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Member Spotlight

December 10, 2020

Celebrating 20 Years: CSU San Marcos

Catching up with CSU San Marcos on their membership anniversary.

In the world of life science, connection is the key to discovery. Biocom is proud to highlight organizations on their membership anniversaries who have joined in our mission to create a more connected, more collaborative industry in California. Their stories are our story, and we look forward to many more years of shaping the future of life science together to change the world for the better.

Please briefly describe your company, its mission, and your role.

Since its founding in 1989, California State University San Marcos has focused on preparing future leaders, building great communities and solving critical issues. The university offers rigorous undergraduate and graduate programs distinguished by exemplary teaching, meaningful research, innovative curricula and the application of new technologies. As a public university, CSUSM grounds its mission in the public trust, alignment with regional needs and sustained enrichment of the intellectual, civic, economic and cultural life of our region and state.

CSUSM’s participation in Biocom is through the lens of forward-thinking life science education and specifically the university’s Master of Biotechnology (MBt): Professional Science Master’s degree program. This 21st century approach to life science education combines advanced technical and scientific instruction with MBA-level business courses and real-world experience.

Leaders in life science today need to be able to walk into the executive suite and explain very clearly and persuasively how the business of science affects a company’s bottom line. CSUSM MBt graduates bring to their roles the requisite life science and lab expertise, but they also have the business acumen to understand organizational behavior and to apply key business concepts that ensure their work will support a company’s mission and profits.

As associate dean for Extended Learning (EL) at CSUSM, I support the development and ongoing success of 18 undergraduate and graduate degrees—including the MBt—as well as professional certificates, certification exam preparation and online education programs.

Tell us about your team’s culture. What makes your team different or unique?

For CSUSM’s Master of Biotechnology: PSM program, our team starts with the Biotech Steering Committee, led by Program Director Betsy Read. It includes faculty, administrators and staff who either helped launch the program 12 years ago, or who have helped expand it to meet the needs of our students and of local industry. Importantly, the steering committee includes members with high-level life science industry and education experience. In addition, our biotech program draws many international students, which encourages a global perspective in the classroom and gives all of our students the opportunity to start building worldwide connections at the beginning of their career.

The culture of our team is one of continuous improvement. We try to use everything we currently know about the industry—including knowledge we have gained through our association with Biocom—to move our program forward by enriching scholarship opportunities for our faculty and the learning experience for our students.

How have you seen your industry change during the decade-plus your company has been a Biocom member?

The Master of Biotechnology: PSM program was founded 12 years ago, though our association with Biocom goes back 20 years.

Through our engagement with Biocom over the years, CSUSM’s MBt has evolved as a result of our ability to purposefully link our degree and our students directly to our local industry. It is not just a program that’s operating in a silo. We have a long list of semester-in-residence projects that our students have worked on with local companies, many of which are also Biocom members. This is just one way that our Biocom membership helps connect us directly to the life science industry in our region and build meaningful opportunities for our students’ lasting benefit.

Where do you see your company or industry going in the next decade? What excites you about the future?

We anticipate substantive growth in several areas of life science education. In our Master of Biotech: PSM program, we see three areas where we can expand in the coming years.

First, we want to offer some certificates that convert key components of our biotech content into short-form programs to help people get specific lab-related upskilling in a two- to three-month timeframe. This would not only be very doable for someone already in industry but would promote skills that are immediately applicable on the job.

Second, we hope to use the advanced facilities in our new Extended Learning Building to further research, both for faculty in the biotech program and for companies within the industry to collaborate with our students and faculty.

And third, we want to link our program with similar programs at other institutions globally. We are already in conversations with Tokyo University to create an exchange agreement with students in a similar master’s program so they can come to CSUSM for a portion of their studies and vice versa. The pandemic has prevented us from launching this, but we anticipate moving forward as soon as it is safe to do so. Through activities like this, we want to link with other institutions to expand our program and build synergy through the work and the research of other institutions around the globe.