How educational institutions are setting professionals up for success both at home and abroad

MBA and Executive Education programs in B.C. offer participants real-world learning and exposure to a global business community

UBC’s Sauder School of Business executive education programs are annually ranked among the world’s best by the Financial Times

MBA and Executive Education programs in B.C. offer participants real-world learning and exposure to a global business community

A master of business administration (MBA) degree comes with many rewards. Not only does it equip students with the knowledge and credentials needed to work throughout British Columbia, it opens the door to securing employment abroad as well. Furthermore, it sets students up for a lifetime career success by giving graduates an edge over other job applicants. These advantages are becoming increasingly important in today’s demanding and competitive job market.

If you’ve ever thought about pursuing a MBA, there perhaps is no better time with many schools offering full-time, part-time or online options to earn the coveted credential.

MBA programs typically focus on advanced and specialized study covering topics such as business, management, finance and accounting; but how they go about doing that isn’t always the same.

“We do things differently,” says Dr. Deborah Hurst, dean of the Faculty of Business at Athabasca University (AU). “We’ve been at online education longer than anyone else in the world. In many ways, we invented online education.”

In 1994, Athabasca University logged on with the world’s first fully interactive online Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program. The AU online MBA is Canada’s largest executive MBA program, and has earned a place among the top MBAs in the world.

“We’ve got about 900 students in our program and we’ve really stayed at the leading edge of what is possible, in terms of connecting people and ideas through peer collaboration and learning, in a way that no one else has been able to match,” says Hurst.

“One of the real keys for us is linking theory to practice. So it’s not just that we want people to learn theories and have that in their toolkit,” explains Hurst. “We want [our students] on a week-by-week and course-by-course basis to be doing the things they are learning about, back in their workplace. That gives every student a tremendous return on their investment.”

As students get to the end of the program, they can participate in one of AU’s elective in-residence courses. This allows students to choose an area of interest, see when it’s offered, where it’s offered and how it fits into their schedule. Within an eight-week course only five days of it are face-to-face. Students can choose from locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax.

“We also offer [in-residence elective courses] in places like the Silicon Valley,” says Hurst. “We teach a course on innovation and design right in the Silicon Valley. We have a course on international legal risk management where we take students to Washington D.C. We also have courses in places like Singapore, Brazil and next summer we are taking students to Greece for a course on doing business in a recovering economy.”

Most people complete the MBA program in two and a half to three years, but participants can take up to five years if they need to.

“We are looking for students with solid management experience when they come into the program,” says Hurst. “We teach at the strategy level and from an executive’s view, help students see opportunity across functional units and within their industries. We can really help someone who is on a board to see the bigger picture and understand the competitive environment, and this helps them with the guidance and governance role that an effective board should have.”

The Directors Education Program (DEP), jointly developed by the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, is offered nationally at Canada’s top business schools.

“The program’s strength is in its ability to adapt the curriculum to address local and regional business dynamics, issues and challenges,” says Richard Powers, national academic director of DEP at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “The end goal is to design a learning experience that helps directors hone their skills, be more effective in discharging their duties and add value to the organizations they serve.”

DEP Alumni are part of a national network of 4,300 directors and over 11,000 ICD members across Canada. The DEP is the only program of its kind in Canada that bears the seal of the director community itself.

The ICD-Rotman DEP has been specifically designed to help experienced directors overcome these challenges by introducing activities and processes that assist them in fulfilling their role. Complemented by some of Canada’s most accomplished and highly respected directors-in-residence, this 12-day course is taught by leading governance experts delivered in four three-day modules. The program offers experiential learning through breakouts and board simulations tailored to meet the needs of directors from public and private companies, Crown corporations, public institutions, co-operatives and large not-for-profit organizations across Canada.

