SSU executive MBA; USF cuts class fees; Dominican master's

NORTH BAY -- North Bay universities increasingly are finding ways to partner with community businesses to better their programs and navigate the economic downturn.

In a time when there are cuts to the education budgets and universities across California have been stricken by cuts and furloughs, unique and new ways of dealing with cost cutting are becoming necessary.

The Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics, for instance, has created an executive master’s of business administration and a wine business MBA. It also has established mentoring programs for students and internships that help both students and employers.

While private and not subject to the same kinds of cuts as the public schools, University of San Francisco has also found a way to battle the economic hardship.

The school has chosen to offer general education lower-division courses on its Santa Rosa campus for half the price of its typical cost starting this spring semester.

The courses are offered through USF Steps Up, a new program to help non-USF students unable to get courses due to budget cuts at California’s public universities and give them the classes they need to graduate.

“I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from my colleagues at state schools,” said Jennifer Turpin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Francisco. “Students are begging to get into classes, but they can’t graduate because they can’t get the classes they need. We realized we could help these students and California by offering these classes at our regional campuses, where USF already has a presence.”

Through USF Steps Up, the university will offer introductory classes at all four of its regional campuses in Northern California including Santa Rosa to help students satisfy course requirements in the University of California and California State University systems.

The three-unit courses will include lower-division classes in philosophy, U.S. history, writing, public speaking, Spanish, statistics, psychology, politics and sociology. One section of each course will be offered at each regional campus, located in Sacramento, San Ramon, Santa Rosa and Cupertino.

Dominican University in San Rafael has also found partnering with the community beneficial to students. BioMarin Pharmaceutical and the Buck Institute have partnered with the university to offer research-based master’s of science degrees administered by the college.

“In fall 2008, we launched the M.S. in biological sciences with an emphasis on geroscience,” said Dr. Sibdas Ghosh, associate dean for academic development and professor in the department.

This was the nation’s first M.S. in biological sciences with an emphasis on age research.

This master’s program is just one area of development the school is investigating. The goals in the newly created strategic plan include financial stability, partnering with the community, innovations with academic programs, increasing the full-time staff and an increase of courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which is where these new programs fall into.

Dr. Bill Silver, dean of the SSU School of Business and Economics, has been there for just two years. His plan when he came to the campus was to actively engage the business community.

The most recent development the school is in the beginning stages of creating is an economic development corporation.

“It will be a resource for businesses in and coming to Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Lake, Mendocino and Solano counties,” said Dr. Rob Eyler, chair of the economics department and director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis.

This corporation will offer assistance to businesses in the area that want to expand as well as offer help to those looking to relocate to the area.