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Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou says she plans ‘to listen and to learn’ when she takes over as dean at Desautels Faculty of Management next year.

Christian Fleury

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

As a faculty leader at the George Washington University School of Business, Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou redesigned undergraduate curriculum with a multidisciplinary focus and sought input from faculty, students, alumni and recruiters.

She hopes to apply that same approach as the next dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, effective Jan. 1.

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"I am a very strong believer in leading by consensus whenever possible," Dr. Bajeux-Besnainou said in a phone interview from Washington, D.C., where she is a professor of finance and associate dean of undergraduate programs at GW's business school. "This is what I have been doing at GW and we have been really successful at that. I hope I can continue on that track."

Dr. Bajeux-Besnainou, whose appointment was announced last month, says she is "very excited" to be school's first female dean.

Paris-born and educated, Dr. Bajeux-Besnainou taught finance at École supérieure des sciences économiques et commerciales de Paris from 1989 through 1993 and lectured at Université de Montréal in the fall of 1993 before joining GW's business school in 1994.

When approached by a head-hunter about the vacancy at Desautels, Dr. Bajeux-Besnainou says, "I right away got really excited about it." The appeal, she says, was the "international academic reputation of Desautels and McGill" and the school's Montreal location.

"I really believe the first impression you get is very often the right one and my experience [in the interview process] at McGill and Desautels has been amazing."

Once at Desautels, her two top priorities will be "to listen and to learn," Dr. Bajeux-Besnainou says.

"I don't really believe in coming up with solutions and a vision before understanding what the faculty would design by itself," she says. "I worked really hard with a process that did involve a lot of [buy-in] from a lot of constituencies."

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She says that philosophy guided her in the development of undergraduate programs at GW's business school, including a new bachelor of business administration introduced last year that requires students to take a liberal arts minor as part of the degree.

At GW, she adds, "I was involved in a process to understand what are the connections between liberal arts and undergraduate business education. There was a lot of thinking and reading with faculty, recruiters, alumni and students and basically the design of the new curriculum came from within. It was not dropped in by anyone; it emerged as one solution to the problem we were tackling."

Dr. Bajeux-Besnainou succeeds Peter Todd, who stepped down last year after a nine-year run as dean.

New survey identifies the sweet spot of skills sought by employers

When Bloomberg Businessweek delved into the results of its 2014 survey of MBA employers, the magazine found that recruiters identified strategic thinking, creative problem solving, leadership and communication skills as highly desirable but hard to find in recent graduates.

"Business schools are supposed to produce graduates who have the abilities companies need most," stated the magazine, which asked 1,320 recruiters at more than 600 companies to assess 122 top business programs worldwide. "But corporate recruiters say some highly sought-after skills are in short supply among newly minted MBAs."

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The University of Western Ontario's Ivey Business School won bragging rights with scores that beat the all-schools average in three categories prized by recruiters: communication skills, analytical thinking and creative problem-solving.

The school's strong showing "affirms our strategy which is the applicability of the degree, that is, recruiters keep coming back because it is a good product," says Sharon Irwin-Foulon, executive director of career management and corporate recruiting at Ivey.

MBA rankings, however, can be a bit of a mug's game since the weighting of inputs, such as salary after graduation or, in this case, recruiter preferences, determines a school's standing.

Ms. Irwin-Foulon encourages prospective MBA students to analyze their own goals and look at school rankings to see what program is the best fit.

"Hopefully, the purpose of these things could and should be to help people understand the complexity of how to buy an MBA."

Funding aids business school expansion

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Sometimes thinking smaller pays dividends.

By scaling back its expansion ambitions, Brock University's Goodman School of Business has received Ontario government funding to proceed with its plans next year.

Rather than building a new stand-alone school, as once proposed, Goodman will instead make a significant addition to an existing facility.

A $10-million pledge from the province, along with a previous but unspecified donation from investment industry executive Ned Goodman (for whom the school was renamed in 2012), means a green light for the proposed $23-million expansion of Taro Hall, home base for the business school. The university will complete the capital campaign with some additional private donations.

"I'm very pleased about it," says Goodman dean Don Cyr, who sees benefits to staying put instead of relocating elsewhere on the St. Catharines, Ont., campus. One is that the business school is located close to the university's co-op education program, with business students accounting for half of enrolment.

Dr. Cyr expects the expansion will add about 50 per cent more space, with new work areas for student collaboration, added classrooms and staff offices. About half of the school's courses now are delivered elsewhere on campus, with most expected to return home after the expansion of Taro Hall is completed.

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