CSUN's Business Dean Comes With Plans for Change

Times Staff Writer

Andrew F. Sikula isn't the kind of man who's afraid to shake things up. As dean of the business school at California State University, Chico until five months ago, he did just that--to the extent that hard feelings persist among some faculty members.

Now Sikula has the same job at California State University, Northridge and he vows to bring change there too. He has been the CSUN business dean only since June, but admits, "I've already ruffled some feathers around here."

He sounds likely to ruffle some more. The 42-year-old administrator has strong ideas about what needs to be done at the institution known formally as CSUN's School of Business Administration and Economics.

"I'm thinking about where we're going, and that means change," he said. "I'm not the type to come in and rubber-stamp."

Change is nothing new at the CSUN business program. Since its founding in 1958, it has grown to become America's 24th largest business school as measured by 1985's total enrollment. It now has 3,374 full-time students, 2,251 part-time students, 190 faculty members and an annual budget of about $8 million.

Biggest Major at CSUN

Business is the biggest major at CSUN, an institution with nearly 30,000 students, and the MBA is the most popular master's degree. CSUN is the major provider of business education in its quadrant of metropolitan Los Angeles. Demand is such that its business school has tougher admission standards than CSUN overall.

But now the school has outgrown its facilities and outstripped its resources. Business courses are oversubscribed and facilities are bursting at the seams.

"The challenge," Sikula said, "is to move us beyond a survival mode and have some time to plan ahead."

He calls planning his top goal, but other priorities include getting a new building for the school, cementing ties to the local business community, gaining national recognition, and pressing faculty members to do more research and publish their work.

To promote research, Sikula said he wants to cut the faculty teaching load, get funding for conferences and studies and encourage professors to apply for grants. A lot of what he wants, said the burly former college football player, means raising money, and that is another top priority.

"The major concentration will be from private industry," he said, noting that the new building alone will cost at least $16 million.

Wins Praise at Chico

At Chico, Sikula wins praise from his former boss, Provost Gerald R. Stairs, for getting and keeping good professors despite the higher salaries offered in private industry and a dearth of lucrative consulting work in the remote university community.

Most of those who worked with Sikula at Chico said he had a hands-off management style, like that of a board chairman, allowing department heads to make their own decisions.

But Sikula was not short of critics at Chico, although their criticism was often contradictory: the ex-dean was scored by one critic for being too aggressive, and by another for not being aggressive enough. A third said he had a bad attitude about hiring women, while a defender praised him for strong affirmative action.

Whatever the nature of the criticism, however, there was plenty of it.

"He's a big mouth and a braggart," said Gary Francis, an economics professor in arts and sciences at Chico who was faculty senate chairman for two years. He called Sikula "brusque" and "outrageous," said he opposed the desire of some faculty to replace certain department chairmen, and added that Sikula did not work through channels.

Faulted on Funding

Michael O'Neill, finance and marketing chairman at Chico, complained that "Andy wasn't as vocal as he should have been" in fighting for more business school funding from Chico's central administration.

Personally, O'Neill added, Sikula "was pretty easy to get along with," and Chico finance professor Elmer Dickson agreed. But when asked about Sikula's performance, he said, "I don't want to talk about it."

Francis said the former dean alienated many professors in his own department, a view that was affirmed by at least one business school insider who asked not to be identified.

Sikula said the criticism doesn't surprise him, and that Chico economists like Francis are just jealous because the business school, which pays higher salaries, refused to absorb their department.

Such cross fire is not unusual for business school deans, who face an array of problems that often make their lives miserable and their tours of duty short, according to Charles Hickman, director of projects and member services at the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business.

The 1980s in America have witnessed a phenomenal boom in business education, but soaring enrollments have overwhelmed many schools. Salaries for business professors in the Cal State system do not come close to those in private industry, relatively few new business Ph.D.s are graduated annually and disputes with faculty are not uncommon, Hickman said.

Hickman added that deans usually are too busy for outside consulting, so they often make less than some professors. And deans do not get to teach much, so the intangible rewards of the classroom are also reduced.

As a result, the average business dean lasts 4 1/2 years, according to Hickman, whose group accredits business schools. Sikula spent six years in his old job.

"If Andy was at war with the faculty at Chico," Hickman said, "he would not be the first business school dean that's happened to."

Acknowledges Pitfalls

Sikula acknowledged the pitfalls of the job, but noted that he is a management specialist and said, "I like to practice what I preach." He added that he came to Northridge so brimming with ideas that some faculty members were frustrated at what they saw as his unwillingness to listen to them.

He faces what is probably a bigger challenge at CSUN than at Chico, where he ran a program with the equivalent of 1,600 full-time students and 100 full- and part-time faculty in a rural setting 100 miles north of Sacramento.

And the challenge is of a different sort. He said that at Chico, upgrading faculty and improving the school's reputation were major goals. CSUN, on the other hand, is blessed with a good reputation, and Big Eight accounting firms and major corporations regularly recruit its graduates.

Sikula added that he found the faculty to be surprisingly strong, but that CSUN will change with or without him in the next five years, because many of the business school's tenured faculty joined when the institution opened and thus will retire soon.

As for any faculty dismay he may have fostered during his six years at Chico, Sikula makes no apologies.

'Not Ph.D.-Qualified'

"We let a lot of full-time temporaries and part-timers go," he said. "They weren't Ph.D.-qualified. A lot weren't doing anything in the research and publications area."

Sikula said he will teach one management course but will not do any consulting. His academic specialties are management and personnel, and he has written a number of books and articles on those subjects.

Sikula grew up near Akron, Ohio, the son of a Goodyear tool and die maker. His was a blue-collar family with 30 uncles and aunts in the rubber business, he said, but the Sikulas stressed education, and four of the five Sikula siblings gained doctorate degrees. Andrew's MBA and Ph.D. are from Michigan State.

The new CSUN dean has an identical twin who is dean of the School of Education at California State University, Long Beach, and he says that a desire to be closer to relatives in Southern California played a role in his move.

But Sikula also acknowledges that he did not make the best business decision in the world by moving. He said he gets the same Cal State salary--about $70,000--here as in Chico, despite the much higher cost of living in his new locale. He also has not been able to sell his Chico-area home, located between the community of Paradise and an old mining district called Helltown.

"I call my house Purgatory," he joked.

So the dean's wife and three children (he has two more by a previous marriage) remain in Northern California, and he is forced to run two households.

All in all, he admitted, "My financial plight is worse." CSUN'S BUSINESS SCHOOL

Full-time faculty 149 Part-time faculty 41 Full-time undergarduates 351 Part-time undergraduates 1,723 Full-time graduate students 23 Part-time graduate students 528 Total student enrollment 5,625

Source: California State University, Northridge, School of Business Administration and Economics

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