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Ballet BC dancer Peter Smida.

Michael Slobodian

The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup

Once thought to inhabit different worlds – except when they meet through philanthropy – the arts and the corporate sector are finding new ways to co-habit at Canadian business schools.

At the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, an elective course on creativity will become a mandatory component of a revamped MBA this fall.

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At HEC Montréal, affiliated with l'Université de Montréal, a new Master of Management of Cultural Enterprises will be offered this fall, building on a long-running graduate diploma program on management of cultural organizations.

This month, the francophone business school announced that it will expand its role in a cultural mentorship program for about 30 managers and entrepreneurs in the arts and culture sector. The goal is to improve the quality and management of cultural organizations in the Montreal region.

In Edmonton, MBA students at the University of Alberta's School of Business soon will be able to graduate from their two-year program with a specialization in sustainability that includes a new course on arts management – the only one of its kind in Western Canada.

The course, first offered in January to 10 students (with an expectation the class will grow to about 25 students over time), was developed in partnership with the Rozsa Foundation, an arts support and advocacy group that hands out annual awards to top arts managers in Alberta.

The demand for new arts sector-related courses – the school is also adding electives on culture and creativity in music and business and management of not-for-profit organizations – is "driven by student demand," says Prof. Roy Suddaby, director of the Canadian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at the business school.

About half of the school's MBA students still come from traditional technical backgrounds, such as engineering, but he says, "Increasingly, we get students who have risen to positions in voluntary organizations, either in not-for-profits or, especially in Alberta, in arts organizations." These students come to study accounting and finance but, given their arts background, change the dynamics of the class, he adds.

The new arts management course examines arts and culture as a distinct economic sector, identifying the skills, tools and knowledge required to manage organizations with creative, mobile employees and to communicate effectively to the public.

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In the process, says Prof. Suddaby, he hopes arts managers will gain new legitimacy among for-profit stakeholders who often dismiss the cultural sector as peripheral to the economy.

"There are thousands of statistics that demonstrate that is not true," he says. A 2008 Conference Board of Canada study that found arts and cultural organizations employ more than one million Canadians and account for about 7 per cent of the national economy.

Rozsa Foundation president Mary Rozsa de Coquet says her organization has long campaigned for increased professional training of arts managers at a master's level.

With the new course, she says, "you can have some accomplished students who will come into an arts organization, whether as directors or board members, and be far more knowledgeable." Mid-career managers, she adds, "now have a place to go where they can expand their education and knowledge in their field, as opposed to being the odd man out."

Over the past two years, her organization worked with the business school to develop the course and forge stronger ties between the business school and cultural organizations in the province.

"This is the realization of a dream for us," she says. "We feel this is a substantial way to support the arts, which are essential to healthy communities and healthy individuals."

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New scholarships

National Bank Financial Group has pledged $1-million over eight years to McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management for entrepreneurship, PhD fellowships and research and teaching in finance.

Desautels, which raises about $10-million a year in donations and endowments, has received funding from several other banks over the past year.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce donated $500,000 last year for undergraduate entrance bursaries and graduate fellowships, while Laurentian Bank committed $200,000 for undergraduate scholarships and MBA leadership awards. Scotiabank Global Banking recently donated $500,000 for a new conference room, with a similar amount for scholarships announced last fall.

Research awards

Professors from two business schools are among 132 recipients of federal Canada Research Chairs announced this month.

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Richard Ivey School of Business professor Paul Beamish, at the University of Western Ontario, will continue his research on multinational enterprises and joint ventures through a seven-year renewal of his research chair appointment. The value of his award is $1.4-million.

At the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business, associate professor Zhenyu Wu is a new research chair who received $500,000 for his work on the risk-taking behaviour of entrepreneurs and investors in new venture financing, especially in an environment of economic uncertainty.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School news by subscribing to an RSS feed here.

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