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Molejon bypass earthworks, part of development in Panama by Canadian mining company Inmet Mining.

The Globe's weekly business-school news roundup.

One year after establishing a niche MBA in Global Mining Management, York University's Schulich School of Business has received its first major gift to expand the program.

Today, Schulich announced a $1-million donation from Inmet Mining Corporation to assist in the growth and development of the specialty program through increased support for teaching capacity, academic research, industry outreach and scholarships. Inmet's gift amounts to $250,000 annually between 2012 and 2015, according to a press release from the school.

The donation from the Canadian-based, globally-active mining firm is one sign of the growing importance of specialty MBAs to business – in this case the mining industry's concern about a shortage of top executives – and to Canadian business schools as they seek to expand on the mature MBA market in Canada.

According to Schulich, graduates of the mining specialization are being equipped to work for the mining resource industry as well as for finance, accounting, legal and other companies that support the sector.

In a statement, the director of Schulich's mining-focused MBA praised Inmet for "addressing a significant need for the entire mining industry." Richard Ross added that that gift marks a "major step" toward Schulich "meeting its vision of developing and mentoring the next generation of business leaders in one of the world's most vital and challenging sectors."

Inmet has three wholly-owned mining operations in Turkey, Spain and Finland, along with an 80-per-cent interest in Cobre Panama, a property currently under construction.

Meanwhile, in a separate development earlier this month, Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business announced it has teamed up with the University of British Columbia's mining engineering school to operate a new federal government-funded institute for global sustainable mining practices.

The Canadian International Institute for Extractive Practices, funded with a $25-million grant from the Canadian International Development Agency, is supposed to share knowledge and "best practices" with developing countries.

Beedie, has a long-standing executive MBA in sustainable mining and is home to the Responsible Minerals Sector Initiative, whose goal is to foster "effective leadership and responsible management" in the sector.

The new institute will also work with École Polytechnique de Montréal to share best-practice knowledge in extractive technology, public policy and regulations and health and education outreach. Initially, the institute will focus its education activities on Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Entrepreneurship with a heart

A younger generation of leaders, some still in business school, are applying entrepreneurship skills to solve problems in local communities.

In St. John's, Newfoundland, students from business and other faculties at Memorial University are part of a student-run volunteer organization that has several projects on the go, including one that helps low-income bottle collectors earn revenue from informal recycling efforts on city streets. St. John's has only a limited recycling program, which leaves an opening for those who collect deposit-return bottles and cans in shopping carts to earn cash at the local depot.

Over the past year, Memorial students worked on "Project Bottlepreneur" to help low-income recyclers boost their marginal income. The students organized weekly household pick-ups and redesigned the cart (to make it easier to push and carry more bottles) to assist those who previously had to crawl into dumpsters to find valuable recycling material. So far, according to student leaders, the project has generated a "substantial increase" in the income of several bottle collectors and boosted their self-esteem.

The project is one of several run by the Memorial chapter of Enactus, formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise, a global non-profit network that rebranded itself this fall. The name change blends the words 'entrepreneurship', 'action' and 'us,' but its focus remains on student initiatives to solve local problems.

"It's a pretty cool opportunity and a chance to lead a group of highly dedicated and motivated volunteers to do good stuff in the community and the country," says 5 th year Memorial commerce student Shane Skinner, president of his chapter for the past three years.

A separate project, Based in Business, provides entrepreneurship "boot camp" training program at Memorial's faculty of business for Canadian Forces members leaving the military for a new career in business. The three-year– project has support from the federal department of National Defence, the Prince's Charities Canada and affiliated organizations, with the concept being replicated at other Canadian campuses, most recently at Laval University.

The Memorial chapter, one of 60 set up at campuses across the country, has been so successful that it has won the Canadian championship (which measures the local impact of student projects) six out of the past seven years. In 2008, the Memorial students won top prize at the then-named Students in Free Enterprise World Cup that attracted global competitors. Last year, the Memorial chapter estimates its 12 projects helped 4,700 people and added more than $2.1-million to the local economy.

The volunteer experience pays dividends for the students as well.

"It gives us the opportunity to apply the knowledge we get in the classroom to the real world," says Mr. Skinner, who graduates next spring and hopes to stay involved with Enactus as an alumnus.

Memorial business professor Lynn Morrissey, a faculty adviser to the local chapter for the past eight years, says the students' volunteer activities replicate real-world decision-making. "They learn all the skills of team work, negotiation, project management and the importance of that for timelines, objectives and deliverables," she says. "You do everything you would in a business sense and have fun doing it."

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