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The search for a new dean of business is under way at several Canadian universities, including Concordia, McMaster, Laurier, Regina, Winnipeg and St. Mary's, with the winning candidates expected to demonstrate a stellar blend of skills as fundraiser, academic leader, visionary, talent-spotter, entrepreneur and communicator.

"The job has become more exciting, a lot more fun but a lot more demanding than 15 years ago," observes Michel Patry, director of HEC Montréal, the business school of l'Université de Montréal. There is growing pressure on schools to duke it out for talented students and faculty at home and abroad, he adds.

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Juggling the demands of faculty, donors and boards of directors, deans are not staying in the job as long as they used to, compared with a decade ago. "It's becoming less and less common to do [the job]for more than two terms," says Dr. Patry.

That's also one of the findings of a recent dean recruitment survey by Andrea Soberg, dean of the School of Business at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. With 33 of 56 university business deans responding, she found that 60 per cent had been in the position for less than three years.

She also found that 51 per cent of current deans, including those in an acting or interim role, rose from the ranks of faculty at their university. About one-third were recruited from another business school. Dean Soberg says she plans to do more research on gender issues raised by the survey, including that women account for the majority of interim positions.

A human resources consultant before she joined Trinity Western, Dean Soberg is skeptical that business schools do enough to systematically groom candidates for the top job even when they hire from within. "We teach this stuff really well, but I don't think we do it," she says, in part, she suspects, because university administrations typically are run by academics, not business people.

Meanwhile, she says, the responsibilities of a dean have changed in recent years, with fundraising now a top skill.

She became interim dean in 2008, just as the financial downturn hit. Recently renewed as dean for a second three-year term, she says the fragile economy "caused me to spend more time looking at what is the proper design of our business school, what are the markets we should look at and what is the product we are creating and developing."

She added "a lot of business schools are asking the same question."

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In the coming year, Dr. Patry says he expects to spend about 40 per cent of his time on fundraising as his school gears up for a major campaign.

Dean Soberg's survey also found that the search for a dean is not a quick process, with 19 per cent of respondents indicating it took more than a year to fill the position.

At the Sobey School of Business at St. Mary's University in Halifax, the search for a new dean began last June when David Wicks stepped down from the post. An initial round of recruitment failed to identify a replacement.

This week, the school organized a day's worth of interviews that included an hour-long town hall for faculty and others to grill the only candidate in the current round – Patricia Bradshaw, a professor of organization studies at York University's Schulich School of Business.

"The forum demonstrated in a very bold way that fit or alignment is very important," says Margaret Murphy, associate vice-president of external affairs.

Interviewed after the day-long session, Dr. Bradshaw said she liked the openness of the process. "It makes sense from a collegial point of view that people get a chance to have input.

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"If I do get offered the position, at least I know they have had input from a range of different stakeholder groups," she said.

A decision on a new dean is not expected until some time in the New Year.

Innovation award

For the second year in a row, Dalhousie University's Faculty of Management has snagged an award from European CEO magazine as the "most innovative" business school in Canada for its focus on management training that looks at the social consequences of business decisions, not just the bottom line. According to the magazine, "faculty are at the epicentre of the debate regarding moral practice and must teach a different way of conducting business – a style that does not revolve around greed and benefits wider society."

New scholarship announced

HSBC Bank Canada has established a $100,000 endowment at Concordia University's John Molson School of Business for a scholarship to be awarded starting next fall. The award, for an incoming undergraduate business student who demonstrates outstanding academic achievement, is expected to be worth about $5,000.

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