Why Queen’s Revamped Its MBA

Shai Dubey, director of the MBA program at Queen's College of Business

Shai Dubey, director of the MBA program at Queen’s College of Business

For much of his professional life, Shai Dubey, assistant professor and director of the full-time MBA program at Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, has been on the fringe of business education. He came from a family of professors and academics, but as the self-described “black sheep” of his family spent the early part of his career as a pilot and then a lawyer.

In 1984, Dubey received his diploma in aeronautical engineering and flight training. After starting his own flight training school, Dubey tiptoed closer to the business world, earning a bachelor’s in commerce. But it was just a tease as Dubey then earned his law degree before gaining a job as the chief operating officer for Quicklaw, the legal database company.

All the zig-zagging ultimately led to academia. In 2006, Dubey started as a professor for Queen’s School of Business and oversaw the school’s joint executive MBA program with Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. In that role, Dubey oversaw all recruiting efforts and admissions. He also played a large role in the restructuring of the full-time MBA in January of 2014. The update to the 12-month program resulted in an unusual January start date to allow Queen’s MBA graduates to be among the first in the job market and to give students more time to prepare for job interviews in the fall.

And Canadian employers are taking notice. Six months after graduation, 93 percent of the class of 2014 had jobs and 96 percent of those jobs were in Canada. The school seems to be a pipeline into Canadian jobs as nearly half of this year’s graduating class is from a country other than Canada. The majority (41 percent) of the class of 2014 went into financial services with consulting (15 percent) being the next highest industry.

The revamped MBA, which used to be an MBA for science and technology, still attracts students from the science and technology background. The class of 2015 had an average age of 28 with an average of five years work experience and average GMAT of 650. Women represented 42 percent of the class and 34 percent came from a science or technology background.

In an interview with Poets&Quants, Dubey talks about “credential creep” in Canada, the “copycat mentality” of business schools, a new masters program being introduced in September, and whether the video interview required by Queen’s can make or break an applicant’s admissions hopes, among other things.

You’ve had an interesting career blending aviation and law. What led to your decision to come to Queens in 2006?

It was because I was doing some legal work and one of the directors of the program approached me and said I’d be perfect as a director. I was already teaching. It was a perfect way to segue into a leadership role. My entire family was in academia and I was kind of the black sheep of the family. Going into academia was like coming home again. Also, teaching has always been something I really enjoyed. I loved the teaching factor at Queen’s and their emphasis on making a difference in the world. And the school doesn’t sit on its laurels. It fits my style of looking at the world in challenges and opportunities.

So, what’s new at Queen’s?

First, we have a new masters in entrepreneurship and innovation. We also have a graduate diploma in business. That program is for recent grads and is about half of the MBA. Students can complete those courses, get their required work experience, and then can come back and finish the MBA degree.

The masters in entrepreneurship and innovation program is going to start in September. The idea of the program is more experiential-based. Students will come up with a business idea and take it from thought and innovation to a pitch for financing and funding. We have lots of industry partners involved. It spun out of the summer entrepreneurship camp that is combined with the schools of business and engineering. They get to pitch to angels and VCs, and some of the teams received $50K to $75K in seed funding throughout the summer.

Some projects take the funding they gain and then change it into real projects. Mosaic (Manufacturing), a color 3D printing service is an example of a company to come out of the summer camp and have had a large success. It’s set up to not just be theoretical but very hands on.

What are the biggest changes you have seen occur in the full-time MBA program since you took over that position in 2011?

First, the number of applications for the full-time MBA are down. There’s been a proliferation of full-time masters programs—specialized MBAs and specialized masters programs. Students are looking at these two options and trying to decide what makes more sense. Also, the age of applicants has been trending downward. The specialized masters is creating an interesting meeting point. These applicants don’t have the management skills to be in middle management, but are better technically and more advanced than some in middle management.

There are a lot of reasons and pressures on schools that are causing this. When some schools see others doing these programs really well there is a copycat mentality. A lot of schools are looking for revenue sources. Placing students in high paying jobs with little experience is difficult. Specialized masters are a stepping-stone to those high paying jobs. It also has to do with credential creep. In Canada in the 1960s, you were in demand with a high school diploma. Then it was a bachelor’s. Now employers are looking for next credentials. Maybe it’s not an MBA; maybe it’s doing something else. But students are looking at how to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. This is especially true since 2008 with the Great Recession. The U.S. has turned around for the most part. In Canada, it’s still tight.

I don’t think the downward age trend in the MBA is a bad thing. I’m at the tail end of the baby boom generation. What’s happening is now there are a lot of opportunities opening up. Our economy moves very fast these days and we are seeing technology as an example of that. I think it’s great that we are having younger people get into businesses. The idea and the energy these younger people have is a great thing.

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