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Expand Your Career Opportunities Through Executive Education and MBA Programs

With the variety of executive education and MBA programs being offered in B.C., the opportunity for professionals to expand their skills and knowledge has never been greater

Education is a life-long endeavour, and many professionals aim to increase their career opportunities with additional credentials or degrees. Institutions are now responding to this demand, with innovative and flexible programming designed to meet the needs of busy people with careers, families and volunteer commitments.
Flexible MBA Program 
Flexibility is the reason that many students choose to complete their Master’s of Business Administration at Thompson Rivers University. Students can choose to attend classes at the Kamloops campus, to complete courses online, or to combine the two. There is no requirement to attend any portion of the program on campus. “We don’t differentiate between on-campus and online students,” says Victoria Martin, director of the MBA program. She also notes that students have five years to complete the program. “We do recognize that students who are choosing the online MBA courses are having to balance other areas of their life, like work, family and volunteer commitments, so we allow them to choose a course load each semester that’s manageable for them.”
The program replicates the group work that is common to most MBA programs, by encouraging interaction between the students in the courses and the instructor. “Students will work in virtual teams with their colleagues from all across the country,” Martin explains. “This is actually a beneficial skill for them because the reality in today’s working world is that you’re going to be working with colleagues all around the world, so mastering those skills of virtual teamwork is very valuable.”
Unique Partnerships
Vancouver Island University (VIU) has partnered with the University of Hertfordshire (UH), located near London, England, to offer a dual degree program for students looking for more than just the regular MBA. 
“The University of Hertfordshire is known as a ‘business facing’ university with real strength in applied business programs. It is also a leader in the field of international education, therefore it was a good match for our university,” says Brock Dykeman, VIU’s MBA program director.
This dual Canadian/British program, an intensive 14-to 16-month full-time commitment, integrates theory, research and practice. Upon completion, graduates not only receive a Master of Business Administration from VIU and a Master of Science in International Management (MScIM) from UH, but also experience and knowledge that can be applied anywhere in the world.
“Our program has an international management focus, so this is threaded throughout the curriculum,” explains Dykeman. “We have small class sizes (maximum of 34 students), therefore you will have close contact with the professors. We also have marketing and finance specializations available,” he adds. And for those who don’t have a business degree but are interested in the program, VIU assists these students with the transition through its MBA Foundation Program, which brings them up to speed in business fundamentals.
VIU realizes that the majority of students enrolled in its MBA and dual degree programs are just starting to establish their careers or are looking to move up the corporate ladder, which is why the four-month practicum built into the program is such an integral and valuable component.
“Most of our MBA students are at a relatively early stage in their careers or are switching career areas. The internship helps them to make that transition,” he says. “Most of our international students plan to stay and work in Canada and the internship and the preparation support prepare them well for careers in Canada.” And true to VIU’s international focus, students aren’t limited to practicum opportunities just at home. “Most are done in Canada but we have had some done in Germany and in other international locations,” Dykeman states. 
A new MBA program offered by the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business (GSB) at the University of Victoria has recently attracted attention because of its unique nature. The Gustavson School is partnering with TELUS to offer an MBA program customized specifically to employees of the telecommunications company. The first cohort of 20 students started this fall. “TELUS is looking at this program as a vehicle to develop their next generation of leaders, and part of the value for the organization is that this is a way to retain their best talent,” says Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School. 
TELUS executives worked with professors and administrators at the Gustavson School to design the program structure and the course content, which focuses on issues relevant to the telecommunications industry. The company provides supporting technology for the blended face-to-face and online learning delivery model, and pays the tuition costs. Managers at TELUS were recruited for the program by company executives, and had to meet the university’s admission requirements.  
The program is the GSB’s first customized MBA, and Klein says that it builds on other executive education programs that the school has jointly designed and developed with other organizations. “Over the years we’ve seen a move from a lot of open enrollment to more customized in-company work, and the next step is to think about how that work gets credentialed, and how it builds up into degree programs.” 
He describes the school as a “focused niche player,” with a cross-disciplinary approach to three main content areas: services management, entrepreneurship and international business. Rather than delving deeply into functional areas such as marketing or finance, the philosophy is to break down the silos within an organization and work across boundaries. “We’ve taken a different approach to management education which flows through from our degree programs to our non-degree programs,” he says. “It’s seeing how we can add value to organizations. We design a program that ties all the pieces together.” 
