Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Business is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and recently welcomed its new dean, Z. Clara Brennan.
The anniversary is more than just a round number for the College of Business, which is geared toward working adults and offers accelerated classes in multiple locations. The milestone signifies a successful shift in both Cardinal Stritch’s curriculum and in Wisconsin educational offerings, according to Sister Camille Kliebhan, chancellor of Cardinal Stritch University.
After partnering with the Institute for Professional Development (IPD), a subsidiary of Phoenix-based Apollo Group in 1981 to set up a program, Cardinal Stritch was one of the first colleges in Wisconsin to offer credit for prior learning, accelerated programs and off-site evening classes, all geared toward aiding professional adult students, Kliebhan said.
The College of Business was originally formed in 1982 as the Programs in Management for Adults. At the time, Cardinal Stritch held the status of a college, not its current university status that it received in 1997.
Cardinal Stritch was established by the St. Francis-based Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in 1934 and became known in the Milwaukee area as a women’s college specializing in education degree programs.
In 1982, Cardinal Stritch was catering to male students as well as women and offering business courses through a business department, but there were difficulties in convincing other departments and colleges on campus that the College of Business would not affect other programs, Kliebhan said.
“There was also the notion of conducting classes off campus, offering courses where the students were,” Kliebhan said. “But we already had a tradition in teaching the Sisters of St. Francis.”
Programs in Management for Adults recruited its first student in April 1982, and by August more than 400 students were enrolled. Today, more than 2,700 students are enrolled in the College of Business.
“The program took off beyond anyone’s expectations,” Kliebhan said.
The first degree programs offered to students included a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in science and management.
Currently, the college offers:
• Certificate programs in human resource management, sales and sales management, project management and contemporary team management.
• An associate’s of science degree program with a concentration in business.
• Bachelor of science programs for: management, business administration, strategic management of information systems, human services management and public safety management.
• Master’s degree programs in business administration and management.
The College of Business MBA online degree program was recently approved by Tempe, Ariz.-based North Central Association, Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, Brennan said.
In 2001, Cardinal Stritch’s College of Business was the first program in Wisconsin to receive accreditation from Overland Park, Ill.-based Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.
Art Wasserman, who started working in the college as an adjunct professor in 1987 and became dean in the early 1990s, witnessed the college’s expansion from 900 students in 1987 to nearly 3,000 in 2001, when he retired. He now owns a Bayside-based law practice with his wife, Sheila, and continues to serve on the business advisory board for Cardinal Stritch.
“The growth included the expansion of our geographic reach,” Wasserman said. “We had already moved to the Madison area, Green Bay, Twin Cities and expanded the number of programs in Minnesota and finally got approved for a successful venture in Rochester.”
Landing approval for Rochester helped Cardinal Stritch reach busy professionals working at the Mayo Clinic and for global companies such as 3M Co. Since its establishment in the late 1990s, the Rochester satellite office has garnered more than $1 million in tuition fees from the Mayo Clinic alone, said Marlene Lauwasser, former vice president of marketing for Cardinal Stritch and a current member of the advisory board.
“We recognized that adults had different learning needs” Lauwasser said. “They were very exciting times, knowing we were making a difference in people’s lives.”
Classes are currently available in Wisconsin at the main campus in Fox Point and through offices in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Brookfield and Madison.
Part of the shift in teaching professional adults required changes in learning format, Lauwasser said. Classroom materials are available on-site, traditional chairs with desks attached were replaced with long tables put together in a U-shape, and cohort-based learning was introduced, where groups of students with the same major take classes at the same time throughout the program and work together to complete coursework.
Brennan retired as president of St. Augustine College in Chicago last year and was recruited to become the dean of the Cardinal Stritch College of Business last summer after the previous dean, Kathleen Radionoff, resigned.
“What attracted me was the Franciscan approach and mission of serving people,” Brennan said. “This is a wonderful group of people I am working with and I am impressed with their commitment and the level of expertise I see in the members of this team.”
Brennan plans to refine the programs offered within the College of Business by reaching out to the Milwaukee area business community and by determining the needs of companies and industries. Currently on the table is the possibility of a master’s degree in health management, Brennan said.
“We want to know what other degrees we need to offer,” Brennan said. “To keep ahead of the competition, to maintain our competitive advantage is the key for our growth at this time.”