Helping build a new university from the ground up

Glen Brodowsky.

Given that new universities are as common as snow in July, most people will never have the chance to build a campus from the ground up. Glen Brodowsky, MBA ’92, PhD ’97, is one of the lucky few who have lived that experience.

In 1997, fresh from receiving his MBA and doctorate in marketing from UB, Brodowsky joined the faculty at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) as an assistant professor of marketing. The school was only seven years old, created after more than 20 years of work by business and civic leaders who understood how important a university campus could be to a region growing by leaps and bounds. CSUSM was the first of a new generation of Cal State campuses and the first totally new campus in the U.S. in more than two decades.

Compared with the experience he'd had as an undergrad at University of Chicago and his time at UB, at CSUSM Brodowsky found "a much different kind of academic experience. I wound up making policies and chairing faculty searches," he says. Brodowsky found himself liking the experience: "We were pioneers."

The first years weren’t always easy. When Brodowsky first arrived, CSUSM couldn't enforce basic policies like, for instance, prerequisite checks. Its computer systems were too new. Concerned about the effect that the lack of procedures could have on the quality of the student body, Brodowsky helped change the campus culture, tightening up what had sometimes been an unstructured institution. "We created everything from the ground up; everything was a new imitative," he says.

CSUSM's College of Business currently has a faculty of 27 (three of whom are UB alumni) and 1,800 students. The total student population is 8,000. "We're still fairly small, but growing," he asserts. At the same time, he says, "There are more opportunities here for a young academic than there would be elsewhere. Most people with 10 years at an institution are not considered senior, but I am," he says.

Brodowsky's academic research focuses on cross-cultural marketing, primarily with cross-cultural issues of time. "These issues are becoming much more prevalent in the way we teach international marketing," he says. "Different cultures have different meanings of time and that affects marketing in different ways." For instance, how a culture views time can affect whether a company promotes its product's time-saving benefits or how long its product will last. "The Japanese, for instance, expect something to last forever," says Brodowsky, a cultural view of time reflected in the cars Japanese companies make. "Time affects everything," he adds, "not only marketing, but HR, operations, and more."

This year, Brodowsky has been participating in CSUSM's Faculty-in-Residence Program, which isn't what you might think. He's actually living in an apartment right in a student dorm. Says Brodowsky, "My job in the dorm is to bring the academic community down to the living environment and to be an adult presence there. Our dorms are only two years old, so residential life here is still in transition. We're trying to help shape the campus so we can build more living and learning communities that create a sense of campus and place." He would like ultimately to see a campus that’s open 24 hours a day. "Most students go home on weekends," he says. "As we build more dorms, we hope this will be a place where students want to stay on weekends."

Brodowsky relishes the opportunities his time at CSUSM has provided. "I chair a department and represent the school on state academic senate committees. My peers and the institution trust me with lots of responsibilities. In return, I have a great sense of ownership. It's perfect for me, because I like to commit to an institution."

Indeed, CSUSM has been the home for Brodowsky's entire career since he left UB. He believes he developed his taste for working at a university while he studied at UB, when he'd been involved with the university's MBA program in China. "I got used to working with administration in the China program, and discovered I liked it. I could see myself working at a university, and it's turned out exactly that way."

Unlike many academics who build careers on "portable" skills like research that take them from school to school, Brodowsky focuses on developing CSUSM and on the school's institutional memory. "Those are less portable skills," he admits, "but this is my life's work."

Written by Grace Lazzara