Another example is a program designed with the Whistler Chamber of Commerce that offers services quality training at multiple levels for anyone who works in the resort city. The Gustavson School is also partnering with Tricorp, an innovative investment corporation that finances economic development initiatives among First Nations members on the North Coast. Together they are offering a program designed to provide Aboriginal people with the skills to start a business. The program includes six weeks of interactive and practical entrepreneurial learning components followed by 12 weeks of start-up and business mentorship and coaching.
Another innovative program in entrepreneurship is being delivered in Tunisia, with other projects in leadership development planned for elsewhere in North Africa. These efforts, along with the school’s work in First Nations communities, are part of the school’s vision. “There is a broader mission that captures the way in which the school is trying to have an impact on the big problems that we see facing us, either here in Canada or in the rest of the world,” says Klein.
New CPA Designation
Andrea Yeung was working as a financial analyst at TELUS, and she wanted to take her career to the next level. Her resume included a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of British Columbia, and she decided to begin work towards a Chartered Professional Accountant designation. “I wanted to pursue a designation that provided me with both depth and breadth in business acumen and accounting expertise as a supplement to my undergraduate degree,” she says. “What solidified my decision was past opportunities to have met and spoken to a number of Canadian professionals with career paths that were catalyzed through the pedigree of their CPA designations.” 
Chartered Professional Accountants play key roles within diverse segments of the economy, including industry, public accounting, education, government and the not-for-profit sector. They offer a strong set of accounting and managerial skills in today’s highly dynamic organizations. 
Under the Chartered Professional Accountants Act, the CPA designation has now unified the three former designations: Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). British Columbia’s professional accountants now join the ranks of more than 200,000 CPAs in Canada. This change will ensure consistent standards of education, ethical practice, disciplined regulation and proven strategic management and financial expertise throughout the accounting industry. Working to meet a common set of ethical and practical standards, CPA sets a new benchmark for business and accounting in Canada. Unification under the CPA designation also aligns Canada with the most recognizable accounting brand in the world.
In order to become a CPA, a candidate must first obtain an undergraduate degree in any discipline, and complete the CPA course prerequisites. Then, they must complete the 24-month Professional Education Program (PEP) and a 30-month Practical Experience Requirement (PER). The program can be completed while the candidate is working full-time. 
“The CPA PEP has provided me with practical financial skills that have been highly applicable to my past and current role with TELUS,” says Yeung. “From quantitative managerial decision-making to theoretical assurance applications, each module has leveraged and refined my current foundations in order to help me understand and continually excel at more challenging work.” 
The CPA designation is designed to give people a competitive advantage in any sector. Private and public organizations from Fortune 500 to non-profits all require the CPA skill set. Those who complete the designation can expect better career opportunities and improved income. The average annual CPA salary in Canada is approximately $121,000. “If you’re looking for experience that holds a strong reputation of success and a promise of challenge and growth, then you won’t regret choosing the CPA designation,” says Yeung. “Its blend of practicality for public and private industry professionals allows you to personalize your learning, ultimately elevating your knowledge and career prospects in a comprehensive manner.” 
Executive Online Education
Athabasca University (AU) launched the world’s first online MBA program in 1994. “We’ve really figured out how to do online education at a very high level,” says Dr. Deborah Hurst, dean of Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business. “We’ve continued to push what’s possible in terms of collaboration, and in bringing people and ideas together from all over the world.”
With approximately 900 students, AU’s Executive MBA is the largest MBA program in Canada. All of the students are working managers with an average of nine years of management experience. The curriculum and the content are similar to a conventional full-time program, but the program is delivered one course at a time. It is designed to link theory to practice. The entire program takes between two and three years to complete, and students spend about 20 to 25 hours a week on their coursework. “We believe that it’s actually the most academically rigorous program in the country,” says Dr. Hurst. 
Within small groups led by a professor, students communicate in online forums and can use collaboration tools such as instant messaging and conferencing. People tend to think of online learning as a solitary experience, but Dr. Hurst points out that the small groups become a community. Students are able to be open and honest about issues in their workplace, and they often form strong bonds. Also, the online experience closely replicates the kind of communication that takes place in many organizations. “So much of the way business works these days is distributed,” she says. “You’re not usually able to pull everyone into the boardroom and talk about strategy. People are working in different cities and across time zones. A standard MBA doesn’t teach you how to be an effective manager in that type of setting. Ours does.” 
