the Heart of Business

Who’d have thought MBAs have a conscience? While highly educated financial wizards were a convenient scapegoat for the economic meltdown of 2008-09, a business degree is about a lot more than futures and derivatives. A new crop of graduates is determined to make the world a better place

MBAs had their moment in the 
spotlight during the recent recession as bankers with fancy degrees were vilified in the media. Business schools around the globe turned the microscope inward, searching their souls for signs of culpability.

Here in B.C., the nine universities offering MBA degrees emerged stronger than ever, each bolstering its commitment to building a healthy business community.

UBC sent students to Kenya, where members of the class of 2010 helped villagers get small businesses up and running. At UVic, where sustainability is woven throughout the curriculum, students travelled to Brazil to help a local company bring the acai berry to international markets.

Other schools turned their focus closer to home: one Trinity Western student, for example, plans to apply his new-found management expertise to local not-for-profit social-service agencies. And business schools across the province tackled the crisis of conscience head-on, fostering classroom debates on the role of ethics in business and spurring students to put their business smarts to good use.

You’ll find the latest updates on these and other developments in B.C. MBA programs in this 2010 BCBusiness MBA guide, along with our at-a-glance summary of MBA options in B.C.

Putting the “Us” in Business

An MBA boils down to one

core skill: teamwork

Works well with others: that’s often the strongest selling point on a resumé, since teamwork is indispensable in an office setting. Even though it’s been drilled into us since preschool, some of us still need a little work on our team skills. That’s why it’s an integral part of most MBA programs.

We hear the teamwork mantra repeated so often that it’s easy to lose sight of what it even means. At Vancouver Island University, instructor Ron Sitter begins with definitions. Traditionally, he says, it means “two or more people working together with a common goal who are mutually accountable to each other.” But he prefers another definition: “understanding that we need each other, that we can’t do it alone as well as we can do it with all of us, that none of us is as smart as all of us.”

Sitter also tells students that teamwork can be viewed as a pyramid. At the foundation are purpose, process and communication. Once those are mastered, you can proceed to the next level, which includes involvement and commitment. “If you can achieve those, at the very highest level you end up with this fuzzy thing called trust,” Sitter explains. 

Understanding what it means is one thing; to put it into practice, UNBC MBA students start the program with a retreat. Han Donker, chair of UNBC’s School of Business, explains that during the first week students have to work in teams to solve cases.

At Vancouver Island University, Sitter says, the hands-on component of teamwork includes a one-day session where he spends just 40 minutes in front of the class, then “the rest of the time they’re in their little work groups, hammering out the different concepts.”

Ideally, any business can be viewed as a team working toward a common goal. So it stands to reason that the best outcome of any MBA program is graduates who work well with others.

– Bryan Arseneau

Blame it on MBAs

schools examine the role 
of ethics in business

Many blamed the economic meltdown of 2008-09 on MBA programs that spawned a generation of greedy CEOs, but is ethics something you can teach?

Mark Wexler, professor of business ethics and management at SFU’s Segal Graduate School of Business doesn’t think so. Wexler tends to teach people in their 30s and 40s and believes their ethical standpoint is already well formed by that time. Even by the time younger students start their MBAs, they likely have already formed their own opinions and ethical footing. So while you can teach students about ethics, you can’t teach them to be ethical; that’s up to the individual. So what are schools doing to ensure that their students at least have an understanding of what it means to be ethical in the business world?

Royal Roads University was in the process of redesigning its curriculum when the financial crisis hit, and according to Steven Glover, associate professor in the faculty of management, it was a perfect time to re-evaluate the university’s stance on ethics. “One of the things we’re trying to do with the redesign is emphasize three different threads, and those are a strategic, leadership and responsibility focus. The ethical question really goes to all of those areas and is intended to be woven throughout the program and the courses,” says Glover. 

Wexler offers a course bearing the title Business Ethics, and he was teaching these concepts to technology students, undergraduates and executive MBAs long before the financial crisis hit. When asked if SFU has added any ethics courses recently, Wexler responds that it has added some since he’s been there but not in response to the recent global economic recession: “When I first started teaching, there were none; now there are five or six. Every program has one, and they’re required.”

Whether ethics courses were already in place or whether the curriculum is being redesigned, the question still remains: how do you teach ethics? Both Glover and Wexler agree there are two ways ethics can be taught. One is to teach it in a dedicated course, like Wexler’s. In that instance, ethics is all the class talks about; they look at everything in the context of an ethical framework. The other option, which Royal Roads has chosen, is to try and include ethics discussions within the material in different courses. That places marketing or finance, for example, within an ethical framework.

Whether either of these approaches will ward off future Bernie Madoffs is open to debate. But even if these programs don’t instill a higher moral sense in students, at least they’ll know if they’re doing wrong.

– Bryan Arseneau

The Do-good Generation

New crop of grads put business to good use

Not everyone entering an MBA program is lured by the promise of big bucks. Increasingly, MBA students say they want to use the power of business to make the world a better place. 

At UBC the Sauder School of Business’s Social Entrepreneurship 101 (SE101) program, headed by faculty adviser Nancy Langton, aims to make a difference internationally. In 2009 students went to Nairobi, Kenya, to teach local youth entrepreneurial skills and how to build a business. Student participant Les Robertson says the hands-on instruction will outlast any handouts: “This is neither a hand-out nor simply just business management/entrepreneurship skills; this is a hand-up. These are life management skills, and this creates economic opportunity internationally.”

By sharing what they’ve learned from their MBA programs, the SE101 participants “empowered the Kenyan students with knowledge that they can use to start to build a better future,” adds Kirby Leong, a past participant and current SE101 program co-ordinator.

