March 05, 2007

By Paul Feinberg

Cathy SandeenAs the new dean of UCLA Extension, an educational institution whose history actually pre-dates UCLA itself, Cathy Sandeen (’05) heads an organization that offers thousands of courses each year ranging from engineering to education to entertainment, from art history to graphic arts, from business and management to computers and information systems.

And that just begins to scratch the surface.

She ascends to the top spot at Extension after six years at UC Santa Cruz Extension and Summer Session department, where she first served as dean and more recently as vice provost and dean. After a career in the classroom and three years as general manager of Sandeen, Incorporated, she has served in a higher education administrative capacity since 1990. She earned a Ph.D. in communication at the University of Utah and has published extensively throughout her career on a wide variety of subjects.

UCLA Extension serves a broad range of students, the biggest segment of that population are degreed, working professionals who aren’t necessarily seeking another degree, but whose careers in today’s fast-paced knowledge economy require continuing education to remain as up-to-date as possible. It’s a mission-driven organization, there to provide educational opportunity and access to the community at large. Sandeen notes that Extension is “tapped into industry, can gear up a program quickly and has access to a vast pool of expert instructors” which enable the unit to offer post-baccalaureate, career-oriented educational opportunities.

Listening to Dr. Sandeen advocate for post-degree, higher educational opportunities, one wonders why someone already serving as a vice provost and dean for the University of California decided to seek another degree for herself and enroll in Anderson’s Executive MBA program (EMBA).

She explained that her academic background had been in the humanities (in addition to her PhD, she holds a master’s in broadcast communication from San Francisco State and a bachelor’s degree in speech from Humboldt State), but her career had evolved into academic administration – an evolution – Sandeen says she thoroughly enjoyed. She also believes her impact and reach was broader as an administrator than as a professor, drawing her further into the management side of education.

“I found myself in a self-supporting (educational) unit, running a business within a university,” she said. “And at a certain point in time the complexities called for knowledge and skills I didn’t have. I was hiring MBAs, but I wanted that body of knowledge myself and so I explored different options.

“UCLA Anderson rose to the top of the schools I was considering. Among the reasons were its reputation and the fact that the program is highly analytical. I come from the humanities and don’t have a lot of math in my background.”

Anderson’s diversity also played a part in her decision to head south from Santa Cruz. “I wanted out of the Bay Area,” she said. “I knew if I chose a program from there, I would be surrounded by tech people. At Anderson, there was great diversity. In my class there were people from the health care industry, from the public sector, from heavy industry, from finance – I knew I would learn at lot that way and it turned out to be absolutely true.”

Sandeen notes that one of the benefits she gleaned from her UCLA Anderson experience were the tools for making better decisions. She says that it’s easy to, for example, drop a class offering that isn’t making money, but that so many other decisions involve shades of gray and that making good decisions in those situations are tools she uses every day.

One unexpected benefit for Dean Sandeen was a new appreciation for working on teams. “Our team was so diverse, there was a portfolio manager, a person in entertainment marketing, one from IT and a chemical engineer. Even though we had different backgrounds and personal styles, we became an effective team early on and that taught me a lot. It taught me that people approach situations from different perspectives, perspectives that everyone needs to appreciate. You truly learn the benefits of this approach – you live it – and your life changes when you graduate.”

Though only on the job and in Los Angeles for about a month (at the time of the interview), Sandeen’s already formulated several goals and initiatives at UCLA Extension. She’s quick to point out, that several of her short term goals are to support and further projects which began before her tenure and which she fully endorses. At the top of this list is the expansion of Extension’s downtown Los Angeles facility, a project that will increase their presence close to the hub of the city’s business and government centers.

While that project proceeds, Sandeen will seek to build relationships across UCLA and in the community.

“I’ll be focusing on campus relations,” Sandeen said. “That’s something I feel we did well at Santa Cruz, where we built strong relationships with key faculty on campus. To that end, I’ve already had conversations with UCLA’s academic senate.” In the community, she’ll seek to expand Extension’s reach into the regions corporations and business organizations, mirroring an effort made at Santa Cruz that mobilized executives from some of that region’s top executives in an effort to develop programs relevant to local needs.

The new dean detailed the opportunities Extension affords campus faculty. “What we find happening, is that many opportunities present themselves to campus faculty that, given their core mission, they don’t have the bandwidth to carry out. But they can work with Extension and produce a symposium or offer degreed students a more practical educational opportunity.” She pointed to Santa Cruz’ award-winning science illustration certificate program as an example of what is possible when campus faculty and an extension program deign to collaborate. “It all starts with one conversation and I’ve already started to focus on that.” Sandeen said she’s already been in touch with UCLA Anderson’s Dean Judy Olian and the two plan to meet to discuss ways in which Extension and Anderson might work together to meet common goals. In celebration of Extension’s 90th anniversary, an art exhibit featuring their catalog covers – each traditionally created by a renowned designer or artist – will be held this summer at the Pacific Design Center.

Media Relations