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Sylvain Charlebois is the new Dean of the faculty of management at Dalhousie University.

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

Sylvain Charlebois was on sabbatical in Europe in early 2015 when Dalhousie University began looking for a successor to Peggy Cunningham, who was stepping down after five years as dean of the faculty of management.

The initial search failed to turn up a preferred candidate, so Dalhousie put off the hunt until last fall. That's when Dr. Charlebois, associate dean of research and graduate studies at the college of business and economics at the University of Guelph, threw his hat in the ring.

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"I feel I have been trained to become the dean of the faculty of management at Dal," said Dr. Charlebois, speaking after official confirmation this month of his appointment for a five-year term. A co-founder of the Food Institute at the University of Guelph, where he served as acting dean of the college of business in 2011-12, he is a former director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy in Regina and a recipient of multiple federal government research grants.

Dr. Charlebois says he had a business deanship in his sights, but only one with a cross-disciplinary perspective. He has that in full at Dal's faculty of management, which, rare in Canada, combines disparate academic entities under one roof: the Rowe School of Business, the school of information management, the school of public administration and the school for resources and environmental studies.

As well there are four centres: advanced management education; family business and regional prosperity; international trade and transportation; and entrepreneurship.

"I think business education is much more interesting and relevant if you bring business education beyond the borders of a regular normal business school," he says. "It allows it [the school] to prosper and show how it contributes to other disciplines."

As dean, Dr. Charlebois will also hold a cross-appointment as a tenured professor in Dalhousie's faculty of agriculture, created when the university took over the former Nova Scotia School of Agriculture in Truro in 2012. (He also writes frequently on food policy issues for The Globe and Mail.)

Dalhousie provost and academic vice-president Carolyn Watters, who led the search committee, said its members wanted a candidate who could see the cross-fertilization potential within the faculty of management. "Somebody," she added, "who could see that it [the faculty] was more than, and could be a lot more than, the sum of the parts."

Dr. Charlebois's food policy background was an unexpected bonus, says Dr. Watters, given the university's ambitions to raise the profile of its recently established faculty of agriculture. "We have done the merger but we haven't gotten to the point where we are taking a leadership role in agri-food and food security," she says. "His connection there is an opportunity to really make a real bridge between the management faculty and our new faculty of agriculture."

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As dean, Dr. Charlebois says that one of his first tasks will be to work with the 84-member faculty in developing a "strategic renewal process," likely to take up to a year, to identify areas of strengths and new opportunities. In the works already is a new doctorate or PhD program in management, with the exact definition dependent on faculty consultations.

In a letter to faculty after his appointment, Dr. Charlebois was blunt about the "fiscal headwinds" in postsecondary education, with no immunity for the faculty of management. "Budgetary constraints is something we will continue to address for quite some time as we think of ways of operating differently as a faculty," he wrote.

Dr. Charlebois takes up his post on July 1, succeeding interim dean Bertrum MacDonald, who has been in the role since the end of Dr. Cunningham's term.

Big Data continues as hot curriculum topic

Whether offered as a graduate degree or program specialization, Big Data (interpreting large volumes of information to gain insights for the bottom line) is a growing presence in business school curriculums.

The Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Montreal plans to offer a concentration in business analytics for its incoming MBA class this fall, according to a school spokeswoman.

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Student competition winners and other honours

A three-person MBA team from Desautels finished first in the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference First Pitch case competition this month, defeating 43 teams from the United States and elsewhere. In the competition, sponsored by Ticketmaster, teams were asked to recommend strategies using technology and other tools to enhance the company's relationship with the National Basketball Association. It was an apt victory, notes a Desautels spokeswoman, given that McGill graduate James Naismith is credited with inventing basketball in Massachusetts in 1891.

Meanwhile, for his work as a student mentor and volunteer in the co-op education program at Wilfrid Laurier University's Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, fourth-year business administration student Krishna Aggarwal has been named the 2015 Equitable Life of Canada Student of the Year.

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