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Sprott is the first Canadian business school to offer an MBA in Bogota, the capital of Colombia.John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Colombia, an emerging market in Latin America, negotiated a free-trade pact with Canada in 2008. Since then, with expanding business activity, two-way trade has increased 6.5 per cent to $1.5-billion a year.

A new education agreement is expected to add to the North-South hemispheric ties.

Carleton University's Sprott School of Business has become the first Canadian school to offer an MBA in Colombia, signing a deal this week with Colegio de Estudios Superiores de Administracion.

CESA is a private, Botoga-based business school praised by Fast Company magazine for a "real-world curriculum [that] teaches students principled private initiative." Previously undergraduate-oriented, CESA now plans to offer graduate programs.

In April, Ottawa-based Sprott expects to enroll its first class of 30 to 35 students who will earn their MBAs in Bogota, taking classes on weekends over a period of 18 to 24 months. The program, two-thirds in English and one-third in Spanish, will be taught by visiting Sprott faculty and CESA professors. The degree will cost $35,165, with students able to earn an additional diploma from CESA on completion of a thesis.

"We recognize the North-South link is very important and that we need to be engaged with the hemisphere and the South more generally," says Sprott dean Jerry Tomberlin, whose school also delivers its MBA in Shanghai.

Beyond the MBA, Dr. Tomberlin says, the two schools have ambitious plans for a "comprehensive relationship" that includes joint faculty research, bilateral student projects and, in time, delivery of a Sprott PhD to boost the supply of business school professors in Colombia.

"The emerging economies in the world are strategically important for everyone," the dean says. "Given our own government's inclination to strengthen the trading relation between Latin America and Canada, it makes sense for institutions to look abroad at deepening their own ties."

New case competition puts spotlight on tech

Increasingly, businesses rely on technology to mine data to learn more about customer and client preferences.

That's the gist of a new case competition, sponsored by Procter & Gamble's Canadian operations, to be held March 1 at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto. Students from 12 business schools across the country will be judged on proposed solutions to a real problem facing the consumer products company: how to harness technology to better connect with customers.

"P & G is in a business where competition is extremely tough," says Alexey Rivka, global business services site leader and a judge in the one-day competition. "Technology is becoming the differentiating factor to better link with the consumer."

The P & G Cup, with $3,000 in prize money for the winner, is unique among student-run case competitions for its focus on technology and innovation.

MBA student Michael Murphy, chairman of the Cup organizing committee, says competitions "are an excellent way for students to gain some competitive experience at solving problems in a tight time line."

The event includes networking opportunities for students to meet company officials who, in turn, can scout for potential future employees.

Mr. Murphy, who chose to specialize in technology and innovation for his MBA and plans to graduate this spring, says he hopes the competition will become an annual event.

No decision has been taken, says Mr. Rivka, but adds, "Certainly we have the intent to be present on campus" in one form or another.

New research institute in Quebec

Competitiveness issues, including skills development, capital investment and infrastructure, are central themes for a new research institute announced by the Conference Board of Canada and HEC Montréal. Based at the business school, l'Institut du Québec will tap researchers from both organizations. "This is a real opportunity to break new ground, fill some knowledge gaps, and help propel Quebec toward a more competitive and productive future," newly-appointed institute president Raymond Bachand states in a press release.

Construction industry leadership training in Nova Scotia

With an eye to training the next generation of industry leaders, Dalhousie University's Faculty of Management in Halifax and the Construction Association of Nova Scotia have developed an executive certificate in leadership.

The six-month course, a blend of in-class and online learning, is for mid-level officials who want leadership skills but lack the time or inclination to invest in a full-time MBA.

"We have some very strong people out there, but they may or may not have gotten the exposure they need to take over a company," industry association president Duncan Williams says.

During a six-month period beginning this fall, enrolled students will attend Friday and Saturday classes two or three times a month, with additional activities online.

The 15-course program costs $12,000 for industry association members, with some employers likely to pay some or all of the tuition, according to Mr. Williams.

"It's a means of retention," he says. Completion of the program will count for 25 of 100 points needed for gold seal certification, a professional standard for the construction industry.

Student winners

In a competition that mimics real-world trading in commodities, fixed income and options, two teams (LUISS University in Italy and Université Laval) tied for first place.

Bachelor of commerce students from the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business in Calgary placed fifth in the 11th annual International Trading Competition, held at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management last week.

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