Stephen Huddart
Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, during a guest lecture.

Going beyond business as usual

“The functioning of business is an interconnected process and managers must know how to make decisions that consider all disciplinary perspectives,” says Associate Professor Steve Maguire, Director of the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management (MDIIM).

Established in 2008 through a $10-million Campaign gift from philanthropist Marcel Desautels, CM, O.Ont., LLD’07, the MDIIM aims to break down disciplinary barriers and develop a big-picture approach to management education. In promoting holistic integration across disciplines, the MDIIM also seeks to integrate teaching, research and practice to provide students with the best possible learning experience. Incorporating research and practical experience allows students to be on the leading edge of academic thought and simultaneously understand the practical realities of management, Maguire explains.

“We also know that the world’s ecological, social, and economic issues are tightly bound with the issues that managers deal with in organizations,” Maguire continues. “There is a growing need for leaders who can appreciate and approach these concerns from all these perspectives.” As such, the MDIIM has five thematic priorities: robust metrics and risk management, innovation, health, social well-being and sustainability.

“These last three values are often thought to be in conflict with the first two, but we promote scholarship seeking to reconcile them,” says Maguire. “Our approach is truly interdisciplinary, so we are connecting with people from across the Faculty and the University to create a holistic appreciation of management.”

As part of its mandate to integrate these thematic concerns into the Desautels Faculty of Management’s research, teaching and outreach, the MDIIM appointed five Faculty Fellows to two-year appointments, during which they will develop three courses in sustainability. These courses could form the foundation of a new BCom concentration on managing for sustainability, and eventually a major in this field. Already, though, the MDIIM has developed some exciting initiatives. In September 2012, the institute hosted a workshop bringing chemistry and MBA students together to propose ways of commercializing green technologies.

The MDIIM’s first course, “Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation,” was launched that same month. The course forms part of the larger Social Economy Initiative (SEI), established with funds from KPMG, and Peter Monk, BCom’58, and Joan Monk, BA’58, that aims to develop research, teaching, and outreach focused on social enterprises.

“The students were outstanding,” says Anita Nowak, BA’97, BCom’97, PhD’11, the SEI’s Integrating Director. “It’s a teacher’s dream to have such inspired individuals bringing a business and management mindset to solving social problems.”

Shobhita Soor, an MBA student associate at the MDIIM, says she was drawn to the institute because of its exciting emerging research and innovative approaches to management. After graduation, Soor hopes to use the skills she is gaining to enter the field of sustainability consulting, encouraging corporate stakeholders to include more environmentally conscious practices into their industries.

“The values, ideas, and perspectives I am gaining at the institute will have a tremendous impact on my career and will guide me as I work towards my goal of helping to make the business world a greener place,” she says.