The University of Victoria’s MBA program also offers students the chance to apply what they’ve learned within an international setting. Mike Valente, assistant professor in business and sustainability, teaches courses on doing good within the community. One of the four strategy pillars of the UVic MBA program, he says, is sustainability, which encompasses social and ecological issues. “So the program has started to build sustainability and social responsibility into [students’] projects as part of the curriculum.” Valente involves his students in an international field trip every year, and in 2009 20 students went to Brazil to help a local company that wants to bring the acai berry to international markets, while still involving the local community in sourcing the berry. The students were there to help advise the company on how to make their business model work.

But not everyone with an MBA has an international focus. Tony Lapointe, executive director of the Mission Community Services Society in Mission, B.C., is making a difference closer to home. While Lapointe was doing community work before completing an MBA at Trinity Western University in Langley, he now has a greater understanding of the business tools that are fundamental to any business, for-profit or not. “There were things for me that were relatively new and significant, such as finance and knowing how to apply the financial tools, or how you market a not-for-profit organization,” he says. 

So whether you’re travelling the world to teach disadvantaged youth entrepreneurial skills, helping a company compete globally or staying close to home and running a not-for-profit organization, there are MBA programs out there that can teach you more than how to boost the bottom line. 

– Bryan Arseneau

An MBA for Everybody

With nine programs to choose from, B.C. universities offer an MBA to meet every need. Tuitions fall in a range from about $20,000 to $40,000, while time commitments range from 12 months to two years. Fresh-faced graduates can opt for one, while seasoned managers might choose another



Royal Roads U 39 45 0-5 36 21 

SFU 27 49 35 23 20 

Thompson Rivers U 28 30 70 10 0 

Trinity Western U 36 26 29 21 0 

UBC 30 26 56 17 71 

U Canada West 34 56 52 33 18 

UNBC 36 30 5 30 0 

UVic 29 33 41 50 34 

Vancouver Island U 26 40 82 16 60


university TUITION duration ENROLLMENT AVG. YRS. YRS. MGT. EXP. 


UBC $65,000 21 23 14 8 

SFU $47,500 18 64 14 8 

UNBC $31,212 18 49 n/a 3 

B.C. MBAs: Admission 

university tuition full-time f.t. duration avg. GMAT yrs. work part-time 

enrollment (months) score exp. req. option 

Royal Roads U $35,760 226 18 n/a 7 no 

SFU $27,000 63 12 590 0-5 no 

Thompson Rivers U $18,000 30 16 500 n/a yes 

Trinity Western U $31,950-$34,200 27 22 550 (min.) n/a yes 

UBC $39,746 126 15 642 2 yes 

U Canada West $21,600 154 12-24 n/a 0 yes 

UNBC $31,212 48 17 550 3 no 

UVic $32,000 39 17 563 pref. 2 yes 

Vancouver Island U $18,500 144 14 n/a n/a no

MBA Cheat Sheet

Your at-a-glance guide to 
MBA programs in B.C.

University of B.C.

Sauder School of Business

location: Vancouver

GO HERE IF you’re an experienced working professional looking to advance your career. The 15-month program requires full-time attendance, while a 28-month part-time option is available. An optional exchange program offers international exposure, while internships or industry projects offer hands-on work experience. 

Simon Fraser University

Segal Graduate School of Business

location Vancouver

GO HERE IF you want to fast-track your entry to a career in business. This program is designed for those with an undergraduate degree in a field other than business and less than five years’ professional work experience. The intensive 12-month program includes an optional international field study trip. An internship following the 12-month program offers an introduction to the professional ranks.

University of Victoria

Faculty of Business

location Victoria

GO HERE IF you want a basic MBA with international exposure and real-world work experience. Program includes working with sponsor companies to tackle real workplace projects, with options for co-op placements and international study electives. A part-time option lets students keep working while earning a degree over 29 to 33 months.

Royal Roads University

Faculty of Business and Management

location Victoria

GO HERE IF you’re a working professional with management experience. The online model lets you keep working while you progress through the program with a cohort of peers. Includes two three-week residencies, at least one on the Victoria campus, with an option of one in Grenoble, France. Specialization options include management consulting and human resources management.

Thompson Rivers University

School of Business and Economics

location Kamloops

GO HERE IF you’re a recent business graduate whose interests are global in scope. Coursework has a strong international focus, and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with a cohort of students from around the world, thanks to TRU’s extensive international recruiting program. 

Trinity Western University

School of Business

location Langley

GO HERE IF you’re a working professional whose interest in business extends beyond spreadsheets and the bottom line. TWU is a Christian university, and, while religion doesn’t figure directly in its MBA program, the curriculum is designed around questions of ethics and the role of business in the community. Specialization options include entrepreneurship, international business and the non-profit sector. 

University Canada West

location Victoria and Vancouver

GO HERE IF you have an undergraduate business degree and want to fast-track entry to the professional business ranks. Intensive on-campus teaching is complemented by a major research or consulting assignment. 

University of 
Northern B.C.

School of Business

location Prince George

GO HERE if you have at least three years’ experience in management and are looking for a broad-based foundation in the fundamentals of business. The program is designed to let professionals continue working while visiting the Prince George campus once a month for intense three- and sometimes four-day immersion sessions. 

Vancouver Island University

Faculty of Management

location Nanaimo

GO HERE IF you want a business degree with international credentials. Thanks to a partnership with England’s University of Hertfordshire, upon graduation you’ll receive two degrees: an MBA and a British-accredited master of science in international business. The program includes a three-month internship and an applied business project. n