Board of Trustees

Meet the California Southern University Board of Trustees

Lady Branham, MA, Chair

Ms. Branham currently works for the Health Sciences Division of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma as a contract manager for research. She has served as Co-President of Prescott College, a progressive liberal arts institution that specializes in competency based and alternative learning curriculum models. She oversaw the operations of the college and was in charge of external fund-raising. She served for five years for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, reviewing and assisting universities in their pursuit of regional accreditation. She has extensive experience in teacher education, faculty leadership, and oversight of educational leadership programs. She has served as a consultant to community colleges on their competency-based learning and authentic assessment-based online delivery.

Donald Hecht, Sc.D

In 1978, Dr. Donald Hecht founded a new university and was its first president. It was initially called Southern California University for Professional Studies (SCUPS) and was destined to become an innovator in online learning over the succeeding 38 years. Its name was changed to California Southern University (CalSouthern) in 2010 prior to receiving a grant of accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). In 1996, Hecht founded Northcentral University (NCU) in Prescott, Arizona as its initial president to offer academic programs similar to those offered by SCUPS. NCU was the first entirely online university offering doctorates (both PhDs and professional) without a physical residency requirement to receive regional accreditation. In 2001, NCU received candidacy and in 2003 NCU received regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. Today, NCU has more than 8,000 online students primarily earning master's and doctoral degrees entirely online in business, education, and psychology. In December 2008, Hecht sold NCU in order to return to California and his “first-born” CalSouthern. Today, Hecht serves CalSouthern as its visionary mentor and consultant.

Hecht’s academic experiences include that of a high school teacher (Brooklyn Technical H.S., 1965-67); community college associate professor (Queensborough Community College, 1967-77); Dean of Instruction and professor (West Coast University, 1977-79); school owner and director (1978-present).

Hecht’s business/industry experiences include that of senior engineer (Ford Instrument division of Sperry Rand, 1956-60); management/business consultant (1960-65). Hecht’s education includes a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (New York University, 1956); Master of Industrial Engineering (Columbia University, 1960); and a Doctor of Science in Industrial and Management Engineering (Columbia University, 1976).

J. Ramon "Raymond" Villanueva, MBA

Mr. Villanueva has 25 years of experience in post-secondary education management. In 1984, he founded and operated Career College Center in Whittier, California. In 1987-1990, he served as School Director and Chief Administrative Officer for Whittier Institute of Technology, a nationally accredited, Title IV-approved school. In 1995, he founded Newbridge College in Tustin, California where he served as President and School Director. Mr. Villanueva was chiefly responsible for the planning, implementation, and the day-to-day management of the school. In June 2005, Newbridge College was sold to an equity venture capital firm and under the new ownership, Mr. Villanueva served as V.P. of Operations until December 2006. Currently, Mr. Villanueva is the President and CEO of Capstone College, an accredited Title IV-approved school.

In higher education, from 2001 to 2003, Mr. Villanueva served on the Board of Trustees of Northcentral University, an online institution for higher education accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Mr. Villanueva holds an MBA from Northcentral University.

Hal Altshuler, MBA

Mr. Altshuler has 25 years of work experience from 1964 to 1989 in financial and computer systems analysis at Aeronutronic Division of Ford Aerospace, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Company, and which is currently owned by Lockheed Martin Aerospace Corporation. At Aeronutronic, Mr. Altshuler supported the following departments: manufacturing support, proposal finance, contract finance, and financial systems where he:

  • Formulated the financial data for small to multi-million dollar proposals.
  • Managed the financial aspects of small to multi-million dollar programs/contracts.
  • Developed custom financial systems based on organizational requirements.

For 13 years, from 1989 to 2003, Mr. Altshuler directed a staff of over 250 people and administered six departments for Experience Unlimited (EU), a state sponsored volunteer outplacement organization. In this role, he initiated and implemented policies and procedures compatible with the mission of EU, and created a harmonious working environment of volunteers from diverse backgrounds.

Currently, Mr. Altshuler is serving as the Financial and Recording Secretary for a local chapter of a worldwide non-profit fraternal organization and serves as the Chairman of its Board of Trustees.

Mr. Altshuler holds a Master of Science degree in Operations Research from the University of Southern California Business School, a Master of Business Administration in Operations Management from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.

M. Kathleen Murphy

Kathleen Murphy has headed Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1976 and currently serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the organization, which has a paid staff of 35 and ranks in the top two percent of Big Brothers/Big Sisters groups nationwide in terms of children per capita served. In addition, she served for two years as President of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America Executive Directors/CEOs. In addition, Murphy conducts workshops and training seminars on board development as well as training sessions on building successful mentoring programs, fundraising, and recruitment and has consulted with churches and schools on molestation prevention. She has presented on many occasions at National and Regional Conferences for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Canada and at the Harvard University Symposium on Mentoring. Ms. Murphy served for three years on the Board of Northcentral University, and prior to working for NCU she was on the Board of Directors for Wells Fargo Bank Central Arizona Region. She is a member of the founding committees for Yavapai County United Way, Child Safe, and Passport to Higher Education.

In 2003, she was named Woman of the Year by the Partners for Active Leadership in Yavapai County and was the 2006 recipient of the Margaret Slack Award -- a national award presented annually to a Big Brother/Big Sisters professional staff member who has demonstrated an outstanding level of professionalism and quality of service.

