Marcel Desautels: 15 years of support broadens horizons in business education

Marcel Desautels’ generosity benefits individuals and programs

Nick Linton, BCom’20, got the good news just after finishing a long day during his third-year summer internship in the Houston office at Houlihan Lokey, a leading global investment bank with offices on four continents. Linton was surprised and excited to be named as a recipient of the Marcel A. Desautels Leadership Scholarship in 2019-20, awarded to a BCom student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and academic excellence.

“I was at a loss for words. Receiving that sort of recognition is amazing and having the scholarship in the name of someone like Marcel made it that much more special. It validated all the effort I had put in to lead and encourage other students to do things in the community that help others and are intrinsically rewarding. The award also encouraged me to try and do even more on the leadership and community fronts, and propelled me forward in my final year,” says Linton, who majored in Finance and now works as an investment banking analyst at Houlihan Lokey, specializing in financial restructuring.

A broad-minded business education, that give students an expansive range of opportunities to develop and grow as integrated thinkers, doers and well-rounded professionals and human beings, is what Marcel Desautels, LLD’07, fostered through his ongoing philanthropic support to McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management over the past 15 years.

Since his initial gift of $22 million to the Faculty in 2005, directed to endowed Faculty Chairs and renovations, Mr. Desautels has made a gift in 2008 of $10 million to create the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management (MDIIM) and a further gift in 2011 to create four student awards: Leadership Scholarship, Prestige Entrance Scholarship, Masters Fellowship and Doctoral Fellowship. In 2014, he also funded an endowment, which has supported the Faculty’s expansion into the Donald E. Armstrong Building for Masters programs, and in 2026, when the building’s costs have completed, those funds will be directed to student awards.

Linton took full advantage of the opportunities to grow by exploring, embracing, and pursuing his passions in and outside the classroom as part of his broad education experience in the Faculty’s BCom program. As Director of Internal Affairs at McGill Students for Make a Wish, Linton managed a group of 100 students to design, plan and hold events around campus that raised money to grant wishes terminally ill children. “I had a good childhood friend that I lost to pediatric cancer. At McGill, I had a chance to have an impact on kids with a terminal illness and jumped at the opportunity,” he says.

Linton also played a crucial role on the McGill baseball team both as an outfielder and through fundraising and community outreach activities. He co-ordinated various initiatives including the student athletes visiting children in the surgical unit at Montreal Children’s Hospital and helping serve meals to people in need. “All of the activities I was involved in at McGill accelerated the learning process, allowing me to grow as a person and become a well-rounded professional for whatever I wanted to do,” he says.

In speaking with Mr. Desautels, Linton was struck by his enjoyment and delight in connecting and interacting with students. “Marcel has a genuine altruism and desire to foster learning and development in young people. He wants students to be collaborative and welcoming to each other in a program that is demanding and can feel intimidating at times. To know that is the vision of the person whose name is on the school is a very important lesson to learn.”

Desautels’ vision of management professors and students learning to productively collaborate and share knowledge across disciplines has been realized and embedded in the curriculum and activities of the MDIIM since its creation in 2008.

“Companies want people who are broad-minded and able to look at every facet of a problem. That is why the Faculty’s Institute has a curriculum and so many activities that cut across traditional disciplines. We talk about breaking down the traditional disciplines’ silos and encouraging professors to work together to consider all aspects of a problem as they develop course, rather than focusing on their narrow area of specialization,” says Mr. Desautels. “It’s about teaching students how to think in an integrative way, which can help them make informed decisions and find the best solution to a business problem.”

His support of the MDIIM has made possible many innovative integrated research, teaching and outreach initiatives such as the Integrated Management Student Fellowship Program, the thought leadership publication Delve, the Marcel Desautels Integrated Management Symposium Series, and entrepreneurship minors for non-management students.

“We’ve made a big investment in our student fellowship program, which gives student fellows access to an accomplished professor or professors, who mentor them in researching an important question. The students then work together in small groups with students from other disciplines on an experiential learning project, applying the domain-specific skills they acquired to complement the skills of other team members on an impact project with stakeholders,” explains Saku Mantere, Director of the MDIIM and a Professor of Strategy and Organization.

