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This year, while researching our annual business education guide, we posed a new question to representatives of each university: Can you describe the school in a single word? A few declined to answer, but most took a shot. The Edwards School of Business said “together,” while UQAM went with “nonconformist.” There was also “global” (University of PEI), “vibrant” (John Molson School of Business) and “entrepreneurial” (Haskayne). A few others used a hyphen to bend the rules (“value-based,” “life-changing,” “industry-focused”). Yet the most common response was “transformative,” or a variation of that word.

The schools were clearly referencing their effect on students, which is undeniably true. But that idea of transformation could be applied to their universities, too. Like every other institution, Canadian post-secondary institutions have reinvented themselves over the past two years. The pandemic, of course, forced shifts to online learning and socially distanced networking. But following the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police and the ensuing public debate about systemic racism, schools have also been called upon to address concerns about a lack of diversity and inclusion on their campuses.

Last summer, The Globe and Mail reported on Instagram accounts being created to enable business students to share their experiences with discrimination. The stories told through these accounts ranged from a student being asked to shorten his name to make it “easier to pronounce” to a professor making repeated use of racial slurs in class. Claire Porter Robbins, who wrote the Globe piece, spoke with the deans of several of these schools, who forthrightly acknowledged the need for reform. “While we have taken some actions in recent years, the course and speed needs to change if we are to make meaningful progress,” said Sharon Hodgson, the dean of the Ivey Business School.

But could these large, highly bureaucratic institutions make “meaningful progress” at a speed that matches the urgency of the moment? That’s the question writer Jennifer Lewington set out to answer for this issue. She wanted to know whether universities had turned reassuring words and bold strategies into discernible action.

Her reporting is the centrepiece of our business education guide this year. In an era when so much information about universities is available online, we feel it is insufficient to simply report the tuition and entry requirements for MBA programs. We need to tell you how schools are committing to transformation—of not just their graduates but within themselves.

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