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Concordia names its first female business dean

Anne-Marie Croteau takes over as dean of the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal on June 1, 2017.

Concordia University

The Globe's business-school news roundup.

For its next dean – and its first female leader – the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University has turned to a veteran insider with international aspirations.

The appointment of Anne-Marie Croteau, associate dean responsible for professional graduate programs and external relations at the Montreal school, takes effect on Thursday.

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She says she hopes to build on recent successes, including the renewing of accreditation for five years by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and expand the international footprint of Canada's second-largest English-language business school, which has about 9,500 undergrad and graduate students (Ryerson University in Toronto is Canada's biggest.)

"The school is in a good place and the university as well," says Dr. Croteau, who joined the business faculty 20 years ago as an assistant professor of management information systems. She succeeds Stéphane Brutus, who had served in an interim capacity pending the selection of a permanent dean.

The school, which rolls out a new MBA program this fall, is starting work on renewal of the undergraduate curriculum for possible implementation by 2018 or 2019, says Dr. Croteau. "It is a time for us as a faculty to think about what we should teach our students for them to get a good job when they finish."

Like other business schools, John Molson recorded a spike in applications to its MBA program this year, as the United States and other countries look to impose limits on accepting students from abroad.

At the same time, Canada is pitching itself as a study destination, with immigration rules that permit foreign students to come here, earn a degree and work here after graduation.

"Let's build on that," says Dr. Croteau, noting "we are already open to diversity."

Gustavson dean reappointed

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Saul Klein has been appointed to a second five-year term as dean of the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.

MBA degree retains its lustre

The master of business administration remains a preferred option for prospective students, even among those with a master degree in the fast-growing field of specialty business programs, according to a new survey.

The Graduate Management Admission Council reports that of almost 12,000 students worldwide registered on its website, three of four candidates considering an MBA already hold some kind of master degree, in business or another discipline.

The findings, based on new questions introduced by GMAC last year for its annual survey of students considering business school, illustrate the durability of the MBA despite exponential growth in offerings of non-MBA specialty degrees.

One explanation is that the two degrees draw from different pools of candidates.

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Typically, MBA candidates have five to 10 years of work experience and return to school to hone their management and leadership skills. Those pursuing a graduate-level specialty degree, such as master of data analytics or master of entrepreneurship, have little or no job credentials and seek technical expertise in a particular field of business.

The GMAC survey suggests that those with a specialty business degree treat it as a stepping stone to, not a substitute for, an MBA.

"Those who have a [speciality] master degree, say in finance or accounting, have made it to a certain place and now they want to become more of a generalist [with an MBA]," says Gregg Schoenfeld, director of research at Reston, Va.-based GMAC.

Overall, the survey found that 49 per cent of all candidates in 2016 were considering an MBA compared to 52 per cent in 2009. The decline likely reflects cyclical factors, as demand for the MBA usually slackens when economic conditions improve (as is the case today) and rebounds during a recession (as happened in 2008-09), according to Mr. Schoenfeld.

By contrast, the proportion of candidates considering a non-MBA business degree rose to 23 per cent in 2016, up from 15 per cent in 2009, amid a proliferation of new master specialty offerings.

Managing financial risk theme of new specialty degree

Ava Athari knew she wanted a career in transfer pricing (which sets the cost of services or products between departments of a company) but her academic background in accounting and finance failed to attract interest from prospective employers.

Last fall, with an undergraduate degree in accounting and finance from the University of Manchester in England and a partly-completed graduate diploma in accounting from McGill University in Montreal, she opted for a new specialty master degree in financial risk management at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. After graduating this spring, she fielded multiple requests for interviews and landed the career she wanted in transfer pricing.

Rotman's degree, developed after the 2008 global financial meltdown, aims to equip students with sophisticated tools to identify (and where possible control) risks, such as currency and stock market fluctuations, an unexpected loss of reputation or even climate change shifts that could jeopardize a company's financial health.

"There is financial risk management in specializations in MBA programs but as a stand-alone [program] you don't see it that often," says Susan Christoffersen, Rotman's vice-dean of undergraduate and pre-experience programs. "Rotman has enormous strengths in financial risk management," she says, with faculty members who are authors of internationally recognized textbooks on the topic.

She says the degree also responds to employer demand for graduates with technical expertise in managing financial risk.

To that end, the Rotman program typifies a new generation of specialty master programs that cater to students with little or no work experience and offer a curriculum blend of academic learning and real-world experience.

In a for-credit component of the degree, Ms. Athari and fellow student Sheikh Sadik spent two months at National Bank of Canada, one of several industry partners recruited by Rotman for the program. The students had to analyze new international rules (developed in response to the 2008 meltdown) that require financial institutions to overhaul their market risk capital requirements starting in 2019.

For Mr. Sadik, a bachelor of finance and economics graduate of Halifax-based Saint Mary's University, one of the "coolest things" about the Rotman program was being able to work on a real problem for a company. "There are so many things you don't learn at school and you only get that exposure when you start working," he says. "I felt I was getting the same exposure as someone might get in industry but I was getting it while I was still in school."

Ridha Mohamed Mahfoudhi, senior manager of model development at National Bank, says "an increasingly complex and demanding regulatory environment" made the timing right to participate in the program. "The regulatory frameworks keep changing, not towards simplification but toward more complexity and highly rigorous standards," he says.

He adds the program's graduates "are sending out a signal loud and clear that they are highly interested in a career in risk management."

That was the case for Ms. Athari, who joined Ernst & Young in Montreal to begin her career in transfer pricing. "I get to understand the basic mechanisms behind what leads to the news we get to read every day."

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