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Don Cyr is the new dean at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont.J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

The to-do list for the new dean of the Goodman School of Business at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., looks simple: raise the profile of the program and raise the roof, as in secure funding for a new building. Completing the tasks will be the challenge.

"Because of our fast growth, the awareness of the school and its accomplishments in research and programs is not at a level that matches where it is," says Don Cyr, who served in an interim capacity before being named dean this month for a five-year term. "A large part of the focus for me will be to ensure the awareness is developed."

Initially established as a departmental program that graduated its first students in 1977 and later became a full faculty in 1990, the Goodman school now has almost 100 full-time faculty (almost triple the number when Dr. Cyr joined in 1995). With 3,000 students, the school puts an emphasis on co-op education and service learning placements.

Last fall, with a "transformational" gift (the sum was not disclosed) from Brock chancellor Ned Goodman, the school that now bears his name planned to push ahead with a building. But progress has been slow, in part because of leadership changes at Queen's Park.

This month, the Goodman school submitted a revised proposal to the province for a $59-million building of 100,000 square feet, with a possible opening in 2016. The school has raised $24-million privately but is seeking $35-million from the province.

"Associated with the [new] building is the ability to expand some of our programs," says Dr. Cyr, noting crowded conditions for students and faculty.

"We are also pursuing changes to our graduate programs to make them more competitive," he says.

For example, the school may add concentrations, such as data analytics and operations production, to its master of business administration program. Also under review are graduate diplomas for those with engineering, science and other undergraduate degrees who want to learn business without taking a full MBA.

"A student with an undergraduate degree would do another year and walk away with the basic tool-kit to think financially," Dr. Cyr says.

National mentorship

Two years ago, while in Grade 11 at his Mi'kmaq high school in northwest Cape Breton Island, Kyle Simon was mulling career choices that included the RCMP. But he rethought his options when Allan MacKenzie, of Cape Breton University's Shannon School of Business, showed up at Wagmatcookewey School to promote a new business mentorship program for aboriginal youth in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Simon, now 17, was one of 30 students selected for the pilot program that year. "At the time, I did not know much about business and thought maybe I should give it a shot," says Mr. Simon, who returned to the program this year. "Once I joined the program I found out that I had some interest in business, mainly marketing."

With Mi'kmaq students scattered across the province – and under-represented in business studies – the Shannon school developed the program using social media to connect students, who all received a BlackBerry, to work virtually in teams on aboriginal-focused business projects selected by the school, with students receiving support from native mentors in business.

Now in its second year, the program has chalked up some early success. Of this year's cohort of 25 students (from Grades 10, 11 and 12), eight expect to graduate in June and study business at university this fall. One of them is Mr. Simon, who won an $8,000 academic scholarship from the Shannon school.

In the March federal budget, finance minister Jim Flaherty pledged $5-million over five years (to be matched by private sector funds) to the university's Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies to expand the program nationally.

Keith Brown, vice-president external of CBU and holder of the Crawford chair, hopes to sign up 250 students across Canada by September. As in Nova Scotia, the program would link aboriginal students virtually with each other and mentors (with a couple of face-to-face sessions a year).

"We want to make it clear to aboriginal youth that, yes, they are a vibrant part of the economy and to send the same message to non-aboriginal Canadians at the same time," says Dr. Brown. He also is leading efforts to develop aboriginal-focused business curriculums, with case studies of best practices in entrepreneurship and native economic development.

"I don't see our program as a panacea," he says. "But I hope it creates pockets of activity across the country where you have got bright, hard-working students who say… 'I will be part of the economy.'"

For his part, Mr. Simon is pleased the program will become national in scope. "It is a great opportunity for youth across Canada," he says. "It creates more opportunities and is a fun program all around."

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