Many business school deans are marketing professors; some are from the strategy department; and yet more are finance specialists. It is hard to think of many, though, that are energy economists.
However, such is the background of Joseph Doucet, dean of the Alberta School of Business at Canada’s University of Alberta. But then, given the business school’s location in a province rich with natural gas, conventional crude oil, oil sands and shale gas, Prof Doucet clearly fits the bill as business dean.
The natural resources bonanza means Alberta is one of the fastest-growing economies in Canada, with employment to match, making it a great place to be a student, says the dean. “Alberta has a bit of a ‘wild west’ spirit.”
The University of Alberta has great departments in engineering and economics, he says while the MBA has a focus on energy and international business. The appeal has not been lost on students from China, he says, with a significant increase in applications for business degrees from students there.
Prof Doucet’s appointment in July follows 18 months when he was interim dean. “I wasn’t interested in being a caretaker when I was interim. I didn’t put off decisions that needed to be made,” he says. “That said, there is the added credibility that goes with being the dean. Now that I am ‘the guy’ I can speak out about what I want to do.”
Plans include increasing the teaching in entrepreneurship at the school, as well as energy and agriculture, and to increase the school’s international footprint. “Alberta will prosper from international connections. If I had a magic wand I would say all of our students would have to spend a semester abroad environment.”
But the big emphasis at the business school will be on the environment. “We will never not be focused on the environment. We should play a greater role in that space. There will always be jobs there.”
Though operating in a different milieu to many business schools, Prof Doucet still has many of the concerns of a dean in the US or Europe. The shortage of teaching staff is one of them – the school has 80 full-time faculty. “It’s too small in my mind. I want to increase it to 110. It’s difficult to do what we want to do with the faculty we have. We want more hands on deck.”
Professors in energy and the environment are top of the shopping list.
The debate about online learning is also something that occupies Prof Doucet’s thoughts. Like many deans, he is still a great believer in campus-based learning. “I’m still one of those face-to-face kind of people,” he confesses. “I’m a big believer in the inherent value of face-to-face discussion.”