Here’s one for the ‘Facts for Folks’ file. Take the case of charming Rose Nielsen, married to Ken Nielsen, president of Woodbury University in Burbank. They dated for about a year, became engaged and ten months later were wed.
Q: So you took your time and got to know each other first?
A: Yes. We dated out of town so the local gossips wouldn’t discover us.
Q: How did you arrange those secretive dates?
A: Sometimes he’d pick me up in the school lot or I’d meet him at his place because my house was full of children.
Q: How many years have you been married?
A: Believe it or not, 16 years.
Q: What was Woodbury like in the beginning, being married to a college professor?
A: Woodbury was a tuition-driven school that really hadn’t done much in terms of fund-raising. They were struggling somewhat with enrollment but it had been around since 1884, so it had a great core. It really was a good place but it needed some great leadership; it was a business school. Ken saw a school that was a bit of a challenge and today the enrollment is over 1,600. We just finished a $27 million building campaign and, now, an architecture campus in San Diego. We’re not selling Woodbury, we’re selling education.
Q: I want to know your success and how you became interested in planning and getting involved.
A: We’re talking about the value of money and how children today don’t know the value of money. I kept track of all the money I spent on my children between the ages of ten and twelve. When they became 12-years-old, I knew, basically, the cost per year per child. Each month the children got a check and were responsible for buying all their own clothes, lunches, movies, entertainment or whatever they chose to spend it on. They had the choice between designer jeans or something more affordable. It helped to make them think about the decisions they were making. They had a monthly paycheck and the responsibility was in their hands.
Q: This was all accomplished before you and Ken were married?
A: Oh yes, way before. It was just something I wanted to teach my children.
Q: Do you think your life has been a learning experience too?
A: Absolutely. The value of what you learn is what propels you to great success later.
Q: The Woodbury architecture program sounds impressive!
A: Architecture is the most popular course at Woodbury; our students are winning many coveted awards. Next to the Rhode Island School of Design, Woodbury is second for the most students accepted into graduate programs at Harvard and Columbia.
Q: Woodbury is an established institution. How do you fit in?
A: Woodbury started in 1884 by Francis Woodbury who was brought down from San Francisco by a group of Los Angeles businessmen to start a business school. He wanted women to attend his school because women were just as smart as men, given the opportunity. His wife was one of his students and the first graduating class in 1887 was one third women. Woodbury College was always a tuition-driven campus, and I stepped in and changed all that. I became involved in fund-raising which allows us to take in the indigent student. Everyone should have this opportunity to excel to a higher place of learning. 71% of our students are first generation to attend a college.
Q: Do you think our education system needs to be reformed?
A: Oh, it desperately needs reform. Our wonderful arts are totally missing. Students are not taught the arts as we well-know; art programs have been cut. Where would we be without art education? Architecture is art, fashion is art and fabric design is art; it’s all art-based, and our schools really don’t teach this which is quite sad. Every building and every garment fits together at a seam. You’ve got to make everything fit.
Q: It’s all about inspiration, goals and challenges isn’t it?
A: Yes, and Woodbury really challenges them; pushes them harder and harder. Nothing’s ever quite right. They can always make it better and that’s kind of the philosophy the instructors have. They want to push the students harder than they ever think they could go. Students can do it!