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Asper opens doors to more native students

The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan could be home to the largest proportion of aboriginal people in the country by 2031, according to Statistics Canada, with at least one in five residents of First Nation, Métis and Inuit descent.

With that forecast in mind – and in recognition of the low participation of aboriginal learners in higher education in Canada – business schools are intensifying their recruitment efforts.

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The latest initiative comes from the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business which, as of September, 2013, will offer a new admissions category (as has been done in nursing and education) for up to 10 aboriginal students who meet the basic entrance requirement.

Aboriginal students "are an under-represented portion of our population in the business school, so from our perspective we feel it would be a real contribution to the community and to the aboriginal community if we could increase the number of students," says Asper dean Michael Benarroch. The extra spots will be added to the over-all intake of students.

Asper currently offers $125,000 in scholarships for aboriginal students and recently assigned a recruiter to a full-time position, from part-time.

In 2011, the school's 62 self-identified aboriginal students represented only 3.7 per cent of the undergraduate commerce class. With the new strategy, Dr. Benarroch hopes to boost aboriginal enrolment by 50 per cent over the next three years.

Attracting aboriginal students, he says, is "absolutely critical for a city like Winnipeg and a province like Manitoba." Ignoring the recruitment challenge, he adds, "is not an option from my perspective."

Students accepted through the new admissions category will take part in a long-established program at the school – the aboriginal business education partners – that provides academic and personal counselling and a welcoming cultural environment to aboriginal students.

Native studies professor Wanda Wuttunee, the program's director, says those accepted under the new admissions category will take the same commerce program as other students and will have to work hard to earn their degree.

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"It is an open door, but not a guarantee," she says.

Ivey centre

Before he left the federal civil service this summer, with the past two years spent as deputy minister of environment, Paul Boothe worked on several policy hot potatoes. During his eight-year run in Ottawa, he provided advice on the restructuring of Chrysler, General Motors and Air Canada, telecom regulations affecting cell phone competition, climate-change issues and foreign takeovers. Though diverse, the issues all required collaboration between business and government.

"In Ottawa, much of the time I was a regulator in [the departments of] industry and environment and I saw examples where government and business worked together very well and some where there was lots of room for improvement," says Prof. Boothe, a former University of Alberta economics professor and former deputy minister of finance in Saskatchewan.

Now he's landed a new post – outside government – with a mission to promote effective public policy and regulation. In September he became director of the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management at the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business, created in 2001 to help students understand the dynamics of public policy-making and to encourage business and government leaders to learn from each other.

"As a senior public servant, you spend so much time managing the department you are in and trying to manage the issues of the day that you have very little time to stop and think about the longer term," says Prof. Boothe. "That's what attracted me to this [at Ivey]."

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As director, he hopes to attract researchers, at Ivey and nationally, interested in sharing their ideas with policy-makers and, in the process, work with government and industry on such timely topics as the future of manufacturing in Canada.

"After services, manufacturing is still very important to the Canadian economy," says Prof. Boothe. "Are we going to compete with Mexico on wages or follow a strategy like that of Germany to move up the value chain and try to have high value-added manufacturing here in Canada?" he asks. "And if that is our strategy, what do you have to do to get you there?"

He also hopes to bring together interested parties to discuss regulatory reform. "We want regulation to be effective and accomplish [policy] goals and do it efficiently," he says. "What is the way to accomplish that with the lightest touch?"

With everyone at the table, he hopes that posing big-picture questions will lead to practical answers.

Student awards

Laurentian Bank has committed $200,000 over 10 years for undergraduate and graduate-level bursaries at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management. A total of 80 bursaries are expected to be awarded during the life of the donation, according to a press release from the bank.

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