“Each of us possessed a passion and commitment to the program and the students that was unrivaled in any other environment I have encountered before or since. We were a team of equals whose one job was to get the job done and done better than anyone else could do it. These individuals remain my close friends to this day.”
Joseph A. Macdonald
On November 30, 2016 Ray Klapstein and Rosaire Couturier celebrated the 20th Anniversary of CFAME’s MBA (FS). An idea written on the back of a paper placemat transformed the way professionals acquire sector-specific graduate degrees. Twenty years later, CFAME continues to offer an innovative blended learning model designed to provide practical, relevant and experiential “real world” learning.
An idea requires champions. Many graduates will remember Joseph Macdonald, the first Program Director of the MBA (FS) program, from September 1995 to January 2000. In a recent interview, Joseph recounted how the idea became a reality.
How did you become involved in the MBA(FS) initiative?
Joseph: I had just returned from 2.5 years volunteering in Botswana (southern Africa) and dropped in to see Ray Klapstein at the School of Business. Ray told me about the proposed MBA (FS) Program that was awaiting senate approval. He was very optimistic and said that he wanted me to spearhead the internal processes that would be required to implement the Program once it was approved.
There was a lot to be coordinated between Graduate Studies, The Registrar and Student Accounts. The term length, admission criteria and payment process were all non-traditional, and it was imperative that there be consensus among all parties in order to move forward.
Once this process was in place, it became apparent that someone had to carry the ball for implementation. Ray again tagged me for the job.
How many students were in the first classes?
Joseph: There were 35 students in the first class and within the first 12 months there were in excess of 100 students in the open enrollment classes and a separate 40 student class of exclusively BMO employees.
What were the significant milestones during your tenure?
There were many remarkable milestones that occurred during the formative years.
Having the first courses finalized on time to deliver to the September 1996 inaugural class. This was especially significant given that we were having the course materials developed while we were marketing the Program and collecting registration fees. As well, delivering the first course intensive sessions in Toronto in January 1997.Coming to agreement with BMO to provide independent classes of their employees. One class of 40 students commencing each year. Delivering the first summer course intensive session on campus at DAL. We planned events such as a harbour cruise and a lobster boil for the students during their one week in Halifax. Commencing the first cohort of students in the Caribbean and delivering the first Caribbean intensive session in Jamaica.
I witnessed the graduation of the first MBA (FS) students at the Fall convocation in 1999. There were 100 graduates and by that time there were an additional 300+ students enrolled in the program.
As the program grew, so did the full-time staff; we originally employed work term Co-Op students. The first full-time staff member was Margie Bush, then Michelle Hunter, who was followed by Morven Fitzgerald. It is important to understand that having a staff was not the highlight; the highlight was the people who now made up our team. Each of us possessed a passion and commitment to the program and the students that was unrivaled in any other environment I have encountered before or since. We were a team of equals whose one job was to get the job done and done better than anyone else could do it. These individuals remain my close friends to this day.
What did you enjoy most about being at the beginning of something new?
It has always been an emotional rush for me to be on the leading edge of implementing something that others say can’t be done, and there were plenty of those, ranging from internal faculty to other educational institutions who saw us as a threat to their regional turf. All of this and working as part of a team that I could not have dreamed up, made the early stages of building the Program a magical experience.
A reminder to our vibrant alumni community in Calgary. CFAME is holding a special event on March 7, 2017. Joseph will be there and invites you to join in on the festivities. Stay tuned – more information on its way.