The DEP is not an entry-level director education course. It has been developed for experienced directors who wish to hone their skills and be more effective. The course itself is focused primarily on for-profit governance with an emphasis on the governance of publicly traded corporations. The course is most appropriate for directors with for-profit governance experience or those directors and professionals with near-term opportunity to serve on for-profit boards.

For five straight years, UBC Sauder Executive Education has ranked among the world’s best providers of professional development by Financial Times (FT). Ranking 17th in North America, UBC Sauder is the only Canadian business school outside of Ontario to crack the top 50.

Bruce Wiesner, associate dean of UBC Sauder Executive Education says he’s pleased to be recognized by the global publication as, “it reflects the positive experience our customers have in our programs.”

The FT ranking is based on feedback from executive education clients on everything from the caliber of the faculty and their teaching to the relevance of courses and ROI experienced on the job.

“It is a tremendous vote of confidence to know that the professionals who take our programs feel their careers are benefiting and that they are bringing value back to their organizations,” says Wiesner.

UBC Sauder Executive Education programs range from short courses for the broader business community delivered downtown at UBC Robson Square, to immersive week-long in-residence programs for senior leaders, to custom programs designed to meet the needs of specific organizations. The goal is to maximize learning impact and minimize time away from the office.

“We work hard in the program to give participants practical strategies they can put to work that have proven benefits for organizations,” says professor Darren Dahl, a key faculty member in the executive education program. “We’re small on theory and big on application. We teach participants the steps they need to lead innovation, and pull apart and solve complex business challenges.”

Ranked in the global top 20 by the Financial Times for research impact, UBC Sauder professors bring the latest insights in team building, leadership, project management, negotiation, management strategy and much more into the classroom.

“Our focus is on our clients’ results,” says Wiesner. “Our programs provide executives and managers in pursuit of career goals with the tools they need to launch themselves and their businesses to greater heights.”

UBC Sauder Executive Education’s program offerings include:

Short Programs With High Impact
UBC Sauder Executive Education includes more than fifty programs uniquely tailored to meet business needs and goals.

Immersive Programs for Senior Leaders
Six-day in-residence programs are a popular choice among progressive business leaders.

UBC Sauder Executive Education Certificates
UBC Sauder Executive Education certificates are a formal recognition of achievement and commitment to continuous learning.

Custom Programs for Organizations
Senior faculty help to define organizational goals and objectives, then work with to develop a tailor-made educational solution.

The MBA program at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School offers a personalized experience for its students

The 16-month, full-time MBA program at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School equips students with the deep organizational knowledge and strategic skills needed to lead organizations and launch new ones. The only program in Western Canada to be ranked among the top 100 MBAs in the world by the Financial Times, the UBC MBA is a jumping off point for game-changing careers domestically and around the world. In fact, the Financial Times ranks the program among the top five in North America for the international mobility of its graduates.

Small class sizes and career mentorship from day one allow students to concentrate their sights on where they want to be in the future, and to receive the dedicated support they need to get there. With students earning an average of $120,000 a year three years after graduation, the return on the investment is substantial.

“We are dedicated to the success of our students both while they are with us and after they enter the working world,” says Liz Starbuck Greer, assistant dean of UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. “The program offers a very personalized experience. Our professors and staff work closely with students to create an individualized roadmap toward their goals, and after graduation our career centre continues to give them the support they need to thrive.”

But beyond career gain, the program provides students with a transformational experience that opens them up to the global nature of business. As one of the rare Canadian MBA programs with a mandatory Global Immersion Experience, it takes candidates to destinations like England, Chile, Japan and India to consult on the unique business problems with international organizations.

Along with its global outlook, Starbuck Greer say a spirit of innovation lies at the heart of the MBA—from teaching that leverages technology and teamwork to the career aspirations of students with their sights set on the bourgeoning tech sector in Vancouver and beyond.

The program is gaining a global reputation as a destination for those with an entrepreneurial mindset. With a specialization that allows students to focus on business innovation and the chance to dedicate time to a start-up, it can be a launch pad for venture creation.

