Within and across
Dr. Michel Rod, PhD, Dean, Faculty of Business at the University of New Brunswick, joined UNB from the Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, where he was a faculty member for 10 years – the last three as Associate Dean Research and International and PhD Program Director. Prior to that, he was a faculty member for 8 years at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and served as Undergraduate Program Director in the School of Marketing and International Business. Dr. Rod holds a PhD in Commerce from the University of Birmingham, a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences from the University of Calgary and a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Western Ontario.
How has the worldwide shift to online communication due to the health crisis reshaped the MBA classroom and teaching?
The Covid-19 pandemic pushed the UNB Saint John MBA Program to innovate their programme delivery models to better meet the needs of students affected by Covid-19 restrictions, policies and regulations. We are proud to now give students the option to join physically in our new teaching and learning space in the heart of the business district or engage in live classes virtually from wherever they call home. This now means that students from across Canada and the world can join us as full-time students or continue to work full-time while studying for our MBA degree part time. Our professors have risen to the challenge, bringing even more experiential opportunities into the classroom, introducing challenging simulations and current case studies, encouraging real-world projects from local companies and bringing expert judges for programme competitions from across Canada (such as the CEO of the Certified Sales Professional Association). Our integration of traditional and technology-assisted learning environments, and the introduction of virtual teams, has also enhanced our students’ readiness to lead the post-pandemic recovery.
What are the benefits of the new MBA learning environment that business schools have created?
There are no more snow days! All kidding aside, our state-of-the-art technology has really allowed us to broaden our connections from those who are within the Saint John community to those across Canada and around the world much more effectively. As the world has embraced virtual communication, so has our programme. Not only do we offer a diverse faculty and learning environment, but we are now engaging our worldwide network as guest lecturers, panel participants, roundtable discussion leaders and more. Rather than restrict what we have been able to do, the technological response to Covid-19 has allowed us to grow learning opportunities for our students.
Are one-year MBA programmes more intense and demanding for participants than two-year ones? In your experience, is this format more attractive currently and why?
One year MBA programmes are absolutely more demanding. For example, with our programme, we take 62.5 credit hours and complete them in 12 months. This means that students are tackling a whole new course load every eight weeks. Despite the intensity of the programme, demand is higher than ever. Reducing the opportunity costs associated with a return to school by reducing time away from the workforce has become very attractive. Add to that the ability for seamlessly integrated, real time distance learning which allows individuals to design their own programme of study in order to manage multiple priorities and provide increased flexibility in how they choose to learn. As many of our international students are also looking to make Canada their home, the programme’s history of securing postgraduate work permits to start the immigration process is also a huge plus.
MBA participants choose from six specialisations in the New Brunswick MBA programme. How do you anticipate the needs of the business world to keep MBA teaching on top of trends?
We are so lucky to be a campus that was built by the business community in Saint John and our Faculty and our Programme continue with the tradition of partnership with the community in all our work. The Faculty hosts an impressive advisory board that actively engages in programme development and a slate of business leaders who are active in programme delivery. The MBA purposefully relocated to the heart of the business community, renovating an iconic building to include classroom and collision space to further integrate our students and alumni with our business and community partners. We actively respond to their expressed workforce, knowledge and research needs. A local serial entrepreneur and proud supporter of the start-up eco-system offered half a million dollars to any school that started up a sales programme. Guess what? We did, and now we offer the only MBA in Business Development and Sales in Canada, and just recently launched a centre of excellence in the area. Keep your eyes peeled for a Supply Chain Management specialisation coming soon!
How does the Pre-MBA programme improve the learning experience of international students?
Our pre-MBA programme provides an integrated suite of programming that combines English Language training and also introduces students to the business context in Canada. We provide international students who qualify for this programme, with an 8-month immersion experience in the Saint John community, enabling them to expand their networks, volunteer, and engage in social and business activities that help bridge the cultural gap and enhance language skills. The MBA programme itself threads speaking and writing requirements throughout the curriculum to support progressive professional language development in all of our students.
What is the role of the MBA Qualifying Year at New Brunswick?
The MBA Qualifying year gives applicants who may not have performed to their potential an opportunity to prove that they are capable of MBA study, even if their undergraduate degree results may be lower than our 3.0 /4.3 CGPA requirement. Students will complete a suite of business courses to complement their prior learning and provide an opportunity to assess readiness for graduate study. During the qualifying year students must achieve a minimum of 3.0/4.3 scale and submit a GMAT score of 550 or higher to gain admission to the MBA Program.
How do you see the future of the student experience in MBA programmes in terms of peer learning, teamwork and networking in a hybrid learning mode?
As I mentioned earlier, our experience after Covid-19 has affected the manner in which our programme is both delivered and managed. Hybrid learning teams are now part of the fabric of the fully integrated system of platforms used to deliver the programme. Overall, the programme is built on team-based learning facilitated by our faculty and supported within student teams through peer learning. In the first three modules, teams are designed on the basis of test results to ensure cultural diversity as well as diverse learning, problem solving and leadership tendencies. Students identify the positive impact of the programme’s team learning in terms of network building, a broadened perspective on issues and a more global view of social, cultural and business issues. Embracing the technology currently being used in the classroom will pay dividends for graduates as they will be rejoining a workforce that will have pivoted to using these hybrid technologies themselves in conducting their business. These augmented pedagogical platforms introduce opportunities for new ways of learning and certainly provide enhanced networking opportunities.