One-third of MBA students in the latest class of the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management have an undergraduate business degree. One-third paused their financial services careers to join the Rotman School. Who better, then, to lead the school than a finance professor who is a leading researcher of mutual funds, asset management, and the role of financial institutions in capital markets — with a track record as an innovator in management education?
Toronto Rotman found just such a person in Susan Christoffersen, a long-time professor at the school and its former vice-dean for undergraduate and specialized programs. Following a year-long search led by the search firm of Odgers Berndstson, the Rotman School announced on Tuesday (May 11) that Christoffersen will be its next dean. She will start her five-year term on July 1, 2021.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and excited about the prospect of leading Rotman at this stage,” Christoffersen says. “I obviously have a strong connection to the school, having just finished a vice-dean role, and am incredibly humbled and honored to be selected as dean.
“There is enormous talent within our student and faculty ranks, and I really look forward to the next five years of new opportunities and growth.”
‘A DRIVING FORCE’ IN MAJOR UNDERGRAD & SPECIALIZED MASTER’S CHANGES
Toronto Rotman’s full-time MBA Class of 2022 has 275 students, including 44% women, with an average age of 27 and an average four years of work experience. More than half — 51% — are from outside Canada, with 38 passports represented. The class’s average Graduate Management Admission Test score was 670, putting it in the same range as schools in the lower half of the top 25 in the United States. Largely known as a finance school, 33% of MBA students in the current class have business or commerce undergraduate degrees; likewise, one-third come from financial services backgrounds.
Christoffersen, who currently holds the William A. Downe BMO chair in finance and is co-academic director of Rotman’s TD Management Data and Analytics Lab, joined Rotman in 2010 after spending more than a decade as a faculty member at Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. In her role as vice-dean for undergraduate & specialized programs from 2015 to 2020, she “provided the leadership and energy to both re-invent undergraduate education and build three new pre-experience specialized programs,” the school says in a news release: The Master of Financial Risk Management, Graduate Diploma in Professional Accounting, and Master of Management Analytics were launched in quick succession as a key part of the Rotman School’s growth.
The school also credits Christoffersen as “a driving force” behind the redesign of the Master of Finance program and the “fundamental transformation of the Rotman Commerce program,” including a curriculum restructuring and the more than doubling of resources including space and staff dedicated to the program, in partnership with the University’s Faculty of Arts and Science.
LEVERAGING ROTMAN’S PLACE IN THE U OF T SYSTEM
In addition to her work as vice-dean, Christoffersen also founded and contributed to the growth of the TD Management Data Analytics Lab, a hub for advancing the school’s research and teaching in the field of data analytics.
“One of the missions of Rotman is to provide insights into the important and complex issues facing business and society, whether it’s climate change and sustainability or machine learning and how economic problems can be tackled from a behavioral lens — and all of that requires insights from different disciplines,” says Christoffersen, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Queen’s University and a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia. She earned her Ph.D. in finance at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
She added that Rotman benefits from U of T’s wide array of world-class scholarship and research. Her own research focuses on mutual funds and the role of financial institutions in capital markets. She has published in top finance journals and been cited in The New York Times, Bloomberg News, and The Wall Street Journal. She has received numerous honors for her work, including research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and research awards from the Bank of Canada, Swiss Finance Institute, and Q-Group among others.
“Rotman is in an incredible place, being part of a university where we have close proximity to leaders in various different disciplines, so we will continue to use that to our advantage to try and approach some of these big societal problems.”
UNDER FORMER DEAN, ROTMAN ‘REALLY FOCUSED ON THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE’
“Professor Christoffersen’s dedication to student success and excellence has been exemplary — and her leadership, vision, and passion for interdisciplinary approaches to research and education will be key to Rotman’s continued success in the years ahead,” says Prof. Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s vice-president and provost.
Christoffersen succeeds Tiff Macklem, who was dean from 2014 to 2020, when he accepted the top job at the Bank of Canada last May. He was a little less than a year into his second five-year term when Rotman made the announcement; in an interview with Poets&Quants, Macklem was asked to name his early accomplishments and ticked off a number of initiatives for which he is proud.
“Building a more inclusive environment where everybody can come and do their best work is one of them,” he said in late 2018. “We’re getting more engaged with the community and the rest of the university. Second, the introduction of a number of specialized programs. They are creating new depth and capacity in some high demand areas in the marketplace where Rotman can make an outsized contribution.”
Macklem also referred to improvements in the full-time MBA program. Under his leadership, the school launched a more flexible internship program and a revised curriculum that now allows students to take electives during the first year of their studies. These moves strengthened the student experience and increased experiential learning and self-development opportunities, Macklem said.
“We have really focused on the student experience, revised the curriculum, and made a number of changes to the Commerce undergraduate program,” he said. “The thrust of all these changes is to give students more choice and to bring in more experiential learning and more self-development.”
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