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With environmental issues forefront in business and politics today, Thompson Rivers University has developed a couple of new environment-related master degrees.

Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

The Globe's biweekly business-school news roundup.

In a fast-evolving MBA market, specialty degrees are the new currency.

The global rise of graduate business degrees with a specific focus (leadership, entrepreneurship, accounting and technology among them) recently caught the attention of those who compile an annual survey of 1,000 MBA applicants worldwide. In its Time for MBA 2.0 report, Britain-based consultants CarringtonCrisp observed that many of today's applicants see value in "pre-experience" masters that, unlike the traditional MBA, require little or no business experience.

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"Students examining this [specialty] option see the opportunity to get a brand-name school on their CV for a fraction of the price of an MBA without having to give up employment a few years into their career," write the authors, commenting on the evolution of the MBA. "Completion of the specialist masters accelerates their employment prospects at the outset, and if they feel the need for an MBA later in life, there is always a hope that their employer will pay for an executive MBA."

In recent years, big-name business schools in Canada have developed a roster of specialty programs, adding to the education menu for students. Now regionally-based schools are turning their hand to niche programs tailored to their geographic location or academic strength.

Two such schools are rolling out new programs for 2017.

At Thompson Rivers University, in British Columbia's Interior, officials at the school of business and economics have spent several years developing its first two specialty degrees: A course-based master in environmental economics and management and a thesis-based master of science in environmental economics and management put the spotlight on sustainable management practices.

Given the many contentious resource development projects in the province and a skeptical response from some environmental and indigenous organizations, the school's goal is to train graduates who understand the ecological and business dimension, says dean Michael Henry.

"Our graduates will end up working for environmental and non-governmental operations, for municipalities, the resource sector and for public policy [groups] and government," says Dr. Henry. "This will be a unique set of graduates who will be able to live in both worlds and be able to speak in an informed way in both domains."

Neither program requires work experience, though there is an education prerequisite. Undergraduates in the master of environmental economics and management program must first take six economics courses unless they already have a commerce or business degree. Graduates from this program are expected to find jobs in government and industry, while those in the master of science program will likely seek research-focused employment in government agencies or consulting firms.

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Of the growth in specialty degrees, Dr. Henry observes, "the MBA doesn't serve everyone's needs."

Applications for the two programs are expected to open by late December or early January.

Meanwhile, this week, the University of Winnipeg's faculty of business and economics held an event to kick off applications to its first specialty program – a master in management with a specialization in technology, innovation and operations – to be offered in August of 2017.

In 2012, shortly after Sylvie Albert arrived as dean of the faculty, she was approached by local employers interested in a graduate business program, an alternative to the MBA, designed for their managers.

"It started with a request from industry to provide a master program that would be more flexible and closer to the types of skills that their mid-to-senior managers need in a distribution and manufacturing environment," she says.

The year-long program, a blend of in-class and online learning, aims to equip managers with tools to examine operations as a whole, with a view to identifying opportunities for innovation.

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"The MBA is a good program," says Dr. Albert. "But it doesn't spend a lot of time on how we create a culture of innovation and how we optimize the operations generally."

Lianne Lagasse, manager of employee learning at Manitoba Hydro, says her organization has a long-standing relationship with the faculty, which introduced an executive bachelor of business administration in 2005. That program gives employees an opportunity to earn an undergraduate business degree while working full-time.

In the past, Manitoba Hydro employees had to learn online with institutions outside the province or in the United States.

The new Winnipeg degree enables employees to earn a credential while remaining on the job, with a requirement that they wrap up their year-long studies with a real-life, work-related project.

Employees who remain on the job while studying, says Ms. Lagasse, "can directly apply that learning and find improvements and efficiencies and use technology and innovation to change the way they work."

New director named to Rotman's India-focused institute

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At the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, faculty member Partha Mohanram has been named the new director of the school's India Innovation Institute. Dr. Mohanram, a professor of accounting and the CPA Ontario Professor of Financial Accounting, was educated in India and earned his PhD in business economics from Harvard University.

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

Contact Jennifer at

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