I continue to be proud of the remarkable achievements of the Edwards School of Business.
I’m fairly sure that people would be surprised at my strong interest in the Tour de France cycling competition. The question that draws my attention each year, and keeps me riveted is simply “How does a rider distinguish himself from the huge lump of cyclists called the ‘peloton’?” There is a peloton of business schools, an agglomeration of 62 Canadian schools. Why is the Edwards School a great choice? If I was a student, what would draw me to Edwards? If I was a parent, why would I feel relieved that my child chose Edwards over other places? For faculty and staff, what would make me proud to be part of this School? What do our alumni say is the strength of our School? The role of a Dean is to develop a sense of the place and articulate exactly how we are (in Tour lingo) “throwing down the hammer” against our rivals, and continue to “stretch the elastic” to keep ourselves at the front of the pack. Here are a few answers to these questions.
Any organization should be able to describe its mission in less than 20 words. I’m very pleased that our School has approved a new mission statement “we develop business professionals to build nations.” This simple 7-word mission involved extensive consultation, and was adopted by our faculty council in Spring 2012. It honours the School’s history of mentoring generations of business professionals in such fields as accounting, finance, marketing, human resource management, labour relations, operations management, and of course, business strategy and effective line-management.
But we don’t simply pump out professionals. We also encourage them to use their skills to build enterprises, to be entrepreneurial, curious about the world, and to contribute to the welfare of nations. A nation is a community of people who have things in common, without necessarily having any type of border. The Edwards School built the “accounting nation” and has graduated thousands of accountants who are leading their profession. Our graduates have built oilsands. Our province created the Canadian medical system. How about our “Rider nation” contributions… The federal civil service is filled with Saskatchewanians. And we’ve produced graduates who are advancing the skills of Aboriginal communities. We are known for our work ethic, our integrity, and our devotion to community. We are nation builders, and it is time we stopped being humble about it.
We also need to be able to prove that we are a high-caliber business school by meeting international standards. We are in the process of attaining accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. If you want to keep up with our quality initiatives, check out the rigorous standards we’ll be meeting at http://www.aacsb.edu/accreditation/.
Almost 100 years ago, the University of Saskatchewan gave out Canada’s first accounting degree, and we are one of Canada’s oldest business schools. We were among the first colleges to launch at the University, and the development of business professionals was a key way in which the University would build the province.
You will see statistics in the 2012 issue of Thrive showing that our students are finding excellent jobs in Saskatchewan. At one time, so many graduates had to leave their families in order to be employed in other provinces or around the world. Now over 85 percent of our BComms stay in Saskatchewan. The economy is healthy here, and our students have benefitted. Our Cameco Co-Op Program is a great success, now placing over 75 students into businesses, of whom 100 percent get jobs upon graduation. Our Rawlco Centre for Aboriginal students is making a big difference to Aboriginal student retention, and we are keeping our students through to successful graduation.
But the onus is on us as a School to break out of the peloton by adding more sophistication to our students’ education. Through the Wilson Centre, we give opportunities to pitch entrepreneurial ideas. The Hanlon Centre for International Business gives our students exposure to global ideas and distinguished guests. This year, the Grandey Leadership Initiative is bringing fireside chats to the MBA program, allowing our graduate students to learn from major business leaders in an informal setting that encourages no-holds-barred question and answer sessions.
To keep up to date on ideas and trends, I’ve become a member of the Executive of the Canadian Federation of Business School Deans. To show our personal commitment to internationalization of the Edwards School programs, my husband and I have volunteered our time during some of the last two summers teaching arbitrators in Cambodia skills in dispute resolution in the workplace.
I’ve also piloted a course that took 16 of our undergraduate students to Israel and Jordan to examine potash production and entrepreneurship. The course is described in greater detail in Thrive, and also received terrific media attention. We demonstrated that we are indeed, on the move, and innovative, and breaking out of the peloton.
Although it is in the nature of the province to avoid bragging, and to surprise outsiders with our quality, it is time to change our approach. Business professionals should make a compelling, evidence-based case for quality. We aren’t a hidden gem; we are a hard-driving, high-aspiring place.As you read through Thrive, and look through our website, you should notice that we are on the move, and that we have had a year of remarkable success for our students, faculty and staff. Like the province of Saskatchewan, we are both personable and ambitious. I’m proud to be Dean of the Edwards School of Business, and you should be proud to be a student or parent, alumnus, faculty member, staff member, or friend of the School.