Five reasons a Master's in Strategic Foresight and Innovation is the new MBA

Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation

1. MBAs aren’t what they used to be

According to an article in the Globe and Mail, the number of students taking GMAT tests is going way down. There was a 23 per cent drop from 2010 to 2013. 

The Globe story quoted Ilian Mihov, dean of the highly ranked European business school INSEAD in France: “Mihov said many students have decided an MBA is only worth the escalating cost at a top-ranked university where job prospects are better. Others are turning to different types of business training as an alternative.”

“Many people have realized that if you cannot do an MBA at a top school, then it’s not clear that you have to do an MBA,” said Mihov. “The return on your investment in terms of time and money may not be worth it.”

2. If you want to get ahead you need to be innovative – and businesses are realizing this 

PwC Canada has been recruiting from the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program.  James Davidson, senior manager of Campus Talent Acquisition, says, “Digital technologies are transforming the way we do business. It’s clear that forming a digital strategy will no longer be enough to succeed, so companies will need to develop a business strategy that fits this new digital age.

“At PwC Canada, we help our clients navigate and create sustainable value for their digital future. To achieve this, we are looking at programs such as OCAD U’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation, for people who understand strategy, sustainability and innovation from a different perspective and who are experienced in research, planning and development.

“We need management consultants who are innovative thinkers, with a design-first mindset, that have evolved their skills in the digital space. We are looking for individuals who are accustomed to working without a blueprint, and whose broad industry experience is complemented by content and strategy development, diversity of thinking, as well as strong project management and people skills.

“OCAD U’s Strategic Foresight Innovation program can deliver individuals who have a critical mix of skills and whose contributions, insights and forward thinking could create extraordinary value for any organization.”

3. Strategic Foresight and Innovation is the only program in the world that combines design thinking, strategy, foresight and innovation

Design thinking is a way of solving complex problems like a designer – it’s different than usual business thinking because it spends much more time researching problems. Designers look at the issue of larger systems and test new models to make better-informed conclusions. Design thinking takes more work but it hits the mark a lot better. It also puts user-experience first – satisfying human needs and interests.

Studying foresight adds another level. It’s about looking for signals of change on the horizon that can have implications for the future. This thinking helps to “future-proof” an organization or company so it isn’t blind-sided.

4. The program isn’t as intensively-focused as an MBA on business, but it doesn’t ignore it 

The Strategic Foresight and Innovation program focuses on creating innovative business models and financial sustainability for new products, services or organizations. The business world thrives on innovation and this program teaches better strategic thinking. At this year’s Hult Prize semi-finals, teams from the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program competed against mostly MBA teams from the best universities around the world, including Harvard.  

Who had the best business models? Judges told the Strategic Foresight and Innovation teams their models were better than the MBA teams.

5. Wider perspectives and diversity equal more innovative ideas

MBA programs often attract students with business backgrounds, but the Strategic Foresight and Innovation program has a much broader and diverse range of students. This program attracts lawyers, business people, scientists, architects, musicians, writers and public-sector employees, to name just a few.

Admissions Segment: 

What a DESIGN master’s can do for you

Thinking about a master’s degree? Not sure it’s worth the investment? We get it.

Design careers are largely built on your portfolio of work, not the letters after your name. But there are good reasons – both personal and professional – to head back to school at some point in your career.

Whether you’re a practicing designer, or want to add formal design training to your resume, here are five reasons to think about getting a M.Des.:

User interacting with coloured buttons

 Learn more about OCAD U’s Inclusive Design program

 The healthcare sector is a hotbed for innovation and needs the skills of designers to develop solutions to some of our aging society’s most critical problems. 

Patient laying in bed using tablet based healthcare app

Learn more about OCAD U’s new Design for Health program  


 Design thinking is hot.Learn more about OCAD U’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation program 

Digital futures

Digital futures image

Learn more about OCAD U’s Digital Futures graduate program 

  1. You want to shift your career toward a specific context – and one with growing opportunities.  As your career progresses, you’ll increasingly specialize. You’ll need to expand your knowledge base and re-tool to advance in emerging fields like healthcare, accessibility, innovation and digital technology. 