MDIIM student fellows have undertaken about 60 research and experiential learning projects in the past two years on topics ranging from surgical innovation and using machine learning to improve food security, to integrating sustainability with business goals and constructing the best solar-powered house. In the 2018 Solar Decathlon China competition, the cross-disciplinary team won first prize in Market Appeal, Architecture and Communications against 22 teams from 10 countries for its solar-powered Deep Performance Dwelling.

“For me, the single greatest priority of the Institute is helping students to discover early on a sense of purpose for what they are doing. We want them to gain a sense of why they are here and how this educational experience can help them to become who they aspire to be through impactful initiatives like the student fellowship program. This aligns with Marcel’s broader vision of education as individual growth in a community of learning, and of learning as the building of character at the individual and societal level,” says Mantere.

This support has accelerated the growth of the Faculty’s thought leadership programs with the launch of a new management insight publication, Delve, in September 2019. “I’m delighted that many of our faculty members have found Delve an effective communication channel to translate their research and expert insights for management practitioners and a broader public audience. We’re also starting a Delve podcast series to expand the platform, another form of outreach made possible by Marcel,” says Mantere, who is the Editor-in-Chief.

Delve builds on the success of the Symposium Series, which features intimate conversations between prominent McGill academics and world leaders in their fields on topics ranging from transitioning to sustainable investments to the future of work.

MDIIM also collaborates with other McGill Faculties to develop innovative new inter-faculty programs such as the entrepreneurship minors for non-management students, where students from the Faculties of Arts, Science, Engineering, Education, Music, and Agricultural and Environmental Sciences are supported in taking courses with management students. “A lot of valuable cross-fertilization happens when you bring together management students with a diverse set of students from six other Faculties in entrepreneurship and management courses and projects,” says Mantere.

Investing in students directly through scholarships is especially meaningful for Mr. Desautels. “My father was a police officer, and they weren’t paid very much in those days. I had to work two or three jobs during school and work every summer to pay the tuition for each of my three university degrees. I’m motivated to give scholarships to help students, so they can concentrate on their studies and broaden their minds through extracurricular activities as well,” he says.

As a recipient of the renewable Marcel A. Desautels Prestige Entrance Scholarship, Corinna Ha, BCom’19, valued this investment in her future and the freedom to participate in a rich range of out-of-the-classroom opportunities available through the Faculty. “When a donor gives you a full scholarship, it means they have invested in you and are willing to keep investing in you. I had the privilege of not having to worry about tuition every year and was able to participate in some amazing opportunities involving international business and development in different parts of the world,” says Ha, who was class valedictorian and is now an associate at the Boston Consulting Group in Toronto.

In November of her first year, Ha and six other young Canadians travelled to the Philippines to draft a youth declaration on joint and sustainable growth at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) CEO Summit in Manila. “That experience early on helped me connect with people from around the world and consider their perspectives. Sitting in on discussions with heads of state and Fortune 500 CEOs at the summit was eye opening,” she says.

Ha represented Desautels at international case competitions in New Zealand and Hong Kong, where Team McGill was a finalist in both. She also attended the 2018 IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia as a Young Diplomats of Canada delegate, where she immersed herself in a week of sessions and conversations with IMF and World Bank staffers, member state central bankers and civil society leaders. “I got a chance to learn and understand how the world’s most influential economic and development policy makers think about issues and identify top-of-mind solutions,” she says.

Those firsthand encounters with global development policy leaders proved very useful for a subsequent research project, “Narrative Theory and the International Monetary Fund,” which Ha undertook with English Literature and Strategy & Organization Professor Lindsay Holmgren as an Integrated Management Student Fellow.

A broad-minded business education that encourages students to delve into and integrate knowledge from diverse disciplines and points of view is what Marcel Desautels envisioned and has supported over the past 15 years.

“Those four years at McGill/Desautels were transformative and the most significant growth for me was a broadening of horizons. I had gone to a small high school where everyone was academically oriented, and I had a narrow idea of what intelligence meant. At McGill, I met students from many Faculties and corners of the world who showed such different manifestations of intelligence. It helped me to appreciate there are a lot of different ways of being intelligent, talented, and knowledgeable, which has allowed me to collaborate better with many more types of people,” says Ha.

Article written by: Mark Witten
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