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2016-17 Special Topics Courses

  • Please check back regularly for updates.
  • Content in any given year will depend on the instructor.
  • Enrolment is restricted to Rotman Commerce students in 3rd year (9.0+ credits) for 300-series and 4th year (14.0+ credits) for 400-series, with the following exceptions: 3rd year students may enrol in RSM 415H1 and RSM 418H1, pending space.

RSM 315H1F/S – Leading Across Differences (Offered in both terms)
RSM 411H1F – The Canadian and American Financial Systems: Historical Comparisons and Contrast
RSM 415H1F – The CEO’s Toolkit  Open to 3rd year RC students
RSM 418H1S – Catastrophic Failure in Organizations  Open to 3rd year RC students

RSM 315H1F/S – Leading Across Differences (Offered in both terms)
Instructor: ‘F’ Term – Nouman Ashraf  ♦  ‘S’ Term – TBA
Prerequisite: None

Course Description:

The nature of the globalized economy, coupled with the diversity within society demands new ways of thinking about and demonstrating leadership. There is enormous buzz about twenty first century leadership competencies that reflect the evolving nature of both the corporate culture as well as the disparate expectations of stakeholders that organizations have to effectively navigate. One such key leadership competency is the ability to navigate differences within and across the organizational matrix effectively. Differences are not simply defined by facets of identity such as gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, levels of ability, linguistic preference, to name only a few, but equally importantly, by disparate ways of learning, creating new ideas and formulating new worldviews.

This course will take an integrative approach to understanding diversity at various levels of the organization. We will examine approaches to dealing with difference such as compliance or political correctness, developing organizational cohesion. Through in-class activities and site visits, we will explore a key question: How can the organizational culture offer a confluence of conditions within which every kind of talent can find meaningful engagement?

Key Learning Outcomes:

Through this course, participants will

  • Be immersed in dialogue, activities and assignments where they will explore their leadership compass and locate within it the centrality of stance;
  • Develop a deep understanding of bias and how it operates at the personal, organizational and societal levels;
  • Understand and articulate the connection between inclusion and diversity and organizational culture and strategy;
  • Practice and hone skills for engaging in incisive dialogue that opens them up to new frameworks for making tangible a more inclusive and integrative leadership agenda.

Teaching Methodology:

Through a series of thought provoking and hands-on case-study led sessions, the cohort will make linkages between one’s individual leadership stance and its impact on how strong preferences come to life and influence perspectives at the individual and organizational level. There will be a deep exploration of one’s knowledge system and a particular focus upon uncovering innovative frames around diversity that directly impact organizational strategy. Equipped with best practice models and current organizational examples, the cohort will have the opportunity to critique existing diversity strategies across sectors.

Film Reel Watch a short video by instructor Nouman Ashraf outlining what this course will offer you!

RSM 411H1F – The Canadian and American Financial Systems: Historical Comparisons and Contrast
Instructor: Chris Kobrak
Prerequisites: Must have completed 14.0 credits or more

RSM 411H1F is designed to help students become better future professionals by putting business into its larger social context.  It has the additional benefit of introducing students from outside of North America to many aspects of Canada’s and America’s history and culture.

This course traces the historical development of Canadian and American financial institutions and organizations.  It compares and contrasts how these North American economies adapted to a changing set of social and economic contexts, some of which were common to the two, some distinct.

Students will be assigned groups early in the course. Each group will be expected to select a Case Study to present at a mid-term session.  The assignment will require both a written and oral presentations..

Specific learning objectives include:

  • To provide students with the historical background needed to make an educated assessment of how the Canadian and American financial systems will evolve, in order to shape their own career choices.
  • To give students a better insight into current issues about emerging financial systems and currency zones.
  • To give students an appreciation of how and why the American and Canadian financial systems have evolved differently because of their historical and social contexts.
  • To provide students with insights of how cross-border flows of ideas and money shape a financial system.

Tentative grading: individual and team-based work, as follows:

Class Participation:
Case Assignment:
Group Presentation
Case Write Up
Final Exam – take home, open book:


RSM 415H1F – The CEO’s Toolkit  Open to 3rd year RC students
Instructor: David Scrymgeour
Prerequisite: RSM219H1
Co-requisite: RSM332H1

Course Scope and Mission

A highly practical course designed for prospective Executives and the Professionals who will work with them. The course develops simple, powerful tools and strategies required to build, manage, change, fix and evolve successful organizations. Lectures and case analysis integrate core management concepts from previous courses.

Tentative methods of evaluation:

  • 30% Best 6 of 8 One Page Case Summaries
  • 20% Class Participation
  • 25% Mid-Term Test
  • 25% Final Exam

RSM 418H1S – Catastrophic Failure in Organizations  Open to 3rd year RC students
Instructor: András Tilcsik
Prerequisites: RSM260H1/RSM270H1/RSM392H1, 9.0 credits or more completed

Course Mission

More than ever, addressing catastrophic failure is a critical challenge for business organizations. Numerous recent events—like the collapse of Lehman Brothers, BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and the Yangtze River cruise ship disaster—have exposed the vulnerabilities of firms to catastrophic failure. Rooted in complex human, organizational, and systemic factors, such failures have the potential to severely disrupt and even bankrupt firms. At the same time, properly managing these risks may be a source of strategic advantage over less well-prepared competitors. Yet, despite the critical importance of catastrophic risks, few managers think effectively about the dangers and opportunities that these risks present. This course trains students to recognize the vulnerabilities of business organizations to catastrophic failure and to become more effective strategic and organizational decision-makers in general. For more information, visit:

Target Audience

This course will be particularly suitable to students with an interest in consulting, strategy, and managerial and other leadership roles. Commerce students with an interest in finance may also find the course rewarding, given that the course provides a different (primarily organizational/managerial/psychological rather than financial) perspective on risk management. Finally, students with an interest in law and public policy may be particularly interested in the regulatory aspects of the course.


Prof. András Tilcsik received a Rotman School of Management Teaching Award (2015) and an Excellence in Teaching Award (2014) at Rotman, as well as the Derek C. Bok Award for Teaching Excellence at Harvard University (2009). His research has been covered widely in media outlets, including The EconomistForbesThe Washington PostThe New YorkerThe Guardian, and Bloomberg BusinessWeek and cited in testimonies to committees of the U.S. Congress. His consulting work focuses on helping clients address complex, catastrophic risks. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

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