By Danielle Fairlee
One question drives every decision about the future of the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics at California State University, Northridge, according to Dean Chandra Subramaniam: “What can we do to make our students more successful? Because how we invest in student success is how we build for the future.”
Since joining CSUN in March 2018, Subramaniam’s student-centered approach has helped elevate the Nazarian College’s reputation for excellence, locally and nationally. Now the 9th-largest business school in the country, the Nazarian College was ranked No. 31 by Money magazine for value and quality, and its Financial Planning program was ranked No. 6 by Wealth Management magazine in 2020. The college is included in The Princeton Review’s ranking of “Best On-Campus MBA Programs” in its list of “Best Business Schools” for 2021, and Great Business Schools ranked it No. 3 on its list of “10 Most Affordable Master’s in Taxation Degrees for 2021.” The college also was ranked No. 37 on the list of “Top 75 Finance Schools and University Programs” by UniversityHQ for 2021.
“These rankings are evidence of our programs’ impact and the preparation we provide our students to enter the professional world,” Subramaniam said. “Our goal now is to share these rankings to promote the excellence of our programs and attract interest from the external community, including employers, so they choose to recruit from the Nazarian College.”
This willingness to build the college’s reputation through national rankings, sponsorships and high-profile events has reaped benefits for Nazarian College students.
“We have been successful,” the dean said. “Firms that used to look at graduates from the Ivy League are now coming to CSUN to interview, recruit and hire business students. Some examples include Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, Ocean View Capital and other private equity wealth companies.”
And the impact of the Nazarian College on the local business market is undeniable. According to Subramaniam, the college supplies a large number of accounting graduates to the region, with more than 300 accounting graduates a year and more than 2,000 business graduates. In addition, 20 percent of the managing partners at the top 100 public accounting firms in the Los Angeles area are Nazarian College alumni, according to Los Angeles Business Journal data.
ENVISIONING FOR THE FUTURE
Quantifying the college’s 55 years of success goes hand in hand with its stated mission: “To be a leader in educating a diverse student population to achieve career success and be a force for a better future,” Subramaniam said.
The dean spends a lot of time thinking about what that future looks like.
“As a college of business, we need to make sure we are keeping up with what is going on in industry,” Subramaniam said. “Can we train our students with the facilities we have presently? Are we attracting the best faculty? What are the expectations of graduate students? What are the expectations of the employers who will be hiring our graduates?”
First and foremost, he said, the Nazarian College’s facilities must keep pace with trends in higher education and business. Bookstein Hall, built in 1994, when the college had approximately 4,800 students, was designed primarily for undergraduate use with standard classrooms. Today, the college serves 7,000 students — approximately 6,600 undergraduates and 400 graduate students. With three graduate-level programs — Master of Business Administration, Master of Science in Taxation and Master of Professional Accountancy — and two more in development, the Nazarian College must build and upgrade to attract students and keep pace with technological advancements, the dean said.
“We have to give our students the spaces they deserve,” Subramaniam said. He envisions tiered classrooms and open spaces, along with breakout rooms and board rooms, where students can hold pitch meetings and work together on projects, as well as highly flexible classrooms that will allow graduate students to learn “in whatever modality fits their needs, whether they are learning on campus or away from campus while they are working,” he said.
NEW GRADUATE PROGRAMS
To meet employer demand, the Nazarian College is developing two new graduate-level programs. The first, expected to launch in fall 2023, is a Master of Science in Business Analytics program, Subramaniam said. A Master of Science in Accounting Analytics program is expected to launch soon after. “We need to have six or seven graduate programs to meet the needs of local employers and industry, while also building our reputation,” the dean said. “We are moving in that direction.”
With companies seeking the specific skillsets fostered in the new graduate programs, Subramaniam said he expects student demand will be high. “Graduate students come to us because we help make sure they will be successful,” he said. “We understand what employers want and the skills students need for the future.”
MORE SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS
The same is true for undergraduate students, who rely on the college for career preparation and success, Subramaniam said. Recognizing that more than half of the Nazarian College’s undergraduates are Pell Grant recipients — and more than 70 percent of its students work 20 or more hours a week while attending school full time — the dean said he often returns to the heart of all his decision-making: “The students. How do I help them? How do I provide some relief for students through scholarships, technology, assistance and other support?”
The dean knows that the struggles his undergraduate students face build character and grit, but he said many of them still need help just to make ends meet. With that in mind, he aims to build a $10 million endowment over the next decade to provide additional student financial aid, he said.
“What we do in the classroom is necessary, but it is insufficient for career success,” Subramaniam said. “We also have to provide co-curricular opportunities for these students to build their expertise and skills with real-world experiences.” Today, Nazarian College students get internship and career placement assistance through the Career Education and Professional Development Center. They can also study abroad, sit for professional certification exams while still in school, and participate in entrepreneurial contests such as the Bull Ring New Venture Competition.