“We have invested considerably in building a community around innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Starbuck Greer. “Our graduates are extremely well represented in leadership roles in Vancouver’s innovation-based firms—a trend we definitely see growing in the future.”

Vancouver Island University’s Master of Business Administration program also offers students the opportunity to learn in a dynamic global setting with students from all over the world.

“Our small class size enables students and faculty unique opportunities to learn, while the diversity of our students and faculty provide a pertinent global perspective for today’s business world,” says Davit Iremadze, director of Graduate Business Studies in the Faculty of Management at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

VIU’s MBA is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). It has partnered with the University of Hertfordshire in the UK to award MBA students a dual degree option where they would also earn their University of Hertfordshire Master of Science in International Management (MSc.IM). The core program is the same whether a student is doing a single (MBA-only program) or a dual degree program. However, students completing the dual degree option must do the Applied Business Project.

The MBA program is offered in an intensive 14- to 16-month full-time format, which includes 12 core courses, one elective course, two specialization courses or an applied business project and a four-month internship. Students without an undergraduate degree in business will need to complete an additional two to three-month Foundation program before the start of the MBA program.

“This program is designed to give students the opportunity to combine new knowledge and practical experience through the integration of theory, research and practice that can be applied at regional, national and international levels,” says Iremadze.

Business case analysis is an important part of VIU MBA curriculum. Throughout their studies, students are constantly applying their learning to real-life decision-making situations relevant to the local, regional and international companies.

The Sardul S. Gill Graduate School at University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business offers a Weekend MBA designed with British Columbians in mind.

“It is meant for smart, motivated professionals who balance work and family and have great demands on their time,” says Dr. David Dunne, director of MBA Programs.

“The small cohort and flexible, applied nature of the program empowers working professionals to adjust and adapt busy schedules while maximizing learning—they can study business on campus one weekend every month , work virtually in between weekends and apply their learning directly to work throughout the program. The University of Victoria Weekend MBA is the relevant MBA for forward thinkers because it provides leading-edge knowledge, an emphasis on sustainability and responsible leadership, a collaborative community and an intimate and applied learning environment in a face-to-face format that still fits with your life.”

The Sardul S. Gill Graduate School at University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business offers a Weekend MBA with international scope, in a North American gateway

With a maximum of 25 candidates accepted each year into the Weekend MBA program, the faculty get to know their students personally to help them excel and explore the exciting world of business management, Dr. Dunne adds.

Every term in the Weekend MBA program includes an applied project that is team-based and grounded in real-world problem solving. MBA candidates work with a client organization on a current business problem or issue where they research and analyze the client’s business issue, then provide analysis and recommendations in a formal presentation and written report. Clients may be sourced locally, nationally or internationally depending on the project team, scope and requirements.

In the second year of the program, students participate in a one-week International Applied Project that takes place overseas. Students work with a client company and the business issue they tackle for them has an international focus. Students apply their cumulative business knowledge and develop their global mindset and international business skillset. Project locations are generally driven by the client organization’s needs.

“As a North American gateway, B.C. is well positioned for international trade, investment and knowledge mobilization with sought-after expertise,” Dr. Dunne says. “With a diverse talent pool and a vibrant centre for government and business, Victoria is a natural place to build leadership capacity. The Weekend MBA prepares our leaders to think differently, act responsibly and have a global mindset which aligns with organizational needs—large and small—in B.C.”

The UVIC Weekend MBA kicks off with a three-day Essentials of Business Leadership (EBL) experience in September that leads into intensive on-campus weekend classes that continue once per month for 24 months, supported by online learning and teamwork between weekends. Weekend MBA candidates also commit to a one-week international trip and a final five-day capstone experience to complete the program.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the full-time MBA program in the Robert H. Lee Graduate School at the Sauder School of Business at UBC was the only Canadian MBA with a mandatory Global Immersion experience. This has been corrected. BCBusiness regrets the error.