After students have completed the required coursework, they choose six electives. At least one of these has to contain a residential requirement, so students attend classes for five days at locations across the country and around the world. One course on innovation and design recently took students to the Silicon Valley. Another on international legal risk management, was held in Washington, D.C. 
Athabasca University recently partnered with the Business of Hockey Institute, a not-for-profit think-tank created to advance the business side of the game. Together they created a series of six elective courses, and students that complete these can earn certification as a hockey professional (CHP) along with their MBA. 
Athabasca University also recently introduced a pilot program aimed at developing managers in the manufacturing industry within its post-baccalaureate diploma in leadership and management development program. This program was designed in partnership with the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME). The CME commissioned a large study identifying management development as a key issue for the industry’s future—the program will meet that need. In the spring of 2016, Athabasca University plans to roll out the program nationally. 
“As a university, we’re different from everyone else,” says Dr. Hurst. “Even at the undergraduate level, our students are mostly adults with careers, families and significant responsibilities. We’re more focused on helping students advance in their career rather than start one.” 
Innovative Global Leadership Program
Building on its successful Master of Arts in Leadership degree, Royal Roads University is now offering a Master of Arts in Global Leadership (MAGL). “Over the years, we’ve increasingly seen more international students or students who work in a global context,” says Wendy Rowe, program head of the MAGL. “They told us they enjoyed the MA in Leadership program but they wanted a program that could address the broader complexity of global issues affecting people and organizations across diverse cultural settings. So we took a look at building a program that would serve that sector. We found there was a real lack of any kind of degree programs at the graduate level for professionals who work in the area of leadership or management in the not-for-profit or social purpose sector.” 
The university began a consultative process, involving scholars, researchers, practitioners and managers from the not-for-profit sector. That process resulted in the design of the MAGL, which welcomed its first cohort in February 2015. The 24-month degree program focuses on building and enhancing globally minded leadership capacities among officials, managers and staff working in international non-government organizations (INGOs), international government organizations, indigenous organizations or other types of globally based social purpose organizations. 
The course is structured to be flexible for people who are working for an organization anywhere in the world. It begins with a 10-week online course. Students then meet face-to-face during a three-week residential course at the Royal Roads campus in Victoria. This is followed by four online courses and another one-week residency in Victoria, and an optional international leadership field experience trip. “The students come in as a cohort and so they develop strong bonds with each other throughout their learning journey,” says Rowe. “They create a learning community, and because of that bonding, they support each other through difficulties as well as help each other keep up with the course work.” 
The online courses use a platform called Moodle, which features resources, course materials and assignments. The instructor facilitates discussions on an ongoing basis, and the coursework generally requires between 15 and 20 hours a week of study time. The final requirement is a capstone project, which is chosen by the student and supervised by an instructor. It must have a leadership focus and it could be the implementation of a program or the design of a curriculum. 
Students also have the option of creating their own specialization, by taking courses in other areas of Royal Roads University and then transferring them into the MAGL degree program. Several courses in the program cover areas that could also appeal to someone who works in the for-profit sector, such as strategic analysis, decision-making, financial models and fundraising for social purpose enterprises. 
“It’s a very unique program in that it combines a lot of organizational business skills situated within understanding the social and political dynamics of a multicultural global world,” says Rowe. “The program expands your world view, it increases your skills to navigate a cross-cultural environment, it builds your skills to lead change in an organization and to understand the cultural diversity of communities anywhere.” 
Values-based MBA
As the only Christian and values-based MBA program in Canada, Trinity Western University (TWU) takes pride in educating MBA students to become leaders in business and excellent stewards in their communities. “Trinity Western University provides an education that engages students in discussion of ethics in all subjects,” says Murray MacTavish, MBA director at TWU. “Our entire curriculum is designed with ethics at the core. We want to teach students how to lead with integrity, to make decisions effectively and to manage people well to bring out their best for the benefit of the employee, the organization and society.”
With three specializations in Management of the Growing Enterprise, Non-Profit and Charitable Organization Management and International Business, the program strives to help students enhance their areas of interest and skill as they prepare to excel in the workforce. 
