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Calgary's Bow Valley College expands with new business school

The Globe's weekly Business School news roundup.

Like the city in which it is located, Bow Valley College in Calgary is a growing institution – led by its business faculty.

In recognition of that growth, the college has opened a new school of business that brings together business programs from various departments under one roof.

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"The School of Business is the fastest-growing faculty at Bow Valley College," inaugural dean David Allwright, the former associate dean of the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University in Calgary, stated in an e-mail. "I expect that given the demand for business education in the Calgary region, we will continue to grow quickly to meet the needs of the local community."

The school offers 20 credit programs on a range of conventional business topics but plans additional ones in such areas as professional fund management, insurance and supply chain management. The school has 800 students, after a 14-per-cent spike upward in enrolment last year, and about 120 full- and part-time faculty members.

At an event on Oct. 25 to unveil the school, the school announced its business administration diploma program has been accredited by the Canadian Institute of Management. The school has similar agreements with the Certified Management Accountants and Certified General Accountants for students to earn professional accreditation.

Aboriginal recruitment

One Canadian business school has developed a promising recruitment strategy to address the historic underrepresentation of aboriginal students in higher education: Start early.

Through the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth, a Nova Scotia pilot project introduced two years ago, the Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University in Sydney, N.S., connects aboriginal high-school students and mentors. A student interested in a career in marketing, tourism, accounting, entrepreneurship or management, for example, is matched with an aboriginal mentor in that sector. Over the course of a year, they work on projects that give students insights into future careers.

The network is one of several initiatives of Shannon's Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies, which is held by Cape Breton University vice-president Keith Brown.

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With Mi'kmaq and other aboriginal students in geographically-dispersed communities, the school made use of social media to bring them together. With provincial government and private sector support, the school equipped each student and mentor with a BlackBerry for communication through text messages and Facebook. In addition to face-to-face sessions at the beginning and end of the school year, students connected virtually with each other and their mentors to share experiences and aspirations.

A start-early strategy is essential, Prof. Brown says. "We must start before university age to encourage students and attract them to the possibilities."

From the outset, the pilot project proved a hit with students.

"Before we started the program [last year], our big question was: Would we get enough interest in the province to have 25 students?" Prof. Brown recalls. But after presentations to high schools across the province, Shannon officials received applications from 211 students.

Students don't receive school credits for their extracurricular network activities. As part of their graduating ceremonies for the network project last year, students submitted a 45-second resume on their BlackBerry as if they were applying to Shannon. Of six Grade 12 students in the project (which includes Grade 10 and Grade 11 students) last year, four are at university and two are studying business.

"The network is, in relative terms, a low-budget program but so far seems to be widely received," Prof. Brown says.

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As part of his chair activities, Prof. Brown also is collaborating with others on a first textbook on best practices in aboriginal economic development. The proposed textbook and the publication of aboriginal-focused business case studies to add to the scant supply in Canada aim to showcase success stories too often hidden from view.

"Unless your professor somehow enhances the topic, you [an aboriginal student] will not see yourself in a business case and, if you are not aboriginal, you will not see these [aboriginal] Canadians as a multibillion [dollar] part of the Canadian economy," Prof. Brown says. "So they are invisible."

Free courses

HEC Montréal, the business school affiliated with the University of Montréal, has introduced free access to selected business courses taught by its professors.

The business school has established Edulib as a virtual campus, with one marketing course offered this fall and two more added by the spring of 2013. Students who take the six-week long courses, the same as those offered in the classroom by the same professors, will not receive credit toward a university degree. But they will receive recognition for passing quizzes and tests associated with the online studies.

"With EDUlib, business people and entrepreneurs, for example, will be able to improve their business practices," Jean Talbot, director of the department of teaching development and innovation at HEC, said in a press release. "Future management students may find that it confirms their career choice."

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