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New dean at UBC’s Okanagan to expand international connections

Roger Sugden will be dean of the faculty of management at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.

The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup.

A global business scholar known for his cross-disciplinary research and multi-university collaborations has been tapped as dean of the faculty of management at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus.

Roger Sugden, founding dean of the Management School at Scotland's Stirling University for the past four years, will take up his five-year appointment at Okanagan in October.

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"I am really thrilled," Prof. Sugden said in an exclusive telephone interview. "There is energy and creativity around what is happening with UBC in the Okanagan."

He will be the fourth dean at the faculty of management since its opening in 2005.

One of the attractions in coming to the campus, he says, is the potential to play off its small-scale intimacy, with 20 per cent of its 829 largely-undergraduate business students from abroad.

"That opens up really interesting and unique opportunities for a faculty of management," he says. "What you have coming together is a cross-disciplinary, intimate and real concern for advancing and sharing knowledge, with the public interest contributing to the development of the Okanagan as a region that sees itself part of the global arena."

Prof. Sugden sees value in cross-disciplinary activities between business and such areas as the creative arts, digital media and high technology, which "can redefine what business is." In his view, "it is essentially about imagination and using and developing one's imagination and expressing that in different arenas."

The British academic, who has lectured widely in Europe and the United States, is founding co-ordinator of a European Commission initiative that led to a multinational joint venture among business schools in England, the United States and Italy.

He sees similar potential for Okanagan to expand its local and international connections.

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That said, Prof. Sugden says his first priority is to listen to his new colleagues to find ways to enhance the reputation of a relatively new faculty.

"I am not going in there with a blueprint," he says. "What I am looking to do is open up the conversations and to explore ways of contributing to a vibrant campus and a vibrant region and, therefore, to the world more widely."

India insights

As in business, flexibility is an asset when teaching MBA students about the corporate world.

"Doing business in India," a week-long course that wrapped Aug. 24 at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management, illustrates that point.

At the invitation of Murtaza Haider, associate dean of research and graduate programs at the school, a well-connected business professor from one of India's top management schools presented the course that focused on the potential for deeper ties between Canada and a fast-rising global economy.

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Prof. Rajeev Gowda is a professor at the India Institute of Management in Bangalore, a director of the Reserve Bank of India and an adviser to the Indian National Congress, the ruling party in India. The course was offered to Rogers MBA students and about 20 Canadian business and government officials.

"One thing we are trying to do in the MBA program is make it flexible so we have the ability to not just offer programs that last over an entire semester and tie up people for 13 to 16 weeks," says Prof. Haider. "This way, we can fly in people to address the students and hand-pick academics who can provide a global point of view, which we very much require."

Like a growing number of Canadian universities, Ryerson has established student and academic exchanges with India to capitalize on its exploding demand for higher education at home-grown and foreign institutions. In 2010, the largest-ever delegation of Canadian university presidents travelled to India to fortify a relationship that now has more than 100 active agreements in place between the two countries.

Prof. Gowda, whose institution is also involved in joint programs with McGill University and the University of British Columbia, says there are still "untapped opportunities" for Canada to deepen its economic links with India, including in education.

As India weighs opening up its market to foreign schools – York University's Schulich School of Business is establishing a campus in Hyderabad – Prof. Gowda concedes his country is edgy about the ramifications for increased competition from abroad.

"I think it is important to open our doors," he says. "We have large numbers of people who have to be educated and we need to be open and welcoming." Canadian schools, he adds, need to "think more broadly" in creating opportunities for domestic students and faculty to experience first-hand the economic, political and social aspects of doing business in India.

"Students can become more well-rounded and appreciative of a different culture and economy and learn to tolerate ambiguity," he says, giving them a competitive advantage in an increasingly globalized job market.

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