Daniel Muzyka, Conference Board of Canada

After 13 years at the helm of UBC's Sauder School of Business, Daniel Muzyka leaves academia behind to join the Conference Board of Canada.

Daniel Muzyka, Conference Board of Canada | BCBusiness

After 13 years at the helm of UBC’s Sauder School of Business, Daniel Muzyka leaves academia behind to join the Conference Board of Canada.

As dean of UBC’s Sauder School of Business, Daniel Muzyka has made it his job to keep up-to-date with B.C.’s future business leaders. But after 13 years at the helm of the world-class school, Muzyka is stepping down this summer to join the Ottawa-based Conference Board of Canada in August, as the organization’s new president and CEO. A graduate of top-tier American schools such as Harvard and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Muzyka is set to leave behind the world of academia – at least in theory.

What role does education play in B.C.’s business sector?
I think that education plays some very specific roles, obviously in preparing people to be effective business leaders and to be managers, to be specialists in business. In addition, business schools, like Sauder, play a very major role in the local economy as a conduit for knowledge. They also attract talent to the region. Business schools are also businesses – we employ people, we, in a sense, export services.

What do you think attracts international students to B.C.?
They view us as being a dynamic region. They view us as a region that is not only livable, but may offer solutions to some of the pressing problems that they see in their own region. Students come for the quality of the education, the professors, the offerings. They come for the linkages that we have to not only the local, but the national and international business community.

As former chair of the Vancouver Board of Trade, you played an important part in bridging the worlds of business and academia. How has UBC built upon that bond?
We have a very strong faculty adviser board, and they’ve played an increasingly active role of connecting us with the business community and communicating the needs of the business community. We’ve encouraged a strong development of co-op and internships. We also have very active research centres that are tied to the business community.

How do you think business education in Canada compares to business education in the U.S.?
Well, UBC is very highly ranked, globally. Having been there for a number of years – seeing the quality of research that goes on – it certainly is a globally competitive school.

Where does Canadian business education excel when compared to that of other countries?
I’ve seen us develop around sustainability. Looking at new ideas on how to link business to a solution for social change and social innovation. Also, we have a very vibrant family-business centre. There’s a lot of family business in Canada; it’s a very important part of the fabric of business in Canada. There are the kinds of areas where we develop comparative advantage. Also, look at finance. There’s a wealth of ideas globally, and finance is a global industry, but Canada’s financial markets weathered the storm much better than those of other countries.

Are there any take-away lessons for business schools from the Occupy movement?
I think 2008, and what transpired, did point out a number of weaknesses in our global financial and commercial systems, so we’ve got to be cognizant of that. It’s obviously more complex than saying, “Well, you taught them wrong,” or, “You missed something.” I think that would be highly simplistic and, frankly, wrong. We have required programs in ethics and we have large offers in sustainability and social innovation.

What will you bring to the Conference Board of Canada as its CEO?
It’s an interesting organization in that it does have a great deal of convening power in the sense of bringing people together to talk about economic, social and even national security issues. It has a number of educational activities and a strong educational component. As the dean of a business school, there are things that are going to be different going into that role [as CEO], but there’s also going to be a number of things that are very familiar.

What would you say is the mandate of the conference board?
The conference board covers quite a broad spectrum and it’s a very important organization, particularly now. Society, government and business are all looking for new paradigms and new solutions, and I think the conference board plays a very important role in trying to help find balanced solutions to problems. We need balanced solutions to issues; we don’t need polarization. I think the conference board can play a very strong role in trying to achieve sustainable solutions to various issues and to give us some insight into those.

What made you decide to take the position, and what are you most looking forward to?
I thought it would be an interesting challenge for me going forward. I’ve been in academia for quite a few years, so it’s a bit of a change. But it’s also a link to some of the things that I’ve done before and I’ve been involved in. For me, it seemed like a particularly good next step. I’m looking forward to being involved in the dialogue around some of these issues and helping to run an organization that participates in the dialogue.