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The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup

A $5-million endowment to University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business, the largest by an alumnus in the university's history, will be used for student scholarships and awards, as well as for international projects, teaching and research.

In recognition of the gift from retired Victoria real estate investor Sardul S. Gill, the university will name its 150-student graduate business program after him.

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"Mr. Gill's generous donation will do a great deal to strengthen graduate level business education and allow us to reward outstanding academic achievement and foster excellence in teaching," University of Victoria president David Turpin said in a release.

A Victoria-born son of Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India, Mr. Gill said in the release that his father came to Victoria in 1906 and his mother 20 years later "when there were significant barriers to people of Indian descent in this country." Mr. Gill said he made the gift to honour his parents for their encouragement of his pursuit of higher education.

He attended Victoria College, predecessor to the University of Victoria, and later received his commerce degree from the University of British Columbia.

Making first year count

The Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan found that first-year students who could benefit most from an orientation program were the least likely to take advantage of it.

For example, of 46 first-year business students forced to withdraw for poor academic performance last year, 90 per cent had not signed up for a non-credit orientation course. By contrast, top students snapped up the opportunity to brush up on their math and library research skills, meet academic advisors and get tips on volunteer activities.

"We got to thinking that all we were doing is increasing the gap between students experiencing success and those who are not," says associate dean Alison Renny.

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Last month, the school introduced a new mandatory course – for credit and three hours a week – for all first-year students. Most of them enter from high school but some transfer from other programs.

Prof. Renny and two colleagues deliver a curriculum that includes elements of the previous non-credit course, such as sessions on library research and computer skills, as well as discussions of current topics in business. The goal is to for students to grasp the basics of business early on in their studies and, as important, connect to advisors, faculty and other students.

Is it spoon-feeding? Prof. Renny says no, given that students arrive with widely-varied backgrounds and skills. "They are computer savvy but not computer smart," she says. "They can search on Google but they cannot think critically about what they see."

Students earn marks if they sign up for guest lectures – like one this week on procrastination – and write a short paper summarizing the speech. As well, students who read the business press can earn credits if they write a two-page paper analyzing the story and its impact on the economy.

After one month of classes, Prof. Renny says she is in contact with more students. As well, the course design makes it easier to integrate skills and knowledge, so that students use a business case in the curriculum to learn how to master an Excel spread sheet.

"This has been an exciting model for us," says Prof. Renny.

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Business guru nominees

Three top researchers from two Canadian business schools are on the shortlist of nominees for The Thinkers50, a global award that recognizes "the very best new management thinking."

From the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, dean Roger Martin and adjunct professor Don Tapscott are among the international nominees, along with Henry Mintzberg, John Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management.

Mr. Martin is on the shortlist in the "breakthrough idea" category because he "champions integrative thinking as a means of solving complex problems," according to the award organizers. He is also in the running in the book category for Fixing the Game, as is Mr. Tapscott, a co-author of Macrowikinomics.

In the "global village" category, Mr. Tapscott is nominated for his work looking at generational change and society's "often confusing relationship with technology."

Prof. Mintzberg, described by Thinkers50 as "a staunch critic of MBA programs and cheerfully iconoclastic," made the strategy shortlist for writing a number of well-received books that includes Managers Not MBAs.

The Thinkers50, which evaluates business gurus on the originality and impact of their ideas, was founded by Des Dearlove and Stuart Crainer, adjunct professors at IE Business School in Madrid. The winners will be announced in London next month.

New India institute

The new India Innovation Institute, a joint venture of the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, will be led by Prof. Dilip Soman, Corus Chair in Communications Strategy and a marketing professor at Rotman. The institute aims to foster multi-disciplinary collaborations and assist U of T researchers' work with their counterparts in India.

Jennifer Lewington began her 29-year career with The Globe and Mail in 1981 as Ottawa correspondent for the Report on Business. She continues to write for the ROB and is also a Canadian correspondent for the U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education. Here, she does a weekly roundup of business school news.

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