Growing a people-first business perspective

February 16, 2018 | Business

Wanda Costen is the new dean of MacEwan’s School of Business


This January, Wanda Costen took the helm as dean of MacEwan’s School of Business, leaving sunny northern Arizona to embrace a different kind of warmth. “The first time I came to MacEwan, the vast degree of visible diversity warmed my heart,” she says.

Wanda’s career itself is diverse, from her start in the military to a PhD in sociology, with research focused on racial and gender inequality. She brings over 10 years of business experience, from sales to operations to human resources, most recently working as the executive director of the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University.

Wanda is guided by a sociological perspective on business. “My mantra is that businesses can be incredibly profitable, and at the same time treat people with dignity and respect.”

A set of military morals

Wanda completed her undergraduate degree at the United States Military Academy at West Point, before serving as a military police officer.

“We have an honour code – a cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do,” explains Wanda. “This means you have to create a space where everyone abides by the same ethical code.”

Sometimes businesses will cut corners, cross ethical lines or tell half-truths says Wanda, which is why she values transparency. “I think about how I want to conduct myself, not necessarily as a dean, but as a human being. My goal is to be authentic, and to have my personal and work selves align.”

Compassion-driven business

Wanda was drawn to MacEwan’s School of Business because of its emphasis on developing strong leaders who are also good corporate citizens – something she learned early on in her career. She remembers a job at Greyhound Lines, where she saw a need for exemplary kindness in customer service. She encouraged her team to offer a different experience to a clientele that was often not treated well by society.

“It was a beautiful opportunity to learn how to provide services to a group of people who are not always respected,” says Wanda. “It shifted my thinking. Businesses have a role to play in how they engage with society so they can have a positive impact on people.”

During her first weeks at MacEwan, Wanda has spent time chatting with students, and senses an enthusiasm and love for the education they’re receiving. Now, she looks forward to allowing her experiences to complement their energy.

“I want students to have the capacity to think critically, solve problems and be compassionate,” she says. “In every role they have, from front-line employee to supervisor, they should endeavour to bring value to their community.”

Industry-ready graduates

Ultimately, Wanda believes it’s about making sure students are continuing to leave MacEwan’s School of Business feeling prepared to launch a successful career. Rather than only offering technical knowledge, she values the faculty’s emphasis on teaching professional skills to help students navigate the various career paths they can take with a business degree.

“The next generation will not only have multiple jobs throughout their lifetime, but many different careers,” says Wanda. “We want our students to be prepared for that.”

Part of that preparation is continuing to grow MacEwan’s industry connections, and communicate the students’ strengths. “When someone says ‘MacEwan,’ or sees the brand, I want the industry to say, ‘that’s the kind of school I want to partner with because their values align with our values.’ ”

A word of advice

Wanda and her dog Baxter didn’t expect to end up in Edmonton, but she’s thankful to have carved a career path by taking chances. “Be open to what the universe offers you. Say yes to the opportunities that come your way. Don’t be afraid.”

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