ACSB History


On June 6, 1993 (perhaps fortuitously, the anniversary of D-Day), a group of nine—one woman and eight men—took time from their deliberations at the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) AGM in Edmonton to convene a landmark meeting. They already had visions of a new association dancing in their heads, planted there by Doug Tomlinson of Fanshawe College, but their purpose was not subversive. They did not intend to break away from or overthrow ACCC. They wanted to bring together heads of college business programs from across Canada for mutual benefit.

Either because the ACCC sessions were less than scintillating or (more likely) because the group of nine made some progress, they agreed to meet twice more that weekend. They appointed interim officers: Michael Harrison of BCIT, president; Tony Whitworth of Mohawk College, vice-president and secretary; Frank Bishop of Nova Scotia Community College, treasurer.

They came up with a mission statement: To enhance the role which college business training and education play in the economic development of Canada. They agreed to a fiscal year of September 1 to August 31, and to an annual membership fee of $100. Heads of business from every Canadian community college would be invited to join, and each province or territory would be asked to choose a representative to sit on the board. The board would meet twice a year and the general membership would meet annually, likely in conjunction with the ACCC AGM.

The first board meeting was held in October, 1993, at Red River College in Winnipeg, where John Hylton of Red Deer College in Alberta presented a draft constitution. It was decided that the name of the body would be Association of Canadian College Schools of Business. (The word College was dropped in 2006.) Another board meeting was held in March at George Brown College in Toronto to plan the first AGM.

That AGM took place in Ottawa in May, 1994. For better or worse, Dave Williamson of Red River College in Winnipeg was elected President, a position he held onto with Castro-like tenacity for much longer than he cares to admit. Membership quickly grew to around 50, with every province and territory represented. For a time in the 1990s, there was one affiliate member: Goulburn Valley Institute of TAFE in Shepparton, Victoria, Australia, which resulted from two of their business faculty presenting at an ACCC conference.

One of the key objectives of ACCSB was to establish and promote co-operation with national business organizations and professional associations, and, by February 1995, the president had met with such groups as the Canadian Bankers’ Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Conference Board of Canada, the Hotel Association of Canada, the Council for Business and the Arts, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

ACCSB also ventured outside of Canada, making a presentation in July 1995 to Leadership 2000 in San Francisco—attempting to extend the business training network into the United States. Representatives also attended the NAFTA meetings in October 1995 in Hamilton and Buffalo. Further, ACCSB established close ties with the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE).

On invitation from Mike Homer, president of an American body called the Association of College Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), Dave Williamson attended their annual meeting in June, 1997, in Newport Beach, California, for discussions on forming a Global Alliance for Business Education (GABE). Oddly enough, the regions represented from outside the U. S. were Europe, Canada and Mongolia. Though GABE tended to fade away once Homer’s tenure ended, ACBSP sent reps to several subsequent ACCSB meetings.

Meanwhile, the association worked to promote co-operation and articulation among its member colleges. October 1999 saw a landmark decision made when, at University College of Cape Breton in Sydney, Nova Scotia, those present endorsed the ACCC Pan-Canadian Protocol for the Transferability of Learning. Furthermore, they drew up an articulation agreement which stated:

“We recognize the importance of the portability of an individual’s learning credentials and wish to pursue a process whereby credit may be transferred on a seamless basis. We commit to recognizing the equivalency of Business Diploma programs of our institutions and to the transfer of credits earned in relevant program areas.” Everyone present signed the agreement and more signatures were added later.

By this time, ACCSB had eliminated the two-board-meeting, one-AGM format and decided on two general meetings a year, one in the fall, usually in the east, and one in the spring, usually hosted by a western college, and neither meeting tied to the ACCC conference.

On October 11 and 12, 2001 in St. John’s, NF—a scant month after the terrifying event known as 9-11—Paul Brennan of ACCC presented information on the ways his group could help ACCSB, while Frank Wert of ACBSP discussed his group’s accreditation of business programs. ACCSB would evaluate the merits of accreditation and look at the possibility of becoming the accrediting body for Canada. ACCSB member Kwantlen College was embarking on ACBSP accreditation and would report back.

Membership fees for ACCSB were raised to $200 per year, and priorities were identified: 1) Communication, relations and articulation with professional associations, universities and ACCC; 2) Exchange of information through networking, newsletter, webpage, etc.; 3) Recruit more members.

