87.5 F
San Fernando
Saturday, Jun 3, 2023

Ventura County Can’t Spell Business Without the U

A hankering for pizza, fruit pies and coffee helps get the word out on the “Be the U” marketing campaign at California State University Channel Islands. One Camarillo area Domino’s franchise stapled fliers to pizza boxes, while Gary Cushing, owner of Marie Callender’s in the city and himself a university student, did the same with pie boxes. On the counter of Element Coffee in Old Town Camarillo and at other coffee places in Ventura County are red and white coffee holders with the marketing slogan. Since opening in 2002, the university has formed strong ties with the business community in Camarillo and throughout Ventura County that leads to efforts such as wanting to help promote the school. That relationship, however, transcends the standard requests for financial support. Before the university opened its doors, business leaders and owners were brought in to show their support and in the six years of existence are kept engaged and informed about its missions. “We pulled in key, influential people and gave them an active role in the university,” said Celina Zacarias, the director of community and government relations. Cushing, for instance, was part of a group who went to Sacramento to lobby state lawmakers to fund the school and since then has helped start Business and Community Advocacy to create awareness of course offerings and secure funding for its growth. “If we keep the university in the forefront of the business community that can only benefit the university,” said Cushing, who is completing his degree in political science. “Maybe someone wants to donate money and the university would be at the top of their mind.” Set apart from the city center on the grounds of the former Camarillo State Hospital, Cal State Channel Islands has an enrollment of 3,783 students for the 2008-09 school year. A majority of the students come from Ventura and Los Angeles counties, with a small percentage from as far away as San Bernardino and Riverside counties. The university provides housing for up to 800 students. For every $1 the state spends on the school, it creates an additional $4.41 in spending in the Central Coast region, making it a center of economic development. If it reaches its potential of 15,000 students, the university would trail only the Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu as the largest economic engine in Ventura County. The city envisions that university students will gravitate to its Old Town district for their shopping and dining while area businesses can take advantage of becoming vendors for the school. Replacement furniture for university offices, for instance, is being supplied by a Ventura company. In its curriculum, the university offers business, business administration and economics degrees through the Martin V. Smith School of Business and Economics. Hearing from businesspeople that they wanted potential employees with a broad-based education, the curriculum takes a liberal arts approach with an emphasis on critical thinking, communication and collaboration, said William Cordeiro, the director of the Smith School. Exposure to how businesses operate comes through internships and the Small Business Institute in which they visit a company and then write a report with recommendations. “Our focus in on the experience for the students,” Cordeiro said. Supporting the Smith school is the Business Advisory Council made up of 24 members, including Pratt & Whitney/Rocketdyne, Amgen, SAGE Publications and the City of Thousand Oaks. Amgen is also among the members of the university’s Business & Technology Partnership that brings together technology and related service-based companies to provide internships and scholarships for students and supports research development. The advisory council and tech partnership are good examples of the outreach the university makes toward area businesses, said Gary Wartik, manager of economic development for the City of Thousand Oaks and a member of both groups, as well as the alumni and friends organization. Cal State Channel Islands also makes its instructors available to businesses in need of assistance during growth phases and managing their employee base, as well as in speaking engagements. A talk on what went wrong with the U.S. economy by Smith school lecturer Sung Won Sohn, a former chief economist for Wells Fargo Bank, drew a crowd of 650 people, Wartik said. “They made that resource available at no charge,” Wartik said. One area the university has taken a lead in is with its nursing bachelor’s degree program that was started in the fall of 2007 specifically to fill the shortage of nurses at the eight hospitals in Ventura County. The program is a model of what can be achieved between a school and area hospitals in that input from the medical facilities make sure the students receive up to date training, said Jerry Arturi, regional vice president with the Hospital Association of Southern California. Even in good economic times there were approximately 100 unfilled nursing positions in Ventura County hospitals, a number that is mirrored throughout the state. Shortages are projected to continue into 2020, Arturi said. Also in short supply are lab technicians with a bachelor’s degree and a year’s internship experience that Cal State Channel Islands fills with a biology degree with an emphasis on clinical lab science, Arturi added. In short, the university responds to what the business community needs and the region benefits with a new generation of qualified and experienced business leaders. “I think what we as a city invest in university, we get back,” Wartik said. “There is the personal satisfaction of playing a role.”

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Featured Articles

Related Articles