Ron Sorenson said he believes there are three things that anyone can give: “Their time, their treasure and their talent.” His commitment to California State University, Northridge is a showcase of all three.
A San Fernando Valley native, Sorenson ’88 (Health Administration), M.S. ’93 (Health Administration) worked part-time at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank during his undergraduate years — a job that would continue to benefit him throughout his career. Sorenson recalled that his CSUN education placed a great deal of emphasis on strategic-thinking skills, which put him in a great position to enter the health-administration field.
After completing his bachelor’s degree, Sorenson began working at a health insurance company. He appreciated the experience he gained there, but he preferred working for a care provider and applied for a role in the finance department of Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys.
The health administration world is a very small one, Sorenson said. While interviewing for the position, he found two fellow CSUN alumni working in the hospital: one, his future boss, and the other vacating the position for which Sorenson had applied (to move on to a better job).
A few years into working in the hospital’s finance department, Sorenson decided to return to CSUN to pursue his master’s degree in health administration. He remembered how well he got along with the professors, and he saw CSUN as a natural choice to continue his academic pursuits.
As part of the graduate program, Sorenson was required to complete an internship. Unfortunately, he could not use his current work in finance to fulfill the requirement. This inspired him to reach out to other departments that interested him, which led him to Valley Presbyterian’s planning department. He had thoroughly enjoyed the strategic planning classes he had taken during his undergraduate years, Sorenson said, and he knew that it was the perfect fit. His supervisor in finance was more than happy to give him a few hours off each week to complete the internship hours, and Sorenson never looked back.
While visiting a friend at St. Joseph’s one day, he saw there was a full-time position open in the planning department, which was now headed by his former supervisor from his undergraduate days. Sorenson applied and quickly landed the job. He knew he had found his calling in strategic planning.
Other employers around the Valley took note of his work, and before he knew it, Sorenson’s career took off. He has worked in strategic planning departments at multiple hospitals, and today he serves as the director of community health partnerships at Providence Health Services. His team works to serve community interests and find new ways to reach out to patients.
A few years after completing his master’s degree in 1993, Sorenson found an opportunity to share his talent with his alma mater. One of his former professors, impressed by his work, approached Sorenson and asked if he would take on a role as a part-time lecturer for the Department of Health Sciences at CSUN.
Sorenson welcomed the challenge, and he began sharing lecture responsibilities with the professor. After a few years, he took over the class when the professor became chair of the department. Since that time, Sorenson has taught a number of other classes, and 2016 marks his 15th year as a part-time faculty member.
While teaching, Sorenson was approached about donating to one of the many scholarships that CSUN had set up to help students. He was happy to oblige, and he chose to give in the form of scholarship funds. During his time working for hospitals, Sorenson had noticed a direct correlation between a person’s financial security and his or her quality of life. This inspired him to donate $1,500 to a scholarship that helps students pay for textbooks and tuition fees, to get them on solid financial ground. Later, he learned that he was one of the first health administration alumni to do so.
When asked if he’d like to help judge the applicants for the scholarship, he had only two conditions.
“I said that I don’t mind if they don’t have the best GPA — just as long as they showed promise and had a strong commitment to the community,” Sorenson said. “Many students are struggling to put themselves through college, and they work one or two jobs while going to class. If they’re that committed to going to school, then they deserve a reward.”
Sorenson realized that he could contribute in other ways to CSUN, so he began volunteering and serving as a mentor and resource for his students — a move that proved extremely beneficial.
“There was a young man in one of my classes who needed an internship, and I was able to get him one at the hospital where I worked,” he said. “My staff fell in love with him, and when the internship was over, we were able to offer him a job within the organization. It’s moments like these that show how much CSUN students have to offer us and how we can learn from them.”
Sorenson’s dedication to CSUN students and San Fernando Valley residents reflects his love for the community. From his annual commitment to the health administration scholarship to his passion for education and sharing knowledge, Sorenson is an example of how a single individual can make a difference for up-and-coming Matadors. It’s an example that he hopes will inspire others.