    For example, accessibility legislation is being passed in many parts of the world, including Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Many sectors are looking for the expertise to design and re-design their products and systems to meet the requirements and be at the forefront of what is known as Inclusive Design.

  2. You want to go deep. Your career may be satisfying and engaging on a daily basis but you’ve been exploring, maybe obsessing, over some bigger, more challenging concepts in your “spare time.” A graduate education is an opportunity to step back, to look at issues and problems from different perspectives, to engage in research, and to make a contribution to the field at another level. 

    OCAD U Digital Futures student Han Yang, for example, developed, as his major research project, interactive film that takes control from the director and lets the viewer take charge of the camera through the character's perspective.Two student teams from OCAD University’s Strategic Foresight and Innovation Program took their social innovation all the way to the regional finals of the Clinton Global Foundation’s Hult Prize Competition.

  3. Design thinking is hot.  Government, non-profits and business have caught onto the advantages of approaching problems like a designer does. Even the Harvard Business Review described design thinking as “an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing. It can’t be extra; it needs to be a core competence.” An MBA that offers some design thinking courses is always an option for those looking to add these skills to their toolkit, but learning design thinking from designers, and with a multi-disciplinary cohort of students, has its advantages

  4. You need to expand your network. Your career is based on both what you know and whom you know. Graduate programs typically draw learners from all over the world (25% of OCAD U’s grad students, for example, are from outside of Canada) and from a range of professional and academic backgrounds.  Your faculty are scholars and practitioners who can point you in the direction you want to go.  

    Most grad programs have connections to industry that help you get your foot in the door to an even wider network. OCAD U’s Digital Futures students, for example, have the option to work on a project with the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab

  5. You want to teach. It’s natural at some point in your career to want to influence and mold the next generation. A master’s degree is definitely an asset, and often required, for teaching positions in Canadian universities.

If one or more of these factors is motivating you to consider graduate school in design, check out OCAD University’s programs. Graduate programs at OCAD University are designed to be completed in two years, full-time. But, there are also part-time and online learning options that could work with your current work schedule.  Applications for OCAD University’s masters programs in design are open until March 31, 2016.

Want an overview of all of our graduate programs, our campus and the requirements for admission? Sign up for an info session webinar.

Admissions Segment: 

Apply to Imagination Catalyst: DEADLINE May 14th!

Congrats OCAD U Grads! Apply to Imagination Catalyst Incubator.
Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 12:15pm

If you dream about starting your own business  – consider applying to Imagination Catalyst! We offer a free, one-year business incubator program. Join a motivated group of fellow entrepreneurs who are creating, building, designing, making and inventing innovative products, services and companies.

What you need to apply:

  • A business idea that addresses an unmet need in a consumer or business market
  • A clearly identified target customer
  • An understanding of competitors and other external market forces

What we offer:

  • Customized learning opportunities
  • Experienced business advisors
  • Extensive mentor network
  • Connections to professional service providers including legal assistance
  • Access to government funding
  • Learning alongside other entrepreneurs tackling similar business development challenges

If you are interested in learning more, contact Kathryn Ellis,  to make an appointment with a business advisor

All recent OCAD U grads accepted to participate in the Imagination Catalyst incubator will be eligible to pitch for $5000 in startup funding! Apply before May 14th, 2017.

For more information, visit the Imagination Catalyst website!

Venue & Address: 
8th Fl, 230 Richmond Street West
41977-6000 ex. 4364

From home to battlefield (and back): One veteran’s desire to serve

David Fascinato

Broad shouldered, with rugged good looks and an iron-grip handshake, David Fascinato isn’t everyone’s stereotype of a graduate student. But if central casting were looking for a soldier type, that’s a different story.