The Bull Ring is a “Shark Tank”-style competition open to all CSUN students, in which teams pitch their innovative products and startup ideas. Finalists compete for prize money and audience awards — and what they hope will be a jumpstart on venture capital funding, Subramaniam said.
Bull Ring champions include 2017 winner Sleepyhead, which went on to secure partnerships with more than 900 colleges and universities for its mattress toppers, and 2021 winner Synergy Active Aero, a universal movable wing for automobiles. Car wings, which resemble spoilers, are used to improve speed and performance.
“Our program is more than just the classroom,” the dean said. “Our co-curricular programs and business competitions give students real skills and help them be more innovative and creative — abilities that will keep them moving forward in their careers.”
Entrepreneurship at the Nazarian College is also fostered via a summer accelerator program that allows students to continue building and developing their projects, as well as through the CSUN I-Corps, which gives students opportunities to test their innovative business ideas for viability, with up to $3,000 in support. In fact, interest in entrepreneurship is so high at CSUN that the college is offering a new, 100-level, general education course on the topic, as well as a minor in entrepreneurship that is open to students from any major, the dean said.
ATTRACTING AND RETAINING STRONG FACULTY
Of course, building successful, career-ready business students does not happen without great faculty, Subramaniam said. He admitted, however, that bringing top-tier professors to CSUN is challenging due to the cost of living in Los Angeles.
To attract and retain strong faculty members, Subramaniam looks to expand the number of endowed chairs, professorships and fellowships for professors in the Nazarian College. “This allows us to reward and recognize high-quality faculty,” he said.
The college is also adding support for faculty researchers by underwriting travel to conferences where faculty can present academic papers, and by investing more than $500,000 in new databases and software for research, Subramaniam said.
GROWING PHILANTHROPIC SUPPORT
With plans for new, state-of-the-art facilities and more support for students and faculty, the importance of philanthropic investments has never been more important or pressing.
“The success of the college helps CSUN and vice-versa. It is a win-win for all of us,” Subramaniam said. “When we talk about other business schools like Anderson or Marshall, we know what universities they belong to — so building the reputation of Nazarian helps benefit CSUN, and the overall success of all students.”
The dean said he thinks of each donation to the college as an investment that pays dividends. “The donations our alumni make to the Nazarian College help train the students who become their employees,” he said. “I like to think of it as paying it forward.”
Subramaniam said he plans to continue nurturing the local partnerships that are helping to establish the Nazarian College as a recognized business school brand name, including work with the Valley Economic Alliance and the Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA). The college recently partnered with VICA for its second-annual “Extraordinary Women in Leadership” event celebrating the achievements of San Fernando Valley businesswomen.
The college also sponsored recent events for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal and the Los Angeles Business Journal (LABJ), including its annual awards for chief financial officers.
“It makes sense for us to sponsor the LABJ CFO Awards, because a large number of CFOs in Los Angeles are our alumni,” Subramaniam said. “It is important for them to recognize that we continue to produce great employees. We want companies to want to hire our graduates.”
NAZARIAN COLLEGE SUCCESS AT-A-GLANCE
- 9th-largest business school in the country.
- Ranked No. 31 for value and quality by Money magazine (2020).
- Ranked No. 37 on the list of “Top 75 Finance Schools and University Programs” by UniversityHQ for 2021.
- Named one of the “Best On-Campus MBA Programs” by The Princeton Review’s “Best Business Schools” for 2021.
- Master of Science in Taxation was ranked No. 6 nationally by Master’s Program Guide, and No. 3 on Great Business Schools’ “10 Most Affordable Master’s in Taxation Degrees” for 2021. Additionally, GradSchool Hub’s “Best Online Master’s in Taxation” list ranked the program No. 14.
- Financial Planning program ranked No. 6 by Wealth Management magazine (2020).
- Approximately 6,600 undergraduates.
- 56% are Pell Grant recipients.
- 70% work 20 hours or more per week while attending school full time.
- Approximately 400 graduate students.
- More than 20% of the managing partners at the top 100 public accounting firms in L.A. are Nazarian College alumni.
- Nazarian College alumnus Charles “Chuck” Noski inducted into American Accounting Association Hall of Fame (2021).
- Nazarian College alumnus Carl Carande honored as one of AACSB’s 2021 Class of Influential Leaders.
- Established in the 1965-66 academic year as the School of Business Administration and Economics at what was then San Fernando Valley State College.
- Named in 2014 for alumnus David Nazarian ’82, who personally led a $25 million fundraising campaign for his alma mater.