Generous grant challenges business and economics college

Michelle Reuter

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The College of Business and Economics has been given an opportunity to raise up to $1 million by alumnus, Paul Jennings, who promised to match money raised by the college, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000.

Jennings graduated from the College of Business and Economics with a degree in marketing in 1985 and is now founding partner and CEO of the telecommunications company, Public Communications Services Inc. The company provides communications services to correctional facilities nationwide.

“The gift is incredible and significant from a monetary standpoint absolutely, but its also incredible from an engagement standpoint,” said Matt Rinnert, director of development for the College of Business and Economics.

Rinnert said he hopes that Jennings’ “challenge grant” inspires others to get involved, support higher education and make charitable giving more of a priority.

“If one person starts it, then maybe more and more will do it, too,” said Suneet Bhatia, a senior information systems major and president of the Management Information Systems Association. “It’s great for students, especially with the budget cuts that have been going on.”

Recent statewide cuts to the CSU system is one of the reasons Jennings wanted to support his alma mater.

“When I go to Northridge, I see the diversity it represents,” he said. “You can see the hunger in these kids’ eyes. They want to learn and better their lives.”

According to Rinnert, the college will raise its part of the money through direct mail and tele-fund operations in which donations are solicited from individuals and firms with a history of supporting their programs. Development opportunities will also be explored through the business school’s many contacts and professional relationships.

Funds will be matched starting from Jan. 1. At the end of the fiscal year the college will review their donations and determine which ones are eligible to be matched by Jennings’ grant.

While a specific plan has not yet been developed to disperse the funds, Interim Dean Judith Hennessey said the money would likely go towards developing educational and professional opportunities for students and faculty.

She added the college will focus on expanding already existing initiatives. One popular program involves asking graduate students to tutor undergrads during classes and lab hours. She also wants to focus on helping students fill in gaps in their previous education that may hold them back such as writing and math proficiency.

“We need to move to a more sustainable model for these programs.” Hennessey said. “This grant will help us do that.”

Jennings said he will allow his grant money to be dispersed as the college sees fit, because staff “on the front lines” know better as to where the money will make the most impact.

“Allowing the money to be used in whatever direction the college needs, it gives us incredible flexibility and tremendous possibility,” Rinnert said.

Jennings has been involved in supporting CSUN business students since his 1985 graduation and later financial success. According to Rinnert, Jennings has donated money to the college in the past and has volunteered his time with students.

He sits on the College of Business and Economics’ College Advisory Board and has participated in the their “Professor For A Day” program, in which business professionals teach a class and share their experiences.

“The lessons I learned back then are still relevant today,” Jennings said.