan to expand – and deepen – what’s already in place, with an eye to further raising the school’s profile.
“We have grown in recent years and we will continue to grow, but we will do that thoughtfully and build on the success we have had and drive excellence,” says Dr. Macklem, the former senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada named Rotman dean in 2014.
Consistent with a global trend over the past five years, the school added four specialty master level degrees – in health care, financial risk management, analytics and accounting – in response to industry and student demand for a new set of skills that are both discipline-specific and technology-rich in an age of disruption.
For example, the master of management analytics, one of the four new specialties, was created to teach business skills to those already versed in STEM (science, technology, math, engineering) and data science. The graduates, says the dean, “aren’t going to be the coders; they are going to be the people asking the questions and defining the problems that these techniques can solve.”
The specialty program is so popular that the school recently received more than 330 applications for 40 spots. “The students recognize that by combining their STEM skills with some business training, that is a very powerful combination,” says Dr. Macklem, adding that industry has recognized the graduates as “highly employable, right away.”
He says the school may add more specialty programs in the next few years, but cautions that “the first job will be to expand the ones we have a little bit. ...You have to tweak and improve them and make them absolutely world class.”
With the specialty degrees, he adds, “part of the goal is to build a third pillar for the school” alongside Rotman’s undergraduate commerce program and its MBA offerings.
“The specialized programs are fairly new and off to a tremendous start,” he says. “We are really establishing these as a pillar of Rotman’s brand – and having them develop into absolutely top-ranked global programs.”
Despite doom and gloom in some quarters about the future of the MBA, with global demand flat or worse in recent years, Dr. Macklem says the long-established management credential is not about to disappear, though it “needs to evolve.”
To that end, he says, the school has “refreshed” the curriculum to add experiential learning opportunities and incorporate examinations of “real business problems in real time” instead of case studies of past business problems.
More than ever, says the dean, business schools must demonstrate relevance in the face of disruptive change fueled by artificial intelligence, fast-moving redefinitions of the workplace, and the political upheaval over gender inequity.
“We have put a lot of emphasis on our hubs, institutes and labs,” he says, such as the 2012 establishment of Rotman’s Creative Destruction Lab (to scale up science-based startups), now with offshoots across the country, and a new research institute for gender and the economy set up in 2016.
“I came to Rotman with a deep belief that evidence-based research and analysis is absolutely essential to taking well-informed decisions,” he says, adding wryly, “You can’t always tell that from the news cycle every night but I am more convinced of the importance of this every day.”
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