TWU offers flexible programming to meet the varying needs of its students. Local students tend to enroll in the part-time program in either the Management or Non-Profit and Charitable Organization specializations, and continue to work while completing courses. The full-time International Business specialization attracts both international and domestic students. “We meet individually with every student to set up a personalized course schedule,” says MacTavish. “We work with each student’s personal and professional commitments to ensure they successfully complete the program.”
The Management of the Growing Enterprise specialization has an entrepreneurial focus, which teaches students that the highest goal of business is not only to create profit, but also to ethically generate and manage society’s resources. “Business is built on trust,” says MacTavish. “And our focus on ethics is critical to helping our students achieve success in the marketplace. Starting a new business is no exception. You need to start with integrity, and continue to manage with integrity. There are no shortcuts.”
TWU has always been committed to building capacity of Canada’s non-profit organizations. For this purpose, it offers the Non-Profit and Charitable Organization Management specialization, which is one of only two programs in Canada of its kind. Students focusing on this specialization prepare to become non-profit managers and earn personal and professional rewards for learning how to lead an organization with a beneficial purpose. Courses cover areas including non-profit marketing, grant-writing and fundraising activities. A unique partnership with World Vision Canada trains non-profit leaders across Canada. 
The International Business specialization equips students in the art of business leadership from a global perspective. An MBA with an international focus gives students the expertise and confidence to take their business career goals to a global level. Students can participate in international travel courses, including a trip to Europe to tour companies and meet with executives from global and local brands. 
TWU’s MBA program is taught by academically qualified, industry-experienced faculty in a small dynamic learning environment, and instructors add a personal touch by creating customized study plans. Alumni continually demonstrate how much they value their quality experience at TWU by referring friends and family to the program.
Education Program Prepares Directors
The Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) is the definitive “go-to” resource for Canada’s directors and boards. The ICD offers highly regarded professional development programs that provide flexible education and learning opportunities for seasoned and emerging directors. These programs include the ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program (DEP), which is the first step towards acquiring the world-recognized ICD.D designation. 
The ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program (DEP) is a 12-day national program offered at leading business schools in 10 cities across Canada. Participants in the DEP include seasoned corporate directors, emerging directors with a few years of experience in for-profit and not-profit boards, seasoned executives and officials from federal, provincial and municipal corporations. “These individuals have vast experiences as executives and directors, having risen to high ranks within their organizations,” says Christian Buhagiar, ICD vice president, Education. “The DEP helps them to continue to improve their skill set to be more effective and add more value to the boards on which they serve.” 
Buhagiar says that most boards recognize that director education and development is essential and ongoing, but many still struggle with the complicated challenge of packaging and delivering useful, relevant and timely training. To meet this need, the DEP curriculum is continuously evolving to match the changing needs of directors and the organizations that they serve. “Traditionally, the program’s focus was primarily on corporate boards,” he explains. “However, over time additional sessions have been added to address the unique governance challenges and issues within family businesses, co-operatives and credit unions, and Crown Corporations. As the governance landscape evolves, the program’s goals and relevance have to stay in step with these changes.”
The course is broken into four three-day modules, undertaken over a period of about six months. Participants learn best practices and gain knowledge about emerging governance trends through a series of lectures, case studies and board simulations to help them execute their director duties more effectively. 
Since it was first offered in 2004, more than 3,800 people have completed the program. “The DEP faculty includes some of the best academics, governance thought leaders and seasoned directors in Canada, but what makes the program different is the talent in the classroom,” says Buhagiar. “Participants learn just as much from classmates and their deep and diverse backgrounds as they do from the faculty.” 
Following the successful completion of a written exam and a board meeting simulation exercise with a board chair and vice chair, DEP participants earn the ICD.D designation. 
Those with the designation are required to complete 14 hours of continuing education credits annually, and the ICD provides ongoing learning opportunities in different formats. One-day short courses are offered on topical governance subjects, as well as webinars and video learning for those members who prefer the flexibility of online learning.  
“Ultimately, the DEP provides graduates with a comprehensive tool kit that broadens their skills in and understanding of specific areas of interest for directors such as strategy and risk oversight, legal and regulatory oversight, financial reporting, human capital oversight and critical board dynamics,” says Buhagiar. “The ICD.D designation represents a commitment to director excellence and lifelong learning.”