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It is one thing to theorize about managing a volatile market and another to do it in real-life.

The University of Lethbridge's Faculty of Management plans to unveil details shortly about a new $100,000 fund that will give students hands-on experience in managing a real-dollar portfolio of Canadian and international stocks and bonds.

The Student Managed Investment Fund, financed through private donations, will enable students to apply risk management theories and execute trades under the supervision of faculty and an advisory board of financial, legal and industry professionals.

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To minimize risk, students will be expected to ensure a diverse portfolio across industry sectors and companies. They will not be allowed to invest in derivative instruments, private equity or hedge funds or commodities. The idea is to give them a real-world perspective on how professional managers and investment dealers analyze and manage portfolio risks in uncertain markets.

At least 25 per cent of the fund will be invested in fixed-income securities, including corporate debt by firms with an A bond rating or higher. The other 75 per cent will be invested in Canadian and U.S. securities markets.

The establishment of the fund follows the opening last fall of Faculty's Centre for Market Research and Teaching, the only academic trading room in Western Canada and one of only a few in the world. In the commodity trading lab, students learn how to manage securities risk. The centre was set up with financial support from the Alberta government and private donors.

Dal's unconventional MBA

Compared to graduate business students at other Canadian schools, those at Dalhousie University's Faculty of Management tend to be younger and arrive with less business experience.

That prompted the management faculty to blow up its traditional MBA, replacing it three years ago with a 22-month program that features an eight-month paid internship.

Dean Peggy Cunningham, who arrived last year after the makeover, said she used to think students needed significant business experience before entering an MBA program. "I've had to eat my words," she says, of the positive response to Dalhousie's "corporate residency" MBA.

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The program, which accepted 35 students this year, starts off with six months in the classroom, followed by eight months at a company where interns work on a major project. Students then return to Dalhousie for the final eight months of study. After graduation, many land a job with the internship employee. Throughout the program, including the work stint, students participate in a leadership and career development program that includes coaching, mentoring and self-assessment.

Dalhousie lecturer Jenny Baechler, who helped develop the curriculum, was appointed last month to the new position of associate director of the corporate residency MBA.

Ms. Baechler, a researcher on peace and conflict issues, says employers "are hollering out for graduates who can deal with complex problems." One way to address that, she says, is to teach students how to collaborate with others and work across disciplines.

Mark Galbraith, market vice-president for Alberta for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and a member of several business school advisory boards, was among several executives who advised Dalhousie on the design of its MBA.

He says the eight-month residency gives students time to work on a meaty project and gives employers time to evaluate a potential hire. He added that Dalhousie faculty asked employers to identify learning gaps in MBA graduates, and addressed those shortcomings in the curriculum. "We talked about soft skills, such as the ability to participate in effective decision-making and the ability to participate in a meeting and get your point across," says Mr. Galbraith.

Dex Gittens, who graduates from the MBA program next spring, earned his undergraduate business degree from the University of Western Ontario last year. Though he had summer jobs, he lacked the full-time work experience required for the MBA program at Ivey School of Business.

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The Dalhousie program, with its paid internships from major employers, "almost seemed too good to be true," says Mr. Gittens. During his internship at the Royal Bank of Canada, where he still has aspirations to work full-time, he carried out a number of assignments, sometimes as project co-leader.

He says the experience taught him to value feedback and learn about resiliency, especially when a project hits a stumbling block. "I was given a lot of opportunity to be mentored," he says of his time at the bank. "It helped me realize the strengths I had, the strengths I took for granted."

Finance professor wins prize

Doing right can translate into doing well for the bottom line, according to research by a University of Saskatchewan finance professor who has won the 2011 Moskowitz Prize for Socially Responsible Investing.

Dev Mishra, associate professor of finance at Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business, received the $5,000 award for outstanding quantitative research on socially responsible investing this week from the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley.

With three co-authors, Sadok El Ghoul of the University of Alberta, and Omrane Guedhami and Chuck C.Y. Kwok, both of the University of South Carolina's Moore School of Business, Prof. Mishra studied the impact of corporate social responsibility on the cost of equity financing, finding positive effects from investments that improve employee relations, environmental policies and product strategies.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to say that the Alberta government provided support to the academic trading room at the University of Lethbridge.

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