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According to Export Development Canada, just 7 per cent of small and medium-sized firms in Canada are exporters to China and other countries.Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

The Globe's monthly business-school news roundup.

In 2015, on his first overseas trip as an adult, Dalhousie University undergraduate Bryce Cross quickly learned that trade connects the world. In Malaysia for a student debating competition, he travelled from the airport on trains built by Montreal's Bombardier Inc. and was astonished to see so many U.S. brands in the shops.

"You cannot walk away from international business," he says. "It is absolutely impossible."

That's one reason why Mr. Cross, now a third-year commerce student at Dalhousie's Rowe School of Business in Halifax, signed up last January for a new course that offers in-class and hands-on learning about how to conduct business in emerging markets.

In the semester-long course, developed by Rowe with support from Export Development Canada (EDC) and several private-sector donors, students assist Atlantic Canada companies to break into – or expand in – fast-growing economies outside North America and Europe. This May, Mr. Cross and the 12-member class fly to China for 12 days to carry out market intelligence for their Canadian corporate clients.

"I never thought I would get a chance in school to do anything like this," says Mr. Cross, whose three-member team works with Halifax-based Survival Systems Training Ltd., an aviation and marine safety and survival trainer.

Rowe global marketing professor Sergio Carvalho, who developed the course, says Canada lags other Western countries in penetrating emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America. According to EDC, just 7 per cent of small and medium-sized firms in Canada are exporters. As well, says Dr. Carvalho, Canadian students are often unaware of the potential career opportunities in international trade.

"I thought, why don't we start right here in their training at university to prepare them and show that those [emerging] markets are not unreachable," says Dr. Carvalho. "Before they become leaders of our businesses in Canada, they [the students] already have that understanding that they don't need to be with a huge international company to explore those opportunities."

As its contribution to the course, EDC connects the school and export-focused Nova Scotia companies. As well, the agency advises on potential destinations for overseas study trips and, with several private sector donors, defrays some of the travel costs for students (who themselves have to put up $500).

"Highly engaged experiential learning is arguably the most transformational way to engage with students and encourage them to consider careers in international business," says Robert Forbes, EDC vice-president of business transformation.

If the relationship with Rowe works as hoped, adds Mr. Forbes, "There will be students who are inspired to pursue an international business career and customers who benefit from that. … One of the keys for the future of all business is the connection between learning institutions and business as you look at a much more complex trading world."

A car bridges classroom and real-world learning

Eleven years ago, marketing professor Mandeep Malik at McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business in Hamilton developed an in-class assignment for undergraduate and MBA students to tackle an industry problem.

When he pitched the concept to Mitsubishi Motors, a senior executive jumped at the chance to challenge students to solve a marketing problem for the auto maker. More than a decade later, the car-related marketing assignment has evolved into a semester-long national case competition that drew more than 200 entries in January. This week, 10 finalist teams from business schools across the country squared off before a panel of industry executives and business professors. This year's challenge was to advise General Motors (now a sponsor of the event) on which city to launch its new car-sharing service in Canada.

While "Canada's Next Top Ad Exec" bills itself as a case competition, it remains in essence a course-based experiential learning opportunity for students, according to Prof. Malik. At DeGroote and several other business schools, the car challenge now is embedded into the marketing curriculum for undergraduate and MBA students.

Over the past decade, as the classroom project (and the case competition) became more sophisticated, students were given access to the same data that the auto industry uses to assess market trends, consumer preferences and the changing tastes of a new generation of car owners. Beyond GM, Canada Post and Canadian Tire are among industry supporters that provide webinars and other training so students can mimic a real-world business environment.

"The learner of today wants to see a connection between what's in a book … and its application in industry," says Prof. Malik, adding, "The classroom extends outside its four walls."

This year, a two-person team from Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., took first place. Tom Grainger (dual degree in business administration and engineering) and Corrine Tansowny (dual degree in arts and business administration) each walked away with the top prize: a Chevrolet Cruze Hatch.

Survey recognizes rising professor stars

Four Canadian academics made this year's list of "the world's top 40 business professors under 40," published by the U.S. business education website Poets and Quants.

Nominated by students and alumni, 118 MBA professors from schools around the world were assessed for their research expertise (publications in top journals) and teaching skills (student ratings and awards).

The professors from Canada are:

– Sebastian Betermier, Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal.

– Ethan Pancer, Sobey School of Business at St. Mary's University in Halifax.

– Mike Simutin, Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto.

– Ning Su, Ivey at Western.

When asked in the survey what they would like to see in business schools of the future, all four professors shared a similar aspiration: increased student opportunities for experiential learning.

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