Business school celebrates 25th year with record enrollment

La Sierra University School of Business Dean John Thomas speaks during a luncheon Nov. 16 celebrating the school's 25th anniversary.
La Sierra University School of Business Dean John Thomas speaks during a luncheon Nov. 16 celebrating the school's 25th anniversary.

December 7, 2011

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( It’s a record-breaking year at La Sierra University where its School of Business jumped ahead to reach an enrollment high of 442 students, the largest pool of registrants in the school’s 25-year history.

The number includes 292 undergraduate and 150 graduate students who arrived at La Sierra from around the globe to study business.

School of Business Dean John Thomas attributes the growth to “innovative, creative and entrepreneurial thinking in managing our school. It’s a good team effort,” he said. The School of Business’s reputation for qualified faculty and curriculum, new centers and for its World Cup-winning Students In Free Enterprise team also helps draw students, he said.

The school is aiming to best its current record. “We hope to have over 600 students within the next five years,” said Thomas. He also plans to hire five or six more faculty members in the next five years as enrollment increases.

Dr. Gary Chartier, associate dean of the School of Business and a former La Sierra student remembered when the business program was housed in the College of Arts and Sciences as the Department of Business and Economics. The business school’s first dean, Ignatius Yacoub, led the charge to create a freestanding school. In addition to the enrollment increases over the years, Chartier cites as a key change “the substantial increase in the quality of the faculty, something for which Johnny [Thomas] gets lots and lots of credit. The intellectual heft of the School of Business faculty, the emphasis on research and professional engagement, has dramatically distinguished the School of Business of today from the School of Business a quarter century ago,” said Chartier.

On Nov. 16 the School of Business held a catered luncheon to kick off the school’s 25th year. The milestone anniversary will also coincide with a groundbreaking ceremony for a new School of Business facility next year and will be celebrated further during Homecoming weekend in April.

Click here to view more photos from the luncheon.

The School of Business offers eight undergraduate degrees and nine Master of Business Administration degrees, including new MBAs in medical management and dental management. It houses the Center for Philanthropy, the Edward C. Allred Center for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship, the Center for Conflict Resolution as well as the university’s Students In Free Enterprise team, or SIFE.

Graduate finance student Xiaofeng Zhu came from Wenzhou, China to study business at La Sierra, at the recommendation of relatives who live in Corona, he said. Zhu likes studying under business school faculty Drs. Fred Clarke and George Ogum, assistant economics professor and associate professor of finance, respectively. “They are cool,” said Zhu. “Their teaching style and personality are very attractive. I like La Sierra University.” He eventually wants to use his degree in a career as a financial advisor.

Stephen Moore, a 2001 business administration graduate turned a directed study business plan into a national company selling more than 30 frozen food products under three brand names. Moore credits the support and encouragement he received from the business school, particularly from Thomas and former marketing professor Nabil Razzouk, as key to his entrepreneurial endeavors and success. He described his academic experience at La Sierra’s School of Business as “learning in an environment that’s always pushing you to think outside the box.” The professors were available for support after Moore graduated--Thomas provided pivotal introductions and advice on how to interact with shareholders, said Moore. “It’s a very open environment. I can call Dr. Thomas up and he’ll make time for me.”

Moore founded his company, Helen’s Foods, in 2002 in Irvine, selling frozen vegetarian tofu steaks based on the recipes his mother created. In 2009, Helen’s Foods merged with Organic Bistro, consolidating management and operations under parent company The Food Collective Inc. The firm, headed by Moore, sells frozen organic/natural based seafood, meat and vegetarian meals nationwide. For the 12 weeks ending July 9, 2011, Organic Bistro held the number one market share slot in Spins Natural Channel, a natural products industry sales information service. “Now we employ 50 people and ship products all over North America,” Moore said.

“The School of Business has developed a reputation among its stakeholders as an outstanding provider of rigorous and relevant business education,” said Thomas. He is also a 1988 graduate of La Sierra’s business program, holds a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University and is the School of Business Bassir Hasso Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship. Thomas taught at the business school for 10 years before becoming its dean in 1999. He continues to teach entrepreneurship while pursuing his research and administrative efforts.

“Inside and outside the classroom, students, faculty members, and staff members are challenged to create value and make a difference,” Thomas said. “The school seeks to do both, not only through teaching and research but also through its award-winning SIFE program and other co-curricular activities.”

“The school has been able to grow because it’s faculty, its staff, its student body, and its alums to form a passionate, successful, effective team. In turn, university administration has offered support that has given the school the freedom to innovate and flourish,” he said.

Such growth has resulted in the need for additional and improved space. Toward meeting this challenge, final plans are underway for the construction of a new School of Business building. This 60,000-square-foot business education center, named in honor of pioneer Seventh-day Adventist philanthropists Tom and Vi Zapara, will host the largest Adventist business school in North America. It will house a conference center that will serve the university and all of western Riverside County, along with state-of-the-art classrooms; the business school’s diverse centers; offices and research facilities; learning spaces for students; and a dean’s suite accessible to students, teachers, and staff members as they seek to ensure the effective functioning of the school.

“The new building will help the school live out its dream of fostering transformative business education, and it can be expected to serve as a powerful draw for new students, faculty members, and staff members committed to creating value and making a difference,” Thomas said.

To learn more about the School of Business, visit


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  December 08, 2011