Fascinato, however, is both: an Afghanistan war veteran honoured with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and a student in OCAD University’s MDes in Strategic Foresight and Innovation program. Recently, Fascinato shared with me some of his personal story. He also shed light on the transition from military to civilian life, and the value of veterans to organizations and society at large.

A daring young man

Originally from Guelph (and the son of an Italian soldier who fought in World War II), Fascinato was in the first year of his Political Science program at the University of Ottawa when he and a pal dared each other to enlist in the military. As it turned out, Fascinato was accepted, but his friend wasn’t.

So, in the summer of 2005, Fascinato became a member of the Canadian Forces Army Reserve. “Roughly four years after that wonderful dare,” Fascinato recalls, “I was on my way to Afghanistan, armed with a more profound understanding of my dad, his story and how a shared military experience might straddle 70 years to bring us closer together as father and son.”

On the front lines

Lest his motivation for military service seem a bit trivial, Fascinato is quick to point out that behind his initial youthful dare was a profound desire “to challenge myself, and to do so in the service of others.”

After completing his initial training, in 2009, Fascinato was chosen for the army’s psychological operations capability — a unit engages with stakeholders and mission-partners to deliver development and governance programs abroad. The year after that, Fascinato was deployed to Kandahar province, Afghanistan. For the next eight months, Fascinato served alongside a variety of units; among them, notably, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. On the front lines, in the very teeth of the Taliban-led insurgency, Fascinato and his fellow soldiers sought to build and manage relations with local leaders.

“It might seem incredible, but I look back on my time in Afghanistan with great affection,” Fascinato says. “Despite the violence, despite the threat to life and limb, it was, and still is, one of the most precious and inspiring experiences I will likely ever have.”



Desire to serve

Fascinato is quick to acknowledge that veterans are far from a homogeneous community. Nevertheless, he notes that “I have found that many ex-service personnel share an overwhelming desire to serve, to do something of value for others in a selfless, and self-effacing, manner. This attribute seems woven into almost every member of the military, regardless of rank or role, or number or location of deployments.”

Upon returning from his two-year “sabbatical” to train and deploy to Afghanistan, Fascinato completed his undergrad studies at University of Ottawa and then moved to Toronto, where he found work as an account coordinator with a public relations firm. A number of other positions — paid and volunteer — followed in different industries.

But it did not take too many years for Fascinato to realize that maximizing his potential to serve others within a “civilian career” necessitated further learning. “It’s a competitive job market and, while I didn’t lack the experience, I lacked official accreditation as a way for others to understand what I might offer.

“Deciding to enter grad school — and choosing OCAD U’s SFI program instead of a traditional MBA route — was an effort to put a hat on my diverse experiences and to situate my accomplishments within a spectrum that makes more sense to others. The SFI program gave me access to a community of practice that included change makers among fellow students and faculty, while exposing me to innovative business concepts and tools that will support my efforts to begin a career in consulting.”

That community has welcomed Fascinato’s approach. Liberal Arts Professor Suzanne Stein, who is working as advisor to Fascinato on his major research project for the program, enthuses about his generosity and intelligence. She says, “Given David’s experience in high-conflict, high-stakes situations, his comments on group work and functioning are always appreciated. Group functioning is a difficult issue for any cohort, and David’s occasional (respectful) incredulity at the easy pitfalls of dysfunction that graduate student groups are prone to help all of us to get perspective.”

A new mission: From soldier to civilian       

“The military is a mission-centric organization with a tremendous capacity to institutionalize learnings and adapt to new challenges,” says Fascinato. “Many of its individual members therefore share a common purpose and dedication to a mutual set of goals. They are also highly resilient and adaptable, knowing how to work as members of a broader team.

“But going from the military to the civilian world, you lose the sense of teamwork, the camaraderie that goes along with that. Moreover, that sense of purpose — of service to others — often vanishes. It can become lonely, even frustrating at times, when you’re out of that community.”

