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Better board governance, twenty years in the making

December 15, 2023

The ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program (DEP) is celebrating a milestone birthday this year. After twenty years, the program is more impactful than ever.

ICD Group Shot 

The DEP’s leadership says the program’s ability to evolve with the times is what has kept it relevant.

“The program has continued to refresh itself - so it’s very different from where it started 20 years ago,” says Rahul Bhardwaj, President and Chief Executive Officer of Institute for Corporate Directors (ICD).

Jointly developed by the Institute of Corporate Directors and the Rotman School of Management, the Director’s Education Program helps board directors clarify their governance mission, and fully exercise their leadership potential. It is offered at Canada's top business schools.

David Beatty is one of the founders of the DEP and was the program’s first managing director. He says that the program’s goals at its origin have remained consistent through the years. “We set out to help train directors, and that’s what we did,” he says. Beatty was significant in facilitating the expansion of the DEP across the country.

“The program has continued to refresh itself - it’s very different from where it started 20 years ago.”

–Rahul Bhardwaj

Since 2003, over 7,900 people have graduated from the program, in 220 cohorts. Members together have oversight of trillions of dollars of market capitalization. They touch virtually every community in Canada.

Bhardwaj says the program continues to have immense impact, in part, because it is robust and dynamic enough to change with the times. He credits that to the program’s overall philosophy. “Twenty years ago, the DEP wasn’t talking about sustainability, technology, AI – diverse topics like this weren’t part of the lexicon.”

Rotman Associate Professor Richard Powers is the National Academic Director for the DEP. He’s been involved in the program for 18 years. He agrees with Bhardwaj, that staying agile is key to the DEP’s continued impact, and references one particular offering, the DEP Special Edition with an Indigenous Focus, as an example. The program included Indigenous business case studies, dialogue, conversations and opportunities for exchange with Indigenous leaders and class participants, and was created with significant input from an Indigenous advisory panel.

“This really helped people become more familiar with those issues,” explains Powers. “More and more corporations are working with Indigenous groups.”

Powers adds that excellent instructors, as well as active alumni help keep the DEP dynamic.

“Wherever we offer the program, there is a local chapter and that local chapter’s responsibility is to basically plant the flag in that in that particular town. They have seminars, guest speakers, luncheons, and meet- and- greets throughout the year - and that's one of the advantages of being a member of the ICD – the access to the community is ongoing.”

Three Professors Sitting together

From left to right: Rotman Prof. Richard Powers, Rotman Prof. David Beatty, Rahul Bhardwaj, President and CEO, ICD

Sean Sirois is a senior advisor of DNA, an investment bank. Having participated in the program in 2016, he says its strength is its curriculum. “It was well thought out,” he says. “And working through the case studies, discussing issues with colleagues, and sometimes debating them – that was very, very interesting.” Sirois also volunteers as an examiner for the ICD designation oral exam.

Both Powers and Bhardwaj credit the DEP’s successful twenty years with the program’s overall approach. “This program is part of a culture that really believes in improvement and education,” Bhardwaj says.  “It continues to provide value and evolve.”

Powers agrees. “We prepare directors so they can utilize their skill sets and knowledge, to assist their organizations.”

“It’s really all about asking better questions.“

Written by Meaghan MacSween | More Student Stories »