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A woman walks her dog past ‘for sale’ signs in Calgary.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

High unemployment, high office-vacancy rates and a still-ravaged energy sector make for gloomy times in the Calgary real-estate market.

But that has not deterred the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business from moving ahead with a real-estate industry specialty, in the works for several years, to be offered this September.

The timing of the new courses – bundled as a concentration in undergraduate commerce and a specialization in master of business administration – is just fine, according to school officials and industry supporters.

"It's more critical than ever before that we are educating our students about how to anticipate, respond and react to every type of situation," says Jyoti Gondek, director of the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies. "The type of education we are offering is holistic so they [students] understand how other components of the economy affect real estate and the other way around."

She anticipates an inaugural class of 20 of both undergraduate and MBA students.

Despite the economic slump in Calgary and Alberta, Ms. Gondek says she is confident that students will find work after graduation because the course material is not limited to a geographic location. "Graduates don't have to stay in Alberta, and from a global perspective we are training them on principles and concepts that can be applied across the world."

Bob MacDougall, senior managing director of Cushman & Wakefield in Calgary, is similarly upbeat about demand for industry-savvy graduates. His firm provides funding to the Westman Centre and regularly hires Haskayne students for summer internships and full-time work.

"Yes it is a down real-estate market in downtown office leasing," he says. "But that said, it is still an environment where there are transactions that have to happen. … There is a role for a broker to play."

Mr. MacDougall says the new program creates an opportunity for employers to identify graduates who are both interested in, and knowledgeable about, the real-estate industry.

"For every business, people are the important asset," he says. "To be able to bring highly motivated people to our organization and expose them to it and to understand from them that they want to grow with us, that brings a tremendous amount of energy to us."

In recent years, business schools across the country have added real estate to their roster of industry-specific curriculum, but Haskayne is the first to offer a real-estate specialization in Alberta.

Canadian business schools honoured for innovative projects

Three schools in Canada are among 35 recognized worldwide for innovations in business education by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a U.S.-based accrediting body.

McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal was selected for a cross-disciplinary collaboration featuring the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management, the university's school of environment and its department of geography. Offered in 2014, the managing for sustainability major was created for those who want to "combine managerial and business knowledge with a solid understanding of the interlinked economic, social and ecological challenges of achieving sustainability," according to McGill.

The University of Victoria's Gustavson School of Business was recognized for its Whistler Experience, a 2013 partnership with the Chamber of Commerce that delivered customer service training for the ski-resort town. Through on-site training and online learning, the business school trains local businesses and their employees to deliver consistent customer satisfaction.

AACSB also cited a training program for foreign-born accountants developed by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's school of business and a Calgary-based non-profit settlement service.

Through the Canadian Accounting Fundamentals certificate, newcomers learn Canadian accounting practices and earn an industry placement, smoothing the path to practising their profession in Canada. Since 2011, more than 100 foreign-trained accountants have enrolled in the course and all completed a placement, according to SAIT.

Psst, GMAC wants to hear from you

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which manages a business school entrance exam written worldwide, is on a drive to boost the participation of Canadian schools in global research reports. Currently, GMAC seeks information from schools globally, Canada included, for its 2017 Corporate Recruiters survey.

While there are no guarantees, the higher the participation of Canadian schools the greater chance of a country-specific report that would raise Canada's profile as a destination for students. For information on the current survey, visit

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