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Moneyball, the 2011 Brad Pitt movie, tells the story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane who, with a low budget for salaries, turned baseball upside-down by analyzing data to identify players who could help his team without breaking the bank.

In a similar vein, a new Master of Science in Business Analytics at York University's Schulich School of Business aims to equip graduates with the skills to crunch lots of data and integrate the information to enhance a company's competitive advantage.

"Anywhere you have data about your products, customers and suppliers, you can apply these skills," says Schulich associate professor Murat Kristal, director of the new graduate program, believed to be the only one in Canada.

Even before he knows who will be in the first class this September – the application deadline is imminent – Prof. Kristal says employers are already clamouring for graduates who can sift through data and create value for the bottom line.

For instance, he cites the challenge faced by cell phone companies seeking to retain customers. "A company has your data but may not know your actual needs and by the time you call [to cancel]it is too late for them," he says. "So they need to analyze the data to figure out if you make long-distance calls, use messenger services or write e-mails … and identify a specific product for your needs at the right price point."

During the 12-month graduate program, students spend the first two terms in class and devote the final term to a major research project that could include an option to work on a real-world problem for a company (and potential employer). The inaugural class will be limited to five or so students with a background in engineering, computer skill or math.

The new program, with expected tuition of about $40,000, joins a growing stable of specialty graduate-level offerings at Schulich. In September, 2013, the school plans to add a Master of Science in accounting.

New dean at UVic's Gustavson

After a 10-year run as dean of the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria, Ali Dastmalchian steps down later this month with an enviable record: a $10-million gift to name the school; growth in undergraduate and graduate enrolment and programs; and academic recognition by international accrediting agencies.

Dean Dastmalchian is passing the baton to his colleague, Saul Klein, currently Landsdowne Professor of International Business and director of the school's executive education program.

Dr. Klein, whose five-year term begins July 1, says he plans to build on the "incredible platform" laid by his predecessor. "A lot of the building blocks are in place," says the 53-year-old native of Zimbabwe. "My objective is to build on those developments further and work hard on the external side to enhance the visibility of the school, build its reputation and build stronger corporate connections."

With co-op education work terms as part of the academic program and executive education for working professionals, the Victoria-based school already has a network of industry contacts. Dr. Klein sees the potential to deepen relationships at every level of the corporation, including internationally.

"Business schools have tended to look at corporate relationships in too compartmentalized a way when there is an opportunity to develop broader-based partnerships that have multiple components to them," he says.

Dr. Klein, who previously taught in South Africa, Singapore and the United States, is a strong proponent of the school's well-established international focus. The school has recruited a diverse faculty and most of its 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students take advantage of semester-long academic exchanges (through agreements in 40 countries) or study-abroad experiences of shorter duration.

Last month, on behalf of the university, Dr. Klein and Dean Dastmalchian signed agreements with the Republic of Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring, for academic exchanges and leadership assistance in developing the new government's administrative capacity.

"Coming out of a dictatorship, they need a civil service to focus on delivering more value to their citizens," says Dr. Klein, who sees opportunities for collaboration between UVic's business and public administration faculties and their counterparts in Tunis.

He says the Tunisia agreement, indicative of the school's efforts to establish a presence in the Middle East, North Africa and South America, "builds on the things we are good at doing, takes us outside the local Victoria market and leverages the things we have got going here."

With Dean Dastmalchian about to leave on sabbatical (he returns to the faculty next year), Dr. Klein is busy preparing to take the reins in several weeks.

Heading east

Thomas Scott has been named director of the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo, effective July 1. He is currently vice-dean and professor of accounting at the University of Alberta's School of Business.

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