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The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup

The "Occupy" tents have been dismantled, but reverberations from the global protest movement continue to echo at some Canadian business schools.

This week, the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba organized two panel discussions – one on campus and another downtown – to discuss the impact of inequality on society and the corporate bottom line.

Coincidentally, the planned events came days after a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development warned of growing inequity, globally, between rich and poor. In Canada, the study showed that the richest 10 per cent earn 10 times more than the poorest 10 per cent, a gap that has widened since the 1990s.

Examining issues of the "Occupy" movement, such as the fallout from the global financial crisis and public discontent over the unequal distribution of economic wealth and power, "are all things that are good for business schools to think about," says Asper associate professor Hari Bapuji. He was an organizer of the public events that invited speakers from academia (including U of M president David Barnard), industry and the non-profit sector.

Prof. Bapuji hopes this week's events will encourage a sustained conversation, possibly through the creation of a website, on topics related to economic inequity and the impact on business.

Meanwhile, at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, students last week invited four faculty members to debate the "Occupy" movement. Assistant professor of finance Michael King, one of the four faculty participants, says the debate quickly turned into a broader discussion about the role of business schools.

"It is crucial that business schools tackle these issues [raised by the "Occupy" movement]and to provide students with forums to discuss ideas about how finance, in particular, affects society," says Prof. King, a former investment banker who has also worked for the Bank of Canada. "We are training future leaders who will be in positions to provide leadership or make decisions that will have an impact on society."

The University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business was one of the first to organize a public response to the protests, with an event at an off-campus movie house in late November that included a panel discussion by faculty and a showing of Inside Job, the Academy Award winning documentary expose of the 2008 financial crisis.

Edwards Dean Daphne Taras saw the event as an opportunity for her school to "acknowledge and share in the pain of the 2008 meltdown."

At the event, she recalls, several members of the general public stood up to thank her school for being introspective about its role. "We got a lot of community goodwill out of it," she says, citing an unexpected benefit. "I felt like our hand reached out to the community and they grasped it back. It felt really good."

At Edwards, and a growing number of schools, students are encouraged to pursue study experiences to understand the 'triple bottom line' components of profit, people and the planet.

Earlier this year, the business school at Edmonton's Grant MacEwan University became one of a dozen Canadian institutions that have signed on to Principles for Responsible Management Education, an initiative of the United Nations to encourage higher-education institutions to embed corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability in the curriculum.

"It does not provide any answers, but it provides a framework to the commitment that we report [annually]on our activities and share with the other signatories," says MacEwan associate dean of business Michael Henry. "It forces us as a business school to sit down and reflect on the principles."

Trilingual scholarship

A rarity among business schools, HEC Montréal offers an undergraduate program in three languages – French, English and Spanish. The trilingual bachelor of business administration, introduced in 2005 by the business school, has proved popular from the start, according to Federico Pasin, director of international activities at HEC.

The school initially expected about 30-40 students in the inaugural year of the program, but accepted 110 qualified applicants because the demand was so high. Since then, the annual intake has held around 120 students.

"The more we work with students and the more we talk with companies, we find we were at the right time with the right product," says Mr. Pasin.

This year, with financial support from members of its 27-member business advisory board, the school established its first scholarship exclusively for students in the trilingual program. Last month, HEC named Lina Quillan as winner of the $5,000 scholarship, awarded to a student with an excellent command of three languages and an outstanding academic record.

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