The Globe's weekly business-school news roundup.
As any bricklayer knows, constructing a stable wall takes bricks and mortar. The same holds true for business schools building a curriculum that combines hard-core skills, such as finance and accounting – the bricks, so to speak – and the mortar-like soft skills of leadership, ethics and other values.
Putting together the right mix of both elements is of growing concern to business education leaders since the 2008 global financial crisis, a string of high-profile corporate crimes and the lingering sting of the Occupy Movement.
"Business schools took a hard rap" after the 2008 meltdown, says Sherry Weaver, assistant dean for leadership development at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business and academic head of its new Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business that officially opens later this month . The corporate misdeeds, she adds, serve as an object lesson in "what happens when you try to build a wall without mortar: It falls down."
In response, Haskayne and other B-schools are adding weight to the soft skills graduates will need as future leaders in an uncertain world.
Haskayne's new centre, set up earlier this year with $9.5-million from private-sector donors , aims to embed ethical leadership in the curriculum for fall, 2013, with some programs being piloted this year.
"What I really want to teach them is how to be good leaders and how to ask the question 'why are we doing things this way and can we do it better?'" says Prof. Weaver, a former public-school teacher, business consultant, information technology specialist and small business owner who has taught at Haskayne since 1999. "With the whole internationalization of business, you have to do business in many countries with different cultures, different rules and different norms, morals and ethics."
The new centre will focus on research and teaching, with undergraduates encouraged from first year on to reflect on what it takes to be an ethical leader. "Ethics is not a program for a small group of people; this is being built into the curriculum," says Prof. Weaver.
Meanwhile, York University's Schulich School of Business this fall introduced a new undergraduate specialization in "responsible business," in addition to required courses in ethics and sustainability.
"Many of our students come in to business school having devoted quite a lot of attention to social justice issues in high school and in the course of their business degree that is something that can be lost," observes Andrew Crane, director of the Schulich Centre for Excellence in Responsible Business and a professor of business ethics. "What we want to do with the specialization is bring that back into the foreground for students so they are not just getting a job, they are getting a job that makes a difference."
Undergraduates who take at least four relevant electives, such as corporate social responsibility in a global context, will be recognized for the specialization.
"It is a very complicated world out there," says Prof. Crane, of the new business environment. "It is simply not appropriate any more for business to take the view that those critical voices [Occupy Movement and others] don't have a stake at the table. They do."
At 27, Brett Sheffield is already living the dream of many young entrepreneurs: running several start-up ventures and making money.
He's doing so while earning his diploma in crops and agri-business from the University of Manitoba's School of Agriculture.
Mr. Sheffield was in New York this week to compete as Canada' s representative in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, an international competition sponsored by the U.S.-based Entrepreneurs' Organization for high school, college and university students running their own businesses. In May, at an event sponsored by Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship, a national non-profit that promotes youth business ventures, he won $10,000 and the right to move on to the international finals this week.
He placed third in the Friday finals of the competition held at the New York Stock Exchange. Prior to the competition, he thanked his professors at the school of agriculture for their coaching assistance and those at Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship for providing mentorship access to top business leaders in Canada.
A native of Pilot Mound, Manitoba, about 200 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, Mr. Sheffield started his 170-acre (68.7 hectares) grain farm (wheat, canola, malt barley and soybeans) in 2008, with his father as a minority partner. Since then, aided by a surge in global commodity prices, he has expanded to 3,700 acres [1497 hectares] of mostly rented farmland. Subsequently, he started another business to develop new farm-related technologies with a possible global market, including the capture of pollution-causing phosphorous run-off from fertilizer spread on the land. With his girlfriend, he recently started a 24-hour fitness centre in his community of 700 people, making back his investment in the first year of operation.
"I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to assess how I can do better," says Mr. Sheffield. His advice for budding entrepreneurs: "Do what you are passionate about."
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