CSUN’s Nazarian College Marks 50 Years of Educating Business Leaders

Nazarian College Dean Kenneth R. Lord talking with a student in front of the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics. The college is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Photo by Lee Choo.

Fifty years ago, business in Los Angeles had a different face. Different industries employed a different workforce. Fifty years ago, a still-new California State University campus in Northridge launched a School of Business and Economics.

As Los Angeles grew and changed, so did CSUN and its business college. From a modest opening enrollment of 438 to the more than 7,800 students enrolled today, the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics has grown to become one of the 10 largest accredited business schools in the nation, consistently ranking among the top programs in the state.

CSUN’s business college is celebrating 50 years of changing lives this month with a gala celebration on Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison said the college’s anniversary is emblematic of the impact the university has had on the region and the state.

“Throughout the university, the drive and desire to improve lives permeates everything that we do,” she said. “Nowhere is this more prominent than in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics. Entrepreneurial innovation, professional development and mentoring, and real-world classroom and internship experiences all combine to provide the bedrock foundation for our students to graduate ready to succeed. With more than 50,000 Nazarian College alumni thriving in the marketplace, it’s no surprise that every accounting firm and every industry counts Matadors among their top performers.”

Some of the college's founding faculty, from left, Al Meininger, Maurice Dance, Rodney Luther, Dorothea Extence, Donald Raun, Reuben Krolick and Seymour S. Phillips. Photo courtesy of CSUN's archives.

Some of the college’s founding faculty, from left, Al Meininger, Maurice Dance, Rodney Luther, Dorothea Extence, Donald Raun, Reuben Krolick and Seymour S. Phillips. Photo courtesy of CSUN’s archives.

So much has changed in the 50 years since what was then known as San Fernando Valley State College started looking for faculty to help establish its new business school. But some things remain the same.

Administrators in the mid-1960s were looking for faculty with “a combination of good academic credentials and practical experience,” former CSUN marketing professor Charles Bearchell, one of the founding faculty members of the business school, was quoted as saying in “Suddenly a Giant: A History of California State University, Northridge,” a book about the university. “We think that if our students are going to get out and do well, they had better have both.”

Retired accounting professor Robert Barker, who joined CSUN’s business faculty in 1981, said the college at that time was made up of “really smart, hard-working people who were determined to give their students the best education they could.”

“What I really appreciated as a new person at that time was the really strong connection between the college and the business community,” he said. “And after all these years it’s still there and, if anything, it’s stronger.”

That connection, he said, pays off in learning opportunities, internships and jobs for the college’s students.

“When I started,” Barker said, “the students were pretty homogenous, but today they are diverse — diverse as the world they are going to be working in.”

In 1974, only 20 percent of the college’s students were women and 60 percent were white. As of 2015, 42 percent of the college’s students are women and only 28 percent identify themselves as white, with Latinos comprising nearly 40 percent of the college’s students.

“Who we are and what we do is extremely meaningful in the current business environment,” said Kenneth R. Lord, dean of the Nazarian College. “The diversity of our students is not only a reflection on the greater Los Angeles population, it is a resource for the needs of business in America. The business community of today can no longer succeed and thrive by harnessing only the Caucasian market. That might have been true in the 1950s, but it’s not true in the 21st century. Our students come from richly diverse backgrounds and understand the need of the communities they are going to service.”

Management professor Lois Shelton talking with students. Photo by Lee Choo.

Management professor Lois Shelton talking with students. Photo by Lee Choo.

Management professor Lois Shelton credited the Nazarian College’s national recognition — it is regularly featured in Princeton Review’s list of Best Business Schools and its part-time MBA program is considered one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report — to its students and the commitment of its faculty and staff to ensure that those students succeed.

“Our students are hard working, intelligent and capable,” she said. “They are willing to work for what they get. As far as our faculty and staff are concerned, there is a tremendous amount of creative work that goes into responding to the needs of the students and the community around us, to create and offer the programs and instruction to meet those needs — whether it is in creating an entrepreneurship program, launching a real estate curriculum, developing new master’s programs or developing international partnerships with institutions throughout the world.

“There is a commitment within the college to excellence in education and a commitment to providing a great education at a great price,” she continued. “We are aiming to give our students the best launch into the world of work and the world of community as possible.”

The Nazarian College is recognized for excellence by multiple external organizations. Its accreditation by AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) International places it among the top 5 percent of global business degree-granting institutions. The college’s accounting, finance and financial planning programs are regularly ranked among the nation’s best by experts in those fields.

National and state leaders in all sectors count themselves among the college’s more than 55,000 alumni. They include entrepreneur and philanthropist David Nazarian, founder and CEO of Nimes Capital, whose pledge to raise $25 million, including $10 million of his own money, inspired the university to name the college for him.

Nazarian, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from CSUN in 1982, credited his alma mater for giving him a solid foundation on which to build his successful business and philanthropic career. He has said that the university’s ongoing commitment to provide a quality education to its students — who reflect the demographics of California — has cemented his support of the college.

“CSUN provided me with a foundation for my later success and, thus, opened the door for many opportunities in my life,” Nazarian has said. “CSUN gave me the chance to realize the American dream, and I want to make sure that opportunity exists for as many people as possible. I am excited about the future of the college of business.”

As part of the 50th anniversary gala, the college is recognizing its Fabulous 50 Business Alumni, an impressive list of Southern California, national and global business leaders. CNBC anchor and CSUN alumnus Bill Griffeth will serve as master of ceremonies for the evening. To learn more about the gala event, visit www.csun.edu/business50.

Sponsors for the gala include Y&S Nazarian Foundation, KPMG, The Sterling Group, Aristotle Capital Management, Bank of Hope, Ernst and Young, HCVT, OneSource by PCS, sbe, Stefan R. Bothe, Agora, EastWest Bank, Epson, Farmers Insurance, Delta Dental, PCS Energy, PennyMac, PerkinsCoie, UBS, The Bookstein Family Foundation, Maryam Maddahi, Jeff and Joni Marine, Asset Campus Housing, B&B Premier Insurance Solutions, BB&T Insurance Services of California, Crescent Hotels and Resorts, Deloitte, Laramar, The Lincoln Motor Company Executive Business Program, Merck, MGA Entertainment, MidFirst Bank, Moss-Adams LLP, Ninjio, Northern Trust, Oaktree, Premier Business Centers, PWC, Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, teamCFO, Venable LLP, Heather J. Briggs, Chuck and Kathy Friedlander, David Friedman, Sharon Nazarian, Shulamit Nazarian, Alan M. Schnaid, Lily and Allan Schweitzer, Natasha and Shawn Sedaghat, the Shahery Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, Allied Orion Group, Earl and Karen Enzer, Jack Suzar and Linda May, and Alex and Arda Yemendjian.

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