Case study and business plan competitions are staples of business school life.
Less usual are competitions conceived and run by MBA students, such as the Social Enterprise Cup set for Sat. Oct 22 at Concordia University's John Molson School of Business.
"There is a lot of focus on environmental sustainability and I wanted to bring awareness to the fact that there is a social sustainability component," says event organizer Rabia Khan. "There is this budding field of impact investment and social enterprise."
The 26-year-old has a full plate. She is part-way through her MBA studies at the business school, completing her PhD in human genetics at McGill University and about to start her own business selling luxury women's accessories, with proceeds going to the education of girls in Pakistan.
For the Social Enterprise Cup, business students from Queen's University, Université Laval, HEC Montréal and Ryerson University will compete for $10,000 in prize money and consulting services. In the style of Dragon's Den, teams will present their business plans and be judged on their capacity to foster social entrepreneurship in a sustainable manner.
At the Molson school, sustainability themes run deep in the curriculum.
"Even within a business school, which is ostensibly for teaching us how to be good capitalists, we are actively involved in other venues of organizing," says assistant professor Raymond Paquin, one of several faculty members recruited for their academic work in corporate social responsibility. He also advised the students preparing the competition.
Molson school lecturer Tim Field, an advisor on MBA case competitions, donated $4,000 of his annual stipend as Miriam Roland Fellow in Business Ethics (worth $25,000 a year for five years) to the cup organizers.
Both professors see growing societal interest in business as a force for social good, not just profit. "I hope it is here to stay and becomes part of the fabric of what we call business," says Prof. Field.
Ms. Khan shares a similar hope. "In future, there will be successful companies that have integrated social, environmental and economic sustainability," she predicts.
New aboriginal business courses
At the school of business at Centennial College in east-end Toronto, about 4,000 students take one, two or three-year diploma and certificate programs. But only three students currently identify themselves as aboriginal.
Native people "are the fasting growing community in Canada and many of them don't finish high school," says John Harris, business program manager at Centennial.
To address the under-representation of aboriginals in Canadian higher education, and in recognition that 25,000-30,000 native people in the Toronto area are of high school age, Centennial plans to offer two new specialty programs.
A two-year aboriginal business diploma and a three-year business administration diploma with an accounting focus were developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada.
"There are administrative gaps right across the country," says Dana Soonias, chairman of the board of directors for the association, citing a shortage of skilled financial professionals in remote native communities.
Mr. Soonias, who is also chief executive officer of Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatchewan, says the relationship with Centennial "is creating a lot more interest from other colleges and will allow us to do what we want at the end, which is to create more capacity in the community." At present, there are 300 certified aboriginal financial managers in Canada.
Centennial's two-year diploma, developed for recent high school graduates and mature learners, covers fundamentals of business such as accounting and finance and includes content on aboriginal business ethics and practices.
The three-year diploma aims to provide students with a strong foundation in accounting as well as skills in aboriginal business strategy and governance. Graduates would be eligible to apply for designation as a certified aboriginal financial manager by Mr. Soonias's organization and for professional programs offered by the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.
The college will offer up to 40 bursaries worth $1,000 for academically qualified students of aboriginal descent.
Mr. Harris hopes to recruit at least 15 students for each program in January. The school is working with Centennial's equity office to identify social and other supports to ensure the academic success of prospective students.
Terry Goodtrack, chief operating officer for the National Aboriginal Healing Foundation and a certified general accountant, advised the college on development of the programs.
"The idea is to increase the level of education and professionalism in native communities so [students]can go out to university or college and come back and work for their communities," he says.
Old friendship, new scholarship
A $70,000 scholarship for academic achievement and community leadership has been named for Professor Emeritus David Leighton of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.
The full scholarship is a gift from the Ralph M. Barford Foundation. In a press release, the school said that Mr. Barford and Mr. Leighton had been friends for decades, and later corporate board directors, after first meeting at Harvard University where they earned their MBAs.