Wine tasting room course, exec-MBA, internships helping

NORTH BAY - The School of Business and Economics at Sonoma State University is developing innovative ways to make up for state budget cuts.

Dramatic state budget reductions across the entire California State University system has forced colleges to reduce class offerings at the same time they are trying to encourage students to finish course requirements as well as open spaces for new students.

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"It is a Catch 22," said Terry Lease, the chair of the department of business administration. There has been a 16-unit limit placed on students, down from 20, and fees have increased 30 percent.

"This is the frustrating aspect for the students," he said.

Through programs like the wine tasting room certificate held for the first time last year and new executive MBA set to begin in January, the school is looking at how it can generate funds in order to offer more to students.

Self-supporting programs allow the school to be more self reliant and give it the ability to put more energy into internship and mentoring programs.

The school is exploring the creation of "custom corporate programs" for the business community, Mr. Lease said.

These would take the form of a large company making use of Sonoma State instructors to come out to the business and do on-site training.

For example, he said, an engineer may be promoted to manager and have never had management experience.

"They don't necessarily need to go through a whole MBA program," he said. "But they might benefit from learning how to develop talent underneath them."

Because of the cuts to classes, the school is also, when possible, putting several sections together to make large lecture classes.

Another impact that the budget crisis has had is the number of adjunct and lecturers that the school can have. These are usually people who are working professionals.

Mr. Lease said the school usually has 36 sections that are taught by these lecturers. This fall, it is only having 12. He feels that this is a disservice to students.

"Those instructors bring a different discussion into the classroom," he said. "They know what the jobs are really like; they are in the trenches. For some of us, it has been many years since we were out in the job market."

For students who need to fill in their schedules, the school is also trying to offer more internship possibilities. Over the summer, there were twice as many internships available, said Sarah Dove, coordinator for the Center for Advising and Placement.