A newly constituted executive was formed, with the president as Chair and reps from six regions: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies and the North, Alberta, BC.

Over the ensuing years, it became customary to have representatives of like-minded groups attend ACCSB meetings, make presentations and take questions. ACCC, the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT), and the Canadian Professional Sales Association (CPSA) sent reps more than once, the latter group establishing a process whereby college business students could benefit if they chose sales as a career.

While sharing information from all regions continued to be important, members opted for a strong PD component. For example, in April, 2003, in Banff, professional facilitator Idahlynn Karre presented a workshop on “Establishing and Maintaining Rapport: Critical Communications Skills for Today’s College Leaders.”

As electronic technology became an integral part of business, ACCSB recognized the even greater significance of members keeping each other informed about innovative practices and programs. Meeting time was set aside for the host college to have staff persons demonstrate new ideas and techniques. The move to applied degrees—especially in BC, Alberta and Ontario—became a hot topic.

At the Quebec City meeting in October 2004, the Alberta contingent unveiled the work they’d been doing on an External Assessment Module for Business Programs, based on Baldridge criteria. ACCSB decided to contribute $5,000 to this development. Meanwhile, work continued to be done on a National Credit Transfer Guide.

The meeting in the fall of 2006 was historic in a number of ways for ACCSB. Held at the Kempenfelt Conference Centre at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario, it saw the organization change its name by dropping the word College to become the Association of Canadian Schools of Business (ACSB) to better represent the range of organizations now participating as members.

This was the final meeting of Dave Williamson, who had retired from Red River College and resigned as President of ACSB in Spring, 2006, after serving in that capacity for almost 12 years. Dave was given a rousing tribute by the members in attendance.

Also at Georgian, ACSB adopted a new constitution ably shepherded to completion by Dick Dolan from BCIT. Finally, a new Executive of ACSB held its first meeting with Wendelin Fraser (Mount Royal College) as President, Bill Walsh (NSCC) as Vice-President, and with Executive Members Jean Robert (Champlain-St. Lawrence College), Maureen Dey (Seneca College), Dick Dolan (BCIT), and Jim Russell (SIIT).

The next two meetings were organized by Bill Walsh, ACSB Vice-President, in Vancouver, BC, hosted by BCIT, and in Halifax hosted by NSCC, with Wendelin Fraser unable to step into her role as ACSB President. The Spring 2008 meeting had to be cancelled due to uncertainty about the Presidency.

In Summer 2008, the membership asked Bill Walsh to assume the role of President. The ACSB Executive met at Seneca College in Toronto to plan the road ahead and set out some new parameters for the Association. These would be presented for membership approval during the fall meeting to be held at Algonquin College in Ottawa.

The Executive used its experience and some feedback gathered from the membership over the course of the past few meetings to focus the purpose of the organization on two main themes:
1. To provide a venue for sharing experiences, best practices, industry presentations and ideas across the 50+ business school members;
2. To provide a semi-annual opportunity for professional development for the members in chosen areas of interest.

As well, it was determined that the organization should not attempt to become an accrediting agency for college business programs and that it should take a minimal role as a lobbyist for business-school or broader college issues. It was felt that the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) would be best-placed to carry out such advocacy roles.

The format for future meetings was changed. One day would be devoted to sharing, idea generation, presentations from industry groups or college programs, and discussion of “hot” topics for business school leaders. A second day would be set aside for a professional development session focused on the needs identified by the group. At the fall 2008 meeting at Algonquin College, this new format was adopted by the membership and implemented with the spring 2009 meeting hosted by Champlain St. Lawrence College in Quebec City.

There have been several significant changes to the membership over the past several years. Long-time Executive members Dick Dolan from BCIT, Maureen Dey from Seneca College, and Jim Russell from SIIT have left the group to enjoy the world of retirement. Dick was replaced by Jayne Brooks from Okanagan College as the BC and Yukon representative on the Executive, while Dave Donaldson of Algonquin College has replaced Maureen as the Ontario representative and Graham Thompson has replaced Jim as the Manitoba and Saskatchewan representative. As well, Mary Vaughan of College of the North Atlantic replaced Bill Walsh as the Executive member for the Atlantic region when Bill became President.