Transforming undergraduate education at the DeGroote School of Business begins with new teaching model and new building

Len Waverman (left), dean of the Degroote School of Business, and Paul McLean, McMaster alumnus. (Photo by JD Howell)

McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business is transforming its Bachelor of Commerce program, with an emphasis on problem-based discovery, interdisciplinary study and interaction with business leaders that will prepare graduates to prosper in the quickly-changing conditions of the business world itself.

A significant gift will enable the university to plan and build the McLean Centre for Collaborative Discovery at the DeGroote School of Business, over what is now the Innis Library, with the building being specifically designed to facilitate a new and evolving model of teaching business to students from all faculties.

The gift comes from the McLean family, which has a special affinity for McMaster. Three generations of the family have studied a broad range of subjects at the university, including Statistics, Computer Science, Business, Cultural Studies, Sociology and Gender Studies.

The family’s commitment to sharing time and resources with the community inspired the gift, which McMaster’s Dean of Business Leonard Waverman announced publicly Jan. 25.

“McMaster has had a significant impact on our family. We’ve seen what a positive impact education at McMaster has had on our careers and on our lives,” said Paul McLean on behalf of the family. “We looked at what was most important to us, and we’re focusing our efforts on the priorities we identified. Education is certainly one of our highest priorities, because it touches everything.”

The gift is to be combined with other private, public and university funding to total $50 million or more.

“On behalf of everyone at McMaster, I want to thank the McLean family for this important gift,” said McMaster President Patrick Deane. “This support opens the way to a far-reaching transformation of undergraduate business education here at Mac, blending interdisciplinary education, teamwork and business partnerships and combining them in a way that will radically transform business education and make the DeGroote School of Business a leader in this new way of teaching.”

Waverman said the new space will be designed to facilitate a teaching model centered around connecting working business leaders, instructors and students from all disciplines.

“This forward-thinking gift allows us to reimagine business education, creating forms of teaching and learning – discovery – that will engage students from across campus and expose Commerce students to what’s transforming the world in real time,” Waverman said.

In the new building, students will learn in open, flexible spaces, making use of ever-changing technology.

“Successful business leaders need to draw from an array of skill sets,” Waverman said. “Under the new model we’re creating, a lab manager, an engineer, and an ethicist could all be joining business students to work on the same business problem, for example. This new space will be a home for our undergraduate students, where they can develop the soft and hard skills that will prepare them to thrive in a market that is constantly bombarded by such changes as artificial intelligence and blockchain.”

The McLean family said it hopes the gift will provide further momentum to the university’s plans to transform undergraduate business education at McMaster.

“It’s about the new perspective that the curriculum is going to offer,” McLean said. “It isn’t just tactical business knowledge that drives a successful business. Success comes from integrating knowledge, skills and experience from other fields. Sales proposals, for example, demand storytelling skills. Building websites demands technical and design skills. Developing clients demands an understanding of human behaviour. These and many other skills aren’t specific to business, but they enhance business.”

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