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The Globe and Mail

$8-million being offered for ideas to improve B-schools

The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup

Up to $8-million U.S. in prize money is up for grabs for business schools, including from Canada, to come up with innovative ideas to improve graduate management education.

Sponsored by the U.S. Graduate Management Admission Council, the Ideas to Innovation Challenge contest began earlier this year with the selection of 20 top ideas gleaned from more than 650 submissions from faculty, students and industry in 60 countries.

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Now the council is seeking proposals from business schools to implement the top 20 ideas that relate to curriculum, strategy and entrepreneurial education and technology. The winners will share in up to $8-million in grants for the development new programs.

Allen Brandt, director of GMAC's Management Education for Tomorrow Fund, says an international panel of judges is looking for "something that looks like it is feasible to do and, if successful, others could look at it saying 'I see that is a good idea.'"

Of the top ideas, one came from Canada.

Patrick Cheung, 24-year-old telecom project manager from Toronto, shared third prize money of $10,000 for his suggestion that students, as part of their MBA, go beyond the usual requirement to dream up a new product or service. He thinks they should go the next step and take it to market.

Mr. Cheung, who graduated from the University of Western Ontario's Ivey School of Business with an undergraduate business degree in 2009, thinks business schools generally focus too much on strategy.

"It is important, but they make it like it seem like strategy is the silver bullet that solves all the problems," says Mr. Cheung, who previously worked with start-up companies.

"When you are the chief executive of a start- up, you are not just the strategy guy, you are also the sales guy and tech support and you have to do all these things," he says. "It is more about the execution and doing all the little things right rather than coming out with the big strategy and hoping that everything will fall into place after that."

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So far, he has received no overtures from any business school, including from Canada, to develop a curriculum based on his idea. "I would definitely love to work with a Canadian business school to try something like this," he says.

Time is running out, with a month left to submit proposals before the Dec. 16 deadline.

Mr. Brandt, of GMAC, says the judges will select the winners beginning in the first quarter of 2012. Time enough, he says, introduce new programs by next fall.

Shiny new buildings

In the internationally-competitive world of business schools, the buildings that house students, faculty and staff are a point of pride and a selling point in recruitment and fundraising.

"I still believe that what goes on inside the building is the most important thing," says Carol Stephenson, dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. "But if you are a global business school on a global stage, all sorts of ingredients go together to build your reputation, one of which is the sophistication of the facility. It shows momentum and that people are willing to invest in you as a school."

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Her comments come after this week's phase one opening of a new $110-million business school at the London, Ontario campus, with the final phase slated to open by the end of next year. With $25-million each from the federal and provincial governments, and $22.5-million from the university, the school raised $37.5-million from private donors.

The new 270,000-square foot glass and stone building, designed for gold-level certification for environmental sustainability, marks a significant expansion over current facilities scattered across campus. Over time, the building is expected to deliver programs to about 1600 undergraduate and graduate business students, up from 1,000 currently, says dean Stephenson.

She says the new building is designed to promote collaboration among researchers, with small meeting areas and a grand courtyard for informal gatherings. She personally prefers curved staircases, but says the building's architect emphasized the need for broad, wide stairs that make it easy people to walk up and down together.

"Tiny details like that encourage an atmosphere of collaboration and innovation," she says.

Meanwhile, the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto expects to open its expanded facility next fall at a cost of $91.8-million.

Marketing professor honoured

Wilfrid Laurier University's School of Business has named Nicole Coviello, a faculty member and an internationally-recognized expert in marketing and international entrepreneurship, as recipient of the Betty and Peter Sims Professorship in Entrepreneurship. The professorship was created to recruit or retain a senior faculty member. Prof. Coviello, who joined Laurier in 2008, has been a visiting scholar in Finland and New Zealand.

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