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Blaize Horner Reich, Dean of Management at UBC Okanagan - photo by Martin Dee
Blaize Horner Reich, Dean of Management at UBC Okanagan - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 2 | Feb. 2, 2006

Managing to Make a Difference

New Faculty of Management at UBC Okanagan puts focus on small business and entrepreneurship

By Bud Mortenson

A business school with a difference is taking shape at UBC Okanagan. The brand-new Faculty of Management is small right now -- with just 30 students in this inaugural year -- but expectations are for quick growth to more than 700 students in 2009. That kind of growth will be fueled by a curriculum focused on B.C.'s Okanagan economy, which is among the nation's hotspots for entrepreneurs.

"We looked around the region to see what was needed and what would make our Bachelor of Management program distinctive," says Blaize Horner Reich, dean of Management. "As a result, the focus of our program is on the kinds of businesses most common in the Okanagan and that create the most jobs - the small to medium-sized businesses."

These small to medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, are the backbone of the Okanagan economy. Last year, of the region's 6,845 businesses, only 887 had 20 or more employees.

"The program also puts a focus on service-based and knowledge-based businesses, both of which are very important in the Okanagan," Reich says. "These areas are growing the fastest and offer the most opportunity for students. And because we're focusing on emergent and medium-sized businesses, students can play leadership roles in building and developing these organizations."

The Okanagan's wealth of emerging businesses is, in part, a result of the region's strong appeal to entrepreneurs, says Robert Fine, executive director of the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.

"People come here to create their own lifestyle," says Fine, "so we have the highest rate of self-employment in the province and probably in Western Canada."

It's fitting, Fine says, for UBC Okanagan to build its programs around topics of great interest to Okanagan businesses. "Having the Faculty of Management focus its energy within the SME sector is going to be a big plus. It's very exciting for businesses in our region."

UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Management and UBC's world-renowned Sauder School of Business in Vancouver both prepare students for success in small businesses and as entrepreneurs -- the Sauder School through a Bachelor of Commerce program with many options of its own. The Sauder School will also drive MBA-level and other graduate business education for UBC in Vancouver and the Okanagan, says Daniel Muzyka, dean of the Sauder School of Business.

"As a business school, Sauder has a full product offering," he says.

"The UBC Okanagan program is another focused opportunity for business education inside the UBC family. This is a distinctive niche offering in the product line -- it provides students with more opportunity for business education."

Muzyka notes that with the number of business students continuing to rise, more options are welcome. "UBC as a whole is offering more. There will be some clear choices for students. Based on their needs, they decide whether they go here or there."

At UBC Okanagan, the Bachelor of Management program's "2+2" structure allows students to take a wide variety of elective courses during their first two years before immersion in business management courses in the final two years. They can also enter the Management program at UBC Okanagan in their third year as transfer students from colleges and university colleges.

"Because students have the opportunity to take a wide range of courses, they'll come into the third year with a diverse and sophisticated set of experiences," says Reich, whose own diverse experience includes 15 years as an information technology professional and consultant to Canadian and Asian businesses, before earning her PhD from UBC in 1993.

"When students enter the 'boot camp' third year in Management, they will be ready to do some critical thinking and come up with innovative ways to address business problems. By combining their learning about social responsibility and ethics, I think they're going to make the world a better place."

But courses alone are not an education, Reich cautions. "We plan to provide opportunities for students to engage in real business practice, whether this is in a co-op program, a course-based project, or some volunteer service learning," she says.

"These experiences will round out and extend the value of coursework and deliver on UBC's promise of global citizenship. I think students these days are looking for a deeper attachment, a richer experience. A small environment like the Okanagan valley can offer that."

To learn more: www.ubc.ca/okanagan/management.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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