So, in addition to the full-time work of being a new dad and a grad student, Fascinato devotes much of his energy to helping other veterans make that often difficult transition. Fascinato, for instance, is a member of the board of directors of the Treble Victor Group (3V), which enables ex-military leaders to reach their potential in the marketplace. And he serves as the National Lead for Team Rubicon Canada, an organization that unites military veterans’ skills and experiences with those of first responders in order to rapidly deploy emergency response teams around the world; most recently, to help Fort McMurray residents deal with the aftermath of devastating forest fires.

“I want to make the transition experience better for others,” says Fascinato. “I am grateful for everything I learned as a soldier, and my ultimate aim is to give back to a community that has given me so much.”



Morgan Holmes
Standard Template
Admissions Segment: 

Unmasking Omar Badrin

Omar Badrin
Omar work 1
Omar work 2
Omar Work 3

We caught up with artist and OCAD U alum Omar Badrin to chat about his work. He graduated from the Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design program in 2015 and was the program’s year-end medal winner.

Image of Omar Badrin

Can you tell us about Unmasking Otherness, your current show in Corner Brook, Newfoundland?

Unmasking Otherness is an exhibition that is showing at the Grenfell Campus Art Gallery until September 17. The show is made up of large, exaggerated, brightly colored crocheted masks that convey a sense of the grotesque and otherness. The masks vary in size and range from approximately five to fifteen feet in length. I wanted them to be large and take up as much space as possible, so it feels like they’re hovering over the viewer. They’re claiming the space rather than being off to the side.

On a personal note, it was important to me to exhibit this work in Newfoundland because I was raised there and go back frequently to visit family and friends. My artwork is biographical and reflects my upbringing as a visual minority in a province that, racially, remains quite homogenous. I’m hoping this show will contribute to the dialogue on the (slowly) increasing diversity in Newfoundland culture.

Image of Omar's work

In Due Time 2016, Industrial fishing twine, Mason’s line and flagging tape


How did your Interdisciplinary Master’s in Art, Media and Design help your practice?

Before joining the IAMD program, I felt that my art practice had become stunted. In fact, I had stopped pursuing art-making for five years before applying to OCAD U. When I moved to Toronto, I decided to get back into it and put together a portfolio with works that gave a sense of the direction and ideas I hoped to develop if accepted.

As a student at OCAD U, I was encouraged to experiment with other media, which really helped me get over my slump. During my first year, I started to explore the craft of net-making because of its connection to Newfoundland’s fishing tradition. However, it didn’t feel authentic to me, because I don’t have a direct relationship to the fishing industry. I opted for crotchet instead, because there were commonalities with net-making, and it I did feel a personal connection to it. For my independent summer study, I went to Port Union and learned crotchet from my mom. I hit it off with this medium and, conceptually, it was a better fit with my thesis topic.

Image of Omar's work 2

Sickly 2016,  Industrial fishing twine and Mason’s line


What do you love about crocheting and why is it an important medium for you?

Crochet is a way for me to think and reflect because the repetitive process of the medium lends itself to this. I have to say, though, that I don’t get personal enjoyment out of crochet. I use it because it allows me to convey the ideas I want to get at in my work. I grew up watching my grandmother and mother crochet, so I’m familiar with it, and it has deeper meaning for me. It’s a tradition that was passed down from my grandmother to my mother. However, I only started learning it two years ago, so it’s very new to me.

Image of Omar's work 3

Installation view of Unmasking Otherness, Grenfell Campus Art Gallery, Corner Brook, Newfoundland 


We’ve been seeing more artists and young people take up crocheting — is it becoming cool again?

I don’t know if it is becoming cool again. I think you have to be cool to answer that question and I’m not that person. I do like to see the bridge between ‘craft’ and ‘fine art,’ but that’s a discussion for another time. My personal feeling is that artists have to use the media that they feel most comfortable using for a given project. They [the media] should fit the conceptual framework and enhance the work. For now, crochet is something that interests me and it fits the ideas I’m presently exploring. However, I might give it up for something else in the future.

Check out more of Omar’s work.

Inline Image Template
Admissions Segment: