Monday, January 10, 2011

[Rotman] Why is an MBA taking a Geology class?

[Rotman Series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

As I’m preparing to go to go to LBS, I’m dedicating this week to Rotman: What makes us different? Over the next 5 days, I’ll be putting up posts about what differentiates Rotman the school and the students, not just locally, but also within a global context.

The first post is about Shree, a brilliant friend and colleague at Rotman who I respect very much. He also had a very unique experience; an opportunity which I think is often over looked and should be highlighted. Specifically, that Rotman is part of the University of Toronto, but more than just having access to U of T’s libraries, sports facilities and resources, as U of T students, we also have access to elective courses outside the business faculty.

Shree had the idea of taking an engineering geology course because he has a natural interest in commodities and wanted to have the insight and gain a higher level of understanding of mining.

I’ve asked Shree to write a honest review of the course (GLG 1442) and I’ve included it below:

Do you have a specific career in mind that demands you know things other than the 4Ps of marketing or the time value of money? If so, you might want to look into picking up a course outside of Rotman in that area.

My job involves looking at investments, and since Canada is often referred to as the “mining capital of the world”, I felt that a geology course would add value to my education. With this in mind, I took the GLG 1442 course, which is offered through the Earth Sciences department at UofT. My review in a nutshell:

Learning accomplished: 9/10
Relevance of the course to everyday business: 6/10
Organization of the course: 3/10
Degree of difficulty: 8.5/10

Lets break down the components above into more detail –

Learning accomplished: If there was one objective in my mind for taking this course, it was to learn more about geology. The course was highly education towards this objective. I was able to learn about different types of deposits, how they are formed, what the typical characteristics of such deposits are and where a certain type of deposit can be found. I doubt I would have been able to achieve all this learning outside of the classroom within a four month time frame. As a result, I give a very high grade for the learning accomplished.

Relevance of the course to everyday business: Let’s face it. Many of you will never have to deal with a mining company in your career. This reduces the relevance of the course right away. However, for those who want to become involved in equity research or investment banking that could benefit from having some knowledge of geology, this course should provide a decent level of groundwork. Relevant topics include different types of deposits for specific metals as well as the grade, tonnage characteristics of these deposits. There is very little coverage regarding the costs related to mining these types of deposits, which makes this course somewhat less relevant than it could be. Secondly, there isn’t much coverage regarding the economics of mining either, which further erodes the relevance.

Organization of the course: If you are expecting a course which is organized in a manner similar to Rotman, you are in for a huge shock. A combination of handwritten overheads, no powerpoints and old school slide projectors makes the organization of this course difficult to follow. Additionally, there are in class handouts which are meant to supplement the handwritten notes, which further make it difficult to keep track of what might be going on in the course. The structure of the course is fairly loose since materials covered tend to skip many parts of the notes and does not strongly tie into the textbook. In fact, I never had to even use the textbook.

Degree of difficulty: The major fact of this course is that this is a graduate level geology course. The majority of the students taking this course are mining engineers or geologists. You will be expected to be on the same level as these guys pretty much from day one. Given the lack of a foundations course, this puts a student at a huge disadvantage. Therefore, if you are taking this course with the expectation of getting a good mark, you may be better off sticking with a Rotman course. If you are expecting to take this course as an elective, you are definitely better off taking a Rotman course. Compared to a typical Rotman course which is 2 hours of lectures per week, you will find that this course demands 5 hours of class time (2 hours of lectures + 3 hours of lab time). There is also a lab exam in this course which is unrelated to the materials covered in the exam, which means you are really taking an equivalent of two courses. The takeaway here is, be prepared for a difficult course and have some prior knowledge of the materials before hand. This will be the difference between struggling through this course and potentially failing this course.

Conclusion: For the people who have a genuine interest in mining, this course is highly useful. This course would be much more useful if it were better organized and had a better tie-in with business concepts such as IRR, project financing etc.

[Rotman Series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

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