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The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup

Even before they graduate, some business students are getting real-world experience as managers of investment portfolios worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in a few cases, millions.

This week, the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University became the latest institution to set up an undergraduate student-managed investment fund. At Beedie, the new $5-million fund is believed to be the largest of its kind in Canada.

By setting up such funds – the University of Lethbridge and the University of Saskatchewan announced theirs this fall while others have been in place for some time at McGill University, the University of British Columbia and elsewhere – business schools aim to demonstrate they are in tune with changing demands of students and the market.

"We want to give them [students]practical experience in applying the theories of investment management they see in the classroom," says Peter Klein, a professor of finance at Beedie. "It's part of an increasing recognition in business schools that they have to be relevant."

The new fund, expected to get under way in January, will be managed by about 30 undergraduates a year in their third and fourth year of a bachelor of business administration. Students will be expected to function like prudent professional investment counsellors, abiding by strict risk management and compliance rules under the watchful eye of Prof. Klein and industry professionals.

The portfolio mix has set limits – no more than 55 per cent stocks (and they must be diversified), 43 per cent fixed income and two per cent cash – with performance measured against industry benchmarks.

The $5-million fund is part of a record $22-million endowment gift to the business school earlier this year from real estate developers Ryan and Keith Beedie.

Student-run funds are not new at Beedie. A decade ago, Prof, Klein helped set up a student-investment advisory fund (drawn from a portion of the university's endowment) managed by graduate business students in finance. Today, he says, the $10.8-million fund has outperformed professional money managers for the university.

Prof. Klein hopes the new fund will give undergraduates a head start on their future careers. "I think it will prepare them very well for jobs in the investment management industry."

En anglais, aussi

L'Université Laval in Quebec City was the first North American institution to offer higher education in French.

But a new global business MBA, offered entirely in English, gives Laval's school of business administration an additional way to tap a fast-growing international market for education.

"It will help make us known in countries other than French-speaking countries," says André Gascon, vice-dean of academic affairs at the business school. "We are trying to become more international in what we do."

With only limited time this year to market the 20-month global business MBA introduced this fall, Laval signed up seven students (including five from outside Canada). Mr. Gascon hopes to expand the program to about 25 students with a non-business degree, at least two years' work experience and a desire to manage in a global context.

"We have a lot of partnerships with other universities and some [of them]want to go for exchanges," he adds. "When we have partnerships with English-speaking universities, it becomes difficult for them to send students to courses offered only in French."

Laval, known for its French-language training courses, also encourages English speaking students to become bilingual. In the global business MBA, students still need to know French if they want to take some optional courses online.

The university already offers a four-year bilingual bachelor of business administration that gives students a chance to learn a second language (some basic French proficiency is required for starters) while earning an undergraduate degree.

The program was developed to attract local francophone students who, not wishing to lose their high school English, often left Quebec City for Anglophone universities in Montreal. "It's a recruitment tool to retain students and also for international recruitment," says Mr. Gascon.

For students, the new programs offer a direct link to the job market. A growing number of employers, says Mr. Gascon, want to hire bilingual business graduates.

Family and farm business studies

A new family enterprise program will be set up at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, with a $1.95-million gift from BMO Financial Group. Succession planning, family dynamics and governance top the list of research topics for the Business Families Centre, which will also set up the first national database for to help with studying issues faced by family-owned businesses. Only 30 per cent of them make it to the second generation, according to the university.

In a release this week, the university also announced that BMO is donating $250,000 for new classroom space at UBC's Dairy Education and Research Centre, the largest dairy cattle research facility in Canada.

Powerful woman

Carol Stephenson, dean of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, was named to the list of Canada's most powerful women for 2011, in the corporate directors category.

This is the third time she has made the list, published annually by the Women's Executive Network.