The business school at Burbank’s Woodbury University, long eclipsed by its bigger rivals UCLA and USC, is hammering out a niche for itself by concentrating on an exploding area of business growth for Southern California Pacific Rim trade.
That became clear last week after the university hired Richard King, California’s former director of international trade and a long-time consultant on Pacific Rim commerce, as dean of the School of Business and Management and director of Pacific Rim programs.
Woodbury President Kenneth Nielsen said the university’s business school is looking to enhance its reputation in a bid to boost enrollment.
The school has a student body of around 1,000 undergraduates, half of whom are studying business. Another 150 students are enrolled in Woodbury’s MBA program. Nielsen wants to grow the school to more than 1,400 students by the end of the century, roughly doubling its size since 1987.
“The greatest challenge is to let potential students know that we are here,” Nielsen said.
Woodbury is trying to differentiate itself by stressing practical employee-level work experience for students interested in working in Asia.
“We are preparing our students for entry-level positions in multi-nationals, so want to have a pragmatic, entrepreneurial curriculum,” King said.
On the larger scale, King wants to help California and U.S. companies better compete in the international market.
“I have seen the U.S. lose out in Asia due to a lack of sophistication. There is a need for educated, enlightened business leaders,” he said.
Nielsen said King was an obvious choice for the position, citing his long experience in Asia and success as a businessman.
“We have always been a practical-oriented institution, and he’s a practical guy,” Nielsen said.
Other Woodbury specialties aimed at L.A.’s hottest industries include a fashion and costume design major and an animation major created this year. Nielsen also hopes to launch a master’s program in architecture within two years.
Although he will take up his new position at the end of the month, King will retain chairmanship of his downtown L.A.-based business consulting firm King International Group, “providing guidance and strategy and advising special clients,” he said.
King International Group advises Asian and American companies on Pacific Rim business. Prior to founding the firm in 1980, King served three years as president and chief executive at Birtcher Corporation. He previously worked at Kaiser Steel and Kaiser Industries on international business development. In 1978, he was appointed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown to serve a two-year term as the state’s first director of international trade.