Ms. Murphy has been a part-time teacher at Yavapai College and worked two years with the Juvenile Justice Center in Maricopa County. She is a former partner in Murphy’s Restaurants Incorporated.

A native Arizonan and graduate of Arizona State University, Murphy has three children and two grandchildren and has lived in Prescott, Arizona since 1973. She is an avid backpacker, camper and hiker and competed in several triathlons. She volunteers as a Big Sister and has been a volunteer art teacher in area schools for many years.

Molly McGinn, PhD

Dr. McGinn is a learning specialist who has owned her own business leadership consultancy for 17 years. She designs and facilitates leadership and management skills training for global companies and organizations such as Deloitte, SC Johnson, Sun Microsystems, The International Monetary Fund, Merck, Wyeth, Sainsbury’s UK, Sony, Honda, Nikon, Nike, EDS/HP, Veterans’ Administration, Texas Instruments, and ExxonMobil. As an independent contractor she serves as a senior designer and facilitator for the Forum Corporation in Boston. She has been a thought leader in the field of corporate leadership development. Through Forum she collaborated with Michael Watkins at the Harvard Business School to implement “the First 90 Days” a training program for leaders in new roles. She is a three-time recipient of Forum’s Chairman’s Award for excellence in client service and contribution to the field of leadership development.

Dr. McGinn’s background includes extensive experience in supporting the strategic planning for large scale initiatives. She is the co-founder of BloomTree Learning communities, a network of residential sites for college students in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Dr. McGinn holds an MA and PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Los Angeles. She conducted original research on conflict resolution, decision making, and long term community sustainability in monasteries in Japan and Tibet. She taught at the Academy of Science in Sichuan Province in China for two years. She is fluent in Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, and English.

Dr. McGinn has an avid interest in cultural transformation through learning at every level. She has a personal dedication to her own lifelong learning and to community building on a local and global level.

James Farkas, PhD

Dr. Farkas is an experienced Practice Director in California and a frequent Senior Project Manager on Enterprise Software implementations. He is one of a few U.S. professionals who have led both ERP implementations and FDA validation compliance teams to success. He has extensive business experience in operations, manufacturing, and supply chain with mid-sized and Fortune 1000 firms. Prior affiliations have included work as Senior Project Manager for top tier consulting firms including Hitachi Consulting, IBM Global Services, and Atos Origin. A confident and skilled communicator, he has served on the adjunct faculty of the Graduate School of Management, University of California (Irvine) lecturing on ERP production planning. Dr. Farkas has also served on the Board of Directors for a Classical Orchestra and is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Business fom regionally accredited Northcentral University in 2006. His MBA is from Darden, University of Virginia. He earned a Bachelor of Science from the United States Naval Academy and served as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

His mid- and large-business experiences with technology implementations will be a benefit in helping the University craft its roadmap for future growth and focus on new areas of development consistent with the University's online model. Additionally, since he has experienced the Northcentral University PhD educational process, his perspective will be valuable in improving CalSouthern’s educational process (since both NCU and CalSouthern had similar education methodologies at the time).

Mark Hecht, MBA

Mark Hecht has more than 20 years of financial and financial aid experience in post-secondary educational institutions as a manager of college financial departments and manager of Federal financial aid operations. As Chief Financial Officer and as Corporate Director of Financial Aid and Compliance he has had responsibility for complying with the regulations governing Title IV, California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education regulations, and requirements of school accrediting agencies such as: ACCSCT, ACICS, and COE among others.

His experience includes liaison between independent auditors, the college, accreditation agencies, and Region IX of the U.S. Department of Education (DoE). He has been responsible for the design and implement of data collection and reporting procedures for new Title IV regulations: Gainful Employment, Verification, clock to credit hour conversion, and 3 year default rate, among DoE regulations.

As the vice president of finance at proprietary vocational colleges, he prepared and monitored budgets, provided forecasts and cash flow analysis, and coordinated financial aid and financial statement audits to ensure that operations met or exceeded regulatory minimums.

Mark’s knowledge and experience in financial matters at proprietary post-secondary institutions and his comprehension of the regulations of the U.S. Department of Education and the California BPPE is an important asset for the Board, especially in this era when all post-secondary educational institutions must navigate regulatory uncertainty and a difficult financial environment.

Steven Beazley, PsyD

Dr. Steven Beazley has dedicated his entire professional life to one thing: being many things, a renaissance man, of sorts. His career has been about acquiring a collection of professional life experiences that are purposely highly eclectic, requiring reinvention of self along the way.

He was a professional actor and singer/songwriter in his 20s. In his 30s, he was a doctoral student, psychotherapist and professor, earning a PsyD from Pepperdine University, where he also served as a professor upon graduation. He also maintained a psychotherapy practice in Newport Beach, California. In 40s, Dr. Beazley became president and CEO of an arts and entertainment event center that included an 8,500-seat outdoor amphitheater featuring some of the most popular musical acts in the world.

Currently, Dr. Beazley is aiming to integrate his professional experience thus far, offering consulting expertise through his firm called Lean Forward, which specializes in arts/entertainment and education consultation. Dr. Beazley has consulted with the Pacific Symphony, The Simon Foundation for Education and Housing, Orange County Great Park and, most recently, with the City of Newport Beach and a local arts foundation in the master planning of a fine arts center to be built on the historic Balboa Peninsula. In 2015, Lean Forward will add executive coaching and personal life coaching to its services.

Dr. Beazley is working on his first book, an adaptation of his doctoral dissertation titled, “Silence